In the late nineteenth century, Ellen Creed works as the live-in companion to Miss Leonora Fiske, a retired actress who lives in the English countryside and who still retains her theatrical mannerisms. Ellen receives notice that the landlady of her two sisters, Emily Creed and Louisa Creed, who currently live in London, is threatening to call the police to haul them away to an asylum because of their disruptive behavior due to their mentally deranged state. Ellen will not allow her sisters to be institutionalized, and convinces Miss Fiske to allow them to stay with them for a couple of days. Miss Fiske was unaware of their deranged mental state when she agreed and is also unaware that Ellen hopes to make their stay permanent. Both issues eventually become apparent to Miss Fiske, who cannot tolerate how Emily and Louisa disrupt her home life. However, Ellen "convinces" Miss Fiske to take an extended leave from the house, while Ellen tells her sisters that she bought the house from Miss... Written by
The title of the film and the names of Ida Lupino and Louis Hayward appear as if they were rising to the surface of the swamp and floating there; the rest of the credits appear on tombstones and signs surrounding the area. See more »
Ida Lupino was one of the best actresses of the 1940s and 1950s in Hollywood, but she proved to be one of the few (at the time) to be a good director as well. And when she directed, she chose fairly daring topics for the time, like women in prisons with obviously "butch" guards. So while she shown in films her abilities were rarely acknowledged by awards. I'm not even aware if she ever got a deserved nomination for her acting.
In this film, LADIES IN RETIREMENT, she gave a performance that deserved some recognition (such as a nomination). Her character is the only sane (or semi-sane) member of a family of three sisters, who has been keeping an eye on the two mad ones (one of whom is Elsa Lanchester). Unfortunately, she is the employee of Isobel Elsom, who is appalled at the eccentric behavior of the two sisters, and discharges Lupino to get rid of the three. Poor foolish lady. While playing her favorite new music (it is 1885, so she is playing "Tit Willow" - paging "TOPSY TURVEY")the music is suddenly stopped in a crashing way, and Ms Elsom disappears. The three sisters are now mistresses of the Elsom home, and all might succeed peacefully, except for the appearance of Lupino's nephew (Louis Heyward) who is suspicious and greedy. There is also a new maid (Evelyn Keyes) who likes the nephew, and can be decidedly impertinent to Lupino. If the other two sisters could only be a little stronger, then possibly Lupino could overcome the problems of growing suspicions. Unfortunately, they are no help. Eventually Elsom's remains are uncovered in the flower bed in the garden. Lupino is arrested, but she is worried about the two sisters. And here is the final poignant slap at her: The sisters are going to a madhouse, but Lanchester smilingly reassures Lupino that they'll be fine while she is going away. Lupino realizes she could have avoided her fate by putting the mad ones away earlier, and they are so far gone mentally they don't appreciate the horrible hole she put herself into for them.
Lupino could play anything, except (perhaps) straight comedy - at least I can't recall any good one she appeared in. But she played straight drama more intensely but naturally than anyone else: witness her fine work in THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT, HIGH SIERRA, or THE LIGHT THAT FAILED. This one, in some ways, is her best one to me - the gradual realization of failure, and of the totally unappreciated nature of her actions by those who benefited is really tragic.
Oddly enough, the film is based is based on a real murder from the mid 1880s, but from France. A woman named Euphresie Mercier (who was barely sane herself) murdered a woman who befriended her, Madame Elodie Minetret in April 1883, and buried her in the garden of her home. This was to give a home to Mercier's mad brother and two sisters. But when she refused to pay blackmail to a nephew, he informed the police of his suspicions. The brother and sisters went to an insane asylum. Euphresie ended up in prison (due to being in her 60s, she was given a 20 year sentence).
17 of 21 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?