FOREVER AMBER(director: Otto Preminger; screenwriters: Ring Lardner/Jerry Cady/from the novel by Kathleen Winsor; cinematographer: Leon Shamroy; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: David Raksin; cast: Cornel Wilde (Bruce Carlton), Linda Darnell (Amber St. Clair), Anne Revere (Mother Red Cap), Richard Greene (Lord Harry Almsbury), George Sanders (King Charles II), Jessica Tandy (Nan Britton), Glenn Langan (Captain Rex Morgan), Richard Haydn (Earl of Radcliffe), Robert Coote (Sir Thomas Dudley), John Russell (Black Jack Mallard), Leo G. Carroll (Matt Goodgroome), Jane Ball (Corinna); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Perlberg; Fox Home Video; 1947)
“Disappointing adaptation of Kathleen Winsor’s lurid best-seller novel.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Otto Preminger (“Laura”/”Exodus”/”The Moon Is Blue”) helms this disappointing adaptation of Kathleen Winsor’s lurid best-seller novel, much bowdlerized here, about a beautiful blonde peasant wench, Amber (Linda Darnell), who rises to riches by means of sexual favors. Winsor’s graphically sexual novel was not allowed by the censors to be transferred to the screen in its lurid form and without that there wasn’t much else worth savoring.
It’s set during the reign of Charles II (George Sanders) in the 1660s. Ring Lardner and Jerry Cady turn in the screenplay. Though saved by a few action sequences, a sleazy and politically shrewd Sanders garbed in pimpish velvet suits and that its visuals as photographed by Leon Shamroy are easy to look at, nevertheless the melodramatic story is rather thin, the acting for the most part listless and Preminger’s stodgy direction leaves a lot to be desired.
In 1644, we are told of the revolt of the English Parliament and Oliver Cromwell’s army against the tyrannical rule of King Charles I. During this time frame a baby wrapped in a blanket on which the name “Amber” is sewn is left at the front door of a poor Puritan farmer by a fleeing nobleman, who is then killed by his pursuers. The film then picks up in 1660 as the grown-up Amber, a poor English country gal, rejects her father’s (Leo G. Carroll) choice of who she should marry and runs away from her small village to London. There she hooks up with the preoccupied Bruce Carlton (Cornel Wilde), a peer who petitions King Charles II for his just rewards for fighting for his Restoration. Amber falls madly in love with him, but he never returns his love. Instead he knocks her up and goes to sea in a privateer enterprise (shares with the king the booty he makes by robbing foreign ships) when his petition to the wily king comes through. The naive Amber is soon cheated out of the money Bruce left her by crooked investors and is sent to prison as a pauper on false charges. In prison, she arranges her escape with highway bandit Black Jack (John Russell) and gives birth to Bruce’s child outside prison. Mother Red Cap (Anne Revere), the head of Jack’s gang arranged the escape and expects Amber to work her robbery schemes to pay her back. The now more resourceful Amber escapes from the gang’s clutches during one such robbery by hiding out in Captain Morgan’s (Glenn Langan) house; he’s a captain in the king’s guard and through his connections gets her a gig as an actress and helps her raise enough money to buy back her baby from Mother Red Cap.
The rest of the film centers on more knavery and debauchery, the goings-on at the depraved court, Amber becoming the king’s mistress and gaining a title, and still chasing after Bruce who visits from America with his good Virginian wife Corinna (Jane Ball).
The lavishly produced extravaganza (budgeted for about $6.5 million) elicited little excitement under Preminger’s heavy-handed direction; it also could have snipped off an hour’s worth of film and not lost a beat; but as escapist fare it has some merit.
REVIEWED ON 1/19/2008 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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