TOP DRAWER

East Side, West Side has been maligned as a “woman's picture,” which of course it is but top-drawer nasty. Made in 1949, directed by Mervyn LeRoy, with a script by Isobel Lennart, music by Miklós Rozsa, photographed by Charles Rosher, costumes by Helen Rose, the attention-grabbing cast includes Barbara Stanwyck, James Mason, Ava Gardner, Gale Sondergaard, Van Heflin, Cyd Charisse, William Conrad and William Frawley. (In a brief role, Nancy Davis—the future Mrs. Reagan—will years later write in her self-incriminating My Turn that it “was probably my greatest moment in pictures” and for once no one will disagree with her.) Entertaining, with minimal bitch wit, the movie might have been more amusing if Ava’s presence had been expanded. She’s got two scenes—one with Mason and her confrontation with Stanwyck—providing some solid laughs and real hidden charge. When released, the movie was overshadowed by Ava’s open affair with married Frank Sinatra but at the time of filming less than a handful had known about Ava’s other fling—with Robert Taylor, who was then married to Stanwyck, who did know.

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