Monday, August 19, 2019

Now, Voyager (1942) and Bend of the River (1952): A Complex Story Structure 

 

Nothing is wrong with the standard three-act story structure.  But it is somewhat admirable when a filmmaker succeeds with a more complex story.  A complex story is a story that explores shifting conflicts and shifting objectives before having everything converge perfectly in a clear denouement. 


One film that offers a complex story is Bend of the River (1952).  We have a clear-cut protagonist, Glyn McLyntock (James Stewart).  McLyntock has been hired to guide a wagon train to Oregon.  The first scene establishes McLyntock's friendly relationship with the settlers' leader, Jeremy Baile (Jay C. Flippen), and Baile's daughters Laura (Julie Adams) and Marjie (Lori Nelson).  Bailey is so fond of McLyntock that he is hopeful the man will eventually marry one of his daughters. 

McLyntock has to be careful when he learns that hostile Indians are in the area.  He goes ahead of the wagon train to scout the trail.  He rescues Emerson Cole (Arthur Kennedy), who is about to be lynched for stealing a horse.  McLyntock and Cole, who are both former border raiders, know each other by reputation.  McLyntock regrets his experiences as a border raider and wants now only to do good.  He admits that he has not told the settlers about his past.  Cole is puzzled by McLyntock's reformation.
Cole: McLyntock of the border, a rancher.  I don't get it.  Who're you running away from?

McLyntock: A man by the name of Glyn McLyntock.

Cole: Well, what happens when he catches up with you?

McLyntock: I don't think he's going to catch up with me. He died on the Missouri border.

Cole: You're wrong.  He'll catch up with ya one of these days.
Baile knows that Cole was once a raider.  He does not trust Cole and does not believe that a man can change.  He is particularly concerned when Julie takes an interest in Cole.

That night, Julie is scrubbing clothing in a basin when she is suddenly struck in the shoulder by an arrow.  It is a party of Shoshone Indians, who persist in their attack as the settlers scramble for cover.  Cole helps McLyntock to fight off the Indians.  At one point, he shoots an Indian about to kill McLyntock.  The fact that Cole has risked his life to protect the wagon train proves to McLyntock that Cole, despite his past, is a good man.

This first act has established a clear dramatic question: Can a bad man become good?  The answer is, by all indication, "yes."  But Baile still has his doubts.  A more important question: Will the wagon train make it to Oregon?

The film has seemingly established the Indians as the story's antagonists, but we never see the Indians again after their failed attack.  This film is something different than Westward the Women (1951), Arrow in the Dust (1954) or The Indian Fighter (1955), which remain focused on the protagonist shepherding a wagon train through hostile Indian territory.


The wagon train arrives in Portland at the start of the second act.  Everyone they meet in Portland is friendly and helpful.  A prominent businessman, Tom Hendricks (Howard Petrie), makes arrangements with Baile to gather together the supplies that the settlers will need to survive the winter.  Baile depletes the settlers' funds to pay Hendricks in advance.  The settlers head into the wilderness to build their community.  Julie, who is convalescing, stays behind in town with Cole. 

Baile becomes distressed when the community is nearly out of food and Hendricks' supplies are several weeks overdue.  He asks McLyntock to ride with him to Portland.  On their arrival, the men find that a gold rush has radically changed the town.  Laura now works for Hendricks and plans to marry Cole.  She has no intention of working on her family's farm.
 
 
Hendricks had gotten the settlers' supplies ready for shipment, but he held onto supplies when he found out that he could get a much higher price for the items from the mining camps.  He has no concern with the settlers starving as long as he can make a big profit.


McLyntock argues with Hendricks.  Hendricks is enraged to learn that McLyntock has paid a group of layabouts to load the supplies onto a steamship.  McLyntock and Hendricks get into a gun battle, but neither man is shot.  Other men join the shootout.  Cole backs up McLyntock even though Hendricks is his boss.  Obviously, he feels a far greater loyalty to McLyntock than he feels for Hendricks.  McLyntock and Hendricks escape to the steamship and convince the captain to launch immediately.


Hendricks assembles a group of men to head off the steamship.  Clearly, the story has reset.  The antagonist is now Hendricks.  The inciting incident in first act was the Indian attack (or, specifically, Julie being shot by an arrow).  The second act has its own inciting incident: the shootout between McLyntock and Hendricks.  The question now becomes: Will McLyntock and Baile get the supplies back to settlement?


