Back Street

Back Street

D: David Miller (1961); with Susan Hayward, John Gavin, Reginald Gardiner, Natalie Schaefer. A typically lush Ross Hunter/Fanny Hurst gusher with Miss Hayward as Rae Smith, an aspiring young fashion designer who keeps coincidentally running into Captain Paul Saxon, played by the Ross Hunter staple, Gavin, also known as the poor man's Rock Hudson. He rescues her from sexual harassment at a job interview, and she is eternally grateful. So grateful that they fall deeply in love and everything is fabulous, except for the niggling little detail that Captain Saxon is already married. Hayward, who by 1961 was a little old to be playing an aspiring young designer, is her usual incandescent self, at turns bubbling with excitement or tortured by lamentations. She certainly does her best with Miss Hurst's tawdry, but dated, story. Miss Hurst, the Jacqueline Susann of her day, does not write in a fashion that bears close scrutiny, and the story is full of missed connections, lost messages, and an assortment of things that could have been avoided if everyone had had cell phones, call waiting, and e-mail. Rae is devastated by finding out that she's "the other woman" but channels her energy into becoming a world-famous designer overnight. The drunken socialite of a wife, faultlessly played by Vera Miles, refuses to let her husband have a divorce, but Saxon is smitten with Rae and will let nothing come between them. He follows her to Rome, where she runs a couture salon and unloads his sad tale of woe upon her. Cut to waves crashing on the beach.

But the real action occurs at the requisite fashion show. Held as a benefit charity auction, this show was meant to be Rae's crowning achievement at the pivotal moment in her career. When the bridal gown comes down the runway, the drunken shrew of a wife bids furiously on the dress, drawing unpleasant attention to herself and causing much consternation. The situation becomes untenable, and Saxon decides that the only way to end the pain he has caused Rae is to kill his wife. He chooses a car accident, and of course we understand that the risk will be just as great for him. The wife dies, and Saxon survives -- but only long enough to phone Rae and tell her he loves her. By the time he croaks, you, the viewer, are presumably on your fifth Kleenex. But the best part of the death scene (in which Hunter and Hurst excel), is that it signals the end of the movie.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More Screens Reviews
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
What If the Marx Brothers Got Around to Making That Movie With Salvador Dalí?
Josh Frank brings the legendary unproduced movie to printed life

Wayne Alan Brenner, March 22, 2019

What If <i>The Texas Chain Saw Massacre</i> Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
What If The Texas Chain Saw Massacre Was Really About the Horrors of Modern American Society?
Putting the Austin-made seminal slasher back into context

Marc Savlov, March 22, 2019

More by Stephen MacMillan Moser
After a Fashion: A Stitch In Time
After a Fashion: A Stitch In Time
Fort Lonesome will not be lonely for long

July 5, 2013

After a Fashion: The Main Event
After a Fashion: The Main Event
Your Style Avatar would look great sporting these parasols

June 28, 2013

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle