Jennifer Jones had different types of roles in the films her husband David O. Selznick made. She's a dutiful daughter in SINCE YOU WENT AWAY. She is a simple, holy young woman - destined for religious greatness, in SONG OF BERNADETTE. She is one of a pair of twisted, oversexed, mutually doomed lovers in DUEL IN THE SUN. She is a doomed nurse who dies in World War I in A FAREWELL TO ARMS. Even in a film she was loaned for - BEAT THE DEVIL - she is a chronic liar and fantasist. Her title role as "Ruby Gentry" resembles her "Pearl Chavez" in that she is from a despised background (Ruby is from the "hillbilly" woods country, and Pearl is half Indian), but Ruby eventually does make it materially...but at a cost.
Let's face it - RUBY GENTRY is an example of a soap opera turned into a motion picture. In fact, after watching it one wonders why Selznick chose to make this film. DUEL IN THE SUN was a western, SONG OF BERNADETTE a historical film, PORTRAIT OF JENNIE a popular novel of the day. GENTRY was a novel too, but it's plot was not as mystical and weird as PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (wherein Joseph Cotton fell in love with the portrait of a young woman, whom he gradually learned died years earlier - and whom he experiences the love and loss of by meeting her ghost). GENTRY is set in the south, and is told by an outsider (a northern doctor who just moved to the Carolina coastal town - he's also having problems getting accepted*).
(*The doctor's first name is rather Jewish sounding, which may be another reason he is having problems of acceptance in the town.)
The story follows how Jones fascinates most of the men she meets: she has an affair with Charleton Heston, she has been under the protection of Karl Malden and his wife, and the doctor realizes what a remarkably talented woman she is too. But she is not socially fit to marry Heston (whose business ideas require a wealthy wife at least). When Malden's wife dies she accepts his subsequent marriage proposal. But while the social swells don't knock Malden (accepted as one of them and a decent guy) they won't accept her. The marriage suffers and subsequently Malden dies in an accident. Now wealthy Jones still finds that her wealth does not buy acceptance. And her point of view begins to sour towards the "upper crust" who prove more frail facing her than they imagine.
The film works. Not only do the three leads do well (watch Malden's jealousy scene at the country club, or the scene of Heston and Jones driving a convertible at night alongside the ocean on the beach - one wonders if the scene influenced the scene of Jack Nicholson and Shirley MacLaine in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT). Also noticeable are the actors playing the doctor (Barney Phillips) and Jones' brother (James Anderson), a religious maniac who may have certain incestuous ideas about her himself. If it is a soap opera it is a superior one, with firm acting, good directing by King Vidor (who had done the directing in DUEL IN THE SUNS), and even a memorable musical theme ("Ruby"). Jones is excellent, even if the role would have been more typical for Susan Hayward in that period.
Drama / Romance
Drama / Romance
Despite their different social class Ruby and Boake grew up together in the 1950s North Carolina. Ruby Corey lived with her poor family in the swamps while Boake Tackman lived in a mansion with servants. As long as their friendship stayed within the socially acceptable limits no one objected. In adulthood their friendship becomes a mutual romantic attraction. Ruby wants to marry Boake but he only seems interested in romantic play without commitment. Maybe conscious of his social status or maybe being afraid to offend his snobbish family and conservative hometown folk, he marries a rich girl. Out of revenge Ruby marries Jim Gentry, a recently widowed rich old man to whom many townsfolk and local businesses owe money. When Gentry dies in an accident, the town blames Ruby. A now rich Ruby takes revenge on the town's folk by calling in their debts and loans. The girl from the swamps has become the town's biggest nightmare.
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July 17, 2018 at 11:37 PM