WITNESS TO MURDER (Roy Rowland, 1954)

Written by producer Chester Erskine, with a pungent assist from uncredited Nunnally Johnson, Witness to Murder is a marvelous little thriller topped by a finale that moves the viewer in the direction of cardiac arrest. Barbara Stanwyck gives an exceptionally fine, delicately nuanced performance as Cheryl Draper, a forthright interior decorator and painter in Los […]

THE FILE ON THELMA JORDAN (Robert Siodmak, 1949)

Spinning off some of our sacred secular memories of Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity (1944), including certain plot details and a snapshot of Thelma Jordan—like Phyllis Dietrichson, played by Barbara Stanwyck—as a blonde, Robert Siodmak’s absorbing, suspenseful, increasingly magnificent The File on Thelma Jordan, however, differs in two substantial ways: the action isn’t filtered through the […]

FLESH AND FANTASY (Julien Duvivier, 1943)

Sparkling entertainment that sets three separate strange tales into an engaging, lightly probing frame starring Robert Benchley at his lighthearted best, Flesh and Fantasy questions premonitions and fate, suggesting that “destiny” in reality either masks human compulsions or predispositions or pressures certain outcomes as self-fulfilling prophecy. Dreams—both sleeping and waking ones—figure in, as does the […]

THE FURIES (Anthony Mann, 1950)

Starkly photographed in black and white by Victor Milner and beautifully scored by Franz Waxman, The Furies is nonetheless a dispiriting melodramatic Western whose vague echoes of King Lear prove insufficient to keep it from falling flat. Its Freudianism enlists empty routines of love-hate revolving around configurations of surrogate sister-surrogate brother as well as father-daughter. […]

THE TWO MRS. CARROLLS (Peter Godfrey, 1945; 1947)

The year 1945 saw the completion of the first two of three collaborations between director Peter Godfrey and actress Barbara Stanwyck; one, Christmas in Connecticut, is a light romantic comedy that has become a seasonal semi-classic, while the other is a marital thriller that was not released until March 1947, to help further distinguish it […]

EXECUTIVE SUITE (Robert Wise, 1954)

The complacent 1950s in the United States were the wee-est bit rattled by some questioning of American materialism, part of the fallout of enormous American prosperity. Based on Cameron Hawley’s 1952 novel, which Ernest Lehman adapted and Robert Wise roomily and entertainingly directed, Executive Suite essays corporate boardroom contentiousness as five men vie for the […]