Lonelyhearts Blu-ray Review

3 Stars Cynical, somewhat disturbing melodrama

The bitterness and cynicism inherent in Nathanael West’s original novel hasn’t been tempered much in Vincent J. Donehue’s Lonelyhearts, and its presence certainly weighs down the merits of this late 1950s melodrama.

Lonelyhearts (1958)
Released: 01 Dec 1958
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 100 min
Director: Vincent J. Donehue
Genre: Drama
Cast: Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy, Robert Ryan
Writer(s): Dore Schary, Howard Teichmann, Nathanael West
Plot: Eager for a job, journalist Adam White accepts the lowly position of columnist for the advice-giving section of the Chronicle but he often clashes with his cynical editor, Shrike.
IMDB rating: 6.7
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: MGM
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 43 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 10/25/2022
MSRP: $24.95

The Production: 3/5

Nathanael West’s bitter and overly cynical view of mankind’s moral, physical, and psychological weaknesses gets a thorough workout in Vincent J. Donehue’s Lonelyhearts, a melodramatic menagerie of unhappy, unfulfilled souls scrambling to find a little love, a little peace, and a little rest from the rigors of life.

Desperate to find a journalism job so he and girl friend Justy Sargent (Dolores Hart) can think about getting married, Adam White (Montgomery Clift) accepts the job of advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist “Miss Lonelyhearts” even though it’s not the kind of assignment he craves. His sadistic boss William Shrike (Robert Ryan) who loves lecturing Adam and his fellow writers (Jackie Coogan, Mike Kellin) on man’s follies and ultimate frailties takes special pleasure in hectoring Adam who becomes more and more immersed in the forlorn problems of the people who write to the column. When his boss dares him to meet personally with one of his most desperate correspondents, the meeting with Mrs. Fay Doyle (Maureen Stapleton) sets off a chain reaction that has monumental consequences for everyone in his orbit.

Once MGM head of production and now independent producer Dore Schary wrote the screenplay for the film, adapted from the play based on West’s novel by Howard Teichmann. The play and this subsequent movie version feature a more upbeat ending, something of a welcome relief from the almost ninety minutes of misery we’re subjected to beforehand where almost every character (apart from the perennially sunny Justy Sargent) is guarding a guilty secret which weighs heavily on all their consciences. Schary hasn’t jettisoned much of the overly talky nature of the play, either, particularly dire in the case of Robert Ryan’s character whose every appearance is a sure sign of a five or ten minute monologue running down the human race (witness the lengthy takedown of the Ten Commandments) or making a mockery of one or more characters’ circumstances (while failing to address his own floundering marriage and unhappy existence). Vincent J. Donehue concentrates on lots of close-ups in the film (carryovers from his experiences directing for live television in the 1950s), but he can’t do much to hurry things along or find visual substitutes for all of that stage dialogue.

Lonelyhearts was filmed after Montgomery Clift’s near-fatal auto accident which left him a physical and psychological wreck for the remainder of his career. His halting, tortured delivery of lines and sometimes odd body postures are heartbreaking to see though they sometimes work to his advantage, particularly in the film’s second half after a double dose of mental assault from his inmate father (Onslow Stevens) and Maureen Stapleton’s disturbed Fay Doyle leave him shell shocked. This was Tony-winner Stapleton’s screen debut, and her duplicitously lascivious housewife earned her an Oscar nomination for her memorable performance. Robert Ryan brings great authority and presence to the screen even if his character’s cynicism wears thin long before the picture ends, and Myrna Loy as his figuratively abandoned wife earns sympathy points even if the role is tragically underwritten. Dolores Hart’s Justy is a loving if somewhat clinging fiancé ready to end the relationship after Clift’s Adam fails to call her for two days after his harrowing experiences with his father and Mrs. Doyle (situations that she was, to be fair, unaware). Frank Maxwell has some impressive scenes as the tormented Frank Doyle, and Jackie Coogan and Mike Kellin as fellow journalists score points as well.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. This is a beautiful looking image with excellent sharpness and grayscale that has strong black levels and excellent whites though occasionally one might think the picture is overall a tad too dark.  There are no age-related problems with the image. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is typical for its era with the dialogue very strong and mixed well with Conrad Salinger’s very sparse background score and the appropriate sound effects. There are no problems with age-related anomalies like hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.

Special Features: 1.5/5

Theatrical Trailer (2:20, HD)

Kino Trailers: Indiscretion of an American Wife, Judgment at Nuremberg, Freud, Day of the Outlaw, There’s Always Tomorrow, The Rainmaker, He Who Must Die, Anna Lucasta, Shake Hands with the Devil.

 

Overall: 3/5

The bitterness and cynicism inherent in Nathanael West’s original novel hasn’t been tempered much in Vincent J. Donehue’s Lonelyhearts, and its presence certainly weighs down the merits of this late 1950s melodrama. Kino Lorber’s high definition Blu-ray release, however, gives the film its best ever home video presentation which fans of the stars or the story will no doubt welcome.

Matt has been reviewing films and television professionally since 1974 and has been a member of Home Theater Forum’s reviewing staff since 2007, his reviews now numbering close to three thousand. During those years, he has also been a junior and senior high school English teacher earning numerous entries into Who’s Who Among America’s Educators and spent many years treading the community theater boards as an actor in everything from Agatha Christie mysteries to Stephen Sondheim musicals.

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Mark-W

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I'm a Monty Clift completist. This film never had a DVD relased. The best we got was a VHS, which I bought out of wanting to making sure I had a copy. I am glad for this Blu-ray release. I am thrilled to read the picture quality is good.

Thanks for the review, Matt!
 

Noel Aguirre

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noel
Interested in getting this for Clift alone as his performances after his tragic accident were like watching a different actor riveting in their own merits. I’m thinking about Suddenly Last Summer and Freud in particular . However Clift in Raintree County which was just on TCM the other day and the constant shift between his look before and after his accident especially since some scenes when he was younger in the film were obviously shot after the accident and then back to his other look out of sequence just ruined that film for me.
 

Matt Hough

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Interested in getting this for Clift alone as his performances after his tragic accident were like watching a different actor riveting in their own merits. I’m thinking about Suddenly Last Summer and Freud in particular . However Clift in Raintree County which was just on TCM the other day and the constant shift between his look before and after his accident especially since some scenes when he was younger in the film were obviously shot after the accident and then back to his other look out of sequence just ruined that film for me.
Yes, it can be very disconcerting. At least in this one, his look is consistent throughout. I had never seen this film before yesterday, and being a Clift fan, I was really looking forward to it, but his fragility really broke my heart, and everyone in it is so unhappy. Even the ending didn't do much to lift my spirits.
 

Randy Korstick

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Watched this one several times on VHS in the 80's. Looking forward to seeing it again in a better copy and widescreen. Clift is very good in this interesting film. Robert Ryan is always good and newcomer Maureen Stapleton gives a very good performance. Well acted film all around.
 

roxy1927

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vincent parisi
Well Vince clearly wanted to make up for it by directing the original Broadway production of The Sound of Music with Mary Martin.
 

bujaki

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Jose Ortiz-Marrero
I saw this movie when it came out. Too heavy for a child. Have seen it since, though only on TV. Have also read the very cynical novel with a very different ending.
Must watch again.
 
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