music friday: 1979
film fatales #39: a girl like her (amy s. weber, 2015)

dishonored lady (robert stevenson, 1947)

An undistinguished film with a hint of "what if" to make it more interesting off the screen than on. It's based on a 1930 play by Edward Sheldon and future Pulitzer Prize winner Margaret Ayer Barnes, Dishonored Lady officially made it to the screen in 1947, but the road was long. There was a Joan Crawford film in 1932, Letty Lynton, which has been unavailable since 1936 after a lawsuit claimed it was plagiarized from the play Dishonored Lady. (Ironically, the film Dishonored Lady fell into the public domain, meaning there are lots of crappy versions, like one on YouTube.) This film was delayed by a couple of years due to disputes with the Hays Office. Wikipedia picks up the story:

The Hays Office insisted that two affairs - one in Mexico and the other in New York - might be "overloading" the picture, and also objected to the "night of sordid passion." A memo dated April 25, 1946, stated that, despite revisions, the script was unacceptable because of its gratuitous sex and its references to Madeleine's unsavory family secrets. In the released version of the story, references to Madeleine's parents were omitted completely. The character of Moreno and the affair in Mexico City were completely excised, and the "night of sordid passion" was not shown. All suggestions that Madeleine was a murderer, or had even contemplated murder, were also removed from the film.

What remained in the finished product was watered down and largely dull. Hedy Lamarr holds up her reputation as "The World's Most Beautiful Woman", and her acting isn't bad. The rest of the cast was made up of lesser lights like Dennis O'Keefe and John Loder (married to Lamarr at the time), along with pop culture icons such as Natalie Schafer (in her mid-40s at the time, she went on to play Lovey on Gilligan's Island 20 years later) and Margaret Hamilton (best-known as The Wicked Witch of the West). Director Robert Stevenson made the Orson Welles/Joan Fontaine Jane Eyre, got an Oscar nomination for directing Mary Poppins, and eventually made 19 movies for Disney, back when that meant Son of Flubber and Herbie Rides Again.

Dishonored Lady went over budget and then bombed at the box office. Lamarr went on to Samson and Delilah, and today is known as much for her work as an inventor as for her beauty.

And there's a personal connection for me. The music for the film was done by Carmen Dragon, Oscar winner for Cover Girl. Dragon was born in my hometown, Antioch, California. For many years, he was connected with The Standard School Broadcast, which was piped into my elementary school on occasion for all the students to hear. Dragon was also the father of The Captain of The Captain and Tennille fame.

None of the above makes Dishonored Lady any more worth watching.


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