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William A. Seiter
In 1909, the beautiful but amoral British belle Ivy Lexton meets older, rich Miles Rushworth; undeterred by the prior claims of her husband Jervis and lover Roger, she goes after Miles and has no trouble fascinating him, but oddly enough he has compunctions about making love to other men's wives. The means that Ivy reluctantly adopts to resolve the problem of too many men promise disaster for all concerned. Written by
Rod Crawford <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Convincing Victorian Murder Melodrama, Plenty of Tension
Joan Fontaine here is entirely convincing as an amoral beauty who is entirely incapable of feeling love for anyone but herself. Her husband (Richard Ney) has lost all his money through a combination of his foolhardiness and her extravagance, and they are reduced to living in a tiny room, with little or no prospects. They continue to put on the most amazing clothes and go out and socialize as if nothing were wrong. He is a charming, feckless, but wholly amiable fellow. However, Fontaine decides he has to go, as he has outlived his usefulness. So she resolves to poison him when she realizes he does not want to divorce her, so that she can move on. She has meanwhile had a lover (Patric Knowles) whom she decides to drop because he is not rich either. She meets the aging Herbert Marshall, who has a yacht with all the trimmings and more money than even Fontaine could figure out how to spend. She targets him and decides he will do nicely. He is all too eager to be eaten up by the young beauty. He certainly isn't very exciting, and has about as much sex appeal as yesterday's omelette. But Fontaine is one of those gals who has eyes only for money, and the man standing between her and it is transparent, so that she doesn't even notice or care what he looks like, she looks through him and sees what she really wants and goes for it. She proceeds to poison her husband, and dispatches him very neatly and satisfactorily, so that everything is going well. But as always happens in the movies, and sometimes even in life, some unexpected things begin to go wrong, and the tension rises appreciably, so that Fontaine begins to sweat. Fontaine is particularly good at looking wicked and terrified, and as the net begins to close in on her, her rising sense of desperation is palpable and has us on the edges of our seats. Hysteria and fear take over from cool calculation and cunning. But she finds a fall guy for her crime in the person of her cast off lover, who is an innocent victim of her scheme to set him up. He is condemned to death for murder, because the husband's death by poison came to light unexpectedly. But Sir Cedric Hardwicke, playing a grimly determined Scotland yard inspector, thinks there may be something amiss, and begins to doubt the story and suspect Fontaine. He closes in on her, and some of the scenes as this happens are inspired portrayals of the wildest panic. But will the innocent man's life be saved before he is executed? Will Fontaine worm her way out of this one? Will Herbert Marshall protect her to safeguard his infatuation? This film is expertly directed by Sam Wood, and the film is a really superb suspense thriller which I suppose qualifies very well for the description of a superior film noir.
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