THE NAKED EDGE
Cast and Credits
Gary Cooper (George Radcliffe), Deborah Kerr (Martha Radcliffe), Eric Portman (Jeremy Clay), Diane Cilento (Mrs. Heath), Hermione Gingold (Lilly Harris), Peter Cushing (Mr. Wrack), Michael Wilding (Morris Brooke), Ronald Howard (Mr. Claridge), Ray McAnally (Donald Heath), Sandor Eles (Manfridi), Wilfrid Lawson (Mr. Pom), Martin Boddey (Jason Roote)
George Glass & Walter Seltzer (Producers), Marlon Brando, Sr. (Executive Producer), Michael Anderson (Director), Joseph Stefano (Screenplay), Edwin Hillier (Camerman), Gordon Pilkington (Film Editor), Carmen Dillion (Art Director), William Alwyn (Music), Norman Coggs (Sound)
A Pennebaker-Baroda Production
Released thru United Artists
Deborah Kerr's husband, Gary
Cooper, is the star witness in a sensational murder/theft trial, sending a man
to life in prison. Buuut-maybe Gary did it himself? Naaah, 'cause he's Gary
Cooper. Still, some years later Deborah reads a blackmail note addressed to
Gary, awakening her long-dormant fears and suspicions that he may be the true
criminal. But he can't be, cause he's *Gary Cooper*!
Probably the most striking thing about Edge (unless you're a Holmes die-hard, in which case-but I'll get to that in a moment) is the flashy, faux-Hitchcock visuals. The b&W cinematography is in the best noir traditions, and every scene is so self-consciously-and derivatively-framed as to make one wonder if Brian DePalma is the reincarnation of this film's director ;) The music likewise sounds like some kind of Bernard Herrman pastiche.
I would say that the atmosphere this induces is a large part of what makes Edge interesting. In terms of plot structure, it's set up more like a character drama than a thriller: the gist of the case against Gary himself is laid out during and immediately after the trial of the other man. You see a few incidents that seem to make that case more plausible, but they're in the nature of psychological reinforcement, rather than additional evidence. Gary's a creep, everything that happens seems to support the idea that he's a murderer, buuuut he can't be, because he's Gary Cooper, dangit. That's the balance of the evidence for most of the plot. So basically you're left watching the rift between Deborah and Gary. Which isn't that interesting in and of itself, because he's too surly and she too stupid to come off as overly sympathetic. And the chemistry is lousy: those of you who hang out at Chris's site (httpwww.petercushingmuseum.com) may have caught my review of End of the Affair, complete w/ grumblings about the soulless Deborah/Van Johnson dynamic in that movie. Well, Deborah/Gary is almost as bad. The writing's not that great either: the dialogue among most of the characters has an odd, bookish quality. You just know it looked great on the page, esp. that trick of just slightly twisting the cliches to come up w/ something fresh, but on Deb's and Gary's tongues it comes off as distinctly off. The supporting characters are allowed to be more cliched in their speech, and this works somewhat better, at least for the more intense characters: Donald Heath the condemned man, his embittered wife, and the bombastic prosecuting attorney in the case, Mr. Evan Wrack (Wrack, incidentally, being the reason I'm reviewing this movie for this list).
And the ending: ah, the gimmick ending. It's exciting, and there is some groundwork laid for it, mostly very late in the plot. But, as a solution to a mystery, it's somewhat shaky, and in a couple respects it's a bit of a cop-out.
Sooo, what does it have going for it besides the atmosphere and the evident mockability? A very enjoyable supporting cast for one thing. There's Hermione Gingold as Deborah's flamboyant confidante, and Sandor Eles ("Hans" the Frankenstein groupie in Evil of Frankenstein) as her exceedingly vain, ah, escort. The latter's quite a bit funnier than I would've guessed. And Michael Wilding, the detective from Hitch's StageFright, as Gary's decadent partner. He's much fatter than in Stage Fright, which means he no longer looks like that guy who played the title character in Projected Man. Unfortunately, the high point of the stunt-casting comes in the opening trial scene, where Gary Cooper is being interrogated consecutively by...two portrayers of Sherlock Holmes! First Peter
Cushing as the prosecutor, Mr. Wrack, then Ronald Howard as the defense lawyer (whose name I didn't catch but undoubtedly consisted, like every other Brit. male in the story, of a two or three syllable first name and a one syllable last name).
What about Cushing himself? He actually appears twice in the movie, once in the opening trial scene and once, about the middle, in a flashback to same. Wrack is basically the stereotypical mean prosecutor, but Peter gives the character a certain flair and charisma, with emphatic gestures and a faintly sarcastic edge to the voice. From the female groupie point of view, well, you get the whole sneer-playing-across-beautifully-chiseled-features effect quite a bit. Which is always, uh, cute. Plus he has rather nifty cufflinks.
Worth a rental on its own merits as a movie, and if someone starts a tape full of Cushing bit parts, his scenes from this probably deserve to be on it.
