In the Good Old Summertime
(MGM) is another good old Metro musical, in turn-of-the-century costume, featuring Van Johnson and Judy Garland. By day Van is an up & coming salesman in a Chicago music store. At night he carries on an anonymous lonely-hearts correspondence with an unknown lady. Judy, a salesgirl in the same shop, is also a lonely-heart. Before they discover that they are writing to each other, a foreseeable number of comic situations have been run through the wringer.
Thanks to efficient research, Summertime has a deceptively substantial appearance. Its. authentic period sets and costumes are persuasively gay, and the whole film is redolent of early German-American Gemütlichkeit. Its only other claim to style is Judy Garland. In several spots, she manages to give the show the look and pace of a bang-up musical.
The Great Sinner (MGM) is an expensive bloom resulting from some curious cross-pollination between Dostoevsky's The Gambler, elements of Dostoevsky's own life, and a few Hollywood afterthoughts. Like Dostoevsky, the hero of the story is a young Russian novelist (Gregory Peck) who is given to long gambling bouts in German spas, and to falling fits and visionary religious enthusiasms.
Like Alexei Ivanovich, the hero of The Gambler, he is also in love with the proud, cynical daughter (Ava Gardner) of a corrupt Russian general (Walter Huston) who has sold himself and his daughter as tools of an unprincipled Frenchman (Melvyn Douglas).
There the movie's resemblance to Dostoevsky ends. The rich, exuberant flow of dialogue, incident and atmosphere characteristic of the Russian master has been choked to a pedestrian trickle. Dostoevsky's brilliant insights into the tortured motives and emotions of his lovers have paled into klieg-lighted stereotypes. Much of the time Peck and Miss Gardner act as if they had been stranded at a sedate costume party. In other scenes, when they try for a truly Slavic intensity, they seem to be acting out a burlesque on the whole school of Russian novelists. A few supporting players, including Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Morgan, occasionally suggest what the film might have beenbut only occasionally. At their worst, even the veterans lapse into the caricature of the fancy-dress ball.
House of Strangers (20th Century-Fox) is a richly detailed exploration of a family vendetta in Manhattan's lower East Side. A kind of Mulberry Street version of Joseph and his brethren, it tells the story of Gino Monetti (Edward G. Robinson), an immigrant Italian banker, and his four sons. One of the sons (Richard Conte), a cocky, hard-boiled young lawyer, is his father's favorite. The other three are underpaid, overworked stooges at the old man's bank.
As in the biblical legend, the neglected brothers eventually sell the favorite down the river. When the law catches up with Papa Monetti's free-wheeling banking practices, the oldest brother (well played by Luther Adler) fixes it so that Conte gets a seven-year stretch in prison for trying to bribe the jury. The rest of the plot, including Conte's sultry romance with a rich play girl (Susan Hayward), is routine.