The Hard Way Film Details
Overview: Embittered, ambitious Helen Chernen sees an opportunity to escape her drab small-town life by becoming a ‘stage mother’ to her musically-talented younger sister.
Tagline: You’d never believe they’re sisters!
Review: Stage mothers have always been a driving force in the entertainment field to get their children ahead, but here, that role becomes stage sister. Who better to portray the ultimate monster sister than the veteran neurotic of the silver screen, Ida Lupino, the one major dramatic actress who never even got as much as an Academy Award Nomination? For this film, Ida received the New York Film Critics award, but was overlooked by Mr. Oscar. (The same thing happened with 1944’s NY Films Critics Best Actress Winner, Tallulah Bankhead…) Perhaps their performances were too theatrical, and in Ida’s case, her character way too unsympathetic, especially for a leading performance. Lupino is the world-weary wife of the uncouth Roman Bohnen, struggling to make ends meet for them and her younger sister (Joan Leslie) who attracts the attention of two visiting vaudevillians (Jack Carson and Dennis Morgan). Ms. Leslie wants to get out of the small provincial community and Lupino doesn’t waste any moment in taking them up on their offer to add her sister into their act. She hopes that the road from vaudeville will take them to New York, and her ambitions push Carson and Leslie into a loveless marriage. When her efforts pay off, Lupino schemes even more, watching the troubled star of a musical revue (Gladys George) become more and more despondent, leading her into a bar where she proceeds to get the star drunker and drunker, finally getting Leslie to take over the part and become the most unlikely Broadway star ever. Having dumped her husband without even ever mentioning him again, Lupino falls in love with Morgan, but he thinks she’s a cold-hearted lover. It’s years later when Leslie, now preparing to star in a new play, learns the truth about her sister’s machinations and prepares to cut her out of her life. Without so much as an “I thought you did it for me, sis!”, Leslie moves on, and before she can break into “Rose’s Turn”, Lupino heads to a bridge where everything she did comes back to haunt her and leaves her with only one conclusion. This is fascinating as a study of one woman’s ambitions and the realization that she doesn’t have what it takes to reach them so she pushes somebody else into that place. Lupino has a few moments of nastiness, but basically, she’s very passive/aggressive in her manner, and never is truly an in your face villain. This subtlety makes her perfect for the part. Bette Davis would have eaten the role alive and the hidden aspirations of the character would not have been prevalent. Morgan and Carson offer a good look at a failing vaudeville team, performing many songs heard previously in Warner Brothers musicals of the 1930’s. Even “On Your Toes” is heard as the overture to Leslie’s play. She’s fine except when she sings. Her big production number ends up being extremely campy because she’s just so unbelievable. Gladys George is excellent as the drunken Broadway star, sort of a mixture of her characters from “The Roaring Twenties” and “Lullaby of Broadway”, but with a bit of Sophie Tucker thrown in (plus a lot of vermouth for all those “martunis”….). Excellent direction by Vincent Sherman also makes the film move at a quick pace. Still, it’s Lupino’s show, and for how ruthless she is, you really empathize with her and feel extremely sorry for her that somehow she missed the boat.
Country: United States
Duration: 109 min
Genre: Drama, Musical, Romance
Also known as: É Difícil Ser Feliz,Karriär på Broadway,虚栄の町,Трудный путь,Das Geständnis einer Frau,Ambição,L’engrenage,The Hard Way,La manière forte,Una mujer perdida,Ston iskio mias gynaikas,A nehéz út,Karriere,De moeilijke weg