Thursday, December 19, 2013


Melvyn Douglas is at Virginia Bruce's apartment one morning; they're expecting author Doris Lloyd for breakfast, as they are signing Lloyd for the publishing house they work for. Lloyd arrives and assumes (as we do) that Douglas and Bruce are lovers—she says, "I adore emotional experiments" and notes that her moral code is "two baths a day and mind your manners." Later that day, bonds are found missing from a safe at the publishing house and that weekend, when business associate Ian Keith is found dead from a gunshot wound, it is assumed that he stole the bonds and killed himself. A year later, at a dinner party with Bruce and Douglas and several of their associates, the radio tube burns out and, with no music to distract everyone, conversation turns to conflicting stories about the last time people saw Keith alive, triggered by the discovery that Bruce has a music box that belonged to Keith. Accusations and confessions follow, lies are exposed, and events are capped by a suicide. Then suddenly, a narrative twist changes everything, showing the truth of a saying that telling the truth is as dangerous as driving around a corner. This compelling melodrama is based on a play by J.B. Priestly and its staginess is largely overcome by a good cast which, in addition to Douglas and Bruce (pictured) includes Conrad Nagel, Erin O'Brien-Moore and Betty Furness. It's all rather "meta" for the era; in addition to the odd twist at the end, one character tells another, "Don't talk like a man in a melodrama." If you don’t mind the fact that most of the last half of the movie takes place on one set, you’ll relish the twists and turns this movie takes on its way to an ending that some will find ingenious and some will find a letdown. I’m in the middle, but I quite enjoyed the movie. [TCM]

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