Monday, 30 May 2011

Sorry, Wrong Number

Sorry, Wrong Number is a 1948 film starring Barbara Stanwyck as the rich and spoiled invalid wife of Burt Lancaster. Alone at home, she overhears a phone call which seems to be about a murder plot. It’s a classic set-up and I enjoyed the movie, which is dark both in photography and plot.

The ‘overheard conversation’ is a staple of a good many crime stories, one example being Philip Macdonald’s The Nursemaid Who Disappeared, which predates Lucille Fletcher’s very successful radio play on which the film is based. In the movie, the main story is told through a series of flashbacks, but this doesn’t stop the tension mounting, thanks to Stanwyck’s performance, at her highly-strung best.

The story involves a fraudulent scheme featuring a dodgy guy called Morano – played by William Conrad, who later played Frank Cannon, the rather obese TV gumshoe. Lancaster is in moody, and pretty effective, form, but the film belongs to Stanwyck.

Fletcher turned her story into a novel, and she wrote a number of others, none of which I’ve read. As an aspiring radio writer, she met a young composer, who became her first husband. His name was Bernard Herrmann, and he became one of the best composers for crime films of all time. But his great scores for Hitchcock came after the marriage ended.

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