Ask, and it shall be answered. We recently watched “Human Desire” (1954) on Turner Movie Classics, starring Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame, and Broderick Crawford and directed by Fritz Lang. The film is based upon Zola’s “La bête humaine.” Somehow watching an American film noir with French subtitles in the middle of the night in the French countryside adds an additional allure to the experience. My wife and I saw “The Blue Dahlia” with Alan Ladd in a very crowded and hot small cinema in Paris in the early 1980’s – an unforgettable experience.
Ford plays a Korean war veteran, Jeff Warren, who returns home to his job as a railroad engineer. He is tempted by the corrupt Vicki, played by Gloria Grahame, who is unhappily married to a railroad yard foreman played by Broderick Crawford, while a more wholesome young woman (Jean, played by Peggy Maley), who happens to be the daughter of Jeff’s affable older friend and brakeman, suffers from an unrequited love for Jeff. It is interesting to see the apparently wholesome character played by Ford be tempted by the devil, as it were. When Jeff realizes that Vicki has been manipulating him in order to induce him to murder her husband, he recoils from the brink of complete depravity. Vicki had asked him, before his realization, if it was difficult to kill a man. “No, it’s the easiest thing in the world,” he replies, speaking of his wartime experience. But I have just been introduced elsewhere to research which claims that a very small percentage of soldiers actually are willing to kill the enemy and that most killing in war is performed by a small percentage of the soldiers. In any event, it turns out that Jeff Warren has not been transformed by his wartime experience into a criminal, and the film’s ending indicates that he will opt for the wholesomeness of his friend’s daughter.
This is not a great movie, but it is a highly enjoyable entertainment. The atmospherics of the railroad yard and of the small town dominated by the railroad are appealing. It all takes me back to childhood, Glenn Ford, and the comforts of late-night movie watching.
I was disappointed to read that Ford became a Republican in later life.