Film Review: Dishonored Lady (1947)

Also known as: Sins of Madeline (US reissue title)
Release Date: May 16th, 1947
Directed by: Robert Stevenson
Written by: Edmund H. North
Based on: Dishonored Lady by Edward Sheldon, Margaret Ayer Barnes
Music by: Carmen Dragon
Cast: Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe, John Loder, Margaret Hamilton

Hunt Stromberg Productions, Mars Film Corporation, United Artists, 85 Minutes

Review:

“I only earn $100 a week and you know I can’t live on that.” – Freddie

The high point of any Hedy Lamarr movie is Hedy Lamarr. She’s a better actress than she was given credit for during her time but at least she left behind a great legacy and has stood the test of time, as an old school starlet that is probably more beloved by film aficionados now than she was back in her heyday.

Beyond acting, she was also a film producer and an inventor. In fact, she was a genius and one of her inventions was an early version of FHSS (Frequency-hopping spread spectrum).

In Dishonored Lady, she might be at her best. Granted, I like the film The Strange Woman more but here, she really transcends the film and it is hard not to fall head over heels for her character, Madeline.

In this film, she finds herself in a terrible situation where her past comes back to haunt her after changing her identity and finding a new love. Needless to say, this is a story with a lot of layers and some pretty dastardly characters.

Overall, though, I think the picture itself is pretty weak. Lamarr’s performance is great, as is the always enjoyable Dennis O’Keefe. The narrative just feels somewhat disjointed and the pacing is a bit wonky.

Additionally, this isn’t a great looking film-noir when compared to the others from the classic era. It’s shot pretty straightforward and doesn’t have too much artistic flourish.

Still, this is a mostly enjoyable picture and it really showcases how good Lamarr was in her prime.

Also, the film features Margaret Hamilton in a supporting role and it’s always cool seeing the Wicked Witch of the West pop up in other things.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other noir films of the ’40s and ’50s, specifically those with Hedy Lamarr like The Conspirators, The Strange Woman, A Lady Without Passport and The Female Animal.

Film Review: The Strange Woman (1946)

Release Date: October 25th, 1946
Directed by: Edgar G. Ulmer
Written by: Hunt Stromberg, Edgar G. Ulmer, Herb Meadow
Based on: The Strange Woman by Ben Ames Williams
Music by: Carmen Dragon
Cast: Hedy Lamarr, George Sanders, Louis Hayward, Alan Napier

Hunt Stromberg Productions, Mars Film Corporation, United Artists, 100 Minutes

Review:

“[Giving a sermon, quoting from Proverbs 5:3] The lips of a strange woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil… But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword!” – Lincoln Pittridge

I’ve really come to enjoy Edgar G. Ulmer as a director. As I’ve been watching a lot of film-noir, in recent months, I was thoroughly impressed with his film Detour and also really enjoyed his earlier pictures The Black Cat and People On Sunday, which was a collaboration with other German and Austrian born noir directors, Robert Siodmak and Billy Wilder. Also being a fan of Hedy Lamarr, as an actress and a person, I had to give this film a shot.

It also stars George Sanders and Alan Napier has a small role in it too.

While this does fall into the realm of film-noir, it is very much a character study that showcases the bizarre behavior and traits of Hedy Lamarr’s Jenny Hager, a conflicted and complex woman who at first seems mean, selfish and irrational but you see her portrayed in such an honest and intimate light that you get the feeling that she isn’t always in control of her actions, as if some uncontrollable force is driving her. Nowadays, we call this stuff “mental illness”.

The film and the character of Jenny work so well because of how damn good Hedy Lamarr was in this role. She humanized a person that could have easily just been a monster or a one-dimensional femme fatale. Despite her wickedness, you feel something for her and like George Sanders’ John Evered, you want to help her. It’s easy to see why the men in the film get so wrapped up in her despite her natural beauty. I really need to work my way through Lamarr’s work again but this is my favorite performance she ever gave us.

Ulmer had a talent for taking something as common as a noir picture and giving it a little something extra. Detour was a harsh and high octane noir that is unique and exceptional. This film sort of does the same thing but it is less “in your face” about it. It’s got this underlying darkness that you don’t quite understand until the narrative evolves into something more personal and complex. But where Detour is like a wrestler in a no holds barred cage match to the death, The Strange Woman is more like a pretty girl that gives you a kiss but you don’t know you’ve been poisoned by her until its too late. Both are rough and brutal but in very different ways. Regardless, the end result is still pretty effective and final.

The Strange Woman isn’t the best film-noir and I do like Ulmer’s Detour more but it is still an intimate experience and a wild ride through a crazy woman’s mind. It’s well shot, stupendously acted and offers up something more than a typical noir picture.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Other Hedy Lamarr film-noirs, most notably Dishonored Lady.