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Cinderella Murder
bkoganbing5 November 2008
In The Blue Gardenia, Anne Baxter's feeling low and depressed because her GI fiancé in Korea has given her the brushoff. Against her better judgment she goes out with Raymond Burr, full time artist and full time wolf. A few Polynesian Pearl Divers in the local bar which might have been spiked and Anne's not doing so good. But good enough to hit Burr with a fireplace poker and somehow make her way home like Cinderella with both shoes missing.

George Reeves taking a break from Superman plays the Los Angeles homicide detective gets a little unwanted help from Richard Conte, a Walter Winchell like newspaper columnist who's no doubt thinking of the black dahlia murders in LA a few years because a Blue Gardenia's been left at the crime scene and Nat King Cole both sang it live and on record in the film.

In the meantime Baxter's mood swings are being noticed by her roommates Ann Sothern and Jeff Donnell. And Conte's got his own investigation going into the Blue Gardenia murder. It all makes for one interesting and murky film in the tradition of Fritz Lang.

Anne in a sense does a reprise of her Oscar winning performance from The Razor's Edge as a woman being trapped in tragedy. She blamed herself for her family's death in The Razor's Edge and she may or may not have killed Burr. The only difference is that an arrest might lead to an expiation of sin of a sort.

Fritz Lang made a specialty in harassed and harried protagonists getting themselves into some real jackpots whether it was Henry Fonda in You'll Only Live Once, Edward G. Robinson in Scarlett Street and The Woman In the Window, and we can even count Peter Lorre in M. These are people who in fact were guilty. For the first time however Lang's harried protagonist is a woman and Anne gives a great performance.

One scene I really loved is one with Almira Sessions as a brain dead housekeeper who finds Burr's body and then proceeds to clean up the crime scene. After all as she explains to Reeves this is her job and what she's paid to do. The fact she's destroyed all forensic evidence doesn't seem to impress her in the slightest.

On the other hand had she done like a normal person would have and not touched anything, the forensics would have cleared the whole thing up and we wouldn't have a movie.
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Another masterpiece by Fritz Lang
Gavin56721 January 2005
Really excellent film, elegant, well constructed and atmospheric. Beautifully written script, directing, photography, art direction, soundtrack editing, performances, etc. A real masterpiece. I am surprised that so many people who review it here seem not to grasp it. They complain about lack of suspense because it doesn't use hackneyed noir film devices, but the film is not about that. It's about Anne Baxter, the world through her point of view. Her life is a beautiful dream of hopes of love and happiness for the future, which turns into a horrible nightmare that spirals downward with sickening realism and pathos. Snappy characters throughout, but they are not "wasted", miscast or otherwise ill-used. They are perfectly balanced in a skilled script that is not about actors chewing the scenery, but is a real film, an art film, by the master Fritz Lang, whose every decision in creating this film up to the smallest detail seems to me to be highly intentional. Highly recommended.
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Fritz Lang directed this solid mystery thriller that has our complete attention from beginning to end
J. Spurlin20 September 2009
Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter) is a telephone operator who plans to spend her birthday evening alone with her boyfriend - or rather, with his photograph and a letter she just received from him. The real guy is 6000 miles away in Korea. While her two roommates - Crystal (Ann Sothern), a wisecracking divorcée and Sally (Jeff Donnell), a sweet girl with a taste for bloodthirsty mystery novels - are gone, Norah, wearing a black taffeta dress and sipping champagne, reads the letter and blanches. Her sweetheart has dumped her. She ends up spending the rest of her evening with Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr), a wolf who draws girls for a living and ruins them as a hobby. He takes her to the Blue Gardenia and they listen to Nat King Cole as he gets her very drunk on Polynesian pearl divers. The next morning she wakes up with a terrible hangover, but that's the best part. At work she learns of a murderess soon to be called the Blue Gardenia Girl. The label is invented by a newspaper columnist named Casey Mayo (Richard Conte), who hopes to find the femme fatale before the police. What worries Norah is that he and the police may both be looking for her.

Fritz Lang directed this solid mystery thriller that has our complete attention from beginning to end. A good script and good performances are accentuated by Fritz Lang's camera and his usual sharp eye for detail and way of creating mounting dread.
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Blue Gardenia, Now I'm Alone With You
krorie25 July 2006
One thing this film has going for itself is atmosphere. Making it all seem relevant is the featured song, more than just a theme, an integral part of the movie, sung by the enchanting man with the melodious voice, Nat "King" Cole, who makes a much too brief appearance as the piano man in the club called The Blue Gardenia.

Besides the hypnotic melody, the interplay among the three room mates, Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter), Crystal Carpenter (Ann Sothern), and Sally Ellis (Jeff Donnell), represents the apex of this enjoyable Fritz Lang outing, not as dour as many of his films, wrapped in Sturm und Drang, tended to be. If "The Blue Gardenia" is to be classified at all, it would possibly be labeled lighter Noir.

Of the interplay between the room mates, Ann Sothern as Crystal with her biting wit and mock delivery, is the highlight. On the other hand, both Crystal and Jeff Donnell as Sally are sounding boards (sort of a Greek chorus) for troubled and tormented Anne Baxter as Norah.

In one of his final roles as a heavy, Raymond Burr as Harry Prebble shows the viewer what a versatile actor he could be. As womanizer, woman-hater Harry Prebble, he convincingly conveys to the audience the loathsome qualities of such a creature. Sex is power and domination, an ego enhancer, not pleasurable or loving in any way except to provide sweet loving lies to permit the conquest. Norah Larkin gives in to this sexual predator in a moment of weakness following the receipt of a Dear John letter from her sweetheart overseas. Prebble, true to form, proceeds to get Norah drunk at The Blue Gardenia as a prelude to seduction. In the process of attempting to woo her with words in his apartment, Prebble becomes more forceful when Norah revives long enough to realize Prebble's true intentions. When she awakes in the morning she finds Prebble dead. Norah has only a hazy recollection of a poker being swung and a mirror shattering. All else is blank.

