7.5/10
6,701
98 user 39 critic

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

A man is reunited with his childhood friend and her husband, who believe he knows the truth about the death of her rich aunt years earlier.

Director:

Lewis Milestone

Writers:

Robert Rossen (screenplay), John Patrick (from an original story by) (as Jack Patrick)
Reviews

Watch Now

With Prime Video

WATCH NOW
ON DISC
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 1 nomination. See more awards »

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Through a fluke circumstance a ruthless woman stumbles across a suitcase filled with $60,000, and she is determined to hold onto it even if it means murder.

Director: Byron Haskin
Stars: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

While on the telephone, an invalid woman overhears what she thinks is a murder plot and attempts to prevent it.

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards
Certificate: Passed Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A soldier runs away rather than receive the Medal of Honor, so his buddy gets permission to investigate, and love and death soon follow.

Director: John Cromwell
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lizabeth Scott, Morris Carnovsky
Pitfall (1948)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Married insurance adjuster John Forbes falls for femme fatale Mona Stevens while her boyfriend is in jail and all suffer serious consequences as a result.

Director: André De Toth
Stars: Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt
Detour (1945)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Chance events trap hitch-hiker Al Roberts in a tightening net of film noir trouble.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Stars: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake
Meet John Doe (1941)
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A man needing money agrees to impersonate a nonexistent person who said he'd be committing suicide as a protest, and a political movement begins.

Director: Frank Capra
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Edward Arnold
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

When a man in mid-life crisis befriends a young woman, her venal fiancé persuades her to con him out of the fortune they mistakenly assume he possesses.

Director: Fritz Lang
Stars: Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea
D.O.A. (1949)
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Frank Bigelow, told he's been poisoned and has only a few days to live, tries to find out who killed him and why.

Director: Rudolph Maté
Stars: Edmond O'Brien, Pamela Britton, Luther Adler
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Frank Johnson flees police after becoming an eyewitness to murder. He is pursued around scenic San Francisco by his wife, a reporter, the police, and... the real murderer.

Director: Norman Foster
Stars: Ann Sheridan, Dennis O'Keefe, Robert Keith
Ball of Fire (1941)
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A group of professors working on a new encyclopedia encounter a mouthy nightclub singer who is wanted by the police to help bring down her mob boss lover.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Gary Cooper, Barbara Stanwyck, Oskar Homolka
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

On one day in the 21st Precinct squad room, assorted characters form a backdrop for the troubles of hard-nosed Detective Jim McLeod.

Director: William Wyler
Stars: Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix
Kiss of Death (1947)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

With his law-breaking lifestyle in the past, an ex-con, along with his family, attempt to start a new life, knowing a betrayed someone from the past is bound to see otherwise.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Coleen Gray
Edit

Cast

Complete credited cast:
Barbara Stanwyck ... Martha Ivers
Van Heflin ... Sam Masterson
Lizabeth Scott ... Toni Marachek
Kirk Douglas ... Walter O'Neil
Judith Anderson ... Mrs. Ivers
Roman Bohnen ... Mr. O'Neil
Darryl Hickman ... Sam - As a Child
Janis Wilson ... Martha - As a Child
Ann Doran ... Bobbi St. John
Frank Orth ... Hotel Clerk
James Flavin ... Detective #1
Mickey Kuhn ... Walter - As a Child
Charles D. Brown Charles D. Brown ... McCarthy
Edit

Storyline

In 1928, young heiress Martha Ivers fails to run off with friend Sam Masterson, and is involved in fatal events. Years later, Sam returns to find Martha the power behind Iverstown and married to "good boy" Walter O'Neil, now district attorney. At first, Sam is more interested in displaced blonde Toni Marachek than in his boyhood friends, but they draw him into a convoluted web of plotting and cross-purposes. Written by Rod Crawford <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Whisper HER NAME See more »


Certificate:

Unrated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

13 September 1946 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Love Lies Bleeding See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hal Wallis Productions See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

"The Hedda Hopper Show - This Is Hollywood" broadcast a 30 minute radio adaptation of the movie on April 12, 1947 with Van Heflin reprising his film role. See more »

Goofs

When Sam first meets Toni, she is holding a fairly new, lit cigarette, and then 2 seconds later, is not holding one, and asks for one. See more »

Quotes

Martha Ivers: It would have been so different if you hadn't run away. It would have been you instead of Walter. Or if you had stopped me. When I lifted the cane, why didn't you stop me? You know how much I hated her! Why didn't you stop me?
Sam Masterson: I wasn't there, Martha.
Martha Ivers: And then I stood there after it was over...
[realizes]
Martha Ivers: You... you weren't there?
Sam Masterson: No, Martha. I wasn't there. I left when your aunt came into the hallway. I didn't want to stick around. I was in enough trouble as it was. I never saw what happened. I ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening credits prologue: IVERSTOWN 1928. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Kirk Douglas: Video Scrapbook (1994) See more »

Soundtracks

Strange Love
(uncredited)
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Lyrics by Edward Heyman
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

 
"It's what people want, and how hard they want it, and how hard it is for them to get it."
25 September 2006 | by imogensara_smithSee all my reviews

"Don't look back, baby," says a man who knows his Gideon Bible, "You know what happened to Lot's wife." But her fate is mild compared to the torments of two people—and a third they draw into their web—who can never stop looking back to something that happened when they were children. What connects this melodrama with noir films like the perfectly named OUT OF THE PAST, THE KILLERS (in which the hero explains that he is doomed because, "I did something wrong, once"), and many others is the theme that one mistake, one "reckless moment," can seal your fate forever.

