August 12, 2015

Nancy Carroll, The Devil's Holiday


You know how when you watch an early Old Hollywood movie and every so often a troublemaking vixen appears for a momentary cameo? They come strutting in, bringing with them a horridly bitchy air, and they make some snarky remark, and you just don’t like them (an example that comes to mind is the lady with whom Norma Shearer’s husband cheats on her with in The Divorcée, who is so snarky and annoying in her limited screen time such that you want to punch her)? There’s a scene in the film when Nancy Carroll’s Hallie meets her husband/payday pawn’s family for the first time, and the way Carroll carries herself in front of these family members, from her vocal tones and inflections, down to the way she sways her body, makes it look as though she is one of those hell-raising supporting characters. I guess I was floored by this because it goes to show just how much Carroll embodies “gold-digging tramp” in this film, and this brief showcase I write of is but one of many facets of an incredibly interesting anti-heroine. Described as a "cold dish" if you ever saw one, she is relentless as she plays up the con-artist aspect of Hallie, coaxing David into taking her out on a date and then later guilt shaming the poor sap following the date, she is equally hammy and alluring. When Hallie is angry, such as when she lashes out at David's brother for insinuating that she is an improper woman, she practically has steam shooting out her ears. And when it’s time to show vulnerability, Carroll expertly allows us to read how Hallie begins to feel guilt in her conning, and her impassioned monologue at the end of the film is just killer. All of these aspects, superbly handled by Carroll, make up a fascinating performance and a role that’s much more inspiring and colorful than most other lady characters that Oscar nominated in his young years. A totally delightful and earnest performance.

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I saw a Nancy Carroll film till this very year. I got a great package of 8 precode films which included Carroll's Hot Saturday, and indeed she is a fine actress. At least one of the films included your fave Fredric March, but frankly, I bought it for the eye-popping state of male undress in Search For Beauty. None of the eight films in fact was uninteresting. :( Alas, Devil's Holiday is not yet available for purchase, or even a grubby YouTube copy.