King Vidor’s Ruby Gentry (1952) is an intense and fiery melodrama that in retrospect seems to foreshadow the proliferation of night time soap operas that blossomed during the 1980s. The film stars Jennifer Jones at her sultry best as Ruby, a no-account white trash raised in the rugged swamplands of Louisiana. The flame of her dishonorable intentions is turned up at the first sight of rich bo-hunk, Boake Tackman (Chalton Heston).
Boake allows Ruby to get close to him but he never considers their youthful dalliances anything more than slumming. When Boake enters into a marriage with uppity but virginal, Tracy McAuliffe (Phyllis Avery) - a proposal over community property rather than grand amour - Ruby dives head first into a love-less marriage of her own to Jim Gentry (Carl Malden). Jim’s financial success allows Ruby to gussy herself into respectability which is short lived after a boating accident claims Jim’s life.
Ruby’s lack of mourning arouses suspicion from the local town folk that she is perhaps a murderess as well as a slut. More than a few eyebrows are raised when Ruby makes another passionate pitch for Boake’s affections not long thereafter. Rejected by Boake once again – this time for her reputation rather than lack of money – Ruby’s passion ignites into bitter sadism. She purposefully destroys Boake’s farmland by turning off the pumps and flooding it. There is more to this sordid tale, but this reviewer will stop short of giving away all the trade secrets.
MGM’s DVD is rather impressive. The B&W picture exhibits a very nicely balanced gray scale with smooth, solid blacks and very clean whites. Age related artifacts are present throughout but do not distract. Some minor edge enhancement crops up but pixelization is kept to a minimum. Overall the picture will surely not disappoint. The audio is mono but more than adequate for a film of this vintage. There are no extras.
FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)