Beloved Infidel (1959)
Sheila Graham is the third, and least remembered, female gossip columnist from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Whereas Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper have been featured in a multitude of biopics found on this site, the only portrayal you’ll find of Miss Graham is in relation to her affair with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Beloved Infidel is her version of events.
After some opening scenes establish Graham is a fearless columnist who has feelings too, she meets Fitzgerald at a party and falls instantly in love. Gradually we learn more about the revered author and why he is now slumming it in Hollywood. Friend Bob Carter advises that his wife Zelda is in a sanatorium and he is desperate to maintain her medical bills and their daughter’s education. A later visit to a Mexican bookstore finds none of his novels in stock as his style of writing is now out of fashion. Finally, an encounter with some teenagers who are putting on his play express their surprise that he is still alive. All factors contributing to his current situation are subtly revealed in a piecemeal fashion. Unlike Sheila Graham’s backstory, which unfolds all at once by way of a hysterical confession.
Herein lies the problem with Beloved Infidel. Though it aims for the quality of a Fitzgerald novel, it’s more comparable to a gossip column. Gregory Peck is badly miscast, never really convincing as a forlorn lover or pitiful drunk, while the luminous Deborah Kerr is uncommonly dull. She is not helped by scenes which are unfavourably reminiscent of some of her better roles. Whereas Kerr's watery embrace with Burt Lancaster in From Here to Eternity is among cinema's most iconic scenes, the waves crashing to rousing music in Beloved Infidel accompany Kerr taking a lonely stroll on the beach as Peck feeds birds off in the distance.
The book on which this film was based was co-written by celebrity memoir pioneer Gerold Frank, who also wrote I’ll Cry Tomorrow and Too Much Too Soon. No word on the cinematic future of his contemporaneous celebrity memoir, Zsa Zsa Gábor: my story.
The character of Bob Carter is based on Robert Benchley.
The character of Janet Pierce is based on Alice Faye.
No actual scene recreations in this biopic. Yet there is a scene in which Bob Carter is making a short film demonstrating how to open a can of sardines, done very much in the style of Robert Benchley’s short subjects. Biopic also features a scene from a Janet Pierce movie that closely resembles a scene from In Old Chicago, starring Alice Faye.