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In 1928, young heiress Martha Ivers fails to run off with friend Sam Masterson, and is involved in fatal events. Years later, Sam returns to find Martha the power behind Iverstown and married to "good boy" Walter O'Neil, now district attorney. At first, Sam is more interested in displaced blonde Toni Marachek than in his boyhood friends; but they draw him into a convoluted web of plotting and cross-purposes. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Martha Ivers, a young girl under the guardianship of her grandmother played by Judith Anderson, tries often to run away, but is brought back every time. Grandma is one powerful autocratic and twisted old woman. One night after Grandma kills the girl's cat, she kills her. Her tutor's son sees the deed and now has blackmail power. Young Martha also thinks someone else has seen the deed, young Sam Masterson who she has a yen for. He actually skedaddled before witnessing anything.
Flash forward several years. Now everyone is grown up. Barbara Stanwyck is Martha and she's married the tutor's son played by Kirk Douglas in his film debut. He's also the District Attorney. And the main action of the film begins as grown up Sam Masterson who is played by Van Heflin comes back to his home town. He's treated rather strangely and it takes him a while to figure out why.
Life has a funny way of working out and Stanwyck has essentially turned into Anderson. Heflin is no real hero here either, he's quite willing to engage in some blackmail. But he's redeemed somewhat by the love of another girl from the wrong side of the tracks, Lizabeth Scott.
The film is memorable for two reasons, the power packed performance of Barbara Stanwyck and the debut of Kirk Douglas. This is a choice Barbara Stanwyck role, a powerful ruthless woman who'll do anything to keep and protect what's hers.
It's odd that Kirk Douglas makes his debut as a weakling, but even stranger that the dynamism that is his screen trademark is so well hidden in this portrayal. This part isn't exactly Spartacus. But Kirk is one capable player.
Heflin and Scott do well in their respective parts, but even though she's only on the screen for the first 15 minutes the one you won't forget is Judith Anderson. Seeing Stanwyck with her machinations later on, you wonder what must have made Anderson such a twisted human being.
The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers is a well plotted melodrama that does credit to all involved.
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