43 user 32 critic

Whirlpool (1950)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 13 January 1950 (USA)
2:39 | Trailer

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A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »



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Complete credited cast:
Dr. William 'Bill' Sutton
David Korvo (as Jose Ferrer)
Lt. James Colton
Theresa Randolph
Martin Avery
Tina Cosgrove
Feruccio di Ravallo


The wife of a psycho-analyst falls prey to a devious quack hypnotist when he discovers she is an habitual shoplifter. Then one of his previous patients, now being treated by the real psycho-analyst, is found murdered. With her still at the scene suspicion points only one way. Written by Jeremy Perkins {J-26}

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Tomorrow she will know what she did tonight! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »





Release Date:

13 January 1950 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dilemma  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Ben Hecht's anti-British statements in the late 1940s (due to their involvement with Israel) so angered the nation that the UK prints replaced his name with a pseudonym, Lester Barstow. See more »


At the beginning of the film, it is obvious that the store's "glass" doors have no glass in them whatsoever. See more »


David Korvo: You were wise not to tell your husband, Mrs. Sutton. A successful marriage is usually based on what a husband and wife don't know about each other.
See more »


Featured in Breathless (1960) See more »


Music by Lionel Newman
Played at the hotel lounge
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User Reviews

Film Noir with Emotional Depth, Interesting twists, and Ferrer's great performance
23 July 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is a marvelous film noir story set in every day upper-middle-class America. It presents the popular ambivalence felt at the time about psychoanalysis, with one "good" Doctor and one charlatan.

I am a fan of Gene Tierney, without thinking she a great actress. She was exceptionally pretty, had a very polished manner, and very average in range. This made her a wonderful representative of both the middle class, and their hopes of being refined. To my mind, while this is not her best film (That being either THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR or LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN), this IS her finest acting work. It uses her blankness to advantage, and this script also gives her the pathos and confusion to vent full emotional range which is rare for her films. (To the observant person, it also displays the flaws of her presentational acting style; as when she breaks down in a torrent of bitter tears, and looks up afterwards – dry eyed and serene. But for THIS film – playing a woman completely divorced from her own emotions – even that works to the benefit of the plot.)

An actor is always helped – made better, challenged more – by working with other great actors, and she is working here with one of the very best, Jose Ferrer. This was shortly before his academy award win in CYRANNO, and quite possibly, this incredibly complex performance contributed to that win, he is simply excellent. All screen villains should watch this, every second of his performance is filled with a gamut of emotions, and mundane details. It is clear that not only is his character the smartest person in the room, but Ferrer may be as well. Tierney carries the story and Ferrer moves it along. Charles Bickford also gives a marvelous performance in a smaller, yet layered role as the rumpled, grieving Detective.

Richard Conte, is the real oddball casting. His street-tough demeanor is what carried his career. (He is magnificent as the psycho mob boss in stylish expressionistic noir film, THE BIG COMBO.) So it was an interesting choice to cast him as the intellectual top-notch psychologist, and ideal husband, but it doesn't really work. We just can't really believe that people would turn to him for help, that level of sensitivity isn't there. Ultimately, this is an undercurrent of the movie, however, and Director Otto Preminger may have been making the point that even a good Psychiatrist may not be that good for people.

This film was probably shocking in its day – not very nice - like watching those lovely people next door have a drunken brawl. A larger theme which is being exposed here is that the "perfect post-war life" is an empty façade. Since this was made in 1949, this film presents a very early warning shot across the bow of the "Cleaver Family" façade. It would be almost 10 years before this was a much more common thread, in such movies as the Kim Novak/Kirk Douglas "STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET," and then films with James Dean, who became the poster boy of idyllic family life with a dysfunctional core.

The talented Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay with Andrew Solt, based on a novel by Guy Endore. Much more than mystery, much more than noir, this is a very fine story with good plot twists, emotional life (which is usually absent or ice-cold in noir), developed with subtlety and brains. It is still a joy to watch for itself, but made timeless by the despicable, love-to-hate-him performance of Jose Ferrer.

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