Tuesday, September 27, 2005

David Denby

“In Marked Woman, a terrific 1937 Warner Bros. melodrama, Bette Davis, as a clip-joint hostess (i.e., hooker), crosses a big-shot mobster and gets into trouble. As the mobster's henchmen lead her away, Davis hisses at the beautifully dressed thug, "I'll get you--even if I have to come back from the grave to do it!"

“Now, that was a tough woman. Ann Sheridan was pretty tough too. And Jane Greer in Out of the Past, Barbara Stanwyck in anything. Movies of the late thirties and forties were full of desperate and angry women who crossed the law, caused trouble, fought for themselves and their friends. But none of those women was as tough as Gena Rowlands in Gloria….

“Walking through the Russian Tea Room recently, Gena Rowlands attracted a good deal of bewildered attention. People think they recognize the tall and beautiful woman with the pile of golden hair, but they aren't quite sure. Rowlands has had an interesting career, but she's far from overexposed. And since she's an actress who disappears into her roles, many people may have trouble recalling exactly what she looks like. Will Gloria be the movie that finally makes Gena Rowlands a popular star?

“Not that her looks are unmemorable. Now in her mid-forties, she has a face that bears comparison to Bette Davis's at the same age--haggard one minute, radiant the next, with intimations of emotional extremes in the downward-turning mouth and very warm brown eyes. [Denby has interviewed Rowlands for this article, but I assume he's referring to her face in the movie, as well.]

“Gena Rowlands made her reputation by taking on the "heavy" roles that Cassavetes wrote for her…. Her definitive part was undoubtedly the panic-stricken, eager-to-please housewife Mabel Longhetti in A Woman Under the Influence. (Opening Night … was never released in New York.) In Gloria, however, playing a fearless, harsh-talking broad, a female Lee Marvin, Rowlands discovers thing she's never done for Cassavetes in the past--a flair for blunt comedy, a stiff-shouldered walk, a way of dropping acid remarks from the corner of her mouth….

“Gloria may be the only recent American film to go beyond the categories of feminism and anti-feminism. The heroine has the heart of a lion, but she commits violence in order to defend a child, a child she doesn't even care for. "I think there may be some atavistic impulses in women to protect children," Rowlands says. "…. And it's also true that in the gangster world, when you're challenged, you have to meet the challenge and finish it, or else you're lost."

“How does an actress find the strength to stretch this way? She doesn't like to talk about her marriage to Cassavetes, but the external facts suggest a powerful fortress…..”

David Denby
New York, September 22, 1980
[fall preview]

[don't have whole review:]

“…. Actually, the subway-poster ads with Gena Rowlands brandishing a snub-nosed .38, as if she were a taller, skirted version of George Raft, give a very accurate notion of the movie--a crime-genre film with plenty of action and lots of underbelly-of-the-city flourishes. Gloria is a great deal of fun. It is also something of a stunt. There have been tough and even violent [continued]

David Denby
New York, October 13, 1980

David Ansen

“…. The larger-than-life heroine, Gloria Swenson, an ex-moster's moll who's fast on the draw, is a hilarious fantasy figure: Wonder Woman as a chain-smoking, middle-aged guardian angel in thrift-shop '40s gowns. The role-reversal joke is simple--Rowlands in the old Jimmy Cagney part--and she milks it for all the delicious incongruity it's worth. When Rowlands first draws her gun, mows down a whole carload of mafiosi and, without missing a beat, hails a taxi, she is instantly apotheosized into cartoon-feminist immortality.

“You don't have to believe "Gloria" for a minute to enjoy it….”

“Cassavetes has never before shown a flair for action but, … he's at his best--and funniest--when the bullets are flying and the actors keep their mouths shut (something his actors normally never do). Where he fails is in the relationship between Gloria and her peppery charge…. Still, "Gloria" remains a fascinatingly offbeat entertainment…. "Gloria" is pure, unembarrassed jive--a hipster's lark of a movie--and Rowlands gives a great jive artist's performance, straight-faced and charged with sly conviction.”

David Ansen
Newsweek, October 6, 1980