Assigned to the investigation is Police Capt.Sam Haynes (George Reeves of TV "Superman" fame, showing all the earmarks of a great actor before being typecast on television), who seeks to wrap the case up quickly by apprehending the mystery lady who was seen with Prebble at The Blue Gardenia just before his death. A newspaper reporter, Casey Mayo (Richard Conte), sees a chance for a big story that might jump start his career as a journalist. The media begins to tout the mystery lady as the tantalizing "Blue Gardenia."

"The Blue Gardenia" has all the marks of a great murder mystery in the tradition of "Laura," written by the same person, Vera Caspary. But for some reason, lack of money, lack of time, Fritz Lang wraps the entire project up much too soon. The ending is so abrupt that it appears thrown together as if in the middle of a scene the director yells out, "Wrap it up," and leaves the set. Yet, that's the only major flaw in the film. Otherwise, watch and enjoy.
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Nostalgic Melodrama
Lechuguilla31 December 2005
Norah, a young, attractive woman (played by Anne Baxter), gets a letter from her overseas boyfriend, informing her that he has found a new love. At just the moment she realizes she has been rejected, the phone rings. It's a dinner invitation from a womanizer who thinks he is talking to one of Norah's two female roommates. Depressed and vulnerable, Norah impulsively accepts the invitation, on her own behalf. This is the setup for "The Blue Gardenia", set in the early 50s, a film with a good beginning and some really high-powered Hollywood talent.

The screenplay, with its contrived plot, and director Fritz Lang's ambivalent direction render a flawed production. The film's tone, expressed both in the B&W cinematography and in the music, tends to seesaw back and forth between romance and mystery. But, the film can still be enjoyable to viewers looking for a murder-mystery/romance combo that is not overly complex. The easy to follow plot moves along unencumbered by the confusion wrought by multi-layered plot gimmicks so common in today's films.

The film's ending is one for the books. In all the mystery films I have watched, I don't recall a murder investigation being wrapped up so easily as this one. It's way too neat and too tidy to be credible. The film's 88-minute run time leaves a lot of room for additional material. Expansion of the film's final Act could have provided a more realistic and satisfying ending.

I really liked seeing Raymond Burr and Ann Sothern. The film also sports some clever dialogue. With its interesting premise, "The Blue Gardenia", despite a flawed script, will likely appeal to viewers looking for a melodramatic film with a nostalgic setting, wherein the plot is straightforward. Viewers looking for a topnotch script and/or a complex storyline with lots of plot twists and subtlety will need to look elsewhere.
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A strong, crime tinged, imperfect melodrama
secondtake2 June 2010
Blue Gardenia (1953)

The likable Richard Conte makes a great news reporter here, and Anne Baxter as the woman in trouble is pitch perfect. In fact, Baxter's two sidekicks are also right on, Jeff Donnell (a woman, really sharp) and Ann Southern. It's a good story, a little forced, but with lots of atmosphere at the right times (including a scene with the real Nat King Cole playing and singing).

What holds the movie back is a mixture of basic story line, which lacks velocity and credibility equally, and direction, which doesn't heighten what is really strong here. That is, a great cast, and some great situations (including murder). Fritz Lang, the director, is accountable, of course, for some judgements that let things loosen up too much, and for the cute but abrupt ending. There are some characters that got developed in the beginning that don't get a chance to blossom. If we just focus on the two leads (no counting Raymond Burr, who has a brief and different kind of presence), there is a chemistry not quite clicking. Nice, regular guy Conte and slightly sophisticated Baxter don't quite match up, even though both are convincing individually.

There is some talent behind the scenes here worth mention, especially cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca, who has done a whole slew of great small movies with astonishing visuals. Lang uses him well, though with a studied restraint that almost implies this was a throwaway effort. It comes between two of his greatest American movies, however: Clash by Night and The Big Heat. It's worth a look, a good movie not quite a noir by usual measures, but filled with intrigue and a little touch of welcome romance.
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not one of Lang's best, but you could definitely find worse for a matinée thriller
MisterWhiplash30 October 2007
The Blue Gardenia might be the kind of picture that Fritz Lang might make if he were under contract by the Lifetime TV network. This isn't so much an outright put-down as it is a matter of fact, and it goes without saying the mark that Lang puts somewhat at least on every picture. It's a tale of a woman in trouble for doing what seemingly should've been the most logical thing to do- however criminal- under the circumstances. Poor Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter, sweet and scared and sad, and lots of expressions of being provoked), she's just been dumped by her man who's off at war, and so in a moment of frustration she goes for heavy playboy/artist Harry Pebble (Raymond Burr, even with certain bulky charms, is still reminiscent of his classic part in Raw Deal as the villain), who takes her to the club of the film's title. After serenading her with live Nat King Cole, and a bunch of hoity toity rum drinks, he takes her back to his place and tries to have his way with her. She goes foggy after that - next morning, Pebble is dead, and "The Blue Gardenia" is the only suspect.

