Movie title: Carrie (1952)
Director(s): William Wyler
Actor(s): Laurence Olivier, Jennifer Jones, Miriam Hopkins, Eddie Albert, Basil Ruysdael, Ray Teal
Genre: Drama , Romance
Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel Sister Carrie, William Wyler’s Carrie wasn’t a real box office success upon its release in 1952. Despite a cast featuring Jennifer Jones and Laurence Olivier, the dark nature of the plot likely kept audiences away. While Wyler’s adaptation is well crafted, concessions to get the approval of the Production Code Administration resulted in a more sentimental plot, that eliminates the question of morality at the heart of the novel.
Innocent but ambitious, Carrie (Jones) arrives in late 1890’s Chicago, staying on the South Side with her nagging, married sister. When Carrie loses her job in a sweatshop after an injury, she becomes the mistress to fast-talking, traveling salesman Charles Drouet (Eddie Albert) who can help her financially. Soon, she ditches Charles for the older and wealthier restaurateur George Hurstwood (Olivier) who would do anything for her. This leaves George’s cold-hearted, controlling wife (Miriam Hopkins) in a tizzy. Obsessed with Carrie, George uses embezzled money from his boss to run off to New York City with his love. Living in luxury, the couple are tracked down by investigators. Forced to pay back the money, George is left destitute and unable to get a job in the restaurant business. Meanwhile, Carrie works her way up, from chorus girl to stage star.
Jennifer Jones’ almost angelic portrayal of Carrie is very different from the novel and she doesn’t seem appropriate for the role. William Wyler was apparently reluctant to cast her but was urged by her husband David O. Selznick to cast her in the role. A woman with more of an edge—Bettie Davis, Joan Crawford or Ann Blyth—would have been more realistic. Laurence Olivier is an excellent actor, but even he can’t do much with an obsessed but surprisingly bland character. Though Eddie Albert is perfectly cast as a man with a brash personality.
Despite some flaws, Carrie is beautifully photographed and deserves kudos for taking on America’s class structure and the abandonment of the destitute, something not often found in early fifties film. Not the worst and not the best entry in William Wyler’s filmography, is worth a look for fans of the director and/or the actors.
Presented in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, the 35mm black and white source looks okay for a film of the era. Scratching, speckling and occasional flickering are evident throughout. Black levels aren’t as inky as one might expect. Occasionally, shots look slightly washed out. White levels look better, with just a couple instances of blooming in evidence. Grain is natural and gives the proceedings a filmic appearance. Close ups offer a nice level of detail throughout.
The LPCM 2.0 mono track is solid, given its 1952 origins. Free of any pops or other audio flaws, dialogue is clean, clear and concise throughout.
English Subtitles are included.
The following Special Features are available:
- NEW! Audio Commentary with Professor/Film Scholar Jason A. Ney
- NEW! “Neil Sinyard on Carrie” 2023 interview with the author of A Wonderful Heart: The Films of William Wyler (HD, 30:24)
- Theatrical Trailer (SD)
- Limited Edition slipcase on the first 1500 copies with unique artwork.