"You have one concept of love, and it's a vile and a sinful one!" —Bette Davis to Susan Hayward
Of all the great gay camp classics, no film is more deserving than Where Love Has Gone
. Mommie Dearest
and Valley of the Dolls
are more famous, but nothing touches the exquisite dreadfullness of this epic trash masterpiece starring Bette Davis and Susan Hayward as mother/daughter. Finally released on DVD, WLHG
is nirvana for gay movie fans and lovers of bad movies everywhere. It has always been my favorite 'camp' movie, though I do hate that term.
Based on the horrendous Harold Robbins book, Where Love Has Gone
is the roman à clef
take on the infamous Lana Turner/Johnny Stompanato/Cheryl Crane killing from 1958. (Please see our past blogpost on this case.) WLHG
has Susan Hayward playing the promiscuous daughter of San Francisco socialite Bette Davis. Hayward's daughter, played by starlet Joey Heatherton, stabs Hayward's lover at the beginning of the film and we get the whole lurid story, including juicy flashbacks. Produced by Joseph E. Levine and 'directed' by the once-promising Edward Dmytryk (whose Murder My Sweet
were great '40s noirs), WLHG
transcends trash and reaches greatness with some of the most florid acting and risible dialog in film history.
Susan Hayward, about whom film critic David Thomson wrote, "Susan Hayward was a trouper who never saw any reason to do anything other than sock it to us," was a great actress, but in WLHG
she is given dialogue and situations that Meryl Streep could not save. Joey Heatherton probably gives the worst performance of any teen in a major fillm, and Bette Davis—coiffed in her white society wig—is the controlling mother from hell. Reportedly Davis and Hayward did not get along at all on this film, as Davis wanted to have the script rewritten and Hayward—fearing her role would become subservient—forced Paramount to shoot the script she signed on for. Plus, it must have galled Bette Davis to play Susan Hayward's mother when she was only nine years older!
Thank God no script improvements were made, as the world would have been deprived of these classic lines. Bette and Susan meet in the hallway of the juvenile court:Bette:
You have one concept of love, and it's a vile and a sinful one!Susan:
When you are dying of thirst, you'll drink from a mud hole!Bette:
You have devoted your life to mud and to filth!
Most of Hayward's dialogue is equally priceless, but everyone gets in on the act, from the opening line by Michael Connors (Mannix) playing Hayward's divorced, ex-alcoholic husband—"My daughter just killed a man in San Francisco"—to George Macready's description of the killing to Connors—"Danny swung wildly and hit a home run." But Bette Davis has the topper that could apply to the entire film—"Somewhere along the line, the world has lost all its standards and taste."Where Love Has Gone
also has a great Jack Jones title song, tacky sets and a hideous painting of Bette Davis that Susan Hayward goes after with an ice pick.
There are great films out there to rent or buy, but nothing is more rewarding than Where Love Has Gone
. Repeated viewings will provide a treasure trove of hysterical moments, like Susan working with her chisel on a sculpture as a montage of World War II goes on! Bette Davis and Susan Hayward were gay icons long before they made Where Love Has Gone
in 1964, but their only on-screen pairing is literally beyond belief. If you have never experienced this magnificent soap opera, you are in for a cinematic treat.