Jan 5, 2009

Phaedra

Melina Mercouri, shown above, stars in Jules Dassin’s updating of Hippolytus by Euripides. Her costars are Raf Vallone as Thanos (Theseus) and Anthony Perkins as Alexis (Hippolytus). Horses are provided by Astin Martin

Anthony Perkins had played with glamourous foreign beauties before, notably Sophia Loren in Desire Under the Elms. I watched the Loren/Perkins film back in March or April when she was the star of the month on TCM. One thing that is notable about Loren is that even when she was very young, as in Too Bad She’s Bad, she was never a girl, she was always a woman. Perkins, on the other hand, was always a boy, and never a man. He was never a match for either Loren or Mercouri, and it shows in his boyishness, and his diffidence.

This film, and the films made with Loren, would have been better with someone like John Derek, as he was in his role as Pretty Boy Romano in Knock on Any Door, or James Stewart, as he was in his pre-war movies. Derek had the physical attractiveness and the masculine presence that Perkins lacked, and Stewart had the shyness and diffidence that Perkins also had, but without the sense that he was ill at ease around adult females.

The film is not shown too often, and if you can get over the inappropriateness of Perkins, it is worth watching for Melina Mercouri’s performance.