Maybe it's a harsh conclusion to jump to with saying it's like one of these prototypical melodramas where all of the women have crappy men in their lives and the moment they fight back they're looked on as the sudden threat (or, maybe that's just my impression of those TV movies). But even in the so-called realm of noir, Blue Gardenia doesn't seem to pack the same punch of the many others in the field, despite Lang's attempts to valiantly add some bits of humor (I loved the one woman who was sincerely trying to dupe reporter Mayo with being the Blue Gardenia and then changing her tone when looking at her shoes: "they're 8 1/2, sometimes 8 if I try"). It's predictable to a fault - and I'm not spoiling anything here kids - that she can't be the killer. How it happens isn't so much of a surprise as it's an inevitable conclusion with the nice touch being how Lang directs the actress when she suddenly realizes the jig is up; one is briefly, sharply reminded of the gusto in one of Lang's silent pictures.

But the fact that the Blue Gardenia is about what you'd expect doesn't mean it's not worth watching, especially if you're already getting into Lang's films or want to check out another noir with 'Blue' in the title (sans Chandler unfortunately). I liked Norah's roommates/co-workers, who had little bits of conversation early on that seemed a lot more natural than would normally come out of a melodrama (leaning more towards the sarcastic), and the whole aspect of the song itself, with that old-time melody crooning over as a marker of a crime and the attraction of one to the other in the dead of night. Respectable movie-making, though nowhere near brilliant, fix yourself a drink with a long, poetic description, and enjoy Baxter's descent into existential crisis 101.
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Prelude and Liebestodt
jotix10023 January 2005
Fritz Lang was pressed for time when he undertook to direct this movie. It shows! This film was based on a novel by Vera Caspary, the author of "Laura", but in comparison to her best known work, this story pales next to it. The screenplay by Charles Hoffman doesn't make it better, but it's far from a terrible movie.

If you haven't seen the film, please stop reading here.

First of all, this is not a movie that belongs to the film noir genre. Far from it, it is a movie with a mystery and perhaps some suspense. The only thing that might come close to being a noir is the a couple of sequences filmed during the night, but nothing else matches that category.

First of all, the heroine of the film is an ingenue. How else can we classify Norah, the young telephone operator from a small town near Los Angeles? She is in love with a G.I. that is serving overseas. Norah has received a letter from him, but waits until she is having a celebratory dinner by herself to read it. Well, she learns that she has been dumped. When the phone rings for her roommate, Chrystal, she answers and gets an invitation for dinner at the Blue Gardenia, a trendy eatery where "umbrella drinks" are served. Nat Cole is the entertainer singing a horrible little number that is repeated throughout the picture.

This is the beginning of Norah's downfall. She gets drunk and her date invites her to go to his apartment. Harry Prebble has other ideas of how to spend a relaxed night at home listening to Nat Cole's rendition of the song heard at the restaurant to put Norah into a romantic mood. She passes out, only to be awakened by an insisting Harry. We watch Norah reject his advances, a mirror is broken, and the next thing we know, he's dead.

To make matters worse, Casey Mayo, the local star reporter, takes an interest in the "Blue Gardenia" murder. Norah, who hasn't told anyone about her experience, is having pangs of anxiety. What to do? After all is investigated, everyone realizes Norah couldn't have done the murder herself. It's Mayo who discovers the secret because instead of Nat Cole in the record player, the LP they heard when they get to Harry's apartment is a Wagner opus. This in turn, solves the mystery in pointing to a minor character seen only for maybe a minute of screen time! That was the best example of true sleuthing.

"Blue Gardenia" shows us the young and beautiful Anne Baxter. Her Norah is a naive woman swimming in a sea full of sharks. Ms. Baxter does her best under the circumstances. Richard Conte, as Casey Mayo is sadly miscast in the movie. Sassy Ann Southern doesn't have much to do. Raymond Burr is effective as the lecherous Harry, but unfortunately he doesn't stay around too long.

The movie is a minor Lang.
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While not perfect, this is excellent entertainment
MartinHafer21 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a very simple sort of Noir-like film that director Fritz Lang did so well in the 1940s and 50s. Sadly, since his earlier career in Germany had been so successful, his work in Hollywood is generally seen as the director's decline. This is really a mistake because while these later films aren't earth-shaking like METROPOLIS or M, they are still very entertaining and hold up very well today. Try watching SCARLET STREET, BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT, THE BIG HEAT or THE BLUE GARDENIA and you'll see what I mean--excellent dramas that are well-directed and very entertaining. Why this is seen as his "slow period" of creativity is beyond me.

Anne Baxter plays a nice young lady who is unknowingly caught in the web of a master lecher, Raymond Burr. Because she is upset about her fiancé dumping her, she wants to have a night out and forget about her troubles--all the while Burr is plying her with liquor in order to be able to force himself on her more easily. Essentially, he's a very accomplished date rapist and Baxter is his next victim. However, despite being very drunk, Baxter is able to fight off Burr's rough advances using a fireplace poker.

The next morning, the events of the previous night are a blur to Baxter and she's surprised to learn that Burr is dead. Then, bit by bit, she comes to remember some of the events--as well as whomping Burr with the poker. As a result, she is quite scared and doesn't dare go to the police.

While today many might see the film's central quandary one that is a "non-issue" since she was about to be raped, in the 1950s it is NOT a foregone conclusion that she would have been found innocent in using deadly force to stop the attack. Nowadays, I assume it would have been much easier for her to be exonerated and she probably would have not done so much to try to cover up her actions. Because of this, I felt that Baxter's reaction to the incident wasn't necessarily that hard to believe.

