Not all film noir was good. And many films which are forgotten today deserve to be forgotten.
But they are some movies which might bear a second glance. Today we’ll look at two film noirs which should be given a look perhaps strictly because of their casts.
Look at those names. All interesting actors.
And The Secret Fury was directed by Mel Ferrer.
Best of all, Barbara Stanwyck turns in her usual excellent performance in 1957’s Crime of Passion, a movie which dares to ask the question — which one would you prefer, Sterling Hayden or Raymond Burr?
Stanwyck plays a San Francisco personal advice newspaper columnist who seduces and then weds the Sterling character, a police lieutenant who longs for a conventional suburban menage with a non-working spouse. Stanwyck complies and quits her job, but is soon bored by her husband’s friends and his lack of ambition on the police force.
Taking things in hand, Stanwyck applies all of her darkest wiles to land hubby a job promotion. The tactics, you won’t be surprised to learn, including seducing hubby’s boss (one Inspector Pope) played by Burr.
Enough said that things don’t quite work out as planned. When Stanwyck’s character realizes seduction didn’t do the trick, writes film noir specialist Eddie Muller, she swipes a gun…and gives Pope six good reasons why he should have promoted her husband.
If any actress came to epitomize film noir, it was Barbara Stanwyck, intones Muller. Her CV in the genre includes 1944’s Double Indemnity, 1946’s The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, 1948’s Sorry, Wrong Number, 1950’s No Man Of Her Own; 1952’s Jeopardy and Clash By Night.
Crime of Passion was Stanwyck’s swan song to the genre. Time to re-see this movie.
Regarding 1950’s The Secret Fury, we admit that we may be pushing the definition of film noir a bit. The movie is really more of a psychological thriller (less charitably, a melodrama) minus noir’s stylistic touches. And, yes, it was directed by Mel Ferrer, the actor who had the distinction of being married (from 1954 to 1968) to Audrey Hepburn.
Claudette Colbert plays a wealthy classical pianist who is accused of bigamy when she attempt to marry her lover. Efforts to unravel things results in a murder charge, a lengthy trial, a mental breakdown and incarceration in a mental institution.
When The Secret Fury opened, critics noted the first-class cast — beside Colbert, Robert Ryan, Paul Kelly and Jane Cowl — but savaged the script. Don’t let that put you off; the picture is fun and worth a look.