There's no denying that this film was inspired by the murder of gangster Johnny Stompanato by Lana Turner's teenage daughter. Novelist Robbins changed enough of the story to avoid legal problems. The actress became a sculptor, the restaurateur father became a building executive, and Los
Angeles became San Francisco. Connors is in a meeting at his building firm when he learns that his teenage daughter, Heatherton, has been arrested. He hasn't seen the girl for some time, but that doesn't prevent his racing away from business to lend whatever help he can. It's not that Connors
hasn't wanted to see his daughter, of course, it's that the terms of his divorce settlement forbade his visitation. Ex-wife Hayward's attorney, Macready, has asked for Connors because the appearance of Connors and Hayward's united support for Heatherton may favorably impress the juvenile court
hearing committee. Heatherton has been accused of killing Hayward's current lover. Connors clearly feels that Hayward has been an unfit mother and, once his daughter is out of this mess, intends to seek custody. Macready regards this hope as a vain one. The newspapers are filled with the news, and
Connors recalls in a flashback how this all came to pass.
Connors was a hero in WW II and, after being honored by a parade, met Hayward at a showing of her sculpture. Later, he is asked to dinner by Hayward's mother (Davis), a calculating, manipulative grande dame. She minces no words and offers Connors a large sum of money and a good job to marry
Hayward. He is appalled by this flesh bargain and storms out. Then he runs into Hayward and tells her what has happened. She thinks he's a heckuva guy for having walked out--particularly since she herself is unable to get out from under her mother's heavy thumb. The two begin seeing each other,
fall in love, and then marry. Shortly thereafter, Connors has to return to the war that is still raging. A former lover, Kelley, cynically predicts that the Hayward-Connors union will eventually fail because no one man can satisfy Hayward's sexual appetite. The war ends, and Davis provides the
young couple with a well-appointed house. Connors, a fine architect, has plans for a career--which Davis wishes he would give up in order to work for her. Connors is adamant about succeeding on his own as a designer of low-cost housing for the millions of returning veterans. Try as he may,
however, Connors can get nowhere with the banking institutions, little realizing that Davis is behind the financing refusals. He has to take a job now and accepts an executive position with the company owned by Davis, just as Hayward tells him they are going to be parents. Soon their daughter is
born, and Connors, feeling dominated by both Davis and Hayward, takes solace in the bottle. Hayward, on the other hand, takes lovers, and when her husband finds her in the muscular arms of one of her male models, Connors has had enough and walks out. Davis hires a sharp attorney to handle the
divorce, and Connors winds up with nothing--not even partial custody of their daughter. While the girl is growing up gorgeous, Hayward takes one lover after another. It's not long before some of the men are casting glances at Heatherton--attention that does not go unnoted by jealous Hayward.
Back in the present, the hearings go on, and the truth begins to emerge. Hayward is an unfit mother who bears as much responsibility for her lover's death as Heatherton. Hayward tries to patch it up with Connors, but his pain is too deep and the wounds too fresh to permit reuniting. Hayward's
reason for wanting to reconcile with Connors is not so much that she loves him as that she doesn't want her shrewish mother to get custody of Heatherton. As Heatherton attacked her mother's lover in order to defend her, the court rules that her action is justifiable homicide. Now the custody
hearing begins; as expected, Davis asks that the court award custody of Heatherton to her. Now Hayward makes a dramatic confession at the custody proceedings. It's true that Heatherton killed the man but not to save Hayward. Heatherton was trying to kill her mother and accidentally killed her
mother's lover when he stepped between them. Heatherton was in love with the man and, resenting his affection for Hayward, was determined to stop the affair at all costs. With that off her chest, Hayward races out of the proceedings, goes home, and slashes a portrait of Davis before taking her own
life with her sculptor's chisel. At Hayward's funeral, Heatherton and Connors stand quietly together, while Davis stands alone. Heatherton will go to jail for a while, and Connors will be waiting for her when she is released.
A soap opera that foreshadowed TV's "Dynasty" and "Dallas" series, this movie had good technical work, lots of good sets and costumes, but the wrong focus. The story should really be Heatherton's--but Davis and Hayward were not about to relinquish their starring roles, so the movie was made to
revolve around them rather than around the younger actress (who did quite well under Dmytryk's direction). Davis was only 10 years older than the 46-year-old Hayward when the movie was filmed, but Hayward was gorgeous enough even to carry off the young-bride sequences set 20 years before. The
title song was nominated for an Oscar but lost that year to "Chim Chim Cheree" from MARY POPPINS--also about a meddlesome woman, after a fashion. Fireworks between Davis and Hayward were reported on the set--not surprising from two such dynamic, outspoken women. Connors was making his 11th feature
and acquitted himself well in a part that was rather the fulcrum to the two women's see-saw.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: There's no denying that this film was inspired by the murder of gangster Johnny Stompanato by Lana Turner's teenage daughter. Novelist Robbins changed enough of the story to avoid legal problems. The actress became a sculptor, the restaurateur father becam… (more)