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About 10-15 minutes into the film there is a segment showing emmigrants
filing into a ship to leave to America.
My parents (unknown to them until two years later) got their 15 seconds of fame. They're the man carrying an infant (me, face down-I wasn't ready for my cameo) and the woman with glasses carying two suitcases.
The ship was the SS Marine-Jumper (pretty odd name) which left Hamburg, and it arrived in New York on July 7th 1949.
The crossing was uneventful except that my mother told me she was angry with the sailors for playing catch with an orange. She hadn't eaten one since 1940.
I was lucky enough to see this movie on the big screen, with a full house, and it was a wonderful experience. The audience was completely enthralled, to the point of yelling out worried instructions to the onscreen characters. The acting in this film is very high-quality, and the pacing effective. I thought the footage of San Francisco (where I saw the film) was beautifully done; it really evokes the Telegraph Hill area. The director made particularly good use of the hills, as you'll see. If you like elegant suspense films like "Gaslight" and "Suspicion", you'll enjoy this one. Valentina Cortese is a very appealing heroine, and the story was made more interesting by the WWII element. The only thing I had a problem with was the fact that the two leading men looked too much alike. But that was a minor flaw in a very well-made film.
Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart star in "The House on Telegraph
Hill," a 1951 film also starring William Lundigan. It's probable that
Cortese and Basehart met during the filming of this movie, since they
were married in March of 1951. Cortese plays a concentration camp
survivor, Victoria Kowelska, who takes the identity of her dead friend
and travels to San Francisco to claim the woman's son, who is living
with an aunt, and also her inheritance. When she arrives, the aunt is
deceased,and the boy is being cared for by a snippy nanny (Fay Baker).
Victoria and the estate's trustee (Basehart) fall in love, marry, and
live in the aunt's mansion. It soon becomes apparent from a series of
mishaps that someone is trying to do away with Victoria. She finally
confides in the Army officer who processed her papers (Lundigan).
Robert Wise does a good job with this suspenser, which combines some diverse elements - hidden identity, romance, shady nanny and a murder plot - though the script isn't the best. It drags in spots. Cortese is an effective actress while not being a conventional beauty; her star shone brighter in Italy, where she worked until 1993 and then retired.
"The House on Telegraph Hill" does hold the viewer throughout. It's enjoyable but nothing special.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The House on Telegraph Hill is a suspense thriller constructed out of some unusual elements. It opens in the shambles of war-torn Europe, where a Displaced Person from Poland (Valentina Cortesa, sometimes "Cortese") has assumed the papers and identity of a close friend who died in the camps. The dead woman had sent her young son to San Francisco to live with a wealthy aunt. Cortesa travels to America to claim the son and, incidentally, the inheritance as her own.
The estate's trustee (Richard Basehart) sweeps her off her feet and soon they're ensconced in the Gothic pile overlooking San Francisco and the Bay. But shades of Rebecca! discord appears in the person of the boy's governess (Fay Baker), a blonde, American Mrs. Danvers (Baker played a hard case opposite Marie Windsor in Double Deal and quite held her own; pity her career wasn't bigger).
Next, frightening things start to happen. Cortesa almost topples to her doom from the son's playhouse, never repaired after a mysterious explosion. And she almost careens into that same doom when her roadster's brakes fail on the steep hills of the city. Finally she reaches out to a acquaintance (William Lundigan) who happens to be the Army officer who processed her papers in Germany.
The surprising Robert Wise has a knack for papering over holes, keeping us from wondering what the one plot the stolen identity has to do with the other the standard-issue woman-in-distress (or `jep'). He builds up an atmosphere of menace but keeps his cards very close to his vest.
Reservations? The House on Telegraph Hill was made when the noir cycle was under full steam, and shares many of its conventions. But the story and acting hark back to a style that's about a decade out of date. So when Cortesa declines some orange juice that she suspects contains poison, the point is pressed, and she graciously downs the whole glass. In post-war America, wouldn't she fling it into a face, or just say `Shove it'?
Perhaps not a noir, strictly but a very effective b/w thriller with great use of San Francisco locations. Valentina Cortesa is excellent and very believable as the lady who makes her way from the concentration camps to the house on Telegraph Hill. Richard Basehart is also very good in a complex role as her husband. But mention must also be made of William Lundigan and the terrifying Fay Baker. Even the kid is acceptable! This is a most involving and atmospheric picture, perhaps with shades of 'Notorious'. Great dialogue helps keep one involved throughout and there are certain scenes, for instance, the orange juice sequence that are positively thrilling. Excellent.
A woman (Valentina Cortesa) assumes the identity of her more affluent friend who died at the Belsen camp in Germany. However the seemingly ideal life she is about to enter soon beings to have a sinister feel. Is she the only fraud? Reasonable performances from all the leads keeps the storyline, which never quite reaches its potential, interesting. The film also lead to the marriage of Valentina Cortesa to her co-star Richard Basehart - a chemistry not readily apparent in the film!
