Black Noir Widow in Technicolor

DATELINE:  1954 Mystery

black widow

If you want to make a film noir, flashy colors and lacking mood would be two mistakes. When Nunnally Johnson pitched this movie to the studio, he no doubt mentioned Billy Wilder and Joe Mankiewicz. It sounds fairly entertaining:  a take off on All About Eve, set in the ruthless world of Broadway actresses.

Then you cast the film with some of the biggest names on the downslide of 1954: Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, Peggy Ann Gardner, George Raft, and you fill the cast out with red herring bad guys like Van Heflin, Skippy Homeier, Reginald Gardiner, and Otto Kruger.

Alas, your script needs more than a reverse side of a conniving young girl, winnowing her way into the hearts of all the men in the film—until she’s done in.  Eve Harrington would never have let it happen.

When Peggy shows up at her star uncle’s place at the start of the movie, he does not recognize her. Take it from there: the red herrings are ready to go upstream.

The film is called noir, but there is next to nothing here that fills that category.

When Tallulah Bankhead had a chance to play the aging star and parody Bette Davis, who parodied her, she turned it down. She knew a stinkeroo when she read the script.

The stars are fairly wasted, especially Gene Tierney.

The plot becomes asinine when Heflin makes some idiotic decisions, not the least is never to ask for an attorney when the police start behaving badly.

There is an alleged surprise ending, but we doubt many people will stick around that long—out of exasperation.

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