Saturday, January 29, 2011

'Where Love Has Gone': Camp Fire!

There's nothing to nurse a winter cold like an over-the-top melodramatic trash flick that's so camp, it about ignites into flames. So bad it's fab "Where Love Has Gone" is a 1964 sudser based on the Harold Robbins' bestseller, and stars Susan Hayward—at a mighty ripe 47—playing the daughter of Bette Davis—who in real life was only 10 years her senior! Har, har, har! Only Hollywood could make such a match in the least plausible, thanks to a vat of Vaseline on the lens during Hayward's close ups.

A handsome pre-"Mannix" Mike Connors and 20-year-old Joey Heatherton (playing a 15 year old, with hair stacked to the sky) are along for the ride, as is a pre-"Star Trek" DeForest Kelly, who was actually young once. Who knew?

The revel-filled ride is as full of ups and downs as its San Francisco setting, and Hayward simply cannot escape the fact that she's still a broad underneath the fine furs. Davis, as a fabulous highbrow society matron and domineering mommy dearest, is utterly mesmerizing (who can help but take her side?!)—and looks wondrous, false eyelashes and all, only two years after she got all gruesome for her Oscar-nominated role in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?"

The movie was a moderate hit, though critics—and even Robbins—found it fairly preposterous. The Saturday Review sniffed that the script "manages to make every dramatic line (particularly when uttered by Susan Hayward) sound like a caption to a cartoon in The New Yorker." All the same, it received two Oscar nods: uh, for music, including a dreadfully smarmy title tune from camp king Jack Jones.

A much more reflective review comes from critic Paul Mavis, who wrote in 2010: "Utter trash, thank god. 'Where Love Has Gone' gives you what you want: girls, sex, mendacity, duplicity, violence, degradation and icky moral redemption. Susan Hayward and Joey Heatherton give gloriously inappropriate performances, and the script is overripe with howlers. I love this kind of melodramatic swill. Highly recommended."

As fun is the reported fact that the two lead actresses despised one another and, according to a Bette interview, after her final scene with Susan, she snatched off her gray wig and threw it in Hayward's face with a hearty "Fuck you!" This just keeps getting better, eh?

Indeed, "Where Love Has Gone" makes similar canned soup like "Valley of the Dolls" look as earnest as "Mildred Pierce" (ironic, actually, since Hayward had an over-the-top role in "Dolls," too). Merciless fun!