In the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, the Polish Victoria Kowelska
(Valentina Cortesa) has lost her husband and family in the war. She
befriends her fellow citizen Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess), who miss
her son Chris (Gordon Gebert) that lives with her Aunt Sophie in San
Francisco. Karin dies three days before the liberation forces commanded
by Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) arrive at the camp and
Victoria assumes the identity of her friend to emigrate to the United
States. However, she is informed that Aunt Sophie has just died and she
stays in a camp for survivors.
Four years later, she succeeds to go to the United States and meets Sophie's lawyer. She learns that Alan Spender (Richard Basehart) was assigned Chris' trustee and he invites her to travel with him to San Francisco to see Chris. Along their journey, they get married to each other and Karin has a cold reception from the housekeeper Margaret (Fay Baker) that raises Chris at the mansion on Telegraph Hill. Karin meets Major Bennett, who is a friend of Alan, in a party at home and she befriends him. Soon Karin is connected to Chris, but when she has a car accident, she suspects that Alan wants to kill Chris and her to keep the money for him. Is she paranoid?
"The House on Telegraph Hill" is an enjoyable thriller with a story of greed. The movie has an impressive scene when Victoria's car loses the break on the hills of San Francisco. The mystery is kept to the end when the truth is shown. The Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp is the place where Anne Frank died. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Terrível Suspeita" ("Terrible Suspicion")
This movie begins a little like William Irish's aka Cornell Woolrich's
" I married a dead man " (the novel was released well before Leisen's
movie ,in 1948),the concentration camps replacing the derailment:and
then a poor girl becomes an impostor in a wealthy family;then after
introducing a Rebeccaesque governess,the story takes a divergent turn
,recalling sometimes "gaslight" "suspicion" (the glass of orange juice
replacing the glass of milk) and "sudden fear" which would be released
the following year.
That said,the movie is good,suspenseful,sometimes excellent and shows how great Robert Wise is as a director when he creates a disturbing atmosphere in an old house;he would take his skill to its absolute perfection with "the haunting" (1963) IMHO the best movie ever made about a haunted house (the remake should be carefully avoided);his talent emerges here and there: the playhouse where a wall is missing,the branch behind the curtain,the shadow on Valentina Cortese's white dress in the garage and the picture of the late old lady who seems like a judge beyond the grave ;her expressive face seems to have changed in the last pictures .Best performance comes from Richard Baseheart who shines in his last minutes on screen and the rest of the cast rises to the occasion.
Effective Gothic thriller. I especially like the set-up, where Vicki
(Cortese) gains admittance to the US by impersonating a dead fellow
prisoner in a WWII concentration camp . That way she not only has her
own secrets, but is also no unblemished young thing, which is usually
the case in these woman-in-danger films. Once in the US, however, she
marries into great wealtha dream come truebut in the process gets
more than she bargained for.
A lot of the story depends on appropriate emoting. Fortunately, it's a powerhouse cast, but I especially like Fay Baker's icy nanny Margaret. She's quietly intimidating without overdoing it. Too bad she didn't get bigger roles in more movies. I can't help noting, however, that Cortese may be the only Hollywood leading lady without a perfect nose. It's a fine regal beak and I'm glad she hung on to it. I can also see why Basehart fell for her in real life.
The San Francisco locations make a good open air contrast to the dark mansion interiors that dominate the characters. I expect director Wise applied his noir skills from the great Val Lewton series of horror flicks. Also, the ending amounts to a delicious twist, both unpredictable and very well thought out. My one problem was figuring out who's related to whom since that's important to the plot. I don't know if that's the screenplay's fault or mine.
Anyway, it's an effective thriller with a fine cast and an imaginative ending, worth tuning in for.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A most interesting movie in the Fox film noir range is House on
Telegraph Hill. It's especially pleasing to see this title made
available, not only because it undoubtedly rates as a true film noir,
but it's one that fully deserves to be better known. I don't recall
seeing it before at all, either on first release or TV. Released on 13
May 1951 (21 September 1951 in Australia), the movie's box office
potential was hampered by its cast. Undoubtedly a fine actor, Richard
Basehart was never a must-see draw at the neighborhoods. For this
movie, he managed to persuade Fox to hire his wife, Valentina Cortese,
for the main role. She also was a brilliant actress but at this stage,
no ticket-window sensation either.
Thus the ticket-selling brief was borne chiefly by William Lundigan, a competent player within a very limited range. I always thought he had little charisma, but there were fans who liked him. Not a sufficient number, however, to make House on Telegraph Hill a rousing success. Which was a shame, because House is a very deft noir thriller, with atmospheric photography by Lucien Ballard and excellent, moodily over-plush art direction from John De Cuir and set decorator, Paul Fox. True, Ballard does not photograph Miss Cortesa very attractively, but her stunning Renie costumes help to disguise this problem. Lovely Fay Baker brings considerable presence to the support cast. And I enjoyed the brief café glimpse of Chinese singer, Mari Young, who renders the opera ballad, "Lover's Broken Dream", accompanied by Gew Wong on the butterfly harp, Lung Wong (Chinese banjo) and Lee Wong (two-string violin).
In short, House on Telegraph Hill fulfills two essential noir requirements: (1) The prevailing mood, both photographically and story-wise is dark; (2) the central character is not only threatened and in danger, but finds herself in a situation from which it seems impossible to escape.
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