Tuesday, May 24, 2011
The Great Performances: Jean Peters in Anne of the Indies (1951)
I wish to encourage so true a love. The only kind I've known was made of lies. A phrase at first uttered in sullen contempt, and then finally embodied in a booming, blazing act of self-sacrifice. It's not difficult to see why Jacques Tourneur's Anne of the Indies thrust Jean Peters into stardom. Peters denied, as best she could, glamour and sex-symbol status throughout her career, and she finds a kindred spirit in pirate captain Anne Providence, who spent a life at sea denying femininity, evading desire, accumulating scars and dirt and blood on her hands. When she finally does come into contact with desire in the form of Louis Jordan, her instincts and eyes concede to it, but her brain cannot, and thus every look from Peters, every word spit out with that special brand of raw emotive force she mastered, betrays the deep inner conflict with perfect and pitiful candor. When she is spied trying on a dress, she reacts with the vulnerability of a child being caught with a hand in the cookie jar. When she is faced with the ultimate betrayal, one she does not even fully understand, a lonesome, desperate plea supplants comfortable wrath. And in the throes of something bigger than herself for the first time in her life, fear and anxiety ensures immolation as the only answer. A better role for the great Jean Peters I can't possibly imagine, and a more tragic screen character, well, it would take some stretching of the mind to find.