TCM will open their own movie vault on Sunday night as they present back-to-back airing of two of the three feature film adaptations of Fannie Hurst’s 1931 novel, Back Street. By airing these two rarely seen films, TCM will give viewers a sneak peek at their own exclusive soon-to-be-released DVD set, scheduled to be available via their online store on October 3.
Missing from the mini-marathon is the 1932 original big screen version released just a year after the novel. That one starred John Boles, Irene Dunn and Doris Lloyd. Instead, TCM begins their tribute to this tale of secret love at 8pm/7c with the second film version, released in 1941. For this version, Margaret Sullavan is cast as Ray Smith, who in turn-of-the-century Cincinnati, because of a meddling beau and an already planned marriage of convenience and social stature, doesn’t marry her true love, Walter Louis Saxel (Charles Boyer). Years later, the two destined lovebirds meet again in New York, only problem is, Saxel is now married. Shocking for its day, the two ignore their morals and begin an affair. When her landlord discovers the relationship, Ray is thrown out of her apartment. She moves into another residence and Walter begins to lead a double-life as Mr. Smith when there. The two continue their affair for more than twenty years, surviving interference from Walter’s family, including his now-grown son, Richard (Tim Holt). Nell O’Day plays Saxel’s unsuspecting wife.
Immediately following at 9:45pm/8:45c, Susan Hayward, John Gavin and Vera Miles star in the 1961 version. This time the action takes place in Nebraska in the days following the end of WWII. We find Paul Saxon (Gavin) heir to a successful chain of department stores having an affair with dress shop owner, Rae Smith (Hayworth). When Rae discovers Paul is married and has two children, she moves to New York to put their love behind her and to embark on a career as a fashion designer. Paul eventually travels to NY and attempts to resume their affair, but Rae refuses to be “the other woman”. Years later, they meet again in Rome where Rae is now part owner of a high-fashion salon. Paul shares with Rae the sordid details of his loveless marriage, including the fact that wife Liz (Miles) is an alcoholic and refuses him a divorce. Rae, still in love with Paul eventually resumes the affair, Paul even buys Rae a house in Paris and visits her frequently. Years pass and the affair is discovered and confronted by Paul’s son, Paul, Jr. (Robert Eyer). Liz finds out and publicly humiliates Rae during one of her fashion shows. After the fashion show, as she and Paul are one their way home, a drunken Liz loses control of the car and they crash. Liz dies upon impact and Paul is rushed to the hospital. On his deathbed, Paul calls Rae to profess his love.
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