Where Ruth Roman Was "All-Woman"
Vidor Shoots Dramatic Works with Lightning Strikes Twice (1951)
King Vidor getting away from MGM must have given him appetite for bug-eyed melodrama --- just look at hysteria wrought in these: Duel In The Sun, The Fountainhead, Beyond The Forest, Ruby Gentry, plus today's watch, Lightning Strikes Twice, a barely known WB he spoke of least in career overviews. Vidor after the war gave vent to fierce emotion, all out of drawer I'd call Tempest-Toss. Douglas Sirk's hothouse for Universal was ice-cooled beside these. Something set Vidor's blood at boiler as autumn years approached, him in 50's by the mid-forties and set upon exclamatory course that would last most of career's remainder. Did Duel In The Sun instill appreciation for stories told with corks out? The Fountainhead would be as robust, Gary Cooper gone caveman on Patricia Neal as he never would to clinch-mates again. This was GC tapping sensual reserve for a last time before surrender to Redwood forest of lead men past romantic prime. The Fountainhead seemed a most dynamic show ever when I saw it first in the mid-70's, inspiring sight-unseen purchase of Lightning Strikes Twice on 16mm months later (came cheap from a dealer who seldom watched his stock). The title promised much --- would Vidor hurl another bolt with this one?
It was minor Vidor, minor Warners, really minor everyone involved. A vehicle for Ruth Roman during brief moment when vehicles for her seemed a reasonable prospect, Lightning Strikes Twice lost a quarter-million for bad bet on an actress who'd not be a next Bette Davis, or even Virginia Mayo. Such was broken instrument of WB star-building after the war, their only big lick along these lines being Doris Day, w/ others trailed far behind and none to last so long as Day. Lightning Strikes Twice turns on unsolved murder in desert setting, at times Hitchcockian. I wonder if the property wasn't run by Hitch before Vidor took the ball. This was the sort of assignment directors got when their best years were behind them. Vidor suggested later that he shot scenes too hot for Warners to retain. Richard Todd is a wrong-man tabbed as killer, not unlike his Stage Fright for Hitchcock a couple years before. The writing perplexes where it doesn't confuse, but Vidor gooses tempo with forceful staging, much of it frisky enough for the rest not to matter. Lightning Strikes Twice is forgotten, but doesn't deserve to be. It shows up at TCM now and then, plus there's a Warner Archive DVD.