As to what's next, I don't want to say more because there are several twists and turns that make this an interesting drama indeed. So interesting, I almost gave the film an 8.
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The Jilted Woman, a Poker, and The Blue Gardenia
BaronBl00d15 January 2007
Slightly better than average yet engaging mystery/film noir about a telephone operator opening a Dear Jane letter then deciding to go out with a wolf(Raymond Burr of all people) only to return home not knowing what happened and hearing about the wolf's ugly homicide. Anne Baxter plays Nora the lead role as the Blue Gardenia - a name given to the murderess by a famous reporter from the local newspaper. In fact, the script, while maybe not overly imaginative in the conclusion of the film, has some snappy dialog and interesting points. The Blue Gardenia actually means at least four things in the movie: the murderess's newspaper's title, the name of the night club where Burr and Baxter go that fatal evening, a hit" song by Nat King Cole(who sings it in person at the club), and lastly as the flower of the night club sold by a blind woman. The film was directed by Fritz Lang and though effective in many ways - not up to what one might expect from that legendary director. Lang has some marvelous scenes. Two particularly jump out when Nora was at Burr's apartment and then when Baxter starts to feel pressure from all over - over her possible guilt. Lang manages to bring some real angst to these scenes, but more often than not - much of the film seems pedestrian by his standards. Nonetheless, The Blue Gardenia is entertaining. Baxter, Burr, Richard Conte as the newspaperman, George Reeves as a cop, and Ann Sothern all do good jobs acting and bringing their characters some depth. The ending is decidedly weak as some solution to the film's problems comes way too readily and unconvincingly ala deus ex machina.
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Fritz Lang Made a Great Classic
whpratt121 January 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Always enjoy the great talents of Fritz Lang and especially,"M",1931 starring Peter Lorre, which gave Peter the break which launched his career. In this picture Fritz Lang also gave Peter Lorre's wife a small role as (May), Celia Lovsky,(The Blind lady who gave out the Gardenia's), he was married to Celia from 1934 to 1945. Ann Baxter,( Norah Larkin),"The Spoilers",'55, received a 'Dear John' letter from her boyfriend who was a soldier in Korea and decided to go out on a quick date with Raymond Burr,(Harry Prebble),"Tomorrow Never Comes",'78, and woke up the next morning with a big Hang Over and simply forgot everything she did with Harry during the evening and morning. Richard Conte,(Casey Mayo),"Tony Rome",'67, was a reporter for the L.A. Chronicle and decided to help Norah Larkin out of a bad situation and help her remember just what happened on her wild date. Ann Southern,(Crystal Carpenter),"Shadow on the Wall",'50, gave a great supporting role and plenty of laughs as a switchboard operator who worked with Norah and lived in the same apartment, which was shared by three gals. Fritz Lang did have to work on a tight budget in 1953, however, he managed to make this film into an all time Great Classic Film.
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Presumed Guilty
Claudio Carvalho8 January 2007
In Los Angeles, on the day of her birthday, the telephone operator Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter) decides to celebrate dining alone at home, with the picture of his beloved fiancé, a soldier overseas, and reading his last letter for her. In the letter he tells that he met a Japanese nurse and he wanted to get married with her. Norah, completely upset, accepts to blind date the Don Juan and photographer of calendar girls Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr). They go to the Blue Gardenia Club, and Norah drinks six strong cocktails Polynesian Pearl Divers and gets completely drunk. Harry takes her to his apartment and tries to force Norah to have sex, and she uses a poker to hit Harry on the head. On the next morning, she wakes-up in her apartment with her two roommates, but she can not remember what happened. When she reads the newspaper, she finds that Harry is dead and the police has her handkerchief, her high heels and her blue gardenia and is chasing the woman that killed the famous wolf Harry. When she reads in the newspaper that the journalist Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) is offering his support, exchanging per an exclusive interview, Norah decides to call him.

"The Blue Gardenia" is a very simple story, but credible based on the behavior of the women of the 50's. Anne Baxter, a couple of years after "All About Eve", has another great performance in the role of a desperate woman that is not sure that is innocent and is completely lost, needing a friend to help her. The cinematography is excellent, and in addition the viewer has a chance to see Nat King Cole singing "Blue Gardenia", certainly a plus in this good movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "A Gardênia Azul" ("The Blue Gardenia")
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Blue gardenia, now I'm alone with you...
Cristianos26 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Based on a short story written by Vera Caspary (who also wrote "Laura", which was adapted into a highly acclaimed film noir by Otto Preminger), this film-noir flavored melodrama tells the story of Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter), who works as a switchboard operator, lives in a Los Angeles apartment with her roommates, Crystal Carpenter (Ann Sothern) and Sally Ellis (Jeff Donnell). On her birthday, after her friends have gone out, Norah celebrates herself with a candlelight dinner beside the picture of his beloved fiancée, a soldier serving in the Korean War. She finally reads the awaited letter only to discover he is engaged with a Japanese nurse. Emotionally distraught, Norah accepts a blind date with Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr) over the phone at the Blue Gardenia restaurant. There, Norah consumes six strong Polynesian Pearl Divers cocktails becoming terribly drunk when she arrives at Harry's studio apartment. After Harry attempts to sedate her with coffee, he makes a sexual advance on her, and is knocked unconscious when Norah strikes him with a fire iron in self-defense and flees.

The next morning, she suffers a blackout, as well as discovers Harry is dead. Naming the murder case "The Blue Gardenia Murderess" by newspaper columnist Casey Mayo (Richard Conte), Norah tries to remember the details of her ill-fated night, and must team up with newspaper man to help solve the mystery.

