The Blue Gardenia


Nat King Cole

Richard Conte, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Anne Baxter

Starring Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Ann Sothern, Jeff Donnell, Raymond Burr, George Reeves, and Richard Erdman. Produced by Alex Gottlieb. Directed by Fritz Lang. Music by Raoul Kraushaar.

How can such a bad guy in the films Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr) turn around and become Perry Mason and Ironsides one of the nice guys on television? Early in his career, he played the heavy. This time he tries to force his attentions on her Nora Larkin (Anne Baxter) after she has way too much to drink, going on a mistaken date meant for one of her roommates Crystal Carpenter (Ann Sothern). She had just received a “dear john” from her fiance in Korea and agreed in anger because it is on her birthday. He is hit and killed with a fireplace poker which she doesn’t remember doing. Fingerprints were cleaned off by the maid. Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) runs an ad in the paper to get her to turn herself into him for the story to the dismay of Police Captain Sam Haynes (George Reeves)? He doesn’t want her to have to deal with the police? The clue centers around a music recording of Tristan and Isolde (Wagner) being played at the time of the murder instead of Blue Gardenia when Nora was there with Harry. Interesting that the jacket box is for 78’s and the record player is for 33 1/3. Sally Ellis (Jeff Donnell) is the third roommate who plays an extremely limited role in the film. Rose (Ruth Storey) who works at the record store and is a former girlfriend of Harry and pregnant (never mentioned) kills him in a fit of anger which she confesses to on her deathbed in the hospital. Casey and Nora have already fallen in love with a very happy ending.

Directed by Fritz Lang between Clash By Night and The Big Heat this one is not noir and a very ordinary drama whodunit film that just didn’t seem to fit together. The characters and the timing of the events were way off. Richard Conte and Ann Baxter were not a good match, Ann Sothern who was having medical problems (hepatitis)  seemed to be written into the script or promotion of her Private Secretary television show. The buildup of the story was very slow and then everything seemed to rush to happen in the last twenty minutes. It just wasn’t comfortable watching it. On the positive side was the theme which was very pretty, well written, and quite a surprise. You decide. (**)