Monday 1 June 2020

Bedelia - 1946 film

Laura is, by a country mile, Vera Caspary's most famous book; it also made a memorable film. I've mentioned before my interest in Caspary's other work, and I've now caught up with the 1946 film made of Bedelia, which is perhaps her next best novel, published the year before the movie was released. The novel (currently waiting on my tottering TBR pile) is a history-mystery, set in 1913 in Connecticut.

The film was produced by Caspary's husband, Isadore Goldsmith, but the action was updated to the present, and the locations switched to Monte Carlo and England. Caspary seems not to have been thrilled by the changes, and although she's credited as a co-writer of the script, apparently she wrote an alternative screenplay based on the novel, which was never made.

Given the success of Laura, Bedelia promised to be a big hit and several big names were touted for the role of the title character. The part was eventually played by Margaret Lockwood. She does a very good job as a glamorous but utterly ruthless and selfish murderer who kills doting husbands for their life insurance. Things start to unravel, however, when suspicions are aroused.

The supporting cast, I think it's fair to say, does not dazzle. Ian Hunter plays her likeable but dim husband Charlie while Barry K. Barnes is Ben Chaney, who poses as an artist while trying to gain evidence of Bedelia's crimes. I felt that the story maintained interest to the end, but lacked the intensity of suspense that would have lifted it into the first division. There are some interesting themes in Caspary's work, notably the role of the career woman. Bedelia makes a career out of murder, but there's no real attempt to explore her psychology. This is disappointing, but there's enough merit in the story, and in particular in Lockwood's charismatic performance, to make it well worth watching. 

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