Sunday, April 18, 2010

Capra's Forbidden (1932)

Among the four tarnished-lady melodramas Capra made with Barbara Stanwyck - Ladies of Leisure (1930), The Miracle Woman (1931), Forbidden (1932), and The bitter tea of general Yen (1933) - Forbidden is the least effective, and one of the weakest entries in the long and fertile career of Frank Capra.

Apparently Capra is using his famous plot: story of a corrupt lawyer/politician, this time in love with lower class Barbara Stanwyck, plus an indecent newspaperman - supposed to bear the social consciousness of film - exposes politician’s corruptness while he is also in love with the same woman. This thug is played typically by Ralph Bellamy, who later went to the opposite side of business in His Girl Friday. So far everything could be considered a good starting point and also very typical of Capra, but when it comes to the attitude of characters in their social context, everything become really annoying. It’s strange how Capra worships and sympathizes with such a flagrant characters in the middle of an economical and social crisis - talking about the great depression. I believe, gradually, the nature of Capra’s heroes and heroines, changed in a more cynical way. In later post-war Gary Cooper, James Stewart and even Glenn Ford (Pocketful of miracles, Capra’s most beloved film in Iran) there is a quality of self determination, bitterness and ambiguity that make every move made by them so hard to judge or deny. We won’t forget that in Pocketful of miracles, the vulgar (Glenn Ford, again) turns into compassionate and a man, aware of the positive potentials of human nature, while in Forbidden, the sacrifices and struggles to keep up human dignity become absurdly ugly and wicked.

Due to the freedom of pre-code era, Forbidden has been loaded by salacious elements, among them adultery. Maybe Capra’s reckless approach toward this lonely woman, played by Stanwyck, caused redeeming the film by feminist critics from the opprobrium of the terms "soup opera" and "shopgirl romance,” but I can not be agree with that part. --E. K.

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