The cast is remarkably well in their parts. Anne Baxter puts on a convincing emotionally afflicted and vulnerable performance, and holds my attention throughout the picture. Raymond Burr (well-known for playing Perry Mason) with his size, height, and strength, leads to the fact that he is physically powerful over the women he attempts to womanize. Playing the hard-boiled detective character, Richard Conte adds a bit of romance to the gloomy story. Relegated into supporting stock character territory, Ann Sothern almost overcomes it with snappy wisecracks, and being a more straightforward, matured woman opposite to Jeff Donnell's Sally Ellis who loves pulp fiction and quite quirky. Although for a cameo, Nat King Cole sings the haunting title song with his absorbing soft baritone voice.

Establishing the noir atmosphere, the picture is helped by some intriguing touches by cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca. Examples of this is the ominous rain drops on the apartment window at the time of the murder, the breaking of the mirror glass when Norah strikes Harry, and the fog firmly establish the characters' troubled state of mind. Other examples are full close-up shots in times of accusation and figures emerging from the mysterious dark at the wrong time help create suspension. This is without mention the use of low-key neon lights, deep focus photography, and deep shadows especially in the scene with Mayo invites Norah over to his newspaper office.

However, it falls short with the story and its styles. The film starts out light-hearted and promising, though it falls into a weak ending with an arbitrary plot twist you may not see coming. The movie ends too quick with it, and doesn't develop it any further than a personal confession leaving the ending contrived and slightly rushed. In addition to this, the story of an unconscious bystander who is framed in a murder has become quite clichéd since the film's initial release, and this picture follows the usual by-the-number plot points.

The theme of newspaper sensationalism, which this movie is critiquing, is explored quite well within the time frame of the movie and director Fritz Lang followed upon on it in "While the City Sleeps" and "Beyond a Reasonable Doubt" (both released three years later) making this film an installment of a "newspaper noir" trilogy. Given this film is set in the 1950s, there's a bit of a McCarthyism aspect in this film with Norah serving as the suspected Communist with the police on their trail by the day definitely creates a sense of a paranoia, melancholy atmosphere.

In the end, this is an enjoyable solid murder mystery with well-rounded performances to boot along with Lang's direction and Musuraca's cinematography making up for a slightly flawed script.
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Trapped In A Nightmare
seymourblack-112 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"The Blue Gardenia" is a low budget thriller in which two young women (who are both named after flowers), two letters and two rather slimy bachelors, all have a significant impact on what transpires. At the centre of the story is a young woman who, as a result of making an unwise decision at a particularly vulnerable time, finds herself propelled into a nightmare. Unfortunately, the only avenue of escape open to her is very risky and requires her to put her trust in someone of whom she's uncertain.

Based on a short story by Vera Caspary (who also wrote "Laura", which was made into a successful movie by Otto Preminger), this melodrama about the events surrounding a murder, soon develops from its light-hearted beginning into something far darker and more tense.

Norah Larkin (Ann Baxter) is a telephone operator who shares an L.A. apartment with two of her friends from work. On her birthday, after the wisecracking Crystal Carpenter (Ann Southern) and the pulp-fiction loving Sally Ellis (Jeff Donell) have gone out, Norah spends the evening alone with a glass of champagne and a letter from her boyfriend who's a soldier in Korea. Shortly after reading the letter that informs her that she's been dumped, the telephone rings and Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr), under the misapprehension that she's Crystal, asks her out for dinner. In her confused and emotional state, Norah decides to accept the invitation and meets Harry at "The Blue Gardenia" nightclub.

Harry's a predatory womaniser who gets Norah drunk on cocktails and takes her home to his apartment where he tries to force himself on her. In her panic, Norah grabs a poker and swings it over her head before hitting Harry as hard as she can. Next morning, when she wakes up, she can't remember what happened on the previous night. A little later, when she learns that Harry's been murdered, she becomes convinced that she's killed him and that some items (a lacy hanky, a blue gardenia and a pair of shoes) that she left behind at his apartment will quickly make her the prime suspect.

Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) is a high profile newspaper columnist who takes an interest in the case and publishes an open letter entitled "Letter To An Unknown Murderess". In his letter, he invites the murderess (who he calls "The Blue Gardenia") to give his newspaper her exclusive story in return for top class legal representation which the newspaper will arrange. Norah, who is living in a constant state of fear, recognises that this seems to offer the best way forward but is also anxious about whether the columnist's offer is sincere or whether it's simply a ploy to get a sensational story for his newspaper.

A clue to the mystery about what happened on the night of Harry's murder is given early on in the film but this, in no way, detracts from the absorbing nature of the story or the enjoyment which is further enhanced by the inclusion of Nat "King" Cole's performance of the title song and Nicholas Musuraca's marvellous cinematography. The scene in which Norah goes to Casey Mayo's office late at night is a real high point with its use of deep shadows, deep focus and neon lights etc. Interestingly, this was the first of three movies that Fritz Lang made relating to newspapers (the others being "While The City Sleeps" and "Beyond A Reasonable Doubt").
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Stay away from those Polynesian Pearl Divers
blanche-230 August 2006
Anne Baxter is a young woman caught in a nightmare in "The Blue Gardenia," a 1953 film directed by Fritz Lang and also starring Ann Sothern, Raymond Burr, Richard Conte, George Reeves and Jane Connell. After being rejected by her soldier boyfriend, Baxter takes a phone call meant for roommate Sothern and meets ladies' man Raymond Burr for a date. She gets drunk on Polynesian Pearl Divers, has a blackout, and learns the next day that Burr has been murdered. Slowly it starts coming back to her.

