Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 1945. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Screenplay by Jo Swerling, based on the novel by Ben Ames Williams. Cinematography by Leon Shamroy. Produced by William A. Bacher. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by Maurice Ransford, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Kay Nelson. Film Editing by James B. Clark.
A fascinating combination of female melodrama and film noir, filmed in glorious Technicolour but with its hints of sinister motives lurking at every corner. Novelist Cornel Wilde meets gorgeous Gene Tierney (in her most finely calibrated performance) on a commuter train and discovers that they are heading for the same place, her family’s ranch where he is to stay as a guest. They fall in love, she throws over her snooty lawyer fiancé (Vincent Price) and they get married. She is immediately overcome by depression, jealousy and anxiety as soon as the vows are pronounced, horning in on his devoted relationship to his disabled brother (which culminates in one of the most intensely memorable scenes in film history) before turning her suspicions on his relationship with her adopted sister (a superb Jeanne Crain). It would easily be trashy soap opera in the vein of Kitty Foyle or a later Ross Hunter production if it were not for the talents involved; the direction is sharp as daggers and the performances really make it drip with sex and danger. At the same time, there is a surprising level of sympathy for the character at the centre of it all: rare for a movie of its time, there is a suggestion that a woman’s psychological problems do not stem from the choice to be evil (like in a bad Bette Davis movie) but are rooted somewhere deeper than she can access. Terrible acts are committed by a woman who is held captive by her psychosis, not driven by some of kind of rotten hysteria. Wonderful stuff, don’t miss it.
Academy Award: Best Cinematography-Colour
Nominations: Best Actress (Gene Tierney); Best Art Direction-Colour; Best Sound Recording