Jean Renoir Does Film Noir
Troubled Project That Was Woman On The Beach (1947)
Beach blanket noir, and better received if you'll allow for its being a mess and far from what writing director Jean Renoir had in mind. Trouble began, as for many disfigured classics, with previews given a razz by inappropriate viewership, "teenagers" in this case. Were great movies ever put before an ideal test audience? Woman On The Beach was afterward reshot by half, alarmingly cut to 69 minutes, thrown to wolves of critic indifference, and RKO loss of $610,000. Renoir had shot the film with much improvisation on a cast's part, he said, and had high hopes. Star Joan Bennett requested him as Charlton Heston would Orson Welles for later Touch Of Evil. Do we give actors enough credit for enabling careers of noted directors?
Bennett was certainly a champion of distinguished talent --- Renoir, Fritz Lang, Max Ophuls --- and made outstanding films with each of them. Negative cost for Woman On The Beach ran to $1.2 million, which we don't necessarily see on screen, as the whole thing takes place on and around titular beach. Was there weather-caused delays? Shooting was done in 1946, but Renoir wrote friends of a "galley slave" year he spent at virtual remake and heavy edit. He'd end up wishing the thing had never begun. Val Lewton was involved early on, but let go later. His supervisor on previous horrors, Jack Gross, received producer credit. Woman On The Beach was sold on Joan Bennett's penchant for man-wrecking, her tagline Go Ahead and Say It, I'm No Good. Trouble was too many thinking a same thing of the film, though it plays better today in wider context of noir and Renoir's