Movie Critique - East Side, West Side

For review of all movies starring Barbara Stanwyck, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: A melodrama nonetheless that comes with revenge, love and jealousy; all matters of heart taking new turns every time a scene changes. 

East Side, West Side is a 1949 American melodramatic crime film with some distinguished star cast such as Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Ava Gardner, Van Heflin and William Conrad mong others. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy and produced by Voldemar Vetlugin, the film was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

Brandon Bourne (portrayed by James Mason), dilly-dallying husband of socialite Jessie Bourne (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck) is brought under suspicion of the murder of Brandon's former mistress, Isabella Lorrison (portrayed by Ava Gardner). With help of intelligence office and ex-NYPD cop, Mark Dwyer (portrayed by Van Heflin), Jessie has to prove her husband's innocence knowing that he had been unfaithful to her in the past.

Barbara Stanwyck is marvelous as always in her role of Jessie Bourne, the wife who is in love with the dilly-dallying husband, and stays by his side during the turmoil they go through. I am glad to see her coming to senses towards the end, else it would have been a spineless character, which Stanwyck never would have portrayed.

Ava Gardner in one of her earlier film roles in this as gold-digger Isabella Lorrison. She makes a compelling femme fatale that even I wanted to kill her. :P

She has a very strong resemblance to Cyd Charisse who plays the part of Rosa Senta in the film. MGM had taken tremendous pleasure and fun in putting them in several of the films together. Cyd Charisse has a strong role in the film and not just a eye candy on the guy's shoulder.

I have seen James Mason in some later films such as the 1959 American spy thriller, North by Northwest and in much later films such as 1982 British locked-room mystery Agatha Christie's Poirot: Evil Under the Sun. This is one of his earlier movies that I got a chance to watch. We can see the beginnings of his charming and dynamic personality that he honed over the years. 

Van Heflin is in his distinguished ex-cop persona as Mark Dwyer in the film. Handsome, dashing, charming and straight as an arrow. He reminds me of Orson Welles in some of the scenes but more dapper, less cynical and on the right side of the law. 

This is the last film Gale Sondergaard for at least twenty years until you see her in the 1969 American drama film Slaves. She was blacklisted as she refused to testify before the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Ironically she was only eight years older than Stanwyck at the time of the filming but plays the role of Stanwyck's Jessie's mother, Nora Kernan in the film. You can also see her photograph on the table in the picture below.

But I remember for her role as Lady Thiang in the 1946 drama film Anna and the King of Siam

Note the old time radio fixture William Conrad in the role of Lieutenant Jake Jacobi in the film. Conrad had several radio appearances primarily being Marshal Matt Dillon in the series Gunsmoke; as Lieutenant Dundy in The Adventures of Sam Spade; and in supporting roles in The Green Lama, Night Beat, Suspense and many other radio shows. He had a long TV and film career as well in the capacity of actor, producer and director.

The film was based on a novel by Marcia Davenport. Screenplay was written by Isobel Lennart in collaboration with Davenport. The opening credits are seen over a backdrop of New York City in a painted form. Once the credits end, the film starts with Barbara Stanwyck's Jessie speaking a monologue about the town and what means to her.

Jessie Bourne: Yes, this is my town. It's not new to you. You're read books about it. You've seen it in movies. People are always talking about New York. It's the most exciting city in the world, they say. The most glamorous, the most frightening and, above all, the fastest. You hear a great deal about the tempo of this city, it's speed, it's pace, it's driving heartbeat. Perhaps, it's true - for visitors. But, I was born here. I live here. And the only pace I know is the pace of my own life. The only beat I hear is the beat of my own heart. For me and for millions of others, New York is home. The days follow each other quietly, as they do in most places.

The basic story line isn't new - there is a femme fatale and a devoted wife; a wavering character; a detective on the right side of the law; a murder, a mystery and an affair - all elements of a typical film noir. What makes this unique is the acting of the cast and the filmmaking of the director. 

A melodrama nonetheless that comes with revenge, love and jealousy; all matters of heart taking new turns every time a scene changes. Compelling acting, wonderful surprises and some much needed delightful laughter in the wake of serious murder. A decent watch from a period that produced some excellent noir.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Check out Beverly Michaels as Felice Backett in the film. She is the wife of Academy Award winning screenplay writer Russell Rouse and the mother of Academy Award winning film editor Christopher Rouse.

b. Note Douglas Kennedy in the supporting role of Alec Dawning. I saw him in the 1947 American mystery thriller Dark Passage as the cop named Kennedy.

c. Stanwyck and Heflin acted in two other films prior to this - the 1946 American film noir The Strange Love of Martha Ivers; and the 1948 American drama film B. F.'s Daughter.

d. In the film, Stanwyck and Gardner share only one scene. Ironically they died five days apart - Stanwyck on January 20, 1990 and Gardner on January 25, 1990.

e. There is reference to the 1943 American horror film noir, The Seventh Victim, in the film. Lou Lubin's character Chuck Snyder owns a restaurant called Tiptoe Inn. In The Seventh Victim, Lou's character Private Detective Irvine August tiptoes in to see Jacqueline Gibson (portrayed by Jean Brooks).

f. There was a TV series in the 1960s titled East Side / West Side that aired on CBS for one single season. It has nothing to do with this film though. More about it here.

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When Isabel is making a drink we can hear her putting ice into the glasses. But when she hands the drink to Brandon it doesn’t have ice.

b. In the scene shot over Mark's shoulder you can see Chuck Snyder pulling his shirt back and putting his hands inside his packet. But when we are shown the same scene from over Snyder's shoulder he repeats that motion again. 


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