Based on a sprawling best-selling 1955 novel by John O’Hara, “10 North Frederick” (adapted and directed by Phillip Dunne, 1958) was one of the series of 1950s movies in which a wounded and/or defeated and/or disgraced Gary Cooper sucked in the perception by others of his failure and ineptness, though eventually rallying and/or redeeming himself. In this one, he played a prominent lawyer with political aspirations who wounds those whom he most loves through rigid adherence to convention/respectability, and is ruthlessly exploited by the most monstrously ambitious and cynical political wife to hit the screens before Angela Lansbury’s turn in “The Manchurian Candidate.” The usually sympathetic Geraldine Fitzgerald showed that she could do something other than nice and supportive. Cooper played the part of someone trying to do the right thing and perplexed at the results. I guess that how painful it is to watch shows he did it well.
As in his previous movie (“Love in the Afternoon, directed by Billy Wilder), Cooper romanced a woman young enough to be his daughter (and in that the once strikingly handsome actor looked older than his age (57), and older still than the man at his 50th birthday party, the age chasm seems even greater). Instead of Audrey Hepburn, it was 1950s supermodel Suzy Parker of the chiseled cheekbones. ( I recognized her from retrospectives of Richard Avedon photographs and from the most dreadful role in the Michael Anderson debacle “Flight from Ashiya” (1964).)
As the less reputable (indeed, relatively debauched) young men, Ray Stricklyn and Stuart Whitman are outstanding, as are all the sleazy machine political wheeler-dealers (officials and kingmakers). Diane Varsi is not quite as good (or more is demanded of her as the apple of her father’s eye).
The exposition is very awkward and the background of the characters is not shown or told. Who is this disappointed man who hooks up with a supermodel (I am applying the term back)? Most of the movie is supposed to be a flashback of the daughter’s (in her drunken brother’s room, upstairs from the reception after their father’s funeral and which widow and politicos are reaching new depths of hypocrisy and sanctimony), but includes a great deal that she did not know and could not remember. There is nothing special about the cinematography, though the movie was shot by a master, Joseph MacDonald.
The movie was produced by Billy Wilder’s former writing partner, Charles Brackett. Either he failed to help with the adaptation or he was little more than a sounding board for Wilder on their jointly credited screenplays for “Midnight,” “Ninotchka,” “Ball of Fire,” “The Lost Weekend,” “Sunset Boulevard,” the latter two also directed by Wilder).