THE LOST MOMENT (1947, Olive Films)
Lurking behind this bad title is a surprisingly grand, highly romantic gothic mystery based on Henry James' THE ASPERN PAPERS. Robert Cummings stars as a New York publisher determined to obtain the never-before-published love letters of a 19th century poet to his muse. To obtain them, he poses as a novelist and arranges to rent a room in the villa in Venice where the poet lived and died, and where his muse still lives at the age of 105 (Agnes Moorehead, giving an impressive performance in astounding makeup for its time), looked after by her icily prim niece (Susan Hayward). Shortly after he moves in, the sound of piano music lures Cummings to a closed section of the villa where he is astonished to find the poet's muse - as he knew and loved her, nearly a century before - has he really travelled back in time, or is she the muse's niece, reliving her aunt's famous love story to compensate for her own loveless life? Tragically, this was the only film ever directed by actor Martin Gabel, a member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater who shows a tasteful yet economical command of the medium; it's doubtful that Welles himself could have done much better with the material, and it's very good material indeed, scripted by Leonardo Bercovici (PORTRAIT OF JENNIE, THE BISHOP'S WIFE). The film is slightly let down by Cummings' light-weight, possibly miscast presence, but Hayward is ravishing and Moorehead unforgettable. With memorable support from Joan Lorring, Eduardo Ciannelli and Minerva Urecal.
This review (c) 2014 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.