BluRay/DVD Reviews

THE BRIDE WORE RED (Warner Archives)

By • Oct 8th, 2014 •

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“People prefer sardines to caviar because most people never tasted caviar.”

THE BRIDE WORE RED is the original PRETTY WOMAN. Much like the Garry Marshall production, this film supports the fantasy that a sense of belonging may be found in a man. This is interesting since THE BRIDE WORE RED was directed by pioneering female director and lesbian Dorothy Arzner.

Before Julia Roberts, the hooker with feelings and heart of gold, there was Joan Crawford; a singer tired with the monotony of everyday survival and the lack of beef in her stew. A chance encounter with a pompous aristocrat forever alters her future.

It’s a tale of the haves and the have-nots, the upper echelon of society and the entire population of peons beneath them.

During an evening in tuxedos with flutes of champagne, Count Armalia questions his waiter, “Do you have any ambition/going to school/caring for a sick mother? No? Here is an enormous tip for you, squander it.” The Count lectures his friend Rudi Pal (Robert Young) that only luck separates the elite from the peasants. After reversing the roles by seating the waiter and demoting Rudi as server, the pair saunters off to a waterfront cafe.

Anni Pavlovitch (Crawford) sings with doldrum eyes against a beautifully lit backdrop bathed in stylistically designed slashes of light which beckons for the return of the classic Golden Age of Hollywood lighting that is now a lost art. The film is worth watching for the beautiful imagery created by Brooklyn born thirteen time Oscar nominated George J. Folsey.

Learning of the Count’s presence, Anni questions if his motive is to stare at the animals in the zoo? The Count continues his lecture on her since Rudi has departed prior to her appearance. From the first exchange of dialogue, Anni is cynical and quick to retort. She exclaims that he had the luck to be born rich and she had the bad luck to be born poor, while confessing that she goes to the movies to learn manners and the ways of his world. In the few minutes spent together in a reversal of fortune, her name is changed to Anne Vivaldi destined for two weeks at a posh resort in the Alps with money in hand and an open account for a new wardrobe. In the depth of her heart is a radiant red dress. Alas, the offering comes with a caveat, “And remember, if it turns out bad don’t come to me at all!”

And so, the journey to an elitist retreat begins. The new Lady Vivaldi is clearly out of her element and met with the social hazards of dining etiquette, thankfully blessed with a waiter at her side indiscreetly guiding and suggesting the choice of cutlery. (Think Hector Elizondo in PRETTY WOMAN) Maria, the maid assigned to her suite, turns out to be an old friend that acts as her confidant and conscience.

All may fare well had it not been for a love triangle with the prince and the pauper. Conveniently, the Count’s friend Rudi is present with his fiance Madelaina, her father and Contessa di Meina. And there is Giulio, the postman/telegraph operator – content, salt of the earth, morally principled.

Does Anni want to fill a place in her heart or fill a place in a palace?

Trouble brews during Anni’s unauthorized extended stay as Contessa di Meina’s meddling, suspecting, flibbertigibbet, enquiring ways. Lady Anne was to turn back into Anni the singer two weeks prior. However, none shall depart before experiencing the pleasantries of peasantry at the annual night of revelry when the elitist dress down in peasant attire cavorting, dancing, and playing peasant games.

Living in her fantasy world, Lady Anne becomes snippy, abrupt, and dismissive to the staff. Maybe it’s the role she must play or if she sees her reflection in the servants and workers in a life that she loathes. Will she live out her fantasy as a fairytale princess or forever be a lounge act?

There are two similarities to the Disney animated feature SNOW WHITE. A scene where Anne Vivaldi is poised at the window of her suite is reminiscent of Snow White admiring the birds and woodland creates outside her cottage. The other, during the evening hours when the peasants perform their music, a few bars are strikingly similar to the Disney theme. Ironically, Disney’s SNOW WHITE was released in 1937 the same year as THE BRIDE WORE RED.

Two questions arise from this film. Baffling is the acceptance of Rudi’s treatment towards his fiance. Realistically, would a woman and her family allow a man to swoon over another and sit idly by gracefully with a degree of glee as the scoundrel on the prowl is ever closing in with success? Had this film been made today, the third act would have situated itself around a murder or a prison setting.

With red shoes, one may click the heels to return from a magical land or ballet across a stage. With a red dress, you’ve just committed social death and labeled yourself a whore. The film JEZEBEL with Bette Davis also depicts a woman insistent upon the crimson colored apparel. Would the late Joan Rivers and E!’s Fashion Police have choked out these tarts on the red carpet for wearing such an outrage.

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