31 user 11 critic

Shadow on the Wall (1950)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | 19 May 1950 (USA)
A woman kills her beautiful sister in a rage after finding out she has an affair with her fiancé, and later plans on killing the little girl who may have witnessed the murder.


Pat Jackson


Lawrence P. Bachmann (story "Death in the Doll's House"), Hannah Lees (story "Death in the Doll's House") | 1 more credit »




Complete credited cast:
Ann Sothern ... Dell Faring
Zachary Scott ... David I. Starrling
Gigi Perreau ... Susan Starrling
Nancy Reagan ... Dr. Caroline Canford (as Nancy Davis)
Kristine Miller ... Celia Starrling
John McIntire ... Pike Ludwell
Tom Helmore ... Crane Weymouth
Helen Brown Helen Brown ... Miss Burke
Barbara Billingsley ... Olga
Marcia Van Dyke ... Secretary
Anthony Sydes Anthony Sydes ... Bobby
Jimmy Hunt ... Boy


Angered that her sister Celia has stolen her fiance, Dell Faring kills her and allows Celia's husband David, knocked out in an argument with Celia, to take the blame and end up on death row. Later Dell, finding out that David's young daughter Susan was witness to the crime and is undergoing psychiatric treatment, plans to eliminate her before her memory returns. Written by Doug Sederberg <vornoff@sonic.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Some Women Will Stop At Nothing!


Approved | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


An article on the front page of the January 15, 1945 edition of The Hollywood Reporter announced that Margaret O'Brien was to star in this film, with Roy Rowland directing. However, it is apparent that this project was shelved for over four years. See more »


When Dell frantically flips through the front section of a newspaper looking for an article about the possible demise of her step-niece, the prop newspaper clearly has no name banner, headlines, photos or ads. See more »


Susan Starrling: Miss me?
David I. Starrling: Every minute. You miss me?
Susan Starrling: Twice a minute.
See more »

User Reviews

Not the sort of film you'd expect from MGM...
2 August 2016 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

David (Zachary Scott) is married to a no-good cheat, Celia. After returning from a business trip, he learns at a dinner party that his wife and 'friend' are having an affair. Later, as the two are arguing over this, Celia knocks out David. In the meantime, Celia's sister, Dell (Ann Sothern) arrives and confronts Celia for stealing her fiancé. Soon Dell kills Celia...and with David unconscious, he's assumed to have done the killing...and David isn't sure he didn't. David's been sent to death row and the only glitch in Dell's plan is that David's young daughter (Gigi Perreau) might have witnessed the killing and Dell needs to be certain she won't talk. While the young girl is too traumatized to fully recall the events, she could remember through the course of therapy...and it could be Dell on death row instead! So Dell can either wait and hope the child cannot remember or kill her to make certain!

This is an unusual film due to the casting. This is NOT a complaint, but seeing Ann Sothern playing a killer is interesting, as she usually played nice, sweet folks like her Maisie character from the 1940s. At first, you can understand her motivation in killing her sister...but to see her attempting to murder an innocent child...that is a dark and twisted character! Additionally, this is one of the few films I've seen where Nancy David (Reagan) is given a chance to really act and she was quite nice as the child psychiatrist, Caroline. In other films, such as "Hellcats of the Navy" and "The Next Voice You Hear", Davis never really had a chance to shine as an actress.

As for the film itself, it is very good and worth seeing. It's also very unusual for MGM...a studio that wasn't known for such dark films back in 1950. In general, film noir pictures were done by other studios and MGM preferred making 'nice' movies...but here they've created a rather hard-hearted film! This is NOT a complaint...I liked the film and can easily recommend it to anyone.

By the way, one odd thing you see in the film is 'hydrotherapy'. Back in the bad old days of psychiatric treatment, hospitals often used baths to somehow try to cure or alleviate suffering in mental patients. In the really bad old days, it was ice water! Here, in the more enlightened 20th century, the baths were less traumatic and more soothing--with warm water. Of dubious value...but at least not harmful in the latter.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

19 May 1950 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Death in a Doll's House See more »


Box Office


$701,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Sound System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

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