Smash-Up, The Story of a Woman


D: Stuart Heisler (1947); with Susan Hayward, Lee Bowman, Marsha Hunt, Eddie Albert. Susan Hayward, impossibly young and beautiful in this Walter Wanger production, portrays Angelica Evans, a young chanteuse with the world at her feet, but who doesn't want the world. She wants Ken Conway, part of an unemployed singing-songwriting duo (sexlessly portrayed by Bowman), but he is socially beneath her. As the effervescent star of a family of performers (who happens to like a little drinkee now and then), Angelica lacks the ambition to continue her singing career. It's easy to understand why -- it's hard to imagine that the kind of singing and dancing that Hayward does as Angelica could ever be popular in real life. But, we digress -- suffice to say she gives up her career for love. Hubby and his partner, played by Albert, get jobs as singing cowboys on the radio (another mysteriously popular career in old movies), and he pens a special song, a hideously slurpy ballad called "Life Can Be Beautiful." Dispensing with the cowboy routine, hubby sings the song on his radio show one night and becomes an overnight success, a teen idol; this, of course, is a time when teen idols weren't teenagers themselves. He gets hooked up with a management company and acquires an assistant, a little minx named Martha, wickedly played by Hunt. Little Martha takes over many aspects of hubby's life, rendering Angelica useless, except as a milk machine for the baby. A few little drinkee-winkees help ease the pain ("It puts poise in apathetic people," she tells us), but with the drinkees come the attendant drunken dramas, and Angelica becomes an embarrassment to her pop star husband. Martha happily manipulates the situation, making sure that Angelica knows that she's no longer needed in every way possible. This culminates in a drunken slapfest at a party, resulting in hubby moving out. Proven to be an unfit mother, Angelica loses custody of her child and naturally dives deeply into the bottle. Drunkenly deciding to kidnap her child, she does so, and nearly kills the child by setting the house on fire with a cigarette. And on it goes. Life can be beautiful. Indeed.

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