This was supposed to be Fox’s big movie of the Summer of 1977. This movie was promoted like crazy, the poster was everywhere, and there were stories in magazines and fashion photo layouts galore. Somewhere along the line someone forgot to ask if there really was a market for a three hour soap opera on film. This is the kind of stuff that Television had been doing for years and that specialty cable channels continue to do today. In the seventies this would have been a two or three night mini-series that would have gotten huge ratings. As a movie though it fell short of expectations, and Fox’s other movie that year became the biggest blockbuster in history and changed the way movies were made and marketed. I suspect that the failure of this movie to bring in audiences was combined with the Star Wars phenomena to shift movie marketing to kids rather than adults and boys rather than girls. If you want to blame anyone for altering the view of the movie marketplace away from adult material, don’t point at George Lucas, point at all the women that did not get their man to go with them to see this in 1977.
Of course it would have helped if the movie had been better. “The Other Side of Midnight” is over the top melodrama done in a fairly flat manner. Dolores looked up today while the movie was starting and commented on how dated the movie looked. I saw the credits and thought “TV” because the actors as they are listed, were also listed with the character name. This was right out of serialized drama and it makes the film feel cheap. It actually is not cheap when it comes to location and set decoration. The movie was shot in Greece and France and the U.S. and used scenic spots for romance and drama in many segments of the movie. Near the end there is a fairly suspenseful sequence shot in Greek caverns, with nice ambient lighting and some beautiful colors. Although there are a number of studio shots in the French sections, there is some good use made of public spaces that are glamorized pretty well. The costumes worn by the women are all quite glamorous. If fashion and scenery were going to be enough to make the movie a success, then it was in.
There are two major assets in the film, the leading ladies. Susan Sarandon is young and adorable and sexy in a wholesome way that the boys at war would have dreamed of. She has a great story up to the point where she meets and falls in love with the heel of the picture played by John Beck. Then her character becomes a drudge that only at the end when fighting for her life comes back to existence as a character. Marie-France Pisier is the French woman that the story actually focuses on, and for whom we are clearly supposed to care about. I had seen her in my first foreign language film “Cousin,cousine ” a couple of years before. Art and I saw that picture and she was a truly beautiful woman. Here is the element that that could not be put on television, Miss Pisier takes her clothes off in every other scene. This was the selling point for the movie and that should have brought in a bundle because she looks great naked. Despite these assets the movie stalls because both of these women are in love with the dullest leading man in the history of movies. He appeared in three movies on my list for the summer blog. Those are the last times that I ever saw him. I looked John Beck up on IMDB, and he appears to have had a very nice career, primarily on television. He had broad shoulders, a big grin and not much charisma. Maybe he was just miscast in things, although his casting in this movie is one of the reasons it never transcends the melodramatics. Once again, it is a TV production with some spicy thrown in.
Dolores had no memory of seeing this movie but I did. We saw it at the Cerritos multiplex in the mall. It opened just after Star Wars did and that may be why there is very little memory of the film. I however can’t forget the lengthy scene where Noelle, pursues her acting career by seducing the director of the movie she wants to star in. I am not sure what it is she does with that handful of ice that she grabs during a love scene, but I would be willing to learn. The story arc she is in involves her loving father basically selling her to a piggish dress store owner, then running away and falling in love with an American flying with the RAF before the fall of France to the Germans. (The German Occupation is treated as a distasteful background setting for her rise to movie stardom, the war is scenery.) She then plots to recover her lover or revenge herself on him, by selling herself to anyone that can restore her lost fiance to her. There is a big dramatic moment that always makes me think of Mommy Dearest, I know why we are supposed to avoid wire hangers after seeing this movie.
It is interesting to me, that Sarandon is caste in a Jean Arthur type part and is the wholesome woman waiting for her man. She is usually the voluptuous predator in the movies. A woman who knows how to use her body to get what she wants, but she works as the sweetheart also. Since I have mentioned the other stars lack of clothes, I will point out that Sarandon’s love scenes are much more retrained and discrete when it comes to revealing the flesh. I did think that the light nightgown in the wind and rain late in the picture was a nice touch to add sensuality to a dramatic moment. This movie is based on a Sidney Sheldon novel, and I was never much for the works of Harold Robbins, Jacqueline Susanne or Sidney Sheldon. They were very successful in their time, but maybe it was the storytelling that makes this movie seem old fashioned. Does anyone read those novels today? Don’t tell my wife, but I suspect that Stephanie Meyer may be our contemporary version of those three writers. Here today but gone…on the other side of midnight.