Strange Interlude, 1932. 5/10

This movie is notable for the odd inner monologues. One narrator is often one too many, but a whole cast of narrators? Strange Interlude is straight from Eugene O’Neill, unfortunately, fairly unadapted for the screen. Another interesting bit is that Clark Gable’s Ned is just one of four love interests for Nina Leeds (Norma Shearer). One of the guys, Gordon, dies in WWI, before the action takes place.

There’s Sam (Alexander Kirkland) and Charlie (Ralph Morgan), and Nina’s son Gordon, who has two incarnations: as a kid (Tad Alexander) and youth (a very young Robert Young). Plus Mary Robson as Sam’s mom. Henry B. Walthall is Nina’s dad, Professor Leeds. Madeline (Maureen O’Sullivan) is Gordon’s (the son’s) fiancee.

The on-going thought monologues luckily didn’t start a trend. My Rx: just have more dialogue, or more acting. It’s like parallel stories. The twenty year time span makes short shrift of character development; time has to pass as it tramples the characters and plot. The other aspect of the unique presentation is that the characters seem to be listening in to each others thoughts. They do react to each other naturally, by gesture and nuance. Sometimes, though, they seem to respond to their own thoughts. So, there’s both under-acting and over-acting. It’s as though the actors weren’t trusted to simply play their parts; they need ‘back-up.’ All of this stuff makes a complex story even thicker.

The skeleton in the closet is that Nina is skittish about having a child with Sam, because of his family’s history of mental instability. But she does have little Gordon–with Ned, that is. Just her and Ned (and probably Sam’s mom) know of the kid’s ancestry. His mom crudely broached the subject to Nina, “pick a healthy male” planting a seed, so to speak. The way he proposes is so un-romantic. It’s as though his inner voice is taking over.

A really weird early scene has Sam’s mom show Nina an attic room from which we hear a cackling voice, but don’t see anyone. The mother-in-law is revealing her mad sister to scare Nina. Not to scare Nina away, but as a warning not to upset her son, or, you see, he might just end up shut away in a hidden room too. Later on, Sam has the good sense to die. But that doesn’t simplify things much. I don’t get why, with Sam out of the way, Nina won’t marry Ned.

She spends most of the movie pining after him, but then then she just passes up the opportunity. Well, she is a lot older. Still, there’s the possibility that she’s never gotten over her ‘first’ Gordon. She wants what she can’t have. At one point, she wishes that Sam would just go away or die; before her marriage, she disparages Charlie in a blunt way.

Since we know what everyone’s thinking, there’s not really much drama. It’s pretty much a gossip-fest. Farmermouse was spooked by the cackling voices, so he gives this five stars. 5/10.

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