Hendricks, who commands a sizable collection of gunmen, appears to have a strong advantage over McLyntock.  McLyntock, an extremely determined and resourceful man, never gets discouraged.  He arranges a clever ambush, which leaves Hendricks and many of his men dead.  Our antagonist has been eliminated at the close of the second act.  What now?


The miners approach Baile on the trail to offer him $100,000 for the supplies.  Cole is excited by the offer.  He stages a mutiny with the help of an unsavory group of men who have been half-heartedly assisting McLyntock and Baile in exchange for a grub stake.  So, now, Cole is the story's antagonist and we are back to the question of whether a bad man is able to reform.  Cole shows that a bad man can't be good even if he tries hard to be good.  We have seen several examples of Cole doing the right thing even if it meant risking his life.  He even spares McLyntock though he knows McLyntock will come after him.  But, in the end, he gives in to an abiding evil within himself.  The old Cole has caught up to him.  McLyntock, on the other hand, shows that a bad man can most certainly become good.

 
 
 
Each of the film's three acts has its own inciting incident, its own antagonist, its own climax, and perhaps its own question.


Joe Bunting of The Write Practice identified a similar structure with Homer's "Odysseus."  Bunting believes the dramatic question of "Odysseus" is: “Is Odysseus going to make it home from Troy?"  His answer:
1. No, because there’s a cyclops in the way.

2. Odysseus and his men escaped the cyclops but now the cannibals are after them.

3. They avoided the cannibals but the Sirens are calling to them.
The question never changes throughout Odysseus' series of adventures, yet each adventure puts forth its own foe and tests Odysseus' heroism in a different way.  In the same way, the various adventures of Bend of River are testing McLyntock to see if he will remain loyal to the settlers.  Cole offers to cut him in for a share of the miners' money.  He refuses.  He will not abandon the settlers despite murderous Indians, starvation, thievery, shootouts, a brutal beating, and bribes.


Another complex story can be found in Now, Voyager (1942), which is divided into four distinct parts.  The film starts with its protagonist, Charlotte Valeher, consulting psychiatrist Dr. Jaquith (Claude Rains) about her depression and anxiety.  The doctor believes that the source of Charlotte's emotional problems is Charlotte's domineering mother, Mrs. Vale (Gladys Cooper).  He recommends that Charlotte spend time in his sanitarium, where he can help her to become independent from her mother.  The dramatic question: Will Charlotte overcome her depression and anxiety and become a self-reliant woman?  It is a question that will seem to be answered at the start of the second act.


The second act deals with a newly confident Charlotte enjoying a romantic affair with debonair Jerry Duvaux (Paul Henreid) during a cruise to Rio de Janeiro.  Jerry admits to being in an unhappy marriage, which he keeps together for the sake of his daughter.  On their return home, Charlotte and Jerry end their relationship so that Jerry will not have to give up his relationship with his daughter.  Charlotte's shipboard romance could stand as its own independent story.


Charlotte reunites with her mother at home.  The second she sees her daughter, Mrs. Vale seeks to reassert her authority.  She tells Charlotte that she disapproves of the way she's dressed and the way that she has her hair fixed.  She informs her daughter that her belongings have been moved to another room so that she could be closer and more available to her.  It is her intention to dismiss her nurse and have her daughter look after her instead.  Most appallingly, she criticizes her daughter for a book that a servant found while her belongings were being moved.  Charlotte listens patiently, although none of this sits well with her.  In the end, she stands up to her mother.  She says, "I don't want to be disagreeable or unkind.  I've come home to live with you.  But it can't be in the same way.  I've been living my own life for a long while now.  I won't go back to being treated like a child.  I don't think I'll do anything that will displease you, but from now on you must give me complete freedom.  Including deciding what I wear, where I sleep, what I read."


Mother throws herself down the staircase to injure herself and obligate Charlotte to care for her.  She later threatens to cut off Charlotte's allowance if her daughter doesn't follow her demands.  She says, "I will give a devoted daughter a home and pay expenses, but not if she scorns my authority."  But Charlotte holds up admirably in this rigorous battle of wills.


Charlotte meets Jerry again at a party.  She tells him, "Shall I tell you what you've given me?  On that very first day, a bottle of perfume made me feel important.  You were my first friend.  When you fell in love with me, I was so proud.  When I came home, I needed something to make me proud.  Your camellias arrived and I knew you were thinking about me.  I could've walked into a den of lions.  As a matter of fact I did, and the lions didn't hurt me."

