Wednesday, October 21, 2015



Reggie Wilson (Richard Basehart) is a film director who left Hollywood in the wake of a scandalous affair with a studio boss's wife. He winds up in England, trying to turn over a new leaf, making movies at Commonwealth Pictures where his boss, Ben Case (Roger Livesey), has become a kind of father figure, and he soon marries Ben's daughter Lesley. Reggie and Ben are in the middle of difficult negotiations over making "Eclipse," a picture close to Reggie's heart—made more difficult by Ben's assistant Ernie (Mervyn Johns) who just doesn't like Reggie. Suddenly, Reggie starts getting strange letters from a woman named Evelyn (Mary Murphy). They're not quite blackmail letters, but they strongly imply that a recent affair between them has gone cold and she wants him to pay more attention to her. Reggie dismisses them as cruel pranks, but eventually he meets her and her story is so convincing, he begins to question his own sanity: Could he have a split personality? Could part of him be living an adulterous life without his other self knowing it? As his life begins to unravel, he turns for help to Ben, who eventually becomes disinclined to help, and to an old friend, actress Kay Wallace (Constance Cummings) who is somewhat reluctantly starring in "Eclipse." She is more willing to help, but soon Ben cancels the movie altogether and Lesley leaves him, making Reggie think he might actually be losing his mind.

This psychological thriller takes a while to get going, partly because it begins with Reggie seeing a doctor about his "split personality" theory and the first half of the movie is told in flashback. But once it hits its stride, it's a fun, tricky ride. Basehart, whom I usually like, gives an oddly mannered performance, using a strange speaking cadence in which he drags out the last syllables of words; I eventually got used to it, but it still felt odd. Still, he does a good job of embodying a confused anti-hero, a heel who may well be getting what he deserves. Murphy and Cummings are both fine; Livesey seems in the beginning to be a minor character but he grows in importance and does a nice job of keeping us on our toes—is he really as sympathetic to Basehart as he seems, or is he the mastermind behind the scheme? Mervyn Johns is best known to me as Bob Cratchit in the Alistair Sim Christmas Carol, so though his role is fairly small, it's interesting to see him play an unlikable character. The finale, on a dark soundstage (pictured above) where sound effects are being looped into a crime film scene, is worth staying around for. Memorable line, and kind of the moral of the story, delivered by Cummings: "Sometimes it's the things we didn't do that pay us back for the things we did do." [TCM]

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