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EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE (director: Mervyn LeRoy; screenwriters: from the novel by Marcia Davenport/Isobel Lennart; cinematographer: Charles Rosher; editor: Harold F. Kress; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Jessie Bourne), James Mason (Brandon Bourne), Van Heflin (Mark Dwyer), Ava Gardner (Isabel Lorrison), Cyd Charisse (Rosa Senta), Nancy Davis (Helen Lee), Tom Powers (Owen Lee, publisher), Gale Sondergaard (Nora Kernan), William Conrad (Lt. Jacobi), Raymond Greenleaf (Horace Elcott Howland), Douglas Kennedy (Alec Dawning), William Conrad (Lt. Jacobi), Beverly Michaels (Felice Backett); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Voldemar Vetluguin; MGM; 1949)
“In the MGM tradition, it presents such uninteresting melodrama trash with style and makes it entertaining through its talented cast.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Mervyn LeRoy (“Without Reservations”/”Homecoming”/”The FBI Story”) directs this glossy Gramercy Park soap opera story that moves from a philandering socialite hubby story to a murder story. The wronged wifey forgives her suave cad hubby until the dreary film reaches its climax and she realizes she doesn’t love him any more. It’s based on the novel by Marcia Davenport and written by Isobel Lennart.

The East Side of Manhattan represents the wealthy side, where the unfaithful investment broker Brandon Bourne (James Mason) and his perfect wife Jessie (Barbara Stanwyck) reside. Over the past year they have reconciled after his latest fling with former showgirl Isabel (Ava Gardner), who has gone abroad. The vulgar but sexy upward mobile Isabel has now returned to dwell in her new Washington Square pad that is financed by her latest sugar daddy, Alec Dawning (Douglas Kennedy), and immediately puts the move on the weak Brandon. He’s portrayed as someone addicted to sex like alcoholics are to booze, and can’t resist her advances.

The working-class former NYPD West Sider Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin), depicted as Mr. Perfect, has been overseas for five years during the war and returns home a hero for doing cloak and dagger work for the government and is being pursued by publishers to return abroad as a high paid foreign correspondent. Mark instantly falls for Jessie, who turns to him for comfort as hubby is seen with Isabel even though he loves his wife. When Isabel is murdered in her flat, the police suspect Brandon and Mark comes to his rescue catching the real killer but not saving the marriage.

The static film never rose above being lurid, unconvincing and artificially chic. In the MGM tradition, it presents such uninteresting melodrama trash with style and makes it entertaining through its talented cast.

This was Nancy Davis’s film debut (playing a bit part as a socialite confidante of Stanwyck’s) and during production of East Side, West Side director Mervyn LeRoy introduced Davis to the recently-divorced Ronald Reagan, who was working on an adjoining set. She would soon become Mrs. Reagan.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”