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Alias Mary Dow (1935)

A taxi-dancer agrees to pose as a girl who had been kidnapped as a child 18 years before.



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Cast overview:
Peter Marshall (as Raymond Milland)
Henry Dow
Evelyn Dow
Jimmie Kane
Mary Dow (as Baby Jane)


Dying Evelyn Dow anguishes over her lost daughter, who disappeared as a child. Evelyn's husband Henry, hoping to make his wife's final days more bearable, asks waitress Sally Gates to pose as the daughter. Sally does so, but Mrs. Dow is so cheered by her "daughter's" return that she regains her health, leaving Sally stuck in her role. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

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Release Date:

1 May 1935 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Lost Identity  »

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Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Noiseless Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

Powerful drama with a few false steps
6 April 2005 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

'Alias Mary Dow' has a fascinating premise which seems to unfold by the usual formula, but then surprises us. Sally Eilers gives a standout performance in the lead, effectively playing a dual role.

Eilers is Sally Gates, a waitress and dance-hall tootsie who is clearly not above a bit of prostitution, although the script indicates that she hasn't had any breaks in her life. A wealthy and respectable man, Henry Dow, comes to her with a strange offer, hoping it will benefit his dying wife Evelyn.

Eighteen years ago, the Dows' young daughter Mary was kidnapped and held to ransom, but never found alive or dead. Now, on her deathbed, Evelyn Dow is calling for her daughter. Her husband bribes Sally to pose as the long-lost Mary, now grown to adulthood, so that Evelyn will die happy.

At this point, the formula kicks in. When Mrs Dow meets her 'daughter' (Sally), she of course rallies. Now, Sally is stuck with the imposture.

What makes this drama intriguing is the transformation in Sally. She originally accepted the charade for some quick compensation. Now, living as Mary Dow, she develops genuine affection for her faux parents. It's fascinating to watch actress Sally Eilers switching between two different personalities -- hard-bitten cynical Sally and sweet innocent Mary -- and it's even more fascinating as Sally genuinely becomes more like the false Mary. (One question which is never properly addressed: Since Mary Dow was at the mercy of her kidnappers, why would she grow up sweet and innocent?)

The script attempts to render Henry Dow sympathetic by having him undergo a change of heart and attempt to reveal the imposture to his wife ... but she stops him. The script and the expert direction by Kurt Neumann imply that Evelyn Dow has sensed the truth but doesn't want to acknowledge it.

Because there are some clichés in this movie, I was expecting a Dickensian coincidence at the end: namely, that Sally would turn out to be the real Mary Dow. The script sets up a fairly implausible ambiguity about Sally's childhood years. However, we learn at the end that Sally is definitely not the real Mary. In 1977, Disney released a children's movie, 'Candleshoe', which has very nearly the same premise as 'Alias Mary Dow', but which ends ambiguously ... implying that the female impostor *might* actually be the long-lost child she's pretending to be. 'Alias Mary Dow' avoids that ambiguity, and is vastly better for it.

One aspect of this movie makes it much more gripping, yet ultimately harms the film. If the real Mary Dow had been merely an off-screen plot device, all would have been well. But, in flashbacks, we see the real Mary Dow, played by a pretty child actress. These scenes are quite gripping, but they also force us to speculate about the fate of this little girl, who was never found again. When I wanted to be caught up in the drama of Sally Gates, I kept thinking about that frightened little girl who never found her way home. Still, this is a powerful film, which I'll rate 8 out of 10.

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