This seems to have been a B movie - for some reason, Fritz Lang was relegated to Bs just before he left America. It's not up to Lang's standards either. The casting is questionable. You have to know something's amiss when Raymond Burr is cast as a Casanova. Baxter is lovely as the mixed up Norah, but she's no match for Ann Sothern's witty, knowing performance as her roommate. Sothern was one of the most delightful actresses in film and in television. Conte is okay as the reporter, but he really doesn't have much to do, and the role doesn't call on the biting toughness he often brought to roles. As the police detective, George Reeves doesn't make much of an impression - and just think, he's now being played by Ben Affleck in a movie about his mysterious death. Character actress Jeff Donnell, who became familiar to audiences on "General Hospital," is Sothern's and Baxter's roommate.

"The Blue Gardenia" is a nightclub, and the theme song is sung by none other than Nat King Cole. One of the themes from "Tristan and Isolde," very popular in films in the '40s and '50s, is present here as well.

Alas, "The Blue Gardenia" doesn't register as a noir nor as a particularly interesting B.
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Don't Get Your Blue Film Noirs Mixed Up
wrbtu17 July 2003
"The Blue Dahlia," with Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, & William Bendix, was a much superior film to this one. Other reviewers have already made accurate comments about this film, but I'd like to add a couple of things. Firstly, this really isn't a "Film Noir," as stated by some (including the marketing on the Kino Video VHS box, which states "NOIR" in large letters). The stark photography is absent, except for one scene in which Anne Baxter goes to meet Richard Conte in his office late at night. The biting dialog is absent, except for Ann Sothern's character. The leading character, Baxter, is in no way an "anti-heroine," she's a Good Girl through & through. Almost everything about this film is bland. Ann Sothern (in her "Ann Sothern Show" heyday) is in her prime, & she's the best part of this movie. George Reeves (in his "Superman" heyday) is trying to look somewhat sinister with a mustache, but is too soft-spoken & laid back to be effective. Richard Conte, usually a tough actor, is miscast as a reporter. Reeves' & Conte's roles should have been reversed. Baxter is good, as always, but there's too little for her to sink her teeth into. Baxter's & Sothern's roles should have been reversed as well, but who am I to buck the "star system?" Raymond Burr, who's pretty good here, is also out of character as a ladies man (a 300+ pound ladies man, not likely!). Even the great Nat King Cole sings one of his blandest songs, for which I'm still trying to find the melody ("Mona Lisa" it isn't). The "Blue Gardenia," by the way, is the name of a night club. If you're looking for a real good blue film noir, watch "The Blue Dahlia" instead.
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A Letter to an Unknown Murderess.
Spikeopath8 March 2016
The Blue Gardenia is directed by Fritz Lang and adapted to screenplay by Charles Hoffman from the short story "Gardenia" written by Vera Caspary. It stars Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Sothern, Raymond Burr and George Reeves. Music is by Raoul Kraushaar and cinematography by Nicholas Musuraca.

Norah Larkin (Baxter), after receiving some horrible news, ends up drunk and at the mercy of a Lothario in his apartment. The next morning she wakes up with the distinct feeling she may have committed murder.

More solid than anything spectacular, this minor Lang is never less than interesting. The Blue Gardenia of the title is a nightclub, one where Nat King Cole no less, sings the title song. However, it's the local newspaper that is the key element of the story, the place of work of ace journalist Casey Mayo (Conte), who gets in deep with the story and of course that means Norah as well.

There's some sparky dialogue as the story ticks away, with Sothern (sadly underused) wonderfully waspish, the murder mystery element remains strong enough, while there's dark at work as well (Burr is effectively on a mission to date rape). However, the pairing of Lang and Musuraca should be a dream team, but although there's the odd flash of noir visualisations during night sequences, you can't help but lament more wasn't provided for Musuraca to weave his magic.

A good show from the cast helps ease the pain of the script's inadequacies, especially as regards the not very clever final revelations. So all in all, it's more a case of a mystery melodrama with noir touches than anything thrilling, and really it's one for Lang fans to tick off their to see lists, not to be visited again. 6.5/10
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thrashneon19 May 2010
At first, I thought I was watching a forgotten pilot for a TV series -- "3 Single Dames"?...

.. then I thought I was watching an extended Chesterfield cigarette commercial. Holy smokes, talk about yer product placement!

But, in the end, I enjoyed it because I'll watch and enjoy anything with Ann Sothern in it (even if she's just relegated to doing her Maisie thing in a supporting role).

And man, that Prebble guy sure could hold his booze- matched her drink for drink, drove them home, *and* stayed sober! lol. Seems his objective wasn't seduction (she was already pretty much unconscious. Did he really think that shot in her coffee was required?)-- I think he was actually trying' to kill her with alcohol poisoning.
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I've got more numbers then the phone company
sol121813 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
**SPOILERS** Not one of the most popular of director Fritz Lang's works still the movie "The Blue Gardenia" does pack a wallop with it's out of the blue surprise ending and also has in it's cast, the only movie that they made together, both TV's Superman and Perry Mason: George Reeves and Raymond Burr.

A smooth and cunning operator when it comes to the ladies commercial artist Harry Prebble, Raymond Burr, has both been two-timing his fiancée Rose Miller, Ruth Storey, and playing the filed in trying to get wise cracking telephone operator Crystal Carpenter, Anne Sothern, into his bachelor pad, and later the sack, for an evening of fun and games. Harry finally gets Anne's phone number, second hand, and give her a call trying to make a date with her. What Harry doesn't know is that Anne shares her apartment with two other phone operators Norah Larkin, Anne Baxter, and Sally Ellis, Jeff Donnell.

