USA, 1958 (MIFF 1960, Programme 26)
Director: John Cromwell
Paddy Chayefsky's reputation has been built on the loving and detailed exploration of small-scale objects, the discovery of the significance of the commonplace. In The Goddess, he is working on an altogether larger scale.
His goddess is a very special case. Neglected as a child by a nymphomaniac mother, Emily Ann Faulkner drives her way to Hollywood in answer to her craving for an acceptance by society which her sordid circumstances have always denied her; in search of adulation to compensate for her own inability to love. Hollywood, she knows, is a place where dreams come true. It is contemporary culture patterns, in fact, to which Hollywood the dream factory contributes, and that Chayefsky has in mind as his target.
The film is conceived in three main divisions: "Portrait of a Girl", "Portrait of a Young Woman" and "Portrait of a Goddess"; a bold structure, but the only one to which the style of writing would conform. Each incident within the three sections is geared to a little climax - which makes for a film without climax, and one undeviating in its emphasis.
Chayefsky argues that the film is about people whose essential tragedy is their inability to communicate normally with others; in particular one person, incapable of love through being initially starved of love as a child. But such characters are still in life, and if they are to be presented roundly they need to be shown through other eyes than their own. Chayefsky seems simply too close to his central character and her neurosis. The monologue technique, so successful in Batchelor Party, is here overworked, and the succession of small incidents, each built up to its significant climax, goes much better when the theme is restricted to a limited time-span than in this extended biographical study.
The final impression is brilliant, bitter and arid, a film written at high pressure. A writer's picture, and one the director has treated with reverence and skill; he has been irreproachably faithful to te writer's intention, and so have the actors: scene after scene played out with the emphasis on dialogue and performance.