21 December 2014

Kind Lady (1951)
78 min.
Directed by John Sturges.
With Ethel Barrymore, Maurice Evans, Angela Lansbury, Keenan Wynn, Betsy Blair, John Williams, Doris Lloyd, John O'Malley, Henri Letondal.
Ethel Barrymore rocks in this satisfying thriller adapted from a stage play by Edward Chodorov.

Sophisticated dowager Mary Herries (Barrymore) appreciates art.

In fact, she's amassed a stunning collection in her own right, including original pieces by El Greco, Rembrandt, and other masters.

So, when she meets talented, but down-and-out painter Henry Elcott (Evans), she's sympathetic to his financial woes and daily burdens. Ah, the "struggling artist"!

Mary even allows Henry to move his ailing wife (Blair) into her upscale flat, paying for her stay and convalescence.

But Henry isn't what he seems. He's a scam artist of the worst order!

And it's not long before he's holding Dame Herries hostage in her own home, at the same time moving in a team of ruthless criminals (Lansbury, Wynn) to aid him in his machinations.

Seems he's got a devious plan to sell off the valuable Herries estate, piece by piece. But Mary proves to be one savvy old broad. Can Henry carry off his evil plans without Mary tripping him up?

Filmed originally in 1935 starring Basil Rathbone and Aline MacMahon, this excellent 1951 remake is all about Barrymore and Evans. And they don't disappoint.

The two play a clever game of cat & mouse wits and maneuvering that's thoroughly enjoyable to watch.

Barrymore in particular gives a fascinating performance, playing Mary as a figure of absolute calculation - even under the most harrowing of circumstances.

Lansbury is always a scene stealer, and here's no exception. She revels in the role of the cheeky thug-playing-a-maid, and our only criticism of Kind Lady is that Lansbury's character doesn't take a more central role.

Good fun.

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