When sex and scandal had class

In 1906, when famed New York City architect Stanford White was shot at point-blank range by millionaire Harry K. Thaw — the jealous husband of famed beauty Evelyn Nesbit — it was just the sordid sort of story to captivate the nation. The true-life tale has spawned several fictional works — most notably E. L. Doctorow’s 1975 novel Ragtime — but before them all there was The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing.

The 1955 film stars a young, pre-Dynasty Joan Collins (resembling a somewhat smuttier version of Elizabeth Taylor) as the sirenish Nesbit, along with Ray Milland and Farley Granger as the men fighting for her affection. The movie, full of rich though not always reliable historical detail, is startlingly frank about its lead characters’ desire, and visually, their emotional turmoil is executed with panache by director Richard Fleischer. Trust us, you’ll never look at a swing quite the same way again.

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When sex and scandal had class