A good example of the kind of soporific nonsense that won rave reviews and armloads of Academy Awards back in the 50s, while the finest work of Ford, Hawks, and Hitchcock was being ignored. George Stevens, a tireless moralizer and part-time embalmer of American myths (Shane), directed this melodramatic adaptation of Dreiser's An American Tragedy, and what does not seem facile in it seems overwrought. Curiously, this 1951 film now seems hopelessly dated, while Josef von Sternberg's 1931 treatment of the material, filmed under the original title, seems breathtakingly modern. With Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shelley Winters.
By Dave Kehr