Sometimes the quality of an actor is better judged by his or her performance in works that are … um … less than stellar.
Turner Classic Movies recently aired a 1946 film entitled Beware Of Pity that put forward an interesting premise – the doomed romance between a paralyzed heiress and a hapless soldier unsure if he truly loves the woman or merely empathizes with her plight – but unfortunately botched the execution through turgid pacing and a less than charismatic leading man.
(No offense, Albert Lieven …)
Beware Of Pity wasn’t a total loss, however, thanks to the beguiling talents of the actress who portrayed the tragic heroine: Lilli Palmer.
From her first moment on screen, Palmer’s keen intelligence and exotic beauty effortlessly commanded center stage. Scenes that would seem overly dramatic in other hands – such as when Lieven’s somewhat dim Austrian lieutenant first learns of the heiress’ condition – were positively gripping due to the actresses’ superb body language, which conveyed more anguish than pages upon pages of the film’s overwrought dialogue.
It is truly a bravura performance by an actress who enjoyed her share of success on the international stage and screen, but never reached the top tier of stardom. I look forward to seeing some of her better regarded films, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Secret Agent.