The teenage daughter (Joey Heatherton, Twilight of Honor) of a famous sculptor (Susan Hayward, I Want to Live!), and granddaughter of an influential and super-wealthy woman (Bette Davis), kills her mother’s shady boyfriend in apparent self-defense, but there is more to the story.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“The world has lost all its standards and all its tastes!”
There is a scene in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home that always makes me laugh. Captain Kirk tries to explain the concept of “profanity” to Mr. Spock. After realizing that Spock isn’t getting it, Kirk brings up “the collected works of Jacqueline Susann, the novels of Harold Robbins.” Spock responds, “Ah, The Giants.” This adaptation of “Giant” Robbins’s novel Where Love Has Gone is, as you might expect, nothing but trash. Yet there is something about low-brow material like this one that I just can’t resist.
Where Love Has Gone was written by John Michael Hayes (Peyton Place), produced by Joseph L. Levine (The Graduate) and directed by Edward Dmytryk (The Caine Mutiny). The three gentlemen were also responsible for bringing to the big screen another popular Robbins novel, The Carpetbaggers, which became a smash hit. However, lightning didn’t strike twice — Where Love Has Gone underperformed at the box office.
It isn’t all that hard to see why the movie failed to find an audience — Where Love Has Gone is a frustratingly sloppy film. For example, although the movie tells its story through two timelines — mid and late 1940s, present day 1960s — most actors don’t age and props (costumes, sets, cars, etc.) never change. This “I-don’t-care-attitude” doesn’t help a movie that is already operating on the verge of camp. There are also a few ridiculously dated discussions about sex, virginity and what not.
Where Love Has Gone does a have a rather interesting plot, which was taken directly from the tabloids. The narrative was clearly inspired by the biggest Hollywood scandal of the 1950s. For the uninitiated, in 1958, actress Lana Turner’s lover, gangster Johnny Stompanato, was killed by Turner’s teenage daughter. Rumors persisted that Turner was the actual killer and that the daughter had taken the blame to save her mother from prosecution (Turner’s daughter has always insisted that this isn’t true).
Author Robbins changed details and names, but he didn’t fool anyone: people knew that this was a thinly-disguised version of the sensational murder trial. Exploitation? In all fairness, this was something that Robbins did throughout his entire career — Robbins’s books are fun to read precisely because he draws from real-life situations.
Where Love Has Gone teams Susan Hayward with Bette Davis for the first and only time, and not entirely unexpected, this proved to be a combustive combination on/off the screen. The reasons for their mutual dislike are long and complex, so let’s just say that their personalities weren’t complementary. However, the mutual animosity worked great for the movie. As I said before, the film is mostly crap, but when Hayward and Davis share a scene all flaws are forgiven — there is something truly fascinating and compelling about their on-screen confrontations.
The mercurial leading ladies are surrounded by a top cast: Mike Connors (TV’s Mannix) plays Hayward’s ex-husband, Jane Greer (Out of Past) is a social-worker, George Macready (My Name is Julia Ross) plays a lawyer and Ann Doran (Rebel Without a Cause) is Mrs. Geraghty. My favorite was DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy in Star Trek) as a cynical art critic. The title song (lyrics by Sammy Cahn, music by Jimmy Van Heusen, sung by Jack Jones) was nominated for an Academy Award.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
Where Love Has Gone is pure junk, but I have to admit that I do have a soft spot for trashy melodrama. In addition, the Hayward-Davis combo is too good to ignore. I do want to see a straight adaptation of the Turner-Stompanato murder case. It has everything: Hollywood, sex, murder, etc. I would love to see FX’s American Crime Story tackle the case! Color, 111 minutes, Not Rated.