Mrs. Vale is shocked when her daughter announces her intention to leave her and find a job, any job, to support herself.  She suffers a heart attack and dies.  This is a new inciting incident that resets the story. 


Charlotte feels so guilty about her mother's death that she returns to the sanitarium.  At the sanitarium, she meets a troubled girl named Tina, who happens to be Jerry's daughter.  Tina, like her father, has suffered a great deal of abuse from her mother.  Jerry remembered Charlotte mentioning the help she received at the sanitarium.  Charlotte and Tina become close and, eventually, Dr. Jaquith allows Charlotte to take Tina to live with her.  But the doctor has a strict condition: Charlotte and Jerry cannot resume their troubled affair, which could create problems for the child.


Charlotte finds happiness and fulfillment as Tina's guardian.  She tells Jerry, "When Tina said she wanted to stay with me, it was like a miracle happening.  Like having your child.  A part of you.  I even allowed myself to indulge in the fantasy that both of us loving her, doing what was best for her together, would make her seem like our child after a while."


Jerry questions if Charlotte can remain happy under this arrangement.  Charlotte replies, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon.  We have the stars."

Like Odysseus, Charlotte engages in a series of challenges.  Her first challenge is to break away from her mother, her second challenge is to find love with Jerry, her third challenge is to hold onto her power, and her fourth challenge is to cure Tina of her unhappiness.  In the end, the last challenge ties together with the others.  Freeing Tina from her mother's torment relates to Charlotte freeing herself from her own mother's torment.  Finding love with Tina relates to Charlotte finding love with Jerry. 

By succeeding in her challenges, Charlotte like Odysseus finds her way home.

 
Reference source


Joe Bunting, "The Dramatic Question and Suspense in Fiction," The Write Practice.  https://thewritepractice.com/author/joe-bunting-44/


The Idiot Plot in the 1940s and 1950s

 
 
The Long Dark Hall (1951) has a good cast and good production values, but its weak script has its protagonist making unbelievably dumb decisions at every turn.  This is for sure idiot plot territory, where the contrived plot is only able to move forward because a main character acts like an idiot. 

 

Let's examine the plot.  A married businessman Arthur Groome (Rex Harrison) goes to visit his showgirl mistress at her apartment only to find the woman stabbed to death.  He proceeds to do everything possible to make it looks as if he is the murderer.  He just passed the landlady in the hall.  He could cry out to her before he takes another step into the apartment. 


But, no, he drops to his knees and cradles the bloody corpse in arms. 


He then flees the building covered in the murder victim's blood.  Where is he fleeing to?  The landlady saw him and she knows him by name.  She even knows where he works.  Groome is terribly nervous when he arrives home and he rushes into the backyard to burn his blood-stained suit. 


When the police question him, Groome gets himself caught up in a tangle of lies.  The police even find out he burned his suit, which he tries and fails to lie about.  His lies only get him into more trouble, destroying his credibility and convincing the police that he is guilty.  Then, at the climax of the film, he climbs onto the witness stand and tells more lies.  The lies are transparent, disprovable, and futile.  But he tells them anyway.  Tim Greaves of Cinema Retro wrote, "Rex Harrison imbues the beleaguered Groome with sufficient enough self-reproach over the whole sorry business that in spite of his flawed judgement one can't help but root for him."  Not me, I stopped rooting for this idiot halfway through the film.  Stupidity at this level should be a capital offense.  When asked to name his "worst picture," Harrison replied: "My worst picture?  The Long Dark Hall would have to be near the top of the list."

 

Secret Beyond The Door (1948) has a definite idiot plot.  A wealthy young woman (Joan Bennett) falls hopelessly in love with a creepy architect (Michael Redgrave).  She quickly marries the man even though he is almost certainly mentally ill.  She remains devoted to the man even after she learns that he possibly murdered his first wife.  Why doesn't this woman get as far away from this man as possible?


Many films have used the same plot -  a beautiful woman is irresistibly drawn to a handsome and mysterious man and later comes to suspect that the man is out to harm her.  This plot was used to great effect in Suspicion (1941) and Gaslight (1944).  But Secret Beyond the Door's handsome and mysterious man is a troubling character from the start.

 

The protagonist has no sense of self-preservation in the idiot plot.  So, a man ends up on death row for a murder someone else committed.  So, a woman ends up trapped alone in a mansion with a psychotic man who is looking to murder her.


