Monday, 4 August 2008

The Dark Corner

I have vague childhood memories of Lucille Ball as a rather ditzy character in a very successful long-running comedy series, but before she achieved real fame she starred in a rather competent film noir called The Dark Corner (1946) which I’ve just enjoyed.

Ball plays the part of a secretary to Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens), a private eye with a questionable past who becomes trapped in a murder plot contrived by Cathcart, an art gallery owner who has discovered that the glamorous wife with whom he is besotted is planning to run away with a dodgy lawyer who has a past connection with Galt. Clifton Webb is Cathcart, and he endows the character with the same aesthetic obsessiveness with which he invested Waldo Lydecker in Laura. Cathcart hires a thug in a white suit (William Bendix, familiar from Hitchcock’s Lifeboat and other classic movies) to murder his wife’s lover and frame Galt.

It’s a fast-moving, well-written movie, not in the same league as Laura, but entertaining nevertheless. The nightmarish experience of an ordinary man victimised by malign forces is a recurrent theme of film noir, although in the best examples of the genre, the protagonist seems more affected by his fate than Galt; Stevens is not sufficiently intense to be ideal for the role. Ball, though, is very impressive, making the most of her part, as she helps the man she loves to clear his name, and it’s unsurprising that before long she made it big. As for The Dark Corner, it has stood the test of time pretty well

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