Posted by martinteller on July 17, 2012
Lane Bellamy (Joan Crawford) rolls into the small town of Beldon with the carnival, and with only three dollars to her name, decides to stay. She meets and falls for the local deputy Field Carlisle (Zachary Scott), but the town’s corrupt sheriff Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet) has political plans for him that require a more upscale companion… someone from the right side of the tracks, Flamingo Road. Semple tries to squeeze Lane out, but she finds another path to Flamingo Road.
Though there are some similarities to an earlier Curtiz/Crawford/Scott picture, Mildred Pierce, it really isn’t a rehash. The rags-to-riches story shares space with a biting commentary on high-level graft and public apathy. Mildly noiresque at times, with its cynical subject matter, some terrific camera setups (Casablanca was no fluke, Curtiz knows to frame a shot) and occasional hard-edged zingers in the dialogue. There’s not a whole lot of fire here, though. The story clips along at a good pace but never seems to take off.
Part of the problem is Crawford. She didn’t want to do this film and she doesn’t bring much heat to it. She’d perform far better the following year in The Damned Don’t Cry, and later in Sudden Fear. Here she doesn’t seem to be putting much effort into it… she has some good moments, but the character never truly comes alive. When she hitches her wagon to David Brian, it seems to come out of nowhere. Scott is also rather unformed and just too pathetic to care about. Greenstreet is enjoyably slimy, however.
It’s pretty much a textbook case of the mediocre movie. Nothing to get excited about, and nothing too awful (except maybe Max Steiner’s busy score). It’s watchable and does have some really great camerawork, but the lack of a strong characterization for Crawford makes it a somewhat forgettable and unsatisfying experience. Rating: Fair (65)