Let's now look at the plot of The Law and Jake Wade (1958).  A marshal, Jake Wade (Robert Taylor), is a well-respected citizen in Morganville, but no one in the town knows Wade is a former bank robber.  A year earlier, Wade was arrested for fatally shooting a teenage boy during a robbery.  He would have been hung if his homicidal partner, Clint Hollister (Richard Widmark), hadn't shown up with guns blazing and broken him out of jail.  Wade became a lawman to assuage his guilt about the boy's death (although it later comes out that someone else fired the fatal shot).  He now learns that Hollister is in jail in a nearby town and he figures that, to repay his debt to the badman, he must make an armed assault on the jail to free him.  Throughout the film, Wade is driven by an honor code that makes absolutely no sense and has no precedent in either history or Western drama.  The scriptwriter, William Bowers, simply made up this honor code to advance his convoluted plot. 

 
Wade no sooner frees Hollister then the badman shoots a sheriff and a couple of deputies.  What honor code justifies this?  Hollister isn't even grateful to Wade, who still owes him money from their last robbery.  Once he reassembles his gang, Hollister abducts Wade's fiancée Peggy (Patricia Owens) to force Wade to lead him to the stolen bank money.  Hollister wants the loot and Wade doesn't want the loot.  So, what's the conflict?  It's never explained.  Hollister terribly mistreats Wade and Peggy throughout their journey to recover the money.  Wade is worried that, once the cold-blooded Hollister has what he wants, he will murder him and Peggy.  When they reach their destination, Wade manages to get his hands on a gun and disarm Hollister.  The film should be over, right?  No, because Wade's idiotic honor code kicks in again.  Wade gives his old partner a gun so that the two of them can settle their score.  Strangely, there's nothing in Wade's honor code about assuring the safety of his fiancée or keeping himself alive.   


Nunnally Johnson, who wrote The Long Dark Hall, also wrote Casanova Brown (1944).  Casanova Brown is a rare film in which the lead characters remain charming and sympathetic despite their nonsensical decisions.  The film achieves, in its own bizarre way, a delightful idiocy.  Don't ask me to explain this, because I'm not sure that I can.  It could have something to do with the filmmakers' dedication to the silly premise (as Travis Lytle of Letterboxd has suggested) or it could be that the film's engaging cast simply outshines the material.  But, no, there's more to it than that. 


The opening scene has shy English teacher Casanova Brown (Gary Cooper) asking Mr. Ferris (Frank Morgan) for permission to marry his daughter Madge (Anita Louise).  Mr. Ferris spends the next few minutes trying to convince Casanova that his daughter is far too much like her mother and she is bound to make him as miserable as her mother has made him.  That's an interesting twist.  But Mr. Ferris' words are wasted on Casanova.  The Lord could write upon a tablet that Casanova should avoid marrying Madge and this foolish man would go forward with the marriage anyway.  Love conquers all, including all reason. 


Morgan steals the scene, as he steals most of his scenes in the film.  The actor manages, in his wonderfully blustery performance, to convey a great fatherly affection for Cooper's well-meaning but clueless character.  This brings the scene a warmth that underlies the comedy.  The fact that the scene takes this offbeat but warm-hearted turn sets up the twists and turns that are to follow. 

The film's unparalleled silliness really starts with a flashback scene.  It turns out that Casanova was married once before.  He married Isabel (Teresa Wright) at the end of a whirlwind courtship.  Casanova and Isabel arrive at a lavish estate to break the news of their marriage to Isabel's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Drury (Edmund Breon and Patricia Collinge).  The butler advises Casanova to get rid of his cigarette as Mrs. Drury dislikes smoking.  Casanova snuffs out the cigarette in a handkerchief, wads up the cigarette in the handkerchief, and stuffs the handkerchief into his pocket.  A simple problem and a simple solution.  But, then, a stream of smoke suddenly rises out of his pocket.  The cigarette is still burning and it quickly starts the jacket on fire.  Casanova frantically removes the jacket and beats it against a chair to extinguish the flames.  But the chair catches fire, then the curtains catch fire, and soon the entire home catches fire.  The Drury home is ultimately reduced to a smokey ruins.  Isabel's parents are so distraught that they immediately have the marriage annulled. 

