From The Vault: Lonelyhearts (1958)

“SOME WIVES CHEAT BECAUSE THEIR HUSBANDS DO…AND SOME BECAUSE THEY’RE JUST NO GOOD!”

LONELYHEARTS (1958)

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Directed by Vincent J. Donehue  Lonelyhearts is a compelling look at loneliness, human frailty often ugly and pathetic, infused with a wry cynicism yet underpinned with an air of redemption. Considered to be a bit of Noir, the milieu of the Newspaper room, the darkened city with it’s sordid inhabitants mulling about, and a man who is not quite what he appears to be has many of the tidings of a good noir, but I would say this film falls more into the genre of psychological melodrama. Based on Nathanael West’s (Day of the Locust) novel ‘Miss Lonelyhearts.’ and penned for the screen by producer/writer Dore Schary.

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Montgomery Clift  plays Adam White, a young writer hiding the truth about his childhood in the orphanage from his devoted girl Justy Sargeant played by the lovely (Dolores Hart).

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Adam is hired by The Chronicle’s harshly cynical Editor William Shrike played as only the gruff and unceremoniously sexy Robert Ryan can pull off , to be the exacting voice and conscience behind the “Miss Lonelyhearts”column for the paper. Myrna Loy plays a sympathetic and sad character as Shrike’s wife Florence who has fallen from grace in her husbands eyes, due to a prior indiscretion, something that Shrike continues to punish her for years later. The scenes between Loy and Ryan are captivating.

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The film’s dialogue is outstanding, as it plunges you into a dark night of the soul, while Shrike maliciously tries to teach his moral apprentice the bitter truth about life and what really lies behind the assortment of needy folk who reach out for advice. The wonderful stage actress Maureen Stapleton  received a nomination for an Academy Award for her dramatic portrayal of the very desperate and troubled Fay Doyle, in her first screen role. Equally commanding is character actor Frank Maxwell as Fay’s frustrated, crippled husband who loves his wife but hasn’t been able to make love to her in years.

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Shrike’s relentless determination to wear away the selfless and compassionate exterior of young Adam White and lay bare his failings as well as disarm him is like watching two boxers fight with their wits as Montgomery Clift’s Adam is so deft at maneuvering with his vastly layered, always intelligent and sensitively nuanced performance as an imperfect man struggling to be a good man. His altruistic ideals are blown to bits as he delves into the lives of the people who write in for help only to discover that he too a tortured soul in need of saving and self reflection.

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West’s novel reveals Adam White’s character as even more of a Christ like Archetype who suffers and must bear the weight of everyone else’s sins. Montgomery Clift, one of the finest actors tragically taken away from us way too soon, is always so compelling to watch, and while others are huge fans and rightfully so, of James Dean, I myself remain a die hard Monty Clift worshiper.

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I do feel that the film leans too heavily toward demonizing woman as ‘tramps’ a word that comes up several times during the course of the film. But the performances, dialogue and mood of the piece are just too good to miss.

Also co-starring Onslow Stevens (Angel On My Shoulder 1946, Them 1954) as Mr. Lassiter, Adams’ father now in jail for murdering his adulterous wife. Mike Kellin and Jackie Coogan (Uncle Fester) as fellow newspaper men Frank Goldsmith and the jaded Ned Gates. And Frank Overton who plays Justy’s kindly father.

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William Shrike: Enter light of my life, repository of my golden youth
Florence Shrike: Stop making fun of me
William: I’m not making fun of you I speak truth are your delicate ears grown cold… You my love I see my youth, so I cherish you.
Florence: You want some milk?
William: For the stomach dissolving in alcohol (he touches her face) how tender of you.
Florence: Stop talking to me that way! Stop humiliating me… (screeches)STOP!!!! Why don’t you finish it off. In gods name tell me it’s over, don’t do this to me.
William: May I speak… you haven’t answered my question
Florence: If you can’t forgive me why do we go on… why?
William: Cause I too am a mourner, an incorrigible mourner who sits at the grave. You mourn too Florence, You’re my wife but also the widow of our early romance. You wear your gay plumage hoping one day for the resurrection that you may greet it with the freshness of a bride.
Florence: And what do you hope for?
William: Peace. For just one day when I forget the picture of a young wife
Florence: That was ten years ago, ten years….
William: What’s a normal sentence for adultery?
Florence: I was alone, I was drunk, You had betrayed me so many times
William: Ah, evening the score.
Florence: It wasn’t that

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You can always reach out to me if you’re ever lonely dear hearts- Yours forever MonsterGirl