Calling Anne at her place Harry instead gets a very distraught, her boyfriend in he US Army had just sent her a dear Jane letter, Norah who, with Harry thinking that she's Anne, agrees to go out with him for the evening at the "Blue Gardenia" nightclub. Not caring whom he's with, Anne or Norah or any other attractive young woman, Harry get Norah smashed on about a half dozen, enough to get a non-drunken sailor tipsy, Polynesian Pearl Divers and takes the barley able to stand on her feet Nora back to his pad for some wild and heavy action. It turns out that Harry got a lot more then he expected with the smashed Norah fighting off his, the guy is as big as one, grizzly bear-like advances with Harry ending up dead with his head being smashed in with a fireplace poker.

It's then that the film gets a bit confusing in that Norah, who doesn't remember a thing that happened, tries to cover up Harry's murder by unknowingly implicating herself in it. With a blue gardenia, given to Norah at the nightclub, found at the murder site it's dubbed by newspaper columnist Casey Mayo, Richard Conte, "The Blue Gardenia Murder Case". Working both on his own and with the top cop on the case Captain Sam Haynes, George Reeves, Mayo tries to play both ends against the middle. Mayo publicly tries to get Harry's killer, Norah Larkin, to turn herself into him, and get her exclusive story, and at the same time has Capt. Haynes, just by reading Mayo's columns, get the drop on Norah by having spies planted wherever Mayo goes knowing that he'll eventually run into her.

As you would expect the not too on the ball Mayo does get Norah to bite at his carrot and stick act, by providing her with the best defense lawyer that his newspaper can buy, who meets him in this bar where, without Mayo's knowledge, Capt. Haynes and his task force are waiting for her. The ending is a real blow-out that will have you rewinding your VCR or DVD player to find out what really happened to the late Harry Prebble during the time that Norah was, by being almost dead drunk, completely out of it.

Also in the cast beside the real life Mrs. Richard Conte, Ruth Storey, there's actor Robert Shayne as the police doctor or pathologist. Shayne later, in fact that very same year 1953, not only was to star in that unforgettable Ed Wood-like bad movie classic "The Neanderthal Man" but was also in the cast of the very popular TV show "The Adventures of Superman", with George Reeves playing "The Man of Steele", as police inspector Bill Henderson. And last but not least there's also in the movie Nat "King" Cole playing himself as the "Blue Gardenia's" pianist singing the films title song that just happens to be, not all that surprisingly, "Blue Gardenia".
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A great Film Noir
byron f. ware20 January 2005
The Blue Gardenia 1953. Probably one the greatest Film noir's of the 1950's. This movie features some of the best stars of old and new. Ann Baxter Oscar winning actress portrays a woman worried about her encounter with a man taking advantage of the situation. Set in Los Angeles. This story reminds me of Dragnet. The writing and screenplay is very good. The song The Blue Gardenia sung by Nat King Cole is beautiful and is played repeatedly during the film. Film stars Raymond Burr really sets the stage of the film noir. Ann Sothern guest stars. Her role in the film is very small. As to the role of Raymond Burr. I had just wished they used more of the cast in the film better to tell the story
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Big Screen TV
Jacob Rosen10 February 2003
A minor film noir from Fritz Lang, done in by Charles Hoffman's weak screenplay. Pert and annoying Anne Baxter gets drunk and passes out in womanizer Raymond Burr's apartment only to find the next day he's been murdered. Unable to reconstruct the previous evening's events, she begins to believe she's the killer and enlists hardboiled columnist Richard Conte for help. There's barely an ounce of suspense and the ending, while reasonably predictable, seems arbitrary and slapdash with the main clue revealed to the audience only at the end. The whole thing seems like a television show brought to the big screen (there's a reference to watching too many TV shows) with Nicholas Musuraca's flat cinematography and Daniel Hall's `Honeymooners'-style art direction being the film's signature. There's little evidence of the director who created `M' and `Metropolis' here, except in the snatches of Wagner that occasionally infiltrate the soundtrack. With Ann Southern as the wisecracking sidekick usually played by Joan Blondell. Nat King Cole makes an appearance crooning the title song but that's hardly a reason to recommend it.
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Weak, very weak.
Ham_and_Egger1 October 2005
It's hard to believe Fritz Lang went directly from this obnoxious little waste of time to a masterpiece like The Big Heat, but those are the facts. It would be stretch to call The Blue Gardenia film noir, it's really just a melodramatic morality play indicative of a desperate fear that somewhere there were men and women who might not be settling down together in tract housing.

The Blue Gardenia starts out as a 'slice of life' picture. Three single blondes living together in Los Angeles and working for the phone company. They're under attack by predatory men, like wolfish painter Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr) and smooth operator newspaper columnist Casey Mayo (Richard Conte). Murder ensues, followed by a tepid investigation.

If it sounds like riveting cinema so far, let me point out the poorly defined characters, unlikeable actors, miserably contrived love story, and modicum of suspense that is totally shot to pieces by a deus ex machina ending. Not recommended.
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Low-budget Fritz Lang thriller lacks credibility...
Neil Doyle9 July 2003
Just one of the disappointing aspects of this low-budget thriller is the fact that the revelation of the killer comes out of nowhere with a character that isn't even established during the story. What is supposed to be an effective trick ending doesn't come across as playing fair with the audience.

All the performances are competent--no more--including Anne Baxter as the lonely woman who allows herself to be seduced (almost) by Raymond Burr as a fast-talking playboy. Ann Sothern has virtually nothing of any consequence to do and is clearly wasted here. Even Richard Conte has a role that is poorly defined so that his scenes with Baxter lack conviction. What could have been a good film noir, is messed up by a weak script and casual performances.

