I taped this because of the words “Norman Mailer” and “1966” in the description, and figured it would be an overwrought, freaky, self-important movie, trying to look as “hip” and “foreign” as possible.
But OMG: Eleanor Parker!
Watch this movie some day just to catch her am-I-really-seeing-this? performance as the crazy wife.
It’s like Nicholas Cage doing “Martha” in drag. (Hmm, both films came out the same year, too.)
No Oscar nomination for that? Really?
Then there’s the Sirkian/Ross Hunter color scheme and Janet Leigh’s eye makeup and…
Wow. What a mess.
You find yourself thinking, “Hey, this is more like Harold Robbins than Norman Mailer” — and then all the implications of that hits you.
On some levels, An American Dream is almost as entertainingly bad as The Oscar, which was made the same year and shares some of the same acidic views of fame and fortune. Like that film, it also has its share of quotable lines that sound like they were culled from a Jacqueline Susann novel like Valley of the Dolls instead of Norman Mailer. “Never marry a rich woman buddy. There’s no way to prove to the rich that you aren’t after their money. They punish you for not loving them for themselves” or “I take pills, therefore I know I’m still alive.”
The most colorful exchanges are between Rojack and his shrieking banshee of a wife who lives to torment him with details of her affairs and puncture his self-confidence. In one exchange, she takes off her wedding ring and shoves it into his nose, sneering “Still fits, doesn’t it? I get what I paid for pet. Ten years ago I paid for you…my own little private war hero, just to see how long it would last in my kind of jungle with my kind of rules.” Deborah is clearly an embodiment of the castrating female and in case we miss that metaphor, Eleanor Parker acts it out in one scene, using her fingers as mock scissors in a pantomime of clipping off Kojack’s tie and then works her way down his crotch…snip, snip, snip. Parker achieves operatic heights of hysteria and malice here (she was equally theatrical in The Oscar) and when she makes her spectacular exit from the film, her ferocious but pathetic character is solely missed.
This song sounds exactly like you know it will: