THE HARD WAY
(director: Vincent Sherman; screenwriters: Daniel Fuchs/Peter Viertel/from a novel by Irwin Shaw; cinematographer: James Wong Howe; editor: Thomas Pratt; music: M. K. Jerome; cast: Ida Lupino (Helen Chernen), Joan Leslie (Katherine ‘Katie’ Chernen Blaine Runkel), Sam Chernan (Roman Bohnen), Dennis Morgan (Paul Collins), Jack Carson (Albert Runkel), Gladys George (Lily Emery), Julie Bishop (chorine), Paul Cavanagh (John Shugrue), Leona Maricle (Laura Bithorn), Nestor Paiva (Max Wade), Lou Lubin (Frenchy), Thurston Hall (Motion Picture Executive), Ray Montgomery (Johnny Gilpin ); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Jerry Wald; Warner Bros.; 1943)
“The part Ida got because Bette Davis rejected it, is well-served by her.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Director Vincent Sherman(“Ice Palace”/”The Garment Jungle”/”Mr. Skeffington”), in his most personal film, does his typically craftsman-like job with this Ida Lupino starring emotional melodrama, that’s told through a noir-styled flashback. It’s well-written by Daniel Fuchs and Peter Viertel. It tells the story of the unhappily married Helen Chalmers (Ida Lupino), married to Sam (Roman Bohnen), living in poverty and desperation in the dumpy industrial town of Greenhill. After their mom dies Helen sacrifices everything so her younger single sister Katherine (Joan Leslie), that she rears, won’t follow her footsteps and steers her into a show business career on Broadway when the visiting song-and-dance vaudeville team of the debonair singer Paul Collins (Dennis Morgan) and hoofer Albert Runkel (Jack Carson) by chance catch Katie imitating them at the local soda fountain and are impressed. Runkel is attracted to Katie and they soon wed. Helen leaves hubby and their depressed coal-mining town to join them on the road, and while looking out for sis meddles to get Katie a bigger part. It results in Collins no longer in the act. Soon the pushy Helen replaces the limited Albert. On Broadway, Katie splits fom hubby and moves from the chorus line to a solo starring role in the revue, on sis’s ruthless plotting, and is told by the established playwright Laura Bithorn (Leona Maricle) that she will write her next play for her.Meanwhile the depressed Runkel, spurned by the now famous Katie, kills himself. This causes a guilt feeling in Katie and she becomes a boozer.Her partying and drinking bouts become so bad, that Helen must scheme to produce sis’s next show. When Collins turns up in town leading a popular band, he hooks up with Katie despite Helen also being attracted to him. After Paul and Katie get engaged, Helen interferes. But Katie can’t abandon her older sis and refuses to drop the show she planned with Helen to run off with Paul. As a result, Paul breaks off the engagement. In the end things sour for the controlling Helen, as Katie goes back to Paul when she sees how sis is destroying her life and Helen is left on her own. In the end, Helen becomes a potential suicide.
It’s a wearisome psychological story about ambition as a destructive force, not entirely convincing, but the part Ida got because Bette Davis rejected it, is well-served by her. It tells us much about the human condition, the dogfight to make a relationship work on Broadway, that showbiz glamor is not all it’s cracked up to be and the difficulties of stardom. It’s an observant but dark story that contains some uplifting moments, and though not that enjoyable is well-produced and could be admired best for how well it’s professionally executed.
The always wonderful Gladys George has a small but meaningful part as an actress on the down side of her career, showing the sisters how fleeting fame can be On the Gay White Way,
Ida Lupino won the 1943 New York Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.
REVIEWED ON 8/28/2014 GRADE: B