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The Flame Within

The Flame Within(1935)

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teaser The Flame Within (1935)

Barbara Stanwyck once remarked that her favorite actress was Ann Harding, the cool, honest blonde whose naturalness on-screen feels like an anachronistic flash-forward to a 1970s New Hollywood school of acting. Here, Harding plays an accomplished psychiatrist who commits the cardinal no-no of falling in love with a patient (Louis Hayward), thus changing the entire trajectory of her life. Harding is fascinating as a professional, accomplished woman whose passion still renders her helpless, but a full and unfettered exploration of her character's dilemma was shackled by the newly powerful Hays Code limiting her sexuality and independence (The Code's grip was so strong it warned against a character being described as "a little effeminate," or mentioning the "kidneys"). But Harding reads between the lines on the page and delivers a perfornance that speaks quiet volumes about what a woman gives up when she turns her will over to a man. Her mastery of craft turns an uncomplicated role into a complicated one.

By Violet LeVoit

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