Very much of a letdown for anyone expecting something rare and wonderful from Fritz Lang--the man who gave us "Scarlet Street" and "The Woman in the Window", among many fine film noirs. There is no atmospheric photography or settings for this kind of story. The whole thing comes across as something to be watched in a one hour TV presentation from the '50s.
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Fritz Lang, Anne Baxter, a fireplace poker and a blue a cost-of-living lesson
Terrell-413 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia is not just a minor noir, it's a minor film. The story is so simple and linear, and the final revelation so ordinary, that it's difficult to get much involved. Except...and that's because Lang has put together the movie so professionally and with such craftsman-like assurance that it's difficult not to stick with it. The Blue Gardenia keeps moving and we keep watching.

Norah Larkin (Ann Baxter) is a telephone switchboard operator at West-Coast Telephone Company in Los Angeles. She rooms with her two best friends, also operators. There's Crystal Carpenter (Ann Southern), a wisecracking, sympathetic lady who always has a cigarette in her mouth, and Sally Ellis (Jeff Donnell), a friendly, mystery-reading young woman who could use a date now and then. Norah's fiancée, a man she loves dearly and to whom she is faithful, is a soldier in Korea. On her birthday she opens a letter from him, a letter she has been saving for a special moment. Turns out it's a "Dear Norah" letter and he tells her he's decided to marry someone else. Norah's world crashes around her. When successful painter of calendar girls and major lecher Harry Prebble calls (he had discovered Crystal's number), Norah impulsively pretends to be Crystal and accepts Harry's invitation to dinner. All she has to do is take a taxi to The Blue Gardenia.

When she arrives, Harry already has things well in hand. "Chinese peas," he tells the waiter before she arrives, "fried rice and Lobster Cantonese. Well, that's the dinner. The drinks...Polynesian Pearldivers...and don't spare the rum." While Norah is grateful not to be alone, Harry keeps ordering those Pearldivers and Nat Cole at the piano croons... "Blue I'm alone with you and I am also blue... she has tossed us aside. And like you, blue gardenia, once I was near her heart... bloomed like a flower... then the petals fell... Blue gardenia...thrown to a passing breeze... but pressed in my book of memories..."

Soon Norah is considerably more than tipsy and she's at Harry's apartment. He puts on a record of "Blue Gardenia," turns down the lights and starts getting way too physical. Norah is so woozy she can hardly see, but she finds a fireplace poker in her hand, swings and shatters a big mirror. She swings again, hits Harry and passes out. When she comes to she runs from Harry's apartment, makes her way home in the rain and can't remember much except the dinner. Then the newspaper headlines scream that Harry Prebble has been murdered. Hot on the case are the cops and Casey Mayo (Richard Conte), ace reporter on the Los Angeles Chronicle, "the peoples' favorite columnist." He's determined to find the woman who killed Prebble before the police do. Among the clues, a crushed blue gardenia at Harry's place, bought for the mysterious woman by Harry at The Blue Gardenia. Said the elderly, blind flower seller when she came to Prebble's table, "Good evening, sir. Would you like a blue gardenia for the lady? It's a specialty of the house. Aren't they pretty...?"

Will Norah be caught? Will Casey find love? Will Crystal make wry observations? Will the real killer turn out to be interesting, unexpected, startling? Well, no the last question.

This is Anne Baxter's movie. For me, that's more a drawback than an advantage. She was 29 when she made The Blue Gardenia but seems older. Baxter too often carried around with her an aura of well-bred graciousness. She spoke (and acted) with a carefully modulated voice. In The Blue Gardenia she gives the impression of one of those wealthy young matrons who live in the most exclusive of neighborhoods, not a young telephone operator with limited experience, natural warmth and real vulnerability. Baxter's great weakness as an actress, in my opinion, was too often appearing so earnest that the acting could be detected. This made her perfect as Eve Harrington in All About Eve. When she could tone it down, she could be most appealing, as in Yellow Sky.

In addition to the pleasure of Fritz Lang's craftsmanship, Richard Conte was an intriguing actor, Ann Southern is a joy even if she's playing an Ann Southern character; Richard Erdman as Casey Mayo's photographer adds his fine ability to read a line and be both likable and wry; Jeff Donnell, now forgotten, always made an appealing best friend in so many movies; and Raymond Burr, considerably slimmer than in his Perry Mason years, makes a memorable and sleazy Harry Prebble.

We even learn a little about the cost of living in Los Angeles in the early Fifties. Casey has met Norah in a diner. She wants to trust his offer of help, but she knows he's a newspaperman. Casey isn't quite sure if Norah is the Blue Gardenia murderer. They eat and they talk, but then it's time to leave. "How much do I owe you," Casey asks the counterman.

We listen enviously to the reply. "Two hamburgers and five coffees...three for you and two for the lady. That's $1.40, Mr. Mayo."
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Studio-bound plodder with no surprises, but a nice turn by Burr.
BOUF6 November 2011
This film was merely distributed by Warner Bros. One feels that had it been produced in-house, 15 years earlier, it would have been a snappy 65 minute number and all the better for it. The movie opens with some wide, exterior shots of Los Angeles traffic, and doesn't get a lot more interesting, except for a nice turn by Raymond Burr as a Lothario. The rest is a predictable, leisurely TV-type 'thriller' with Anne Baxter at her most simpering, waking up beside the dead body of a man she got drunk with. Ann Sothern tries to inject some fun, (fun wasn't Lang's strong suit) as does Jeff Donnel, while Richard Conte looks almost bored. (He's a curious actor, his eyes seem to betray a kind of constant sadness and anxiety, while here, he's at pains [!] to appear cool). The storytelling is adequate and there are a couple of excitingly edited moments, during a struggle, but Mr Lang did so much better in some of his other films. Who knows what pressure he was under to make this into bland entertainment, but bland it is.
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