 
 
 

The night before he is set to marry Madge, Casanova is shocked to learn that Isabel is about to give birth to a child they conceived during their honeymoon.  Even more shocking, she plans to give up the child for adoption.  Casanova falls in love with his baby girl the moment he sets his eyes on her in the maternity ward. 


He is so desperate to prevent the baby's adoption that he disguises as a doctor and abducts the baby.  It's not a reasonable move on his part, but he has to act quickly if he doesn't want to lose his cherished daughter forever.  He hides out with the baby at a hotel, where he is aided at every turn by a devoted hotel maid and a dim-witted hotel doorman. 


An IMDb reviewer, secondtake, partly attributes the film's appeal to its moments of "surreal strangeness."  Those moments are certainly in abundance.  My favorite?  Casanova, neurotically fearful of passing germs to the baby, insists on wearing a medical face-mask while caring for the baby.  It's a silly thing to do, but it's also a loving thing to do.  Love buoys the story above the sea of silliness. 

Do we have the right to call a loving father an idiot?
Travis Lytle of Letterboxd understands the film perfectly.  He wrote: ". . . Casanova Brown takes its happily tangled premise and provides both guffaws and eyerolls.  The film is not nearly 'the greatest romantic comedy of all time' as its one-sheet trumpets, but is a well-acted, light-weight, and fun piece of work. . . [Brown] dives headlong into comic mayhem.  The premise may seem ridiculous, but it sets the foundation for effective humor and some moving moments."

Reference sources

Tim Greaves, "Review: The Long Dark Hall," Cinema Retro.  https://cinemaretro.com/index.php?/archives/9512-REVIEW-THE-LONG-DARK-HALL-1951-STARRING-REX-HARRISON-AND-LILLI-PALMER;-UK-DVD-RELEASE.html.

Travis Lytle, "Casanova Brown," Letterboxd (September 4, 2014).  https://letterboxd.com/film/casanova-brown/.

John Reid, These Movies Won No Hollywood Awards, Morrisville, NC: LuLu Press (November 6, 2005).

Hollywood Invents The Adulterer's Loophole


Hollywood filmmakers have long preferred to accentuate the pitfalls of marriage while ignoring the important and often sublime benefits of marriage.  Baseball would look like a pretty bad idea if films about baseball almost always highlighted the worst players.   The Pride of the Yankees (1942) would not make you love baseball if it did nothing but show you Lou Gehrig's fumbles and fouls.

Marriage is not for fools.  Yet, films show us the sad fate that fools face in marriage.  Let's be honest, fools face a sad fate in most everything they do.  I say this as someone who has, at times, been a fool.


The biggest fool is someone who marries someone they never should have married in the first place.  We see that often in films.  A man who knows he's in a marriage with the wrong person can be a miserable wretch.  And what should that man do if he suddenly meets the exact sort of person he should have married?  Does he shrug his shoulders and walk past the person?  It can feel like you're drowning in an ocean and suddenly an angel appears, smiling and aglow, and tosses you a rope.  You grab the rope, right? 


Filmmakers have seen this as the great adulterer's loophole and have exploited this as often as they can.  But this is shamefully dishonest.  These desperate situations, though they create good drama, are not common and certainly shouldn't be used to make adultery acceptable.  Filmmakers have been able to carefully and perfectly construct these scenarios in a way that life rarely does.  Adultery is far more often a shallow, frivolous and self-indulgent act.


Nonetheless, fair or not, films in this category have succeeded in presenting a persuasive argument for adultery.  Take, for instance, The Wedding Night (1935).  Tony Barrett (Gary Cooper) has married a woman who enjoys a fast and affluent lifestyle.  He later describes his life with his wife, Dora (Helen Vinson), as "madness."  He has become spent in this demanding and unfulfilling relationship.  Worst of all, he has become washed up in his career as a novelist.

 
But then he meets a Polish farm girl, Manya Novak (Anna Sten), who is loving and full of life.  Manya inspires a passion in him that he never felt before.  As he spends time in her company, he becomes reinvigorated as a writer and he falls deeply in love.


