Secrets & Lies in New Orleans
Barbara Beaurevel (Ava Gardner) is completely smitten with Dr. Mark Lucas (Robert Mitchum) and is willing to elope with him when he heads to South America. But Barbara lives with Aunt Eula (Lucile Watson) and her cousin Paul (Melvyn Douglas) who both look at Barbara as their way of climbing the social ladder and feel Mark is below them so trick Barbara in to staying when Mark leaves, not delivering a letter to Mark to explain her not going. So when Mark returns home having met someone else and got married Barbara is heart broken and goes against her Aunt's wishes by contacting the solicitor over her inheritance from her Grandmother who Aunt Eula doesn't like to speak about due to her dirty history. Now with money and Cousin Paul wanting a slice of it Barbara will do anything to get Mark back.
RKO owner Howard Hughes was many things and one of those was a man who appreciated beautiful women or at least that would be the impression you got if you were to watch one of his movies. That most certainly would be the impression you get with "My Forbidden Past" as with Ava Gardner on loan to the studio the camera seems like it is glued to her with countless close ups of her flawless face. Now I am not complaining because Ava Gardner was drop dead gorgeous but it does feel at times like Hughes was not so much making a movie but lavishly spending his money to get what he wanted.
Now in fairness Gardner is not the only big name in "My Forbidden Past" and there are plenty of good performances especially from Melvyn Douglas who oozes slime ball with such ease. When ever he is in a scene you get a real sense that this is the sort of guy who a few years earlier would be willing to date older women to get a slice of their money. Rather strangely and considering he got top billing Robert Mitchum's performance is not so amazing or at least not as amazing as you usually got from Mitchum and he seems to struggle with playing a nice guy character with no real darkness.
Usually I don't start my reviews of movies with the actors but it is the actors who dominate "My Forbidden Past" because of the camera work spending far too long just focussing on an actors looks rather than the actual scene. But "My Forbidden Past" does have a storyline and it is one out of soap opera land as we have a woman in love, a controlling aunt, a scheming cousin, the handsome beau and his innocent wife as well as plenty of skeletons in the closet which the social climbing aunt would prefer to be kept hidden. The trouble is that not only can you see where this is going very quickly but as I mentioned tends to play second fiddle to the actors looks.
What this all boils down to is that "My Forbidden Past" is a nice drama from the early 1950s but there are much better movies out there. But for fans of Ava Gardner this is a movie which is a showcase of her beauty as it dominates every single scene and amazing makes some other attractive actresses seem quite plain.