Woman In Hiding (1950)
From director Michael Gordon (Pillow Talk) comes this first rate Noir thriller with Ida Lupino as the central figure. The role plays right into Ida’s strengths. She’s distressed throughout and her nerves are worse than shattered glass.
Starting in the present we have Ida speeding her car through the back country until the inevitable crash. Her car goes through a barrier plummeting off a bridge into the river below. It’s at this point her narration takes over bringing us the patented Noir flashback to explain just how we got to the present.
It seems that Ida is the daughter of a successful mill factory owner played by John Litel. His lead foreman is Stephen McNally. McNally and Ida have no doubt at one point been lovers. Finally Ida has announced she’s leaving the backwoods operation for the bright lights of New York City. McNally doesn’t appear to be happy with this new development and before Ida can get her bags packed her father suffers a tragic fall at the mill.
Through her grief, McNally convinces her to marry him as she should have long ago. By the time they get to the honeymoon cabin, McNally’s jealous “trailer park” lover Peggy Dow is waiting for him and unloads her jealous wrath telling Ida in no uncertain terms that McNally is no good. He just wants her money, position and insinuates that he murdered her father to get it. When McNally gets that twitch in his eye, Ida knows she’s married a killer.
Hence the speeding car and the subsequent crash. Much like a Hitchcock film the crime is right in front of us.
McNally needs a body as do the police to move forward. Ida goes into hiding thinking if she can get jilted Peggy to talk to the police she can confront McNally with his evil doings. Not so easy. Thankfully she’s going to find a friend and protector in handsome Howard Duff.
Along the way we get an overdone hotel convention where would be Stooges member Joe Besser shows up to a wonderfully played stairwell meltdown that heightens the terror and feeling of impending doom for frazzled Ida. Woman In Hiding gives us some great Noir flavored shots to enjoy. The shadows are present when need be and this includes a well lit train yard interlude.
Without ruining the meat of the plot let’s just say that this Universal International release clocking in at just over ninety minutes is a top notch thriller with twists and turns that comes to a thrilling climax that shouldn’t be missed.
One could argue looking back that both Lupino and McNally are somewhat type cast here. Understandable but that doesn’t hinder the overall impact of what plays out on screen. Duff makes for a nice calming influence to off set the other two actors and he shines by underplaying his role in comparison. Duff and Lupino were actually to be married off camera in 1951 and remained married till an official divorce decree in 1984. They would work together a number of times in the fifties including their appearance in the Fritz Lang film While the City Sleeps.
For my first viewing this turned out to be a solid surprise that I am quite sure will require multiple viewings. Thanks to the TCM Vault collection titled Women In Danger for releasing this one. Highly recommended.