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Madeleine Damien is the fashion editor of a slick Manhattan magazine by day and a lively party girl by night. Unfortunately, the pressures of her job, including kowtowing to a hefty advertiser, and her bad luck with men are driving her to a breakdown. She seeks the help of a psychiatrist, and under his orders, quits her job and moves into a smaller flat under a new identity. She becomes interested in painting and a handsome neighbor. He soon finds out about her past when an ex-suitor implicates her in a murder. Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
"The most beautiful woman in films" was the epithet generally bestowed upon the amazing Hedy Lamarr. But she might equally well have been called "the most intelligent woman in films", because she was the co-inventor with George Antheil of radio-guided torpedoes for the U.S. Navy using a frequency-hopping method of communication which is now fundamental to the technology of all mobile cellphones. (The story of this is well told in Antheil's autobiography, "Bad Boy of Music".) This film is excellently directed by English director Robert Stevenson, director of several classics such as "Owd Bob" (1936; see my review). Hedy is, as usual, fascinating to watch, and because the real Hedy was a somewhat disturbed character (she was twice arrested for shop-lifting and once convicted), the slightly mad flicker in her eyes may not all have been acting. We have recently learned that she was really Jewish, not Austrian, and that makes a lot more sense, as she did not exactly look like an Alpine Yodeler (her real surname was Kiesler), although strangely enough, in this film at one point she dresses like one. In fact, the clothes worn by Hedy in this film are all so amazingly spectacular that they amount to nothing less than a fantasy fashion parade. At one point, she walks into the snow in a white fur coat which is so large one almost imagines her to be a polar bear masquerading as a human. The gowns and jackets are a cross between Dior and Dali. Opposite Lamarr as the serious love interest is, of all people, Dennis O'Keefe, better known as a tough guy, and who went on to make "T-Men" (see my review) in the same year. O'Keefe was always under-rated and here does very well as a gentle young scientist who always has his nose up a test tube and only occasionally notices how beautiful his girlfriend is. But Hedy is a gal with a past, and what a past. In those days, sexual compulsion bordering on nymphomania had to be treated delicately in films, never overtly stated. So we have here a film heavy with innuendo, and lots of emphatic ambiguities from Hedy's psychiatrist to worry us. (Morris Carnovsky always played a very convincing psychiatrist, and if he looked at me in that stern way and told me I was a nymphomaniac, I might almost believe him, even though I am a man. So poor Hedy never had a chance but to get well.) Why was it that she could not resist the oily John Loder? And everyone else, for that matter? Her attempts to reform, by moving to a Greenwich Village hideaway and becoming a simple artist, where she meets O'Keefe, are threatened by all those guys who just won't leave her alone. And cocktails do terrible things to her. This is a very gripping film, and Hedy Lamarr was perfect for the lead. Wrongly accused of John Loder's murder, Lamarr sits in court refusing to defend herself because O'Keefe doesn't love her any more (or does he?), and the tension goes right up to the end. Will she be convicted? Will O'Keefe overcome his disgust? Can her psychiatrist sway the jury? Will, can, love conquer all? Good stuff.
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