Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bette Davis, Susan Hayward And Joey Heatherton All Wonder "Where Love Has Gone"

"The Three Stooges" Meets "Family Affair": Mike "Mannix" Connors, Joey Heatherton and Susan Hayward.

Greetings, movie lovers.

Lana Turner was a glamorous Hollywood star as famous for her tumultuous love-life as she was for her close fitting sweaters--it couldn't have been for her acting.

However, in 1958, Turner was involved in a series of events that could have easily doubled as the plot of her latest potboiler.

One evening, Lana's teenage daughter over heard her mother arguing with her latest beau, underworld fixture Johnny Stompanado. When Stompanado threatened to kill Turner, Cheryl Crane (Turner's daughter) got a kitchen knife and raced to her mother's room. Stompanado, who had a violent temper, ran into the knife and died instantly. A jury later that ruled Stompanado's death was "justifiable homicide" and sent Crane (who was 15 at the time) to juvenile hall for treatment.

The story made headlines around the world, becoming one of Hollywood's best-known scandals. The Turner/Stompanado saga would inspire trash-master novelist Harold Robbins to write Where Love Has Gone, a trashy rehash of the whole sordid mess. Robbins' trashy novel was then made into an equally trashy movie called (what else?) "Where Love Has Gone"(1964)--which also happens to be our featured flick. What a coincidence!?

Valerie Hayden Miller screams as her latest boytoy is cut down in his prime.

While Jack Cassidy croons the Oscar nominated(?!) titled tune, "Where Love Has Gone" opens to panoramic shots of San Francisco before all those nutty hippies showed up. The title tune done, we swoop into an artist's studio where Susan Hayward is screaming "NO!" as Joey Heatherton scowls and swings a chisel. An unidentified male extra goes "ACK!" and falls to the ground with a loud thud as the screen goes dark...

When the lights come back on, we are in the midst of a city planning meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. Luke Miller (Mike "Mannix" Connors) is about to land a major government contract to build affordable houses. Everyone, including the mayor, appears to be delighted with the project. Suddenly a secretary buzzes in with a long-distance phone call for Luke. As he listens on his extension, his eyes glaze over and his jaw slackens. Without a word, Luke rushes out of the conference room, with his business partner close at his heels.

"Luke!" his partner sputters. "Walking out on the mayor is something you just can't do..."

"My daughter just killed a man," Luke tells him, slightly dazed.

"Your daughter?!" his colleague gasps. "I didn't even know you had a daughter!"

 "You want teeth gritting? I'll show you teeth gritting!": Joey Heatherton as Danny Miller.

Well, he does. Her name is Danielle (Danny) and she's played by Joey Heatherton in a mousy brown bouffant that must be crushing her skull. Danny is all pouty and sullen and she wails "Daddy!" about 10,000 times in the course of this flick. No wonder Luke kept quiet about her.

Anyway, off Luke darts to San Fran, where hot-shot, money-bags lawyer Gordon explains what led to Danny's arrest. The "Reader's Digest" version? Danny overheard her mother Valerie (Hayward), a socialite/sculptor and Luke's ex-wife, having a fight with her "business manager" Rick. In reality, Rick was just the latest in a long line of  Valerie's live-in cuddlemates. As lawyer Gordon explained it, poor Rick "knew nothing about double entry book-keeping, but he was a pro at double entry housekeeping." Trying to defend her mother, Danny picked up a chisel, "took a violent swing" and "hit a home run." Rick lived only "three minutes--painfully" before expiring.

Luke and Gordon are expected at the home of Mrs. Gerald Hayden, Danny's granny and Luke's ex-mother-in-law. As played by Bette Davis, Mrs. Hayden (we are never told her first name) is a cross between Barbara Bush, Cruella Deville and Satan, a high society Grande Dame who enunciates perfectly while biting off the heads of those around her.

"It is unthinkable that such a thing could happen in the Hayden family!" Mrs. Hayden complains while daintily sipping from a china tea cup. "To have one hundred years of social standing brought to Earth in a (she searches for the right word) a mass of scattered feathers is horrifying!"  The lady sips some more tea and then declares, "Somewhere the world has lost all it's standards and all it's tastes!"

Luke, lawyer Gordon and Mrs. Hayden all await the arrival of Danny's mother (and Luke's ex-wife), Valerie (Susan Hayward at her snarliest). It's clear all the adults hate each other.

The supremely self-satisfied evil puppet master that is Mrs. Gerald Miller (Bette Davis, who else?).

"And all the birds come home to roost," sighs Valerie.

"I was invited in to help do the family dirty laundry," Luke snaps back

"And why not?" his ex-wife rejoins, "since so much of it is yours."

