Black Widow (1954)

US / 95 minutes / color / TCF Dir & Pr & Scr: Nunnally Johnson Story: Black Widow (1952; vt Fatal Woman) by Patrick Quentin Cine: Charles G. Clarke Cast: Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger, Cathleen Nesbitt, Skip Homeier, Hilda Simms, Mabel Albertson, Harry Carter.

Black Widow 1954 - 0 great use of CinemaScope

A review of this movie that I read a little while ago at the The Passing Tramp blog made me go and look up my film noir encyclopedia to see why I’d left it out. I can see that the decision to do so was a conscious one: I give the movie enough of a mention in the entry on The BLACK WIDOW (1951) to remind me that I watched it and decided (rightly) that its noirish interest was too borderline for me to grant it any more of my precious printed space. Here, though, where the space is limitless . . .

Black Widow 1954 - 1 the encounter at Lottie's party

Peter (Van Heflin) encounters Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner) at a neighbor’s party.

Peter Denver (Heflin)—for some reason Johnson changed the name of author Quentin’s series character Peter Duluth—is a successful Broadway producer; his wife Iris (Tierney) is a celebrated Broadway star. Unfortunately she has to go off to New Orleans for a few weeks to tend to her sick mom. At the airport she makes him swear that he’ll go that night to the party being thrown by Lottie Marin (Rogers), their upstairs neighbor and the star of Peter’s latest hit production, Star Rising. Peter obeys the letter of Iris’s law; seconds after arriving at the party, though, Continue reading

Cobweb, The (1955)

US / 124 minutes / color / MGM Dir: Vincente Minnelli Pr: John Houseman Scr: John Paxton, William Gibson Story: The Cobweb (1954) by William Gibson Cine: George Folsey Cast: Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall, Charles Boyer, Gloria Grahame, Lillian Gish, John Kerr, Susan Strasberg, Oscar Levant, Tommy Rettig, Paul Stewart, Dayton Lummis, Jarma Lewis, Adele Jergens, Edgar Stehli, Sandra Descher, Bert Freed, Mabel Albertson, Fay Wray, Oliver Blake, Olive Carey, Eve McVeagh, Virginia Christine, Jan Arvan, Ruth Clifford, Myra Marsh, Marjorie Bennett.

By the mid-1950s the studios were becoming seriously worried over losing their audience to the new kid on the block, TV. One stratagem they tried in response to this threat was the star-studded ensemble movie, of which The Cobweb is a prime example. This blackly comedic soap opera isn’t of much direct noir interest, if any, save for its astonishing cast, with noir icons like Widmark, Grahame and Bacall at the top but others like Jergens and Stewart further down as well as actors better known outside noir but who nevertheless made noir contributions, such as Boyer, Wray, Christine and even Bennett.

Dr. Stewart “Mac” McIver (Widmark) is the de facto chief of a psychiatric clinic, although the physician who ran it for many years, the boozy, philandering Dr. Douglas N. “Dev” Devanal (Boyer), is still formally its Medical Director. Mac has instituted a self-government policy for the patients as part of their therapy; in fact, the place seems more like a posh country hotel with psychotherapy laid on than a grim sanitarium.

Meg Rinehart (Bacall) views Stevie’s designs.

All are agreed that the clinic’s library requires new curtains. Victoria “Vicky” Inch (Gish), in charge of administration, assumes she should order something bland from the usual local supplier, Petlee & Sons. Before she can do so, however, two things happen. First, Mac’s seemingly spoilt, shrewish wife Karen (Grahame), visiting the clinic and discovering the situation, decides to take matters into her own hands and, with the connivance by telephone of the Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees, the formidable Regina Mitchell-Smythe (Albertson), orders the most expensive drapes money could buy—to be delivered by special airmail, no less! Second, the extraordinarily repressed patient Sue Brett (Strasberg) suggests the patients should design the new drapes themselves, an idea picked up by the suicidal but artistically talented patient Stevie Holte (Kerr) and supported by the clinic’s art therapist, the widowed Meg Faversen Rinehart (Bacall).

Stevie produces his designs for the drapes, and they’re Continue reading