The Macomber Affair (Bogeaus-Robinson; United Artists) is a screen version of Ernest Hemingway's excruciating study of the relationships between an ill-married American couple and their hired English hunter-guide, and of the relations of all three to what Hemingway once called "grace under pressure."
Since the three are hunting big game in Africa, the pressures are primitive, and considerable. Macomber (Robert Preston) is a good shot but he lacks courage in a crisis and the sportsman's sense of honor towards his quarry. Besides, he talks too much about himself. The hunter (Gregory Peck), on the other hand, is everything a Hemingway hero should be. Mrs. Macomber (Joan Bennett) is not slow to choose between them nor delicate in showing her preferencein several almost unbearably ugly scenes of cruelty and humiliation. Under the pressures, Macomber finds his courage for the first time in his life. Finding it, his life really begins and his abjectness towards his wife is at an end. Mrs. Macomber promptly shoots him through the head.
According to Hemingway, she shoots him deliberately. According to Mrs. Macomber, in the movie, it was just a tragic accidentand the audience is left to make up its own mind.
Up to this point, Macomber is a brilliantly good jobthe best yetof bringing Hemingway to the screen. None of the three principal players could possibly be improved on; the African landscapes and hunting scenes (which were made in Africa and Mexico) are as believable as a neighbor's backyard. Director Zoltan Korda (Sahara) has already made two films in Africa, which is a help in this particular picture; still more important, he knows people, and style, and atmosphere, and how to make them vivid on a screen. There is hardly a point that Hemingway made in this savage, complex communique about the war between the sexes that Korda and his actors fail to make in movie terms. In fact, a good 95% of Macomber is a remarkably exciting picture for mature audiences. The worst of Hollywood's "improvements" on the original story is the did-she-or-didn't-she ending, which pulls the fuse out of Hemingway's whole payoff.
It Happened in Brooklyn (MGM) features Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Durante and Kathryn Grayson at the tops of their respective voices. It needn't have bothered, so far as the box office is concerned, to do anything more. What little more it does is nearly all to the good. Aside from an overdose of jokes about Brooklyn, everything about the picture is not only unobjectionable but, in a modest way, definitely enjoyable.
Sinatra, as usual, is a shy type who fails to get the girl; he not only sings with great effectiveness (best new song: Time After Time), but performs naturally and unaffectedly. Durante, as a high-school janitor, hasn't much to do beyond proving, without any strain, that he is one of the most likable entertainers in the business. Miss Grayson, prettier and more animated than ever, warbles an aria from Lakmé like an eisteddfod of thrushes, and does even better by Mozart's Lá Ci Darem la Mano, in which she is supported by Sinatra. For good measure young Billy Roy plays the piano impressively, and Peter Lawford hangs around amiably as the shy son of an English duke.