Flamingo Road (Warner) sends Joan Crawford traveling, somewhat wearily, down the well-beaten Hollywood trail of rags-to-riches. This time the trail begins in a small town when Joan ditches her job with a broken-down carnival and meets up romantically with Deputy Sheriff Zachary Scott. Next she gets a respectable job as a local waitress. Before she ends up in the town's biggest mansion, as the wife of the state's biggest politico (David Brian), she has to take a series of plot hurdles and heartbreaks. Biggest hurdle of all is Scott's vicious, milk-drinking boss (Sydney Greenstreet).
Flamingo Road is not even paved with good intentions. Jerry-built out of odds & ends of cliches, it is an unashamed reworking of a formula that has been familiar to Joan Crawford's fans for a couple of decades. The tired old plot is in no way improved by Joan's new hairdo, which is blonde and unbecoming. Sydney Greenstreet, with his lashless, inscrutable stare, is no whit different from what he has been in a dozen similar roles. As usual, he gets the dirtiest end of the dialogue. Sample, as Joan pulls a gun on him: "I should have spit you out the first time you lit between my teeth."
Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (20th Century-Fox) gives Clifton Webb a chance to go on playing the comedy role that turned last year's Sitting Pretty into a smash box-office hit. Mr. Belvedere is no longer a babysitter, but he is still insufferably and hilariously patronizing; he is still a self-confessed genius and he is still broke. His bestselling book, Hummingbird Hill, has won him fame, but lost him a fortune in libel suits. All he has left is a $10,000 prize which he can collect only by taking a college degree. With acidulous hauteur, he enrolls as a freshman at Clemens University, gets a job as hasher at the Triple Gamma sorority house, and sets out to take four years of higher education in one.
From there on, Webb keeps himself and the audience highly entertained. He wears his freshman cap with the same deadpan elegance he gives to his cane and his well-draped suit. In his job as hasher, he can toss up crepes Belvedere or lecture the young women of the sorority on table manners. At the piano in the sorority parlor, he can play Beethoven or boogie, but he prefers the works of Belvedere. His biggest, and perhaps funniest, moment comes at the Freshman-Sophomore track-meet when he lays aside his dog-eared book, rolls his well-creased trousers above his knobbly knees and stalks out on the field to win the pole vault and a freshman victory.
What is left of the story is carried rather heavily by Shirley Temple and Tom Drake, two undergraduates busily involved with love and misunderstandings. But most of the time Director Elliott Nugent, who has a special knack for this sort of thing, keeps his lens and sound track trained on Clifton Webb. By neatly trimming the tone and pace of the film to Webb's personal high-comedy style, he has kept the Belvedere formula fresh and amusing.
We Were Strangers (Horizon; Columbia) is the latest film by John Huston, maker of the 1948 prizewinner, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, As movie melodramas go, it is above average, but it is not Grade A Huston. Purporting to be a courageous film about Cuba's 1933 revolution, Strangers is, unfortunately, no stranger to some old, slick Hollywood tricks.