Saturday, July 20, 2013

Claire Bloom in Carol Reed's The Man Between (1953)

Carol Reed's The Man Between (1953) reprises much of the structure of The Third Man (1949), with a bombed out Berlin substituting for Vienna, James's Mason's Ivo Kern making for a slightly less shady/trying-to-make-good version of Welles's Harry Lime, and Claire Bloom's Susanne Mallison combining aspects of both Alida Valli's Anna and Cotten's Holly Martins.

Susanne arrives in Berlin all smiles:

While she soon realizes that something potentially unsavory is up with her brother's wife's friend, Ivo:

since Ivo is James Mason, any wariness she feels is made bearable:

Happy through a dissolve:

Love in the ruins....

Things take a more serious turn; still very beautiful though:

Not even being captive in a Psycho-cellar-like room brings her down:

Susanne ends up whacking that big light like she's Vera Miles too! See about 1m 45s into this German trailer for TMB:

It wouldn't be Reed without some Dutch Angles:

Oh, just kiss her already!

I mean, look at her:

Happy Saboteurs.

Susanne and Ivo end up sheltering in a prostitute's apartment to evade capture. He ends up clinging for dear life out the window, while she has to pose as another prostitute:

Susanne reveals that she's quite the hotsy-totsy under her lady-like exterior, finally getting Ivo to kiss her:

And quite a bit more by implication. We cut to the morning...


Needless to say, there's not a happy ending after all this. But for a tale about bombed out cities, war criminals, kidnappings, East-West tensions,  and so on, The Man Between is pretty sunny and romantic. Thanks to Mason and Bloom's charm and beauty, it's a hell of a date movie.

Bloom is such a brunette ringer for Grace Kelly in TMB - and hits some of the same notes that Kelly will as Lisa Fremont in Rear Window (becoming a saboteur and posing as a prostitute rather than breaking and entering) - that TMB almost feels almost like a missing Hitchcock picture: Lisa Fremont meets VanDamm. As far as I know, however, Bloom never worked with Hitchcock. Maybe he was too low-brow for her? Bloom was classically trained, after all, did lots of prestige theater, hung with Olivier and Burton, married heavy-Method-guy Rod Steiger in the '50s, and lived with Philip Roth through the '80s, marrying and then spectacularly divorcing him in the '90s (go here for a gossipy overview and some nice photos). Or maybe Hitch associated her too strongly with Chaplin (after her breakthrough in Limelight (1952)), or found Bloom too not-blonde and too English at the exact moment he was at his most American, really making his bones in Hollywood, and the most waist-deep in blondes signable to long term contracts he'd ever be. Presumably the rough answer is available in one of Bloom's two memoirs/autobiographies.

Bonus Video: I've heretofore mainly known Bloom from Robert Wise's The Haunting (1963) and from her Lady Marchmain in Brideshead Revisited (1981) for TV. Here's one of her key scenes from the latter:

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