There's Always Tomorrow (1956) introduces us to a cruelly neglected husband, Clifford Groves (Fred MacMurray).  Clifford is a highly successful toy manufacturer.  He is an important man in the office, but his family shows no interest in him at home.  Clifford's wife, Marion (Joan Bennett), is the worst, acting as if her husband doesn't exist.  Clifford is frustrated.  He tells Marion:
I am tired of the children taking over.  I'm tired of being taken for granted.  I'm becoming like one of my toys.  Cliff, the walkie-talkie robot.  Wind me up in the morning and I go to work.  Wind me up again and I come home at night, eat dinner and go to bed.  Wind me up the next morning and I work all day to pay the bills. . . I'm sick and tired of the sameness of it, day in and day out.  Don't you ever want to get out, move around?. . . Every time I plan anything for us, you find some excuse. . . The children mean more to you than I do.  When we were younger, we did so many things together.  We had fun.  No two days were alike.  Life was an adventure but now. . .
 
"If life were always an adventure," Marion dryly replies, "it would be very exhausting."  That's all she has to say to her husband after he has poured his heart out to her.  She just doesn't care.


Clifford has fun again when he meets an old friend, Norma Miller Vale (Barbara Stanwyck).  Can the man be faulted if he takes this pleasant relationship further and has an affair with Norma?


But these films present only a spiritual adultery.  Tony and Dora never have sex.  Clifford and Norma never have sex. 

 

In The Suspect (1944), mild-mannered shopkeeper Philip Marshal (Charles Laughton) is constantly being tormented by his horror show of a wife, Cora (Rosalind Ivan).  He meets sweet and tender Mary Gray (Ella Raines), who has the beauty both inside and out that Cora so dismally lacks. 


The couple develops a deep love for one another and Philip wants to divorce his wife to marry Mary.  Philip sets out to arrange the divorce in a civil and reasonable manner.  He tells Cora:
Cora, if we could come to some sort of understanding, it might help us.  Now, listen, if we face things honestly, we'd admit that we have never been happy together.  We haven't been happy not once in all the years we have been married.  It's not anyone's fault.  We have tried to rub along together.  Over and over again, we've tried.  And it isn't that I do this or that you do that.  Don't you know that, when two people are shut up together and they don't love each other, everything they do becomes hateful just because they do it. . . All I say is that we have some good years ahead of us, both of us.  Why can't we live them happily apart from each other?. . . Let me go, Cora.
 

But Cora is not about to let him go.  And, worse, she promises to ruin him and his lady friend with exposure and scandal. 


So, Philip murders Cora.  And I cannot imagine that anyone watching the film could blame him.  IMDb member Spikeopath wrote:
How delightfully off, that a film that features a wife murderer. . . should be so restrained and actually beautiful.  The Suspect in principal is about a decent man pushed to do bad things by his awful life when hope then springs from an unlikely source.  The moral shadings here are most intricate, Laughton's Philip Marshal is a completely sympathetic and fascinating character, the makers deftly toying with our perceptions in the process. . . Murder as justifiable homicide?  Ridding the world of bad people is OK?  Rest assured that [the film] is far darker than it appears on the surface."
When in the throes of a bad marriage, a man is capable of doing anything. 

 

In Avanti! (1972), Wendell Armbruster, Jr. (Jack Lemmon) and Pamela Piggott (Juliet Mills) meet at a romantic island resort in Italy.  Unfortunately, the two are not on vacation.  Their parents, who had rendezvoused at the resort for an adulterous affair, died in an automobile accident, leaving it to family members to claim their bodies. 


Wendell regularly phones his wife Emily in Baltimore, but their conversations are always curt and businesslike.  It figures why he'd be taken by the affectionate and free-spirited Pamela, especially considering the enchanting atmosphere of the island.  Tony Macklin of The Journal Herald wrote, "When the rigid Armbruster warms up on a sunny rock and begins to shuck the cold, American, uptight existence for a lazier, livelier life, Wilder is telling us something that is more than just fun."  Since the Production Code is no longer in effect, the couple is allowed to wind up in bed together in the third act.  Wendell and Pamela agree in the end to turn their happy adulterous romp into an annual ritual.  Unlike the other films, this one concludes with no pain and no mess.

Adultery happens to good marriages.  A stable and loving marriage can have a sameness at times.  An affair can be, by comparison, fresh and exciting.  But don't let movies fan the flames of temptation.  Adultery is not beautiful.  Adultery is not glamorous.  Adultery is not exotic.  Adultery is, if we're honest, ugly. 


And we already know that murder is pretty bad, right?

A less glamorous depiction of adultery can be found in a 1957 British film, Woman in a Dressing Gown.
 


Reference source

Tony Macklin, "Avanti's incongruities give pleasure," The Journal Herald (February 12, 1973).   tonymacklin.net/content.php?cID=214.