Saturday, 3 January 2015

My Name is Julia Ross - film review

My Name is Julia Ross is a 1945 film based on Anthony Gilbert's novel The Woman in Red, published four years earlier. The story does not features Arthur Crook, the solicitor who usually crops up in Gilbert's novels, and the film is a "woman in jeopardy" story that I found a cut above the average. Joseph H. Lewis directs, and the screenplay is by Muriel Roy Bolton, and between them they fashioned something short, snappy, and suspenseful.

NIna Foch plays Julia Ross, an attractive young woman who has struggled to find work since recovering from ill health. She rents a room in an unlovely London house, and the man she fancies has just gone off to marry someone else. She answers an advert placed by a new employment agency, and they put her in touch immediately with a prospective employer and her son. She is offered a live-in secretarial job with suspicious rapidity, and duly accepts. When she goes back home to pack her things, she finds that the man she cared for has decided not to get married after all. They arrange to meet - but Julia doesn't show up.

In fact, Julia has been kidnapped, and finds herself the victim of a monstrous conspiracy which involves taking her off to an eerie house in Cornwall and giving her a new identity. What on earth can be going on? The answer doesn't take long to emerge, but it's fun to follow the twists and turns of the plot. The old lady is played by Liverpool-born Dame May Whitty, surely one of the more unlikely Scousers, who is best known to crime fans as Miss Froy in Hitchcock's version of another "woman in jeopardy" film, The Lady Vanishes.

 Apart from Dame May, the cast members are mainly unfamiliar to modern viewers,and the acting of the chap who played the weird son struck me as less than convincing. But overall, the film is well made,and I liked the way it raced along. Apparently, it was loosely remade by Arthur Penn in 1987 as Dead of Winter, but I haven't seen that. Whether or not you're not an Anthony Gilbert fan, I think this film is well worth a look, a period piece that is a nice blend of Gothic and British noir, and anyone seeking a more in-depth analysis might like to take a look at the excellent review by John Norris..

9 comments:

Deb said...

This was also adapted as a radio play (Suspense, I believe), with Dame May reprising her role, in the 1940s. We like to listen to the old radio shows when we go on family trips and I distinctly remember this one. A few of the details were changed, but it stuck fairly close to the original material.

John said...

You really ought to seek DEAD OF WINTER, Martin. Mary Steenburgen plays the Nina Foch role and Roddy McDowall is a sinister villain who I think is the George McReady (psycho son) counterpart. It's very different overall but the switched identity gimmick remains. A *very* creepy movie; comes off as more Gothic horror than mystery. My memory of the film calls to mind woman-in-peril thriller movies of the 60s and 70s I ate up when I was a teen like Die! Die! My Darling and You'll Like My Mother.

Oh! and thanks again for yet another link to my blog. :^D

harriet said...

This sounded so great that I went straight over to youtube and found that the whole movie is available on there. So I shall watch it! Many thanks.

Clothes In Books said...

I had just been reading an Anthony Gilbert today so I was amused to see this by coincidence - and I bought (and will get round to) the Anne Meredith book on your recommendation...

Martin Edwards said...

Deb, I can imagine this working well on the radio.

Martin Edwards said...

John, my pleasure. I will track down Dead of Winter.

Martin Edwards said...

Harriet, hope you enjoy it!

Martin Edwards said...

Moira, a small world. Hope you enjoy Meredith..

John said...

I rarely click on the links to my own blog, but I did this time and it doesn't work. It comes up as blogger.com/null.

Copy and paste the below link into your browser if anyone wants to read the review:

http://prettysinister.blogspot.com/2013/03/cool-flicks-my-name-is-julia-ross-1945.html