The Revolt of Mamie Stover (1957) **


A late but strong vehicle for Jane Russell's certain talents (all of them), showing the Hays Code's ability to tame wayward scenarios at its most heroic.

Its faults are obvious and easily dealt with. First, screenwriter Boehm has no small task sanitising an original novel which included not only prostitution and lesbianism but also a scathing attack on Hollywood vice. The result is a successful job of sleight of hand, but once in a while desperation shows: Moorehead's lesbianism is subtly and cleverly suggested, but a scene or two later explicitly disavowed; the euphemism of the 'champagne rooms' to which the taxi dancers take their higher paying clients is rendered senseless by the frequent assertions that sex is not on offer. (Why pay more for less physical contact?)
Then there is that general flabbiness of fifties cinema, the abundant evidence that the technique, flare, style and uniformity of purpose that thirties Hollywood had perfected is now in a state of dissolution, indeed just a few years away from irreparable destruction. The old-style majesty of Jane, too, reminds us just how much star power had faded. Richard Egan is her co-star here: he's fine, but easily mistaken for a dozen or more other fifties hunks.

But of all Russell's films, this is perhaps the one ripest for rediscovery, balancing a nice mix of certainties and surprises (Jane the redhead!), mixing fiction and historical fact cleverly, and allowing for a number of standout scenes and cameo performances (especially Michael Pate as a sleazy hard man). In essence it's Rain again, but there's real dramatic momentum, a good sense of place and time, and Jane gives perhaps her best dramatic screen performance.