East Side, West Side (1949)

East Side, West Sideeast side west side poster
Directed by Mervyn LeRoy
Written by Isobel Lennart from a novel by Marcia Davenport
1949/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Brandon Bourne: [Desparately] Jess, can’t you understand what this is for me. I’m like a drunk who knows liquor will wreck him. He hates it. He hides from it. He… he tries!

Jessie Bourne: What are you asking for? Permission?

This “woman’s picture” has some nice performances but the story was a little too pat for my taste.

As the film opens, attorney Brandon Bourne (James Mason) and his wife Jessie (Barbara Stanwyck) are dining with her mother (Gale Sondergaard) and mom’s publisher husband, They have evidently weathered some blow to their happy marriage and appear to be very much in love.  He is called to meet with a client but they agree that she will wait for him to come home for a “bedtime snack”.

Brandon has the spine of an earthworm.  Since it is still “early” when he finishes with the client, he decides to stop by a nightclub for a drink.  There he is soon spotted by his ex-paramour Isabel Lorrison (Ava Gardner).  She is with another man but very, very interested in picking up with Brandon where they left off.  He tells her no.  He then meets sweet young Italian Rosa Senta (Cyd Charisse) and begins flirting with her.  She reveals she is waiting for her “fella” to come home from Europe.  Then Isabel approaches Brandon again and her escort slugs him in front of reporters.  Rosa takes him home to her mother’s house to save him from the press.  It is thus morning before Brandon comes home to Jesse.

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Brandon’s antics and their connection to Isabel have made the morning paper.  Jesse accepts Brandon’s lame explanation of the innocence of the events and they make plans to take a romantic getaway.  But at work, Isabel shows up to reinforce her claim on Brandon.  Since Brandon is an idiot, he goes to Isabel’s apartment to tell her that all is over and she should leave him alone.  It does not take a genius to guess what happens next.

In the meantime, Jessie drives Rosa out to the airport to meet her fella.  This turns out to be Mark Dwyer (Van Heflin), whose book Jessie’s stepfather is publishing.  Mark’s interest in Rosa is brotherly and soon he is in love with Jessie.  He helps her through her marital woes.  Conveniently, he is an ex-cop who can also help in the murder investigation that concludes the film.  With William Frawley as a bartender, William Conrad as a cop, and Beverly Michaels as a shady lady.

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With this cast and the MGM treatment, this film just has to be moderately entertaining.  But that’s all really.  It is full of way too many coincidences and convenient fall-backs for our heroine.

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