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  One Desire She Wants That Man
Year: 1955
Director: Jerry Hopper
Stars: Anne Baxter, Rock Hudson, Julie Adams, Carl Benton Reid, Natalie Wood, William Hopper, Betty Garde, Barry Curtis, Adrienne Marden, Fay Morley, Vici Raaf, Lynn Millan, Smoki Whitfield, Howard Wright, Edward Earle
Genre: Drama, RomanceBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Near the beginning of the twentieth century, there is a casino in Oklahoma called The White Palace where Tacey Crowell (Anne Baxter) works as a croupier and provider of entertainment for the patrons, and she has an eye for her co-worker, the roguish Clint Saunders (Rock Hudson), who has a habit of bending the rules when it comes to fulfilling his employment duties. But one night a little boy arrives at the casino, calling himself Nugget (Barry Curtis): this is the younger brother of Clint, and his presence shakes him up, prompting him to take a look at his responsibilities and find them wanting. So how about he and Nugget head off to Colorado to set up business opportunities - and Tacey goes too?

Although the characters go out West, One Desire was not a Western, it was a melodrama for women of the fifties to settle into and watch a sympathetic female lead suffer all sorts of indignities before finally finding some contentment. There was a pattern to these things, the idea being the audience could place themselves in the shoes of the protagonist and feel every heartache she did, which did not mean she was at the beck and call of the males, no matter that Tacey here gives up so much for her love for Clint. Nope, it was very much the ladies who were the powerful individuals, sometimes subtly and at other times blatantly making sure events went their way, with the men putty in their hands.

Whether they were aware of it or not, another reason movies dismissed as soapy by the male opinion-setters would appeal to the target audience of women since they liked the idea that it was they who made the world go round. If that was true in real life was up for debate, yet while there may have been a pandering quality to buttering up an audience who wanted to watch strong female characters played by the top stars of the era, productions such as this did plenty of good to asserting the distaff side of the movie business, and Anne Baxter was popular with the feminine viewers, easily moving between bad girl roles (her All About Eve turn being her most celebrated in that vein) and the more decent, upstanding performances.

Though she never achieved the status in moviegoers' hearts as a Bette Davis or a Joan Crawford, she was a witty observer of Hollywood and you could see her at somewhere near her best here, if stuck in somewhat uninspiring circumstances. Tacey has a rival, you see, and thanks to her background as a, er, dancer (i.e. code for prostitute!), that antagonist could see to it all her dreams were shattered. Who was this ice queen? Why, it was Julie Adams, usually a demure performer who here got to flex her acting muscles as a character who certainly begins the film in her accustomed good girl persona, but then takes an abrupt right turn as the plot sees to it her inner bitch queen is well and truly revealed, something of a table turning for Baxter's films.

Tacey, once the casino life is behind her, becomes something of a mother figure as she has two kids to bring up, not her own but Nugget (Curtis would be familiar as the best friend of TV's Champion the Wonder Horse) and a new addition, the orphan Sealy, played by Natalie Wood just before her stardom went stratospheric and getting to age a couple of years (in the story, not actuality) to demonstrate some range from brat to promising young lady. However, Tacey's past will not make up for any amount of cooking and ironing, and Adams' Judith Watrous, daughter to a local official, sees to it that is taken into account when Clint is out of town on business and the council meet to decide that decency has been offended and something must be done. Our heroine was certainly put through the wringer, but the more she endured the more the audience were indulged, though it had to be said the manner in which this was resolved was extremely brutal, if not graphically so. Hudson meanwhile was merely present as eye candy in a film that got better as it went along, though remained rather hokey. Music by Frank Skinner.

[No extras on Simply Media's Region 2 DVD, but it's a nice print.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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