GREAT FLAMARION, THE (director: Anthony Mann; screenwriters: from the story “Big Shot” by Vicki Baum/Heinz Herald/Richard Weil/Anne Wighton; cinematographer: James Brown; editor: John Link; music: Alexander Laszlo; cast: Erich Von Stroheim (The Great Flamarion), Mary Beth Hughes (Connie Wallace), Dan Duryea (Al Wallace), Stephen Barclay (Eddie), Lester Allen (Tony), Esther Howard (Cleo), Michael Mark (Night Watchman), Joseph Granby (Detective); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Wilder; Republic; 1945)
“Fun to watch as Von Stroheim goes through the drill of being the wronged man who seeks revenge for being trifled with.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Billy Wilder’s brother William is the producer for this melodramatic B film crime thriller that stars the great Vienna-born actor/director Erich Von Stroheim. The famous silent screen director (“Greed”/”The Merry Widow”) has been blacklisted from the Hollywood mainstream because of his reputation of being difficult to work with, his over costly productions and the gossip following him over his sexual decadence and all-night orgies on his sets. Poverty Row films were willing to get him on the cheap and use his big star name to sell their cheapie pics. In this Anthony Mann directed film noir based on the story “Big Shot” by Vicki Baum, Von Stroheim plays an arrogant, friendless, miserable woman-hating vaudeville sharpshooter, The Great Flamarion, who falls under the spell of a cold-hearted and calculating married woman named Connie Wallace (Mary Beth Hughes). It’s a cheesy and heavy-handed narrative that is still fun to watch as Von Stroheim goes through the drill of being the wronged man who seeks revenge for being trifled with.
It begins with a vaudeville show in Mexico City, 1936, and during the show Connie, who is partners with her husband Eddie (Stephen Barclay) in a bicycle act, is found strangled to death in her dressing room. The police close the show and charge Eddie with the murder after hearing witnesses say he had a spat with his wife earlier and they also find a fired gun in his dressing room. After the police leave,Tony, a clown in the show, discovers the severely bullet-riddled Great Flamarion on the stage floor and the dying man confesses to the murder and proceeds to tell him why.
Flamarion is performing in Pittsburgh a year earlier in his acclaimed sharpshooter act with his assistants, the husband and wife team of Al (Dan Duryea) and Connie. Al is always drunk, claiming his unfaithful wife drove him to drink but won’t grant her a divorce because he still loves her and she won’t file for one because he threatens to tell about her damaging secretive checkered past. Connie, who is having an affair with the handsome Eddie, who is part of a bicycle act in the show, lures Flamarion to fall under her romantic spell and convinces him to kill her drunken husband during their performance so she can run away with him. The coroner rules the death an accident, and Connie talks Flamarion into waiting three months before marrying while she goes home to Minnesota to collect herself. When Connie fails to show at their arranged meeting in a Chicago hotel, the humiliated Flamarion tries to find her but she seems to have vanished into thin air. Flamarion’s life takes a sharp downward spiral, as he loses his money gambling, starts drinking and becomes disheveled. At last, he runs into Cleo, a performer in the Pittsburgh show, who even though she doesn’t like Flamarion she likes Connie even less, and gives the downtrodden sharpshooter a tip of where to find Connie. When Flamarion confronts Connie in her dressing room, she tells him how he always disgusted her, “You’re old and ugly,” and that she only used him to get rid of her unwanted husband in order to run off with Eddie.
REVIEWED ON 4/28/2005 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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