The films shown proved to be an employment bonanza for the Hollywood British Colony. All of the usual supporting players who general backed up Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce were to be seen, including Holmes Herbert, Gerald Hamer, Leyland Hodgson, Frederick Worlock, Gavin Muir, Henry Daniell and many others. The theme of the afternoon was "Edwardian Noir."
"Ivy" was a well cast period melodrama about a woman who poisons her ineffectual husband in order to better advance her prospects with a wealthy admirer. This Sam Wood production had an excellent cast led by Joan Fontaine, Herbert Marshall and Patric Knowles. The film was adapted from another novel by the author of "The Lodger."
Although I have an expansionistic opinion of what properly constitutes a film noir movie (I consider the Western "Pursued" and the period picture "The Spiral Staircase" both to be noirs despite their time frames), I was somewhat disappointed with "Ladies in Retirement." My chief complaint is that it was largely a filmed stage play and director Charles Vidor did nothing to open it up. Almost all of the action took place on a single set. Ironically, the film featured Edith Barrett (the first wife of actor Vincent Price) in her screen debut. Barrett, who later appeared in two R-K-O pictures for Val Lewton, actually suffered from her own mental illness issues later in life. In the film, she played a mentally challenged woman. The film was not without interest, but I did not see it as a film noir.
"Hangover Square" is one of those films that straddles the borderline between horror and film noir. It featured Laird Cregar's last performance before he suffered a series of heart attacks following an extreme crash diet. Given the success of "The Lodger," 20th Century Fox played it safe and set "Hangover Square" in the Gaslight Era. The source novel was set in the Thirties. John Brahm directed.
Robert Siodmak's "The Suspect" with Charles Laughton was the finale. This adaptation presented a sanitized roman clef of an actual Turn of the Century murder case. Unlike the real life Dr. Crippen, Laughton's "Phillip Marshall" character was depicted in a sympathetic light. He was driven to commit murder. Being married to Rosalind Ivan could do that to the most kindly of men. One thing that I will say for Siodmak, who spent a considerable part of his Hollywood career at Universal, which I consider to be a "B+" or "A-" type of studio in the Hollywood studio hierarchy during the Forties, he always seemed to get better results from his cast members and budgets would warrant.
Eddie Muller concluded his hosting duties. Alan K. Rode is assuming the helm for next four nights.