"Back Street" (1961)

BACKSTORY: From the NY Times Review by critic Bosley Crowther, October 13, 1961: In the third screen embodiment of "Back Street," the old Fannie Hurst tear-jerking yarn about the woman who loves a married man be dearly that she lets herself be kept by him under a bit of a social cloud, producer Ross Hunter has crammed so much swank and so much plush Parisian elegance that we wonder why he didn't change the title to something like "Rue de Bac." Never has Miss Hurst's little lady (represented heretofore by Irene Dunne and Margaret Sullavan, vis-à-vis the respective consorts of John Boles and Charles Boyer) been set up in such elaborate diggings or lavished with such expensive gifts as is Susan Hayward by John Gavin in this elaborate and expensive color film. Customers at the Capitol, where it opened yesterday, were goggle-eyed. No mere apartment on a aide street in Chicago or even New York is fit for the sweetie of the executive who plainly pads his expense account in this film. No sireee! Nothing less than a villa on the Mediterranean within an hour's fast drive of Rome and a rebuilt farmhouse in the country near Paris will do for this high-stepping woman. And, believe us, she is a high-stepper! Fresh out of Omaha, she becomes a fancy dress designer in New York within a couple of years. And when she gets nervous and restless (after a chance meeting with her gentleman friend, who has not yet become her "back street husband"), she switches locations to Rome. Rome and Paris become her oyster (or "erster," as she might better say), and so, pretty soon, does Mr. Gavin, who is slightly encrusted with an alcoholic wife. He bubbles with wonder and amazement when he sees her satin-walled salon. "You know, I'm just beginning to realize you're a most amazing woman," he brightly quips. Well, he's certainly entitled to his opinion—or, rather, Eleanore Griffin and William Ludwig are entitled to put whatever words of supposed wit and wisdom they choose, in his and the other characters' mouths. But they can't fool us. Behind her make-up and her burlesque strip-teaser's dragfoot strut, this little woman of Miss Hayward's is just the figment of someone's cheap and tacky dreams. The square-jawed gentleman of Mr. Gavin's is right out of the Sears, Roebuck catalogue, the other characters are flabby fictions and the film itself is a moral and emotional fraud. It pretends to suggest that sinning is something you shouldn't do, unless you want to end up with a nice dress business, a house outside Paris and the two orphaned children of your lover on your hands. (We might also note a further penalty is having to listen to some horrible dialogue.) But come to think of it, it might be pretty awful having to endure those creepy kids.