This is another entry in the TCM Noir Alley line-up. Told almost entirely in flashback
in probably the longest, most rambling witness testimony in any courtroom ever, the main character Larry Ballentine (played by Marcus Welby against type by Robert Young), who stands trial for murder, explains what actually went down.
You see, Larry married Greta (played by Rita Johnson) for her money, not love. So, he ends up seeing Janice Bell (played by Jane Greer, in role that established her film noir chops) on the side.
Via Laura’s Miscellaneous Musings
Their liaisons are innocent and in a quiet restaurant, but Janice grows unhappy with the situation. Unwilling to break up Larry’s marriage,
even though he’s miserable, Janice gets a job transfer to Montreal and breaks off the relationship. At that point, Larry says, “That’s it. I’m leaving Greta. And I’ll meet you at the train station, Janice.”
But then he doesn’t do it, even though Greta comes home while he’s packing a bag and starts to help him. Then, she tells him she already knew what he was up to and that he was clearly unhappy with her. And knowing perfectly well that he’s only into her for the moolah, in a bid to win his love, Greta buys into a brokerage firm where Larry can get a job. Greta also conveniently buys a nice house in California, where the job is. Now, wasn’t that sweet?
So, Larry goes along with Greta, without even a fare-thee-well to Janice.
Naturally, once ensconced at his new job and digs, Larry strays again. This time with employee Verna Carlson (played by Susan Hayward) who
covers Larry’s ass for him takes steps to protect Larry after he screws up falls down on the job. After which, Verna basically throws herself at him seduces Larry, because she’s a complete slut an unabashed gold-digger.
Oh, but this
seamy happy scenario can’t last forever, can it? Because Greta again susses out the truth. She calmly informs Larry that she’s sold her interest in the brokerage, so he’s out of a job. Oh, and she’s moving to a decrepit an old Spanish ranch in the middle of freaking nowhere, so Larry’s out on his ass in the street. Unless, of course, he chooses to live with Greta out in the boonies. Did I mention that Greta flat-out refuses to divorce Larry?
Okay, folks. That’s the set-up that leads to the death that leads to Larry’s trial for murder. Care to lay bets on who dies?
I have to say that even though Larry is supposed to be an homme fatale, it must be noted that good old Greta is a bit of a see-you-next-Tuesday! 🙂
I especially loved seeing Jane Greer playing a nice woman, as opposed the scheming bitch she played in Out of the Past.
The farther you get into the story, the more hopeless it seems for Larry. The plot builds tension and suspense well and kept me guessing as to how it would end, although I’ll admit I wasn’t completely surprised.
It may also interest you to know that the movie was produced by Joan Harrison, one of Alfred Hitchcock’s favorite collaborators.
I don’t want to spoil the ending, but I think the movie’s theme is less about the drawbacks of adultery and more about how, even when we’re innocent, our downfall can come from failing to forgive ourselves.
This is one of those lesser-known films that deserves a look! If you’re willing to ignore the fact that no defense attorney could get away with such drawn-out testimony! 🙂