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The Great Flamarion (1945)

by on 2012/03/26

“I didn’t like people and people didn’t like me.”

* * * *

I like solitude. I need it. Like water and air.

Being around people all the time completely exhausts me. I need to sneak away at frequent intervals to recuperate.

It is for this reason that I believe I was pre-destined to adore the black-and-white noir classic, The Great Flamarion. Directed by Anthony Mann, this movie is all about a solitary man who just wants to do his job and be left alone.

Played by Erich von Stroheim (Sunset Boulevard), The Great Flamarion is a moody and brilliant marksman who performs in a travelling vaudeville show. His passion, obsession and single-minded focus is his act and his guns.

Unfortunately, The Great Flamarion needs assistants to shoot at to add to the excitement of the show. Human targets are so much more interesting than flower vases or light bulbs. He’s forced to hire husband and wife team, Connie (Mary Beth Hughes) and Eddie played by film noir staple Dan Duryea (Criss Cross).

Hell is indeed other people for von Stroheim. This “happily married couple” is pure poison. Promiscuous, philandering Connie never met a man she didn’t like and Eddie drinks like a fish. Fuelled by greed and ego, Connie throws herself at the taciturn Flamarion over and over again, while her cuckolded husband drinks and drinks.

Flamarion’s stock response, “Your personal feelings do not interest me in the least” holds for a time. But eventually he buys into the ruthless tart’s lies and is sucked straight down into hell.

Hughes is scary effective as the man-juggling femme fatale. Soulless and reptilian, she can lie without blinking and cunningly plays off each dumb chump off the other. Men are prey.

Stoic von Stroheim is perfect as the impassive, isolated Flamarion. He goes from a man in relentless control of his life to a tattered broken wreck. The film put me strongly in mind of The Blue Angel, the 1930s Marlene Dietrich vehicle about a self-contained, respected professor who falls head over heels for a faithless dancer. I felt the same sense of heartbreak and pathos.

If you were ever leery of other people, suspicious of human relationships, The Great Flamarion will reinforce that fear. Greatly.

In fact, if you want me, I’ll be hiding in my home. Don’t bother ringing the doorbell.

* * * *

76 minutes

Rated PG for Ashley Madison-grade philandering, gun play and the spirited consumption of liquor

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