The three children are Sam Masterson, a streetwise kid from the wrong side of the tracks; Walter O'Neil, a timid, obedient boy whose father is ambitious for him; and Martha Ivers, the orphaned heiress to a steel mill, who lives miserably with her aunt (Judith Anderson, in Mrs. Danvers mode). On the fateful night, all three are in the house when Martha, driven over the edge (her aunt both insults her dead father, a mill hand, and beats her kitten!) whacks her aunt with her own cane and sends her tumbling to her death at the foot of a grand staircase. Walter's father sees his chance, and holding the threat of exposure over Martha's head, takes control of her fortune and later forces her to marry Walter. When, eighteen years later, Sam (who ran away night of the killing on a circus train) blows back into town, Martha and Walter fear he has returned to blackmail them with his knowledge; Walter also fears, rightly, that Martha and Sam still carry a torch for each other. The highly-charged triangle becomes a quadrangle with the addition of Toni Marachek, a young woman just out of jail whom Sam picks up and befriends.

THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS is a conventional studio product, lacking the expressive camera-work or atmospheric settings that noir usually offers. Bombastic music deafens each emotional climax; women go to sleep with their glossy masks of makeup intact; obvious back-projection and poorly staged action sequences make the film look like a staged play. None of this really diminishes the movie, however, since its power comes from a smart script, especially from the complexity of characters and relationships. There is a strong affinity between Sam and Martha, both tough and poised and hard to read, while Toni and Walter are more vulnerable and obvious, driven by the simple motivation of love. But by the end it's clear that Martha and Walter have become twins, warped by their shared guilt (they both took part in prosecuting an innocent man who was hanged for the murder), while Sam and Toni share a fundamental decency and the capacity to look ahead to a fresh start.

Nice girl Toni is there to provide eye candy and a potential happy ending for Sam, but she gets a lot of screen time, too much in fact for her one-note character. Fans of Lizabeth Scott won't agree, but unless you find her particularly alluring, her scenes get a little tedious. Van Heflin is easy-going as Sam, the self-confident gambler who thinks he's seen it all, until he encounters Martha and Walter's toxic marriage. Heflin, though rather homely, brings a likable raffishness to the part, and his casual opportunism keeps you guessing about what he'll do next.

Kirk Douglas was never cast as such a weakling again (this was his debut film) but the mismatch works brilliantly. His intensity and powerful presence make his abject character fiercely compelling, instead of merely pathetic. A less imposing actor would come off as just a milquetoast; Douglas's manliness adds an interesting touch of perversity to his plight. His weakness is inside. Douglas captures perfectly Walter's insecurity and helpless jealousy, his cowardly use of his power (through Martha's influence, he has become District Attorney), his lame attempts to project confidence, his dependence on alcohol to salve his humiliation. He's not dumb; he knows that Martha would never have married him without the threat of exposure, but he clings to his feeble hold on her because he loves her desperately. You can't help feeling sorry for him, especially when Martha accuses him and his father of coming after her money like leeches, and he cries out, "All I wanted was you!"

Then there's Martha, the mysterious center of the film. Barbara Stanwyck has an amazing ability to draw the audience to her side and at the same time make one's blood run cold. She's in her prime here as a glamorous businesswoman (with steely satisfaction she shows off the improvements she made to the factory, "all by myself") who conveys total control, yet feels trapped in a life she loathes. Her hardness is at once glorious and chilling; she controls her husband like a cruel hypnotist. When she breaks down in tears and tells Sam that she has been the victim all along, powerless and frightened, like Sam you're moved but not quite sure you believe her. Even at the end, the ambiguity is unresolved: how much is Martha the victim, how much the villain? Walter says it's no one's fault; it's just the way things are; it's what people will do to get the things they want. The scenes between Martha and Walter are the highlight of the film, saturated with a poisonous mixture of love and hate, tinged with sado-masochism ("Even pain at your hands…" Walter sighs when she puts iodine on his cut hand). This pact with desire, fear, greed and guilt is the spectacle of ruin--the Sodom and Gomorrah--that prompts Sam to warn Toni, "Don't look back, baby; don't ever look back."


61 of 63 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 98 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed