Thursday, January 22, 2015


Barbara Stanwyck is single and pregnant; her lover (Lyle Bettger) abandons her, leaving her only a train ticket to San Francisco. On the train, she strikes up a conversation with Patrice, another pregnant woman who, with her husband, is heading off to meet her in-laws for the first time. The train derails and Stanwyck is taken to the hospital where she has her baby. Patrice and her husband are both killed, and circumstances lead the doctors to assume that she is Patrice. Stanwyck, weak and confused, doesn't correct them, and soon she is off to Frisco posing as Patrice. The family accepts her though she's caught off-guard a bit when the dead husband's brother (John Lund) comes home and she feels an attraction develop. Just as Stanwyck is feeling fairly secure, Betteger shows up to blackmail her. All the noir elements are in place, so of course there's guilt, deception and murder in the offing. Based on Cornel Woolrich's I Married a Dead Man (what a great title; I don’t know why it wasn't used for the movie), this is a top-notch noir melodrama, tainted only slightly by a typical Production Code ending that cops out; the novel's ending is perfect, and I highly recommend reading the novel, and anything by Woolrich. Stanwyck, of course, is good, as is everyone else. Lund, pictured with Stanwyck, is solid in the role of the largely passive male who digs in when he needs to; Bettger shines as the attractive but slimy blackmailer; Jane Cowl, as Stanwyck's mother-in-law, is good in a small but crucial role. A scene where a body is disposed of is reminiscent of a similar scene in Stanwyck's DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and in general the shadowy noir atmosphere is well presented. Recommended, but do yourself a favor and read the novel (which was remade more recently as MRS. WINTERBOURNE) as well. [DVD]

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