Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 1945. Walter Wanger Productions, Fritz Lang Productions, Diana Production Company. Screenplay by Dudley Nichols, based on the novel by Georges de la Fouchardiere, Andre Mouezy-Eon. Cinematography by Milton R. Krasner. Produced by Fritz Lang. Music by Hans J. Salter. Production Design by Alexander Golitzen. Costume Design by Travis Banton. Film Editing by Arthur Hilton.
Fritz Lang remakes Jean Renoir’s La Chienne as a reunion for the stars of his Woman In The Window the year before. Edward G. Robinson plays a timid insurance clerk with a shrew of a wife whose hobby as a painter in his spare time is his only comfort. A random encounter with a prostitute (Joan Bennett) puts him immediately in her thrall Blue Angel style, and before long he is stealing money to keep her in a fancy apartment while she bilks him for more cash to give to her boyfriend/pimp (Dan Duryea). When the shady couple realizes there’s money to be made from Robinson’s paintings, they exploit him further and he reacts in a surprisingly (or is it) benign way. What at first seems like another indulgence in the idea of male paradise ruined by the machinations of a conniving woman is actually a fascinating exploration of sexism, as the film constantly gives Robinson opportunities to make better decisions which he willfully elides, the film ultimately holding him and not the double-crossing dame responsible for his own ruin. This combined with the tragic ending make for a fascinating anti-noir that was one of Lang’s favourites of his own works (though Renoir disapproved), a beautifully shot melodrama marred only by Bennett’s lackluster performance. It would be fun if her character were harder to see coming, but the naturally classy actress seems insecure about her own inability to play trash and overdoes the tawdry voice and manipulative manner, and it eventually becomes grating.