|Directed by||Vincente Minnelli|
|Screenplay by||Edward Chodorov|
|Based on||"You Were There"|
in Woman's Home Companion magazine (1944-45)
by Thelma Strabel
|Produced by||Pandro S. Berman|
|Edited by||Ferris Webster|
|Music by||Herbert Stothart|
|Distributed by||Loew's Inc.|
|114 or 116 minutes|
Undercurrent is a 1946 American film noir drama directed by Vincente Minnelli and starring Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, and Robert Mitchum. The screenplay was written by Edward Chodorov, based on the story "You Were There'" by Thelma Strabel, and allegedly contained uncredited contributions from Marguerite Roberts.
Ann Hamilton loves her husband Alan Garroway but their marriage is haunted by the absent figure of his brother Michael. A dark secret seems to lurk around the brothers' relationship and Ann's curiosity will eventually lead to its unveiling.
Undercurrent was only director Vincente Minnelli's second dramatic film, the first being The Clock, which starred his wife at the time, Judy Garland. Minnelli's specialty was in directing the kind of glossy musicals that M-G-M's Arthur Freed unit turned out. Because he trusted producer Pandro S. Berman's judgement in regard to the film's star, Katharine Hepburn – who had already signed on to do the film – Minnelli accepted the assignment; Berman had produced Alice Adams and Stage Door with Hepburn when they both worked for RKO Pictures. Berman and Minnelli would go on to make Madame Bovary (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), and other successful films together.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer paid David O. Selznick $25,000 and RKO $75,000 for the use of Robert Mitchum. Mitchum was working on two other films at the same time, Desire Me (1947) and The Locket (1946), which prompted director Vincente Minnelli to wonder if that was how Mitchum maintained his sleepy-eyed look.
Hepburn was opinionated about her colleagues. She wasn't impressed by Mitchum, an opinion she did not hide, and, at least at first, was not happy about Minnelli being the director of the film. Hepburn's self-assurance made Minnelli nervous, but the two grew to be good friends, a fact which annoyed Robert Taylor, who was afraid that the film would become a showcase for Hepburn. He changed his mind, though, after realizing that Minnelli's direction was helping to improve his performance.
The musical motif featured in the film is an excerpt from Johannes Brahms' Symphony No. 3.
Variety magazine lauded the film and wrote, "Undercurrent is heavy drama with femme appeal...Hepburn sells her role with usual finesse and talent. Robert Mitchum, as the missing brother, has only three scenes, but makes them count for importance."
Critic Bosley Crowther of The New York Times also liked the film and wrote, "However, that is Undercurrent-—and you must take it upon its own terms, which are those of theatrical dogmatism, if you hope to endure it at all. If you do, you may find it gratifying principally because Miss Hepburn gives a crisp and taut performance of a lady overcome by mounting fears and Mr. Taylor, back in films from his war service, accelerates a brooding meanness as her spouse. You may also find Robert Mitchum fairly appealing in a crumpled, modest way as the culturally oriented brother, even though he appears in only a couple of scenes. And you may like Edmund Gwenn and Jayne Meadows, among others, in minor roles."
More recently, critic Dennis Schwartz wrote, "Director Vincente Minnelli...known mostly through his upbeat MGM musicals, changes direction with this tearjerker femme appealing romantic melodrama, that can also be viewed as a heavy going psychological film noir (at least, stylishly noir through the brilliantly dark photography of Karl Freund)...Though overlong and filled with too many misleading clues about which brother is the baddie, the acting is superb, even though both Katharine Hepburn and Robert Mitchum are cast against type (a weak woman and a sensitive man). It successfully takes on the theme from Gaslight."
The film was popular at the box office; according to MGM records, it earned $2,828,000 in the US and Canada and $1,409,000 elsewhere, resulting in a profit of $1,001,000. Variety said it grossed $3.25 million in 1946.
Lux Radio Theatre aired a one-hour radio adaptation of the film on October 6, 1947, with Katharine Hepburn and Robert Taylor reprising their roles. It aired a second adaptation on November 30, 1953, this time with Joan Fontaine and Mel Ferrer in the lead roles.
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