Monday, March 19, 2012

'Over-Exposed' is nice showcase for Cleo Moore

Over-Exposed (1956)
Starring: Cleo Moore, Raymond Greeleaf, Richard Crenna, Donald Randolph, and Isobel Elsom
Director: Lewis Seiler
Rating: Six of Ten Stars

An arrest for vagrancy ends up leading to a young woman (Moore) to discover that she has a talent for photography. She parlays that talent in to wealth and fame, trampling on supporters and friends as she climbs her way to the top. But at the pinnacle of fame, she becomes a target for the mob when she witnesses a murder.

Despite showing lots of talent, actress Cleo Moore seemed to have been treated more like a pin-up girl than an actress by studio publicists. In films where she had bit parts, such as "Women's Prison" she was all over the promotional material in varying states of undress, and in films where she was the lead, such as this one and "One Woman's Confession", sex appeal also seemed to be emphasized over anything else.

And this is rather a shame, because I think Moore had greater talent as an actress than she ever really had the opportunity to show, and I think that is exhibited best in this picture than any others I've seen her in.

Moore's character goes through several stages during this film and she gets to portray a range of emotions... always tinged with a mixture of hardness that seems born from a rough life rather than any sort of emotional or mental defects. In a couple of scenes, she is particularly effective in showing emotional pain with some rather subtle acting that manages to keep the audience's sympathy for her character as she behaves like a bitch to those who care for her. Moore deftly keeps the character on the side of seeming tragic while a lesser actress might have caused her to come off as pathetic.

Moore is supported by good performances from the rest of the cast, especially from Raymond Greenleaf as the burn-out drunk who becomes Moore's gateway to the world of photography and who rediscovers his own gift while helping to develop hers. Greenleaf's character is kindhearted and funny, and is so likable that viewers will almost despise Moore's character for not making a greater effort to keep their relationship intact later in the film.

I probably would have rating this film a 7 if not for the ending. Given it was made in the 1950s, I suppose it comes as no surprise how things turn out for Moore's character, but couldn't the screenwriters have paired her a more manly man? Richard Crenna's character spends most of the movie whining and being obnoxiously insecure (possibly even jealous) about Moore's success. Sure, he punches out a few gangsters, but it still seemed wrong that Moore should give up her career for someone like that.

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