COPYRIGHT VAAR ARAGON - 2000
How Gary Cooper Felt About "The Naked Edge"
It's one of the bitter facts of life that people are always ready to believe the worst. "I don't like the idea any more than anyone else does," Gary Cooper observed philosophically on the set of his last film, "but I gotta admit - that's what gives this picture its wallop."
The "this picture" is the Pennebaker-Baroda production "The Naked Edge," which marks the lanky actor's big switch from Levis to Savile Row suits. In it, Cooper plays a successful Amercian businessman whose business and his marital life with co-star Deborah Kerr are threatened by a blackmail letter. "This is exactly the kind of thing I mean," Cooper mused. "Even a guy's wife can be bitten by the bug of suspicion."
In the case of "The Naked Edge", the gnawing suspicion is an ugly one; the blackmail letter charges that Cooper's affluence is based on the murder of his former employer. The letter arrives five years late, having finally been recovered from a mail sack stolen on a train robbery, but its date coincides with a dramatic change in Cooper's fortune. And since his wife has never known the source of the money that set him up in business for himself, the letter arouses nagging questions that she had hitherto put out of her mind. The effects on a seemingly normal life of one of these letters provides the mounting tension as Miss Kerr doggedly searches for evidence that will refute the letter, she becomes more and more convinced that there is fire behind the smoke. The end result, which the producers are keeping a carefully guarded secret, develops into a screen wallop of unexcelled magnitude.
"That's fine in pictures," Cooper pointed out, "but look at the havoc this could cause in real life. Sometimes there's no way in which a man can refute charges that have been made about his past life. Now I'm not suddenly trying to influence lives. I'm just a performer, not a reformer. But now and then you get involved in a situation which points a big moral. And this is one of those cases." "Maybe in addition to providing entertainment, we can get people to think a little more before they automatically accept this 'where there's smoke' routine. We in the movie business have seen it happen many times - people judged on the basis of nothing more than accusation. "But," he added with a grin, "it sure makes a helluva movie."
"Keep Your Home Life And Career Seperate," "Naked Edge" Star's Advice
by Deborah Kerr
There seems to be a great vogue nowadays for mottoes, or slogans, which help typify a way of life. The trouble always seems to me that on one hand we look for them and on the other hand we tend to jeer at them. No one can quite make up his mind whether they're good or bad.
The ones that are jeered at usually are the old established ones which are now reguarded as rather trite. But I must admit there's one that I've managed to live by that has served me quite well. It's the one about "never let the right hand know what the left hand is doing."
I know, I know. That's not exactly a slogan, and in fact, I've managed to twist it around to somewhat so that it sounds like a positive approach to something instead of a description of someone who's a little muddled. But let me explain. What I've done with this particular cliché is to establish for myself that I'm a person who must live two lives: one as a private person with a family and the other as an actress with a job to do and a following of some sort. And what I want to make clear right here is the fact that I'm convinced that this motto of mine works for everyone, not merely for an actor or actress. Basically, what I'm saying with my motto is that I must keep my two lives separate. It's hard, sometimes, but it is absolutely essential - and I'm convinced that it not only has worked for me but will work for everyone.
It started one day when I heard Elia Kazan bawling out an actor who wasn't putting his whole effort into a rehearsal. Kazan, sensing that some difficulty at home was on the actor's mind, told him a little brusquely, "Keep your home troubles out of my theatre." At first I was inclined to laugh since it was such a paraphrase of the complaint attributed to wives who feel their husbands bring their office problems home with them. And then I realized, quite suddenly, that it wasn't funny - it was, in fact, one of the best pieces of advice that anyone could give. The two lives we all lead - the private and the professional - must be kept totally separate if we are to achieve success in both.
Based on Whodunit
Max Ehrlich's "First Train to Babylon," smash best-selling mystery novel, is the basis for "The Naked Edge." Joseph Stefano, who wrote "Psycho" for the screen, also adapted this one, and added new twists, out of which director Michael Anderson (of "Around the World in 80 Days") has fashioned the suspense shocker of the year.
To protect the surprise ending, Anderson went to unusal precautions during the filming in London. Only those members of the cast actually involved in the final scenes were given copies of the last pages of the script. On the day the scene was shot, the set was barred to all except the hard core of absolutely necessary technicians. Even the makeup and hairdressing departments were, for the first time, banished to offices off-stage where the actors were made up and to which they returned, when necessary, between shots. Even Gary Cooper's laconic personality was utilized to keep the ending secret. Enterprising British newsmen besieged Cooper during the shooting, endeavoring to trap him into a statement that would give away the ending. Coop avoided the trap. He discoursed at length on the advantage of shooting a thriller in London, whose very atmosphere helps create an aura of suspense, on his reactions to playing a businessman rather than a cowboy, and on any one of a dozen subjects - except the twists and turns of "The Naked Edge" plot. Finally, in desperation, one newspaper asked him point-blank: "Coop, are you the killer?" "Dunno," the star responded with a grin, "they haven't shown me that part of the script yet."