Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black Widow (1954)




Black Widow was my first Film Noir  as well as my first Ginger Rogers film and first Gene Tierney film. I had no idea who Gene Tierney and Ginger Rogers were let alone the genre of Film Noir (well I had heard of Ginger Rogers I knew she was in dancing films). When I bought this DVD I was just becoming a fan of classic films. I can’t remember what attracted me to the DVD but I remember reading the back and liked the story.
            Van Heflin plays a famed Broadway producer named Peter Denver. His wife, Iris (Tierney), is out of town visiting her sick mother. At a party given by his friend and current star of his new play Carlotta “Lottie” Marin (Rogers) and her husband in the apartment above his, Peter meets a young writer named Nancy Ordway (Peggy . She comes off as a nice, young naïve Southern girl new to the city. Nancy wants to be a writer. Peter tells her she can come write in his apartment during the day but only while his wife is out of town. Peter lets Iris know about Nancy, there is nothing going on between them since he is out working all day and she is gone before he comes home.
            A few weeks later, Iris comes home with Peter after he has picked her up from the airport. When they get off the elevator to their apartment they can hear the radio blasting. No one seems to be in the house. Iris goes into the bedroom and quickly but calmly comes back out into the living room looking worried. Peter goes into the bedroom; in the shadows we see Nancy’s hanging body.
            Nancy’s death has initially been ruled a suicide but as the evidence comes together it is revealed that she has been murdered and Peter is the number one suspect. The rest of the film is a race for Peter to clear his name.
            For not knowing this film and having not been into classic films as much as I am now I remember enjoying it when I first viewed it. I recently viewed the film again and I appreciated it more now that I am a huge fan of Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney and love the Noir genre. The film is in color so there is none of the black and white, dark cinematography but the story is a typical Noir mystery and the “hero” of the film has to get himself out of trouble and clear his name.
            Ginger Rogers was very good in this film. Her character is an actress who thinks who she is and knows she is famous and flaunts it. Throughout the investigation, Lottie has been saying out loud that she thinks Peter is the killer and that Iris should leave him. Lottie is a far cry from the good natured, caring characters Rogers played before this. This role goes to show how good of an actress Rogers was, she was able to play any kind of character and make it great. In her autobiography, Rogers was asked why she chose to play Lottie Marin, she said she took the role because she wanted to play someone who wasn’t nice since she had never done so before.
            Gene Tierney as always was so fabulous. It is a shame that this was one of her last major roles for 20th Century Fox. Although Iris was not in the film as much, Gene Tierney still stole some the scenes she was in. I think I nearly freaked out when she and Ginger Rogers were sitting next to each other in a scene, two of my favorite screen goddesses were in the same scene together it was awesome for me! 
            Black Widow is a Film Noir must see, it is wonderfully written, directed, and produced by Nunally Johnson (who had written Roxie Hart starring Ginger Rogers and Tobacco Road starring Gene Tierney). The mystery is exciting and the killer is not someone you would think of until they are revealed.