Of course, it wasn't always like this. Once upon a time, Luke and Valerie loved each other very, very much. Unfortunately, their union could not withstand the combination of Mrs. Hayden's meddling and their own considerable short-comings. An evil puppet master who has never allowed Valerie to live her own life, Mrs. Hayden denied her daughter the hugs she craved growing up, yet made pay-offs to ensure Valerie won a prestigious art award. Later, Mrs. Hayden hand-picked Valerie's future husband (Medal of Honor winner Luke), so convinced was she that her daughter was incapable of making a socially acceptable match. When Mrs. Hayden dares to remind Valerie of all the sacrifices she's made on her behalf as a mother, Hayward snarls, "You were never a mother! You were just a woman who had a daughter! You never loved me! You ruled me!"

Adding to Mrs. Hayden's obsessive interference were the "issues" our happy couple each dragged into their union--resulting in catastrophe all around.

Mike and Valerie enjoy a quiet moment in their otherwise stormy marriage.

 Valerie's "issue" is that she's what I call a "Revenge Slut". See, because she was disciplined and drilled so harshly by her ma, Valerie became desperate for physical affection. Once she hit her teens, Valerie started hitting the sheets with anything in pants, if you get my drift. Her promiscuity upset the socially-obsessed Mrs. Hayden, who was less concerned about her daughter, say, picking up an STD (or getting an ill timed bun in her oven) than seeing her banned from the drawing rooms of the elite.

 Meanwhile, Valerie quickly realized that being an easy lay not only got her the affection she was so starved for (if only for a short time) it was also a great way--perhaps the only way--to stand up to her ma (and drive her crazy, too).

"You have devoted your life to mud and filth," Mrs. Hayden declares at one point.

"Only to get back at you," Valerie replies.

See what I mean?

"I can't hear you! La, la la!": Valerie does her best to tone out her hectoring mom.

Luke's "issue"  is alcohol. Lots of it. See, after the war, Luke planned on going into the booming building market. However, when he married Valerie, Mrs. Hayden was determined that her son-in-law would accept the son-in-law job she had lined up for him at Hayden Industries. Luke tried to strike out on his own, but Mrs. Hayden made sure every bank and financial institution in the world would not give him a chance. Dejected and depressed, Luke agrees to accept his token position at Hayden Industries, but just for a little while. Sadly, as his job required nothing more of him than to drink with clients, Luke quickly turns into a wino. Her hubby's drinking upsets Valerie, especially when Luke repeatedly passes out at posh country clubs while she's stuck at home with their kid. (Did I forget to mention that Luke and Valerie had a baby? They did. Except for her christening, the tyke totally disappears until she morphs into Joey Heatherton.)

Fed up with monogamy and seeing Luke spike his orange juice with vodka, Valerie decides to resume her hectic pre-marital social life of sleeping around. When Luke stumbles home to find Valerie in the company of one of her male models, he screams, "You're not a woman! You're a disease!" Valerie, meanwhile, takes the time to call her husband "a kept man!" and a lush. After one too many of these nasty exchanges, Mrs. Hayden demands Valerie divorce Luke--which she does, because, well, Mrs. Hayden always get what she wants (and so does Bette Davis).

All of this, of course, is told in flashback. When the movie returns to the present day, the adults continue to bicker and bitch over who is really responsible for Danny killing Rick. Was it Luke, who lost his visitation rights because of his excessive drinking? Was it Valerie, who gave her daughter every material possession imaginable, but not the time and attention she really needed? Was it Rick, who Danny claims was threatening her mother--and possibly having an affair Danny as well? Or was it Mrs. Hayden, who had to have everybody in her iron grip at all times?

Paging Dr. Phil! STAT!

"Where Love Has Gone" ends in a big operatic showdown, where Luke accuses Valerie of trying to hide Rick's under-age affair with Danny ("You knew they were making love!") and Valerie screaming at her mother ("Would you just shut-up for once!") when Mrs. Hayden is awarded custody of Danny. Meanwhile, Danny wails "Please, mother, no!" when Valerie decides the court must finally hear the truth: Rick wasn't threatening her that fatal night. And, no, Rick and Danny were never having an affair. Instead, Danny had an unrequited crush on Rick, nothing more. She did, however, view him as a father replacement for the always absent Luke. When she learned her mother and Rick had decided to get married, the teen went ballistic, believing Valerie had yet again stolen another father from her. So as Danny grabbed a chisel, Valerie declared, "Rick stepped in front of me and got what I should have gotten! Because Danny was trying to kill me!"

"You are hereby charged with Overacting, Excessive Eye-Rolling and Shrieking Without A License": A stunned Valerie listens the court's decision.

Shock, gasp, horror all around.

