Friday, March 9, 2018

TIME TRAVEL BLOGATHON: Repeat Performance (1947)


Time for a little "R and R". Rich of Wide Screen World and Ruth of Silver Screenings are hosting the Time Travel blogathon from March 9 to 11. Click HERE and HERE for recaps.


"People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually, from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint, it's more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey ... stuff."
- Time travel expert, the Tenth Doctor

Oscar-nominated lyricist Walter Bullock (When Did You Leave Heaven? / Who Am I?) wrote over a dozen screenplays in his career, mainly for musicals such as The Gang's All Here and Springtime in the Rockies at 20th Century Fox. For Eagle-Lion Corp. he adapted the crime comedy picture Out of the Blue from a Vera Caspary story and Repeat Performance from a novel by William O'Farrell.

Repeat Performance was made under the sure direction of Alfred Werker (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, He Walked by Night, Lost Boundaries). Werker and Bullock also collaborated on the 1941 comedy Moon Over Her Shoulder. A fantasy-noir involving time travel is unique in the world of film-noir, and certainly to the careers of Messrs. Werker and Bullock.

Sheila is overwhelmed.
Joan Leslie

Actress Sheila Page played by Joan Leslie is about to learn more about time than she ever expected. As an actress, particularly the star of a hit play, she goes through the same motions, the same emotions, the same words night after night in a performance. On a traumatic and life-altering New Year's Eve the clock has turned back to the previous New Year's Eve with a repeat performance of a year's worth of events. We do not question the how or the why of it. An unseen narrator (John Ireland) hints that there is an omniscient power at work. Everyone has their part to play in this real-life repeat performance.

We share the emotional journey through the months with Sheila as she attempts to manipulate time and events. We relish her minor successes, but from the vantage point of viewers can see the major flaw in her attempt to change fate is people. Other people don't know what she knows. Other people can't see the consequences of their actions. Other people don't think about the future in the way Sheila does by seeing it as the past. Has anyone ever been able to escape the past?

Barney makes another quip about drinking. He likes to get ahead of Sheila.
Joan Leslie, Louis Hayward

Sheila's husband Barney played by Louis Hayward wrote a play which catapulted himself and Sheila to phenomenal success. Since that time his writing has flopped and he has taken to drink. He has also taken to cheating on his devoted wife. A violent argument led to Sheila's killing him on New Year's Eve. Will she again kill him when, inevitably, New Year's arrives again? Timey-wimey stuff is complicated.

Bill has imagination, but it is enough to understand murder, to grasp time travel?
Joan Leslie, Richard Basehart

William Williams, played by Richard Basehart in his first film, is a poet friend of Sheila's and the only one to whom she is confident in relaying the fact that they are all reliving the past year. As a friend, she warns him of a dreadful fate that awaits him through his relationship with a wealthy patron, Mrs. Shaw played by Natalie Schafer. Will warnings be enough?

When a producer meets an author, can a hit be far behind?
Tom Conway, Virginia Field

Producer John Friday played by Tom Conway is confused by his star's behavior, but remains steadfast, for deeply personal reasons, to Sheila. He is dedicated to her efforts to make her marriage to Barney work even though it goes against his own self-interests.

Sheila's latest success is a play by Paula Costello played by Virginia Field. The glamorous and talented Paula's affair with Barney led to the tragic crime of New Year's Eve. Sheila is convinced that if she keeps Barney away from Paula then all will be well.

The same year has almost passed for the second time, and Sheila is optimistic.
Joan Leslie

Sheila refuses to have anything to do with the new play by Paula Costello and takes a job in Hollywood. Surely she and Barney will have a different life and relationship in California. Barney hates it and drinking becomes an issue. Every kind and thoughtful action on Sheila's part is hateful to her resentful husband. He returns to New York. Despite Sheila's best efforts, Paula becomes a part of their lives.

The overly sensitive poet William Williams allows Mrs. Shaw to orchestrate his success and his mental issues place him in an asylum. Desperation motivates Sheila when the perfidious Barney is injured and paralyzed in an accident of his own making. Hate and rage motivate Barney when Paula gives him the brush off. It all leads to an emotional and violent showdown on New Year's Eve.


"Destiny is a stubborn old girl, Sheila. She doesn't like people interfering with her plans. But we tricked her, didn't we? Anyway, I don't think she cares about the pattern as long as the result is the same."
- Time travel expert, William Williams















18 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this movie. The only reason I haven't rematched in a while is because my copy is so bad. Don't think there is a cleaned-up copy on the market, seems Amazon is selling a bootleg one.
    This movie is a worthy candidate for restoration. I'm not Richard Basehart's biggest fan at all, but he's good here. It's a very unique Noir.

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    1. I long for a restoration. My old bargain bin copy is a wreck. This movie deserves a new lease on life.

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  2. I forgot, the ending is really sad. I didn't really wanted that to happen.

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    1. Sad, true, but we were led there every step of the way. Sigh.

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  3. I guess you could call this one "Groundhog Year" — though a year seems like a long time to have to go through again, dramatically speaking. Still, combining noir with the fantastic concept of repeating a period of time sounds like a good idea on paper (or pixels in this case).

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    1. Fate is a character, as she is in all film-noir.

      So many of us have only seen Repeat Performance in poor quality prints, yet it continues to garner fans.

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  4. Excellent post. I'm hoping this can be found and restored because it sure sounds fascinating. I have a very vague feeling I have seen it a long (long) time ago. But those are memories for you.

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    1. Ha! Memories are our own time travel agent, and sometimes we need to report them to the Better Business Bureau.

      I think there must be a fair number of fans who would like to see this film taken care of properly. It may happen yet.

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  5. Never heard of this one. Sounds interesting.

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    1. A lot of interesting little movies out there we need to catch up on. We'll never see them all, and that's what I like about movies.

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  6. Whoa! This sounds like a future Top 10 fave movie – where has it been all my life?

    I was a bit discouraged to read in the comments that there isn't a lovingly-restored Blu-ray copy available, but no matter. This will be worth seeing in any form, I suspect.

    Thank you for joining the blogathon, and for bringing this time travel noir with you. :)

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    1. My pleasure. Always the optimist, I hold out hope for a restoration. Hey, it happened for Woman on the Run, so why not?

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    2. Seems like this inspirert Groundhog Day, which inspired Source Code, which inspired Edge Of Tomorrow, which will inspire some new movie in a few years.

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    3. You have me wondering if there is an earlier inspiration for Repeat Performance that I haven't run across yet. The fun of movies!

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  7. One of my favorite "B" movies of the 1940s! I saw it on New Year's Eve as a teen and never forgot it. The ending is perfect...and what a cast! It was remade as a made-for-TV movie many years later with Connie Selleca in the lead role.

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    1. When a movie is that memorable, it deserves its fandom.

      I just looked up the Sellacca movie Turn Back the Clock. Wow - it was made in 1989 and Joan Leslie appears as a party guest. Nice touch.

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  8. Um, this sounds amazing! It's interesting how Joan Leslie starred in so many great projects, yet she isn't better known. It's a bit of a shame, really.

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    1. True. You can't be a fan of classic films without being aware of Joan Leslie, but to the movie-goer-at-large it is not a name that rings any bells.

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