The Breaking Point (1950)

I was not prepared for this one at all. I've seen more Curtiz films than even I had anticipated for an upcoming podcast, and this was just one of many that I tracked down not knowing anything about. I'm finally getting into the habit of keeping my phone far far away from the TV or in another room entirely, so I'm not tempted to Wikipedia the plot ahead of time. The pleasures kept on coming and I forgot all about phones, food, chores, etc. By the halfway point, I was so invested in this lead character despite the fact that he was kind of a misogynistic asshole. Then again, maybe he really is doing what he's doing to better his family rather than as a point of pride or money acquisition. I gotta say that Patricia Neal plays seductress beautifully indeed, but I couldn't begin to explain my adoration for Phyllis Thaxter who played the wife that has to put up with a selfish asshole. At one point she used the term "purple heart" in a way to describe a relationship. There is dialogue in this that made me want to applaud, and there will be nuggets that I plan to write down to recollect for future conversations.

I won't give much away, but by the time we get to the final heist, I was on the edge of my seat in a way that even modern films can't get me to be. I cared so much about the central relationship and this flawed anti-hero of sorts, to the point of me shaking my head in disbelief during a shocking moment. And I spent the final minutes BALLING, and this film ends on a final shot / final note that I don't even think many Hollywood films would like its audience to walk away with (thank you Hemingway). So maybe there is a lull and perhaps there are imperfections that many could point out, but I cannot think of a single thing or moment that I didn't love in this one. This is just high-quality storytelling, solid acting, terrific dialogue, nail-biting tension... in a way that is old-fashioned and graceful. Expect me to sing its praises further soon enough and to probably watch it again in a couple of weeks. Curtiz made this and CASABLANCA and MILDRED PIERCE and... and... and...!

P.S I could conceivably see myself attempting to watch every movie that Phyllis Thaxter is in later in my life. She's in-credible in a less showy role than Neal's.

James Laczkowski