You know what I like in a movie? Well, besides high-octane action–with sounds that make me wish I had decent speakers–mystery and suspense, I appreciate a good, heart-wrenching, tear-jerking drama. Not just any drama will do. It has to be EXTREMELY good! I think that’s why I love the old-fashioned dramas from back in the 40s, 50s, and early to mid 60s. Talkin’ ’bout some good acting? My goodness! However, the dramas back then were more than just good acting. The entire production made the film. So not only was the acting awesome, but also the lighting, music, camera shots, and the script. All of those things together produce an excellent film that did not disappoint.
Dramas today are ok, but they are lacking in so many ways it’s disgusting. I think that today people think that a good story (heck, the story doesn’t even have to be that good!) is just celebrity actors, special effects, graphic violence, sex, language, sex, language, and more sex & language make, but that is so far from the truth. I love the movies from back in the day because they leave so much up to your imagination! Today, there is nothing left to imagine. They put it all in front of you. I was thinking about that last night as I was falling asleep. Specifically I was thinking about Madame X. Now, talkin’ ’bout an AWESOME drama?! Madame X, to me, has to be the best drama ever. It stars Lana Turner, John Forsythe, and Burgess Meredith in 1966. John’s character is Clayton Anderson, and he’s a part of a very powerful & wealthy family in CT. He’s on the political track as all the Anderson men were. Lana plays Holly Parker Anderson, and she is from Los Angeles. Apart from being a beautiful girl, there’s nothing special about her. We don’t know how they met and what Clayton sees in her, but all we know is that they eloped. The movie opens with Clayton bringing Holly home. HA! Home is such a nice, cozy term. This “place” was BANGIN! It’s a very large estate–of course–fully equipped with a long scenic driveway, fountains, park-like yards, a full STAFF, and enough rooms to make you sick. Of course “Mother” lives there as this has been the Anderson home for decades. I’m sure you can imagine that Mother Anderson did not approve of this marriage. Anyway, so you know the story from then on pretty much: Holly doesn’t feel like she fits in, but is really trying…mother is trying to pretend that she likes Holly…Clayton is gone a lot…blah blah blah…typical. Anyway, they have a baby (Clayton Anderson Jr.) and life seems normal for a bit until Clayton Sr. is getting close to being a senator and goes to Washington for 2 months. Holly, who is missing her husband, separated from her family, has no real friends, and is terribly bored out of her mind, is encouraged by her mother-in-law to get out more because she stays cooped up too much. She takes that advice and starts going out with her so-called girlfriends (other wives of politically inclined husbands). One night while out she meets a man whose name is escapes me but is not important so we’ll call him “Slick Rick.” She’s not interested in him, but just to be cordial agrees to see him again. As you can imagine they begin a relationship, but to Holly he’s just someone who she hangs out with and has fun. But of course to Ricky…you know! After 6 weeks, they are having dinner, and Slick makes a toast “to us,” and Holly suddenly realizes that he’s romantically interested in her, it really HAS been that long, and she has a husband and a son. Clayton comes back home–for a little while–and she decides that she wants to stop seeing Slick Rick. She goes there, and they have a fight because Ricky will not let her go. He refuses to believe that there is anyone else in her life for her other than him. He tries to kiss her, but she doesn’t want to and pushes him away. He stumbles and falls down the steps and dies! It was an accident–it really was–but who would believe her? Mother Anderson had Holly watched for the whole 6 weeks and was ready to frame her for Ricky’s death unless Holly agreed to her terms. The terms were that she flee the country leaving her husband & son behind to free them of this horrible scandal to protect the family name. Of course Holly didn’t want to, but Mother–in a way that only a writer from back in the day can–convinced her to do it with a beautifully written battle between the two women fighting for both their families. To Holly’s surprise, Mother Anderson already had it all planned out! She had a fake passport with a new identity, a bank account in Geneva, and transport already set up! So Holly goes. Basically what happened in the middle of the movie was we watch Holly suffer from her loss and endure this pain. She meets another man who falls in love with her, but of course she’s not in love with him and she leaves. After a while she’s numb. She’s forgotten about Clay and little Clay, she’s forgotten what it’s like to love and be in love, and she’s forgotten her “woman’s worth.” She becomes this drunk, filthy, slut, and her life is just going down the toilet. Mother Anderson had long since stopped the money transfer even though the agreement was she would send money every year until she dies–and she was very much alive. So now Holly is living in this rat hole of a place in Mexico and meets one of her neighbors (Burgess Meredith) with whom she develops an unhealthy friendship (they get drunk together). What she doesn’t know (and neither do we at this point) is that he’s a womanizer and he’s only after information to see if she would be worth killing and taking from. Anyway, when Holly is drunk, she talks about her old life, and the neighbor starts putting information together and figures that she’s Holly Anderson (I think her alias right now is Betty Miller). Of course she’ll never admit it to protect her son from knowledge of her sins. There’s some good parts in between, but pretty much the neighbor threatens to go to her son and tell, and she kills him. Holly shuts down and does not respond to anything. She signed a confession “X” and this is how she became known as Madame X. Anyway, to quickly rap up, she ends up being tried by her own son! Contrary to the Anderson male tradition, he decided to take up criminal law. Anyway, she doesn’t recognize him of course, but she sees her husband in the audience with the old lady and realizes that her attorney is her own little Clay! There’s a good monologue from her, but she passes out and the trial goes on recess. All the drinking and stress in her life had been taking a toll on her body. She has a nice moment with her son, but she still doesn’t reveal herself to him. She dies, and that’s the end of the movie!!
If someone were to remake that movie today I think they would ruin the integrity of the film. I’m not talking about all the added sex, drugs, and language they would put in, but all the extra scenes. You KNOW they would show Clay & Holly meeting, hooking up, and getting married. You KNOW that after Holly died they would finished the case, go home, have an “Anderson family meeting,” and Mother would confess and tell the whole story. Everyone wants to have closure in films, but it’s not necessary. I think a good movie should leave you with questions at the end. It should give you something to talk about and discuss at dinner, you know? I think what happens off the screen is part of what makes a movie great, but of course today there are no off-screen mysteries. Can we bring back the hidden niceties of American films?