Directed by Michael Curtiz
Written by Bess Meredyth and Ranald MacDougall from a novel by Charlotte Armstrong
Michael Curtiz Productions/Warner Bros.
First viewing/Warner Archive DVD
Claude Rains mellifluous voice is put to good use in this enjoyable film noir thriller.
Victor Grandison (Rains) is a radio personality whose speciality is murder mysteries. He dominates his household, which consists of his heiress niece Matilda (Joan Caufield) and his other more impoverished niece Altea (Audrey Totter) and her husband Oliver (Hurd Hatfield). Altea, a bad, bad girl, stole Oliver from under the nose of Matilda.
As the story starts, Altea is speaking on the phone to Victor’s secretary when we see a shadowy figure enter the room and the secretary screams. Altea ignores this and goes onto her next nightclub. The woman is later found hanging from a rope and her death is ruled a suicide. We discover that Matilda has also recently been declared dead after a shipwreck.
Enter Steven Howard. He says that unbeknownst to anyone in the family, Matilda and he were married shortly before she set sail. He is independently wealthy and not interested in Matilda’s considerable estate. Victor checks up and his buddy in the police says he is who he claims to be.
But Matilda was rescued by a ship without a radio (??). When she returns, she has no memory of having married Steven. Steven takes her to the judge who married them and the hotel where they met but this fails to jog her memory. He says he will have the marriage annulled and she resumes living in Victor’s mansion.
The rest of the complicated story encompasses the rivalry between the cousins, an investigation of the secretary’s “suicide”, and one or two additional murders. I will not reveal more. With Constance Bennett as Victor’s intrepid assistant.
This has quite the cast and the actors all acquit themselves well. 1947 was Audrey Totter’s year for A films apparently, between this and Lady in the Lake, and she always makes a delicious bad girl. With his mellifluous voice, Rains is memorable as the teller of dark tales on radio. The cinematography by Woody Bredell is simply gorgeous.