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Cheryl Draper (Barbara Stanwyck) sees a murder through her bedroom window, but no one will believe her. She is stalked by the suave killer ('George Sanders'), who first takes steps to convince police she is crazy, but she has ally in a sympathetic policeman (Gary Merrill). Written by
"Witness to Murder" is a small but interesting film starring Barbara Stanwyck, George Sanders, and Gary Merrill. By 1954, Stanwyck was 47 and no longer considered leading lady material. However, because she was such a great star and actress, she could still get good roles in big films, "Titanic" and "Executive Suite" being two that leap to mind. She could also, like Loretta Young, get stuck in B movies like this one and "Jeopardy." "Witness to Murder" isn't so much a B movie as it is closer to what one was seeing on television by 1954. And it's not a B cast.
Stanwyck plays a career woman, Cheryl, of a certain age who sees a woman murdered in the apartment across from hers. The apartment belongs to an author, Albert Richter, who emigrated to America after the war. Cheryl reports the murder but no one believes her. Richter is too smooth and always one step ahead of her with the police. Cheryl is considered an hysterical single woman who has delusions because she isn't married and probably going through menopause, though this isn't out and out stated. Completely outrageous and no doubt what actually went on at the time. These assumptions were just taken for granted in the '50s. There was something really wrong with a woman who never married. Read LOSER. A woman's goal in life was marriage; the career was just a stopgap until the ring was on the finger. What must it have been like for an intelligent woman to have that mantle put on her. In this film, the police detective (Gary Merrill) is interested enough in her to at least follow the case.
All of the acting is very good, with Stanwyck really shining as someone determined to get the truth out, even if she has to do a little detective work herself. Sanders is very effective as the villainous Richter, and he's pretty scary at the end of the film. The last 15 minutes or so are exciting and will have you on the edge of your seat.
This is actually a fairly derivative film bolstered by its stars. And you can't beat the opportunity to see the attitudes toward women played out in a realistic manner. Alas, there are still touches of it today.
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