Of course, it ain't over yet. After her courtroom outburst, Valerie races home. She runs pell-mell into her San Fran mansion, stopping long enough to slash her mother's portrait (which looked like it came straight off the set of "Night Gallery") and stab herself with a chisel. Valerie goes "Ack!" and promptly drops dead.

"Valerie was destined for tragedy," Mrs. Gerald Hayden shrugs.

 Gee, thanks, mom.

"Where Love Has Gone", meanwhile, was destined to become part of Harold Robbins' big screen Troika of Trash. Along with "The Carpetbaggers" and "The Adventurers", this soapy stew of high society, nymphomania, marathon drinking, parental neglect and bad seed kids allowed movie-goers an inside view of the Rotten Rich, while also encouraging them to feel morally outraged and/or superior at the same time. In this way, Robbins was no different than Cecil B. DeMille, who made all those puffed-up religious epics like "The Sign of  the Cross" and "The Ten Commandments", which were jam-packed with sex, skimpy costumes, violence and naughty nobles. All that pagan hanky-panky, however, was deemed necessary to show how virtue triumphed over vice--at least according to C.B., anyway.

"When will this move be over?": Bette Davis struggles to keep her composure--and her sanity.

Of course, director Edward Dymtryk had none of C.B.'s lofty goals. "Where Love Has Gone" was promoted as an all-out trash wallow--and proud of it. "The explosive story of the violent world where a mother and her teenage daughter compete for the same lover!," the ads screamed. "Where Love Has Gone' goes where no motion picture has dared go before!" Adding to the P.R. mix was the Lana Turner/Johnny Stompanado angle. In fact, memories of that scandal were still so fresh that, at the flick's release, some critics congratulated the producers for not offering Lana the lead role.

Unfortunately, it was Oscar winner Susan Hayward who had that dubious honor. Never an actress known for her subtlety, Hayward portrays Valerie like a snorting dragon, barging into scenes and screaming her lines as if she was trying to yell over a wind machine. Although in fairness, Hayward does have some peachy lines to shriek. When Luke tries to force himself on her, Valerie growls, "Take your rights! I want you to! Only this time don't be juvenile! You're not the first today! I'm just getting warmed up!" (He then calls his wife "a rich hooker!"). After Luke insists he doesn't drink that much, Valerie snaps back, "You can't wait for me to leave the room so you can hit the vodka!" However, my favorite line of Hayward's occurs when Mrs. Hayden and Valerie are arguing about Valerie's lack of morals. "You have made it publicly obvious that you have only one concept of love!" Mrs. Hayden rails. "A vile and sinful one!" To which Valerie snarls, "When you're dying of thirst, you'll drink from a mud hole!"

You go, girl!

 Hayward's snarly, fire-breathing performance in "Where Love Has Gone" is in many ways a dress rehearsal for her snarly, fire-breathing performance as Broadway terror Helen Lawson in "Valley of the Dolls." In both films, Hayward played women obsessed with their work. In both films, her character snacked on men like they were grapes. In action, both characters resembled a ravenous Tasmanian Devil devouring a wildebeest. And for their co-stars, it meant little or no scenery to chew for themselves. No wonder Joey Heatherton spends all her time in this movie pouting and whining.

Bette Davis, of course, was no slouch in the scenery chewing department, either--and wasn't about to let Susan Hayward upstage her. As Mrs. Gerald Hayden, Davis wields her tongue like a machete, swiftly dicing through co-stars like they were jungle weeds blocking her path. When Valerie's agent Deforest Kelly (of "Star Trek" fame) asks if Mrs. Hayden ever thought of letting her daughter live her own life, Davis replies, "Only in a moment of weakness." After Valerie bristles when she learns her mother has begun stage-managing her divorce from Luke, Mrs. Hayden explains that someone had to do something because, after all, "the history of your life has been one of indecision, petulance and deceit." Furthermore, Mrs. Hayden has no problem reminding her kid how lucky she was to be born into the illustrious Hayden family: "My dear, you inherited social position, wealth and a great talent. Anytime you would like me to take them back, just let me know."

"Take that! And that! And that!": Susan Hayward demonstrates how movie critics will react to "Where Love Has Gone".


So what is the moral of this story, kiddies?

Well, because "Where Love Has Gone" is based on a Harold Robbins novel, there is no moral. The people in Harold Robbins' novels--even if they are based on real folks--are a miserable lot of dumb, rich, socially prominent sex fiends with bad parents, bad habits, bad children and bad marriages who all come to bad ends. They dress nice, they have nice things, but they are bad to the bone. Happiness and spiritual fulfillment are always out of their reach. It may be a horrible way to live, but it often makes for wonderfully ridiculous movies where "over the top" is simply basic operating procedure.

Therefore, movie lovers, remember to hug your kids, cut back on the sauce and keep your in-laws at arms length. And of course, SAVE THE MOVIES!

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