This little gem of the Noir genre was my latest assignment from Kristina over at Speakeasy. It’s when we issue a challenge to the other to catch up on a film we haven’t gotten around to seeing just yet. Click here to see my previous designations where you’ll find anything from Judy Garland musicals to some serious weepers.
In classic Noir fashion we’re getting the flashback treatment from the outset in a court room where Robert Young is on trial for murder. The story will unfold as he tells it and while I know there is a murder coming I’m not quite sure just who the victim is of the three leading ladies. Scratch that, I know it’s not lovely Jane Greer as she is one of the featured witnesses sitting in the court room.
Robert is a well kept husband married to a woman who controls the purse strings played by Rita Johnson. Robert has a roving eye and is currently romancing Greer. She sees there’s no future together and upon her decision to leave him, he decides to make a new start and the two of them plan a getaway to Montreal. Wifey Rita is on to them and dangles the money in front of weak willed Robert and he opts to stay with the cash. Jane is left to ride the rails alone. End of romance number one?
Back to the narration so popular in the genre. When Young catches sight of his next conquest he’s quick to point out, “She looked like a very special kind of dynamite, neatly wrapped in nylon and silk. Only I wasn’t having any. I’d been too close to one explosion already. I was powder shy.”
I love that line and it fits when one considers he’s giving us a description of Hollywood temptress Susan Hayward.
With Robert on the stand telling us his story and a murder rap hanging over his head, surely Hayward or perhaps Greer are going to be unveiled as a murderess. Both of these women have it on their resume cards to murder for the man they want in other movies they have blessed with their presence. The intended victim according to all the rules of Noir has got to be the poor unwanted, unloved wife Rita. After all, she controls the money that Young refuses to leave behind for his new paramour Susan. Yes he turns his back on the fiery redhead just like he had already done to Greer.
Not wanting to play spoiler I am going to slow down on the plot points. After all, assuming Robert to be innocent I’ve pretty much guessed who the victim is, the killer has to be ——– and then the curve balls start coming at me. Even then when I think I have the mystery solved and know where this Noir tale is headed I get another curve thrown at me high and inside to knock me on my behind.
This turned out to be a pleasant surprise as an assignment from Kristina. Playing against type in a rather George Sanders styled role is Robert Young. He’s rather selfish and a first class heel. He goes where the money is but isn’t above playing around on his loving wife. Then there is the temptation of the money and when given the opportunity to grab it and contemplate actually murdering wife Rita he gives into his own greed. But does he actually murder her or anyone else?
Directed by Irving Pichel, this was produced by Joan Harrison. It isn’t often we’ll see a female producer during the era. She dabbled in a few Noir titles including Nocturne and Ride a Pink Horse before moving into television. Prior to producing she had worked with Hitchcock as a writer and would reunite with him on his TV series in the sixties.
Susan Hayward is stunning in this title and though Noir titles are historically black and white she’s begging to be photographed in color. Jane Greer would star in the go to Noir title Out Of The Past the same year as this release.
A favorite character actor of mine Anthony Caruso turns up to help move the plot along at a key turning point for the Robert Young character as does the familiar face of long time player Frank Ferguson who I recall as Mr. Foley the grocery store owner in Mayberry.
This turned out to be another memorable title from RKO during the studios run of what we now refer to as Noir themed titles. It’s well done, well cast and well acted with Robert Young delivering the goods in a role one wouldn’t normally associate with him.
Now it’s time to head over to Speakeasy and see what Hammer title I challenged Kristina to watch before the recent death of the late great Sir Christopher Lee.