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Beautiful Jenny Hager finds she can always get what she wants from the men in the 1820's port of Bangor, Maine. Freed by his death from her drunkard father she soon manoeuvres herself into a position to marry a middle-aged monied local businessman. Though she often uses his money to do good, she continues to consider all other men fair game. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Leave it to B-movie genius, Edgar Ulmar, to wring every ounce of perversion and sleaze from a drama given by definition to plenty of inherent heat.
The set up is a familiar one to film noir fans a very pretty girl (Hedy Lamarr), given some tough knocks by life (in this case a drunken, violent father), grows into a stunning sexual predator reaping men like a scythe through summer corn. It is the kind of part Joan Crawford or Barbara Stanwick specialized in with much better known films (Mildred Pierce and The Strange Loves of Martha Ivers for example). But in Ulmer's hands, this injured woman, and this film, is something else again.
First and foremost, this is a great performance by Hedy Lamarr. It is a shame she was not called upon to act more often, as she certainly was capable, as this film proves, of Oscar-caliber work. Lamarr was one of the most beautiful actresses to ever stand in front of a camera. There are near legendary stories about stage hands, actors, directors, forgetting the business at hand, lost in a simple stare. But more, her beauty was combined with pure sexual allure (a very rare combination many actress have one or the other, seldom both). With these traits, acting skills were barely required. Perhaps it took a director like Ulmar, a man completely unimpressed with simple beauty, to bring out the artist in Lamarr.
Favorite scenes: Lamarr being beaten by her father as a young woman. The father screaming "This is one beating you'll NOT like!" Lamarr smiles as her father undoes his belt and begins the whipping, smiles and smiles with each lashing, until finally her expression is a combination of pain and joy.
Lamarr approaching her much older husband's son, turning out lamps and blowing out candles as she approaches, her eyes glittering in the growing darkness. "Shall I light your way?" she asks.
Lamar approaching the fiancée of her best friend in the dark of night as lightening strikes behind her and a burning, split tree light their embrace.
Lamarr, older now, screaming at newest husband "Hell! Hell is opening up under our feet!" In other notable noirs, actresses like the aforementioned Stanyck and Crawford were always misunderstood or somehow justified in their hardness (and that's the worst that could be said of them they were just tough, wisecracking gals who had perhaps made an understandable mistake). Here, however, the Lamarr character, Jenny Hagar, never cracks wise once, nor does she ever imagine what she has done is justifiable. She purrs destruction or flames hot with regret and self loathing. She is NOT an okay gal beneath it all. She is, in fact, twisted and perverse, somehow horribly self-aware of her own evil.
One more little tidbit.
In a fit of conscience, Jenny Hagar, now married to a rich man, donates $1,000 to the church. Upon leaving the church, the reverend comments on her good work, saying she must always give such service to the church. "Haven't her lips given you enough service for one day?" snaps the rich, much older husband.
My oh my, good old Edgar Ulmar. Mykal Banta
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