Anna Lucasta

Anna Lucasta ★★★★

Eartha Kitt sizzles in this film about a tough young woman who we first meet in a San Diego bar, fending off unwanted advances by sticking a cigarette into a guy’s neck. She’s just scraping by, having been thrown out of her house by her father. We gradually get the idea she sells herself to sailors, one of whom is the fast-talking Sammy Davis Jr., who appears here in his first acting role. She’s taken back home by her father for ulterior reasons, and meets an intelligent young college graduate (Henry Scott). Can she ‘make good’ with the young man, despite the shame of her past?

Kitt is fantastic, and plays scenes of defiance, anger, out of control partying, tenderness, vulnerability, and grief all very well. She’s a delight to watch, as well as to listen to, with that fabulous, silky voice. Sammy Davis Jr. more than keeps up with her with snappy, hip dialog and a short dance scene that shows just how light on his feet he was. The script has plenty of innuendo, and Kitt’s look when Scott asks her what she did down in San Diego is priceless. “I didn’t go to college,” she purrs. But my favorite line is when Davis Jr. says in an impassioned tone, “You and me, we’re real people, Anna. We’re the real stuff. Many’s the time we set the Earth on fire. You stick with me and we’ll burn it up!” It’s a great scene with a lot of emotion, and he is marvelous in it.

The supporting actors in the cast are reasonably good as well. Rex Ingram plays her alcoholic father who would probably win the “worst father ever” award if it existed, and Frederick O’Neal is her opinionated brother-in-law who is also pretty hard to like, though both do fine jobs. Georgia Burke is the sweet mother who never loses faith in her daughter, and it’s nice to hear her singing around the house. Aside from her singing and the nightclub music, however, the background music in the soundtrack is pretty mediocre.

The film does have a low-budget feel to it, and the quality of print that I saw was unfortunately much worse than others from this time period. For the most part it’s pretty ordinary filmmaking, but I did notice some subtle things in the background of a couple of shots that were interesting. In one, as Anna wrestles with her sad past, assuming it won’t be good enough for her new suitor, she stands in front of a photography store window which has pictures of smiling people, including a large one of a happy baby. In another, as she’s with her father, trying to reconcile with him (which is a surprise given his past treatment), a stitchery hangs in the background saying “God is Love.”

It was very refreshing to find that the film had no stereotypes. While it’s a dysfunctional family straight out of Tennessee Williams and therefore a bit extreme, the script could have been performed by an all-white cast without a single change. I loved seeing Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr., especially Kitt, and it’s no wonder Orson Welles called her “the most exciting woman in the world.” She is as gorgeous as she is talented. There are a couple of moments in the plot that stretch credibility, and it gets a little melodramatic for sure, but it’s also highly entertaining and deserves a higher average rating for the star power.