The Guilt of Janet Ames (1947)

US / 83 minutes / bw / Columbia Dir: Henry Levin Pr: Helen Deutsch, Virginia Van Upp Scr: Louella MacFarlane, Allen Rivkin, Devery Freeman Story: Lenore Coffee Cine: Joseph Walker Cast: Rosalind Russell, Melvyn Douglas, Sid Caesar, Betsy Blair, Nina Foch, Charles Cane, Harry Von Zell, Bruce Harper (i.e., Coulter Irwin), Arthur Space, Richard Benedict, Frank Orth, Victoria Horne, Hugh Beaumont, Doreen McCann.

Although sometimes listed as a film noir, The Guilt of Janet Ames is really a philosophical piece ruminating on guilt, morality, the selfishness of grief, redemption; there are some noirish tropes if you care to look for them, but then you could also find parallels with It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) dir Frank Capra if you were desperate enough. (You might, for example, point to the fact that both are Christmas movies, even though they have a completely different feel.)

Rosalind Russell as Janet Ames

But before making any such claims it’s worth noting that The Guilt of Janet Ames is upfront and center concerning the inspiration it owes to George du Maurier’s 1891 novel Peter Ibbetson and in particular the Continue reading

Wiretapper (1955)

US / 86 minutes / bw / Great Commission, Continental Dir: Dick Ross Scr: John O’Dea Story: Why I Quit Syndicated Crime (1951 autobiography) by James A. Vaus Jr. Cine: Ralph Woolsey Cast: Bill Williams, Georgia Lee, Douglas Kennedy, Richard Benedict, Stanley Clements, Paul Picerni, Ric Roman, Steve Conte, Phil Tead, Howard Wendell, Melinda Plowman, Dorothy Kennedy, Art Gilmore, Barbara Hudson, Evangeline Carmichael, Howard Wendell, Billy Graham.

Wiretapper 1955 - 0 opener

Although this movie is a biopic (and despite the intrusive moralizing), it stands also as quite a good noir: its central character—not so much a bad man as a weak one who’s a captive of his ingenuity—wades into the noir quicksand and discovers it’s far less easy than he thought to escape from it. The movie even begins with the noirish message that “For understandable reasons certain names and events have been altered to protect the lives and careers of actual persons.”

It’s toward the end of WWII and improbably pretty young Alice Park (Lee) is being kept alive by regular letters from her absent beau, a genius electrical engineer who’s working all over the country on assignments for the military; it must be because his service to the country is so invaluable that he seems never to be granted a furlough. In fact, as we immediately discover, the reason Jim hasn’t been coming home is that Continue reading

Shrike, The (1955)

US / 88 minutes / bw / Universal‑‑International Dir: José Ferrer Pr: Aaron Rosenberg Scr: Ketti Frings Story: The Shrike (1952 play) by Joseph Kramm Cine: William Daniels Cast: José Ferrer, June Allyson, Joy Page, Kendall Clark, Isabel Bonner, Will Kuluva, Joe Comadore, Billy M. Greene, Leigh Whipper, Richard Benedict, Mary Bell, Martin Newman, Herbie Faye, Somar Alberg, Jay Barney, Edward C. Platt, Fay Morley, Jacqueline de Wit, Adrienne Marden.

The Shrike - 0 opener

Jim Downs (Ferrer) is admitted to the mental ward of the city hospital following a suicide attempt; with him comes his worried wife Ann (Allyson), who wants to be by his side always, even when the doctors would prefer she not be, and who keeps repeating how her love for him is undying. Doctors Barrow (Bonner) and Kramer (Barney) are impressed by her supportiveness, even when it emerges that Jim and Ann have been separated for some while, and that Jim’s heart now lies with a new girlfriend, Charlotte Moore (Page).

Because Jim attempted suicide and suicide is regarded as a violent crime, and because he’s been brought to a public hospital, he falls into the category whereby he can be held until the psychiatric staff believe him to be no longer a threat to other people. (I have no idea if this was the law at the time but, if so, the law was being a ass.) Further, the person who really has control over his freedom is Ann: he can be released into the custody of his wife, not into that of Charlotte, whom the staff obviously consider to be just his bit on the side.

The Shrike - 2 Charlotte, forever stalle from visining Jim

Charlotte (Joy Page), forever stalled from visiting Jim.

After he’s made a physical recovery from the effects of the phenobarbital he swallowed, Jim’s transferred to Continue reading