Phantom Lady (1944)

June 14, 2020

phantom lady



Starring Franchot Tone, Ella Raines, Alan Curtis, Thomas Gomez, and Elisha Cook Jr. Produced by Joan Harrison. Directed by Robert Siodmak. A novel by Cornell Woolrich.

Unhappily married Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) picks up a woman at a bar and grill who doesn’t want her name revealed but agrees to go to a show with him as he doesn’t want to waste two tickets he has. His wife has refused to go after a violent quarrel.

At the show, the star dancer Estela Monterio (Aurora Miranda) sees that the no-name woman has the same hat and has a fit over it but would never admit that she did. Scott goes home to discover Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) and the murder of his wife. The bartender, taxi driver, and drummer Cliff Milburn (Elisha Cook Jr.) all claim he was alone so he quickly goes to trial to be found guilty and sentenced to die. His secretary Kansas Richman (Ella Raines) believes he is innocent and sets out to prove it. 

His best friend Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone), the real killer shows up from South America supposedly to help Richman and his friend Henderson who suffers from being deranged with headaches and his hands. He kills the drummer who has boasted to Richman he was paid $500 to be quiet, the bartender is killed in an auto accident as he is about to reveal who paid him off, and the no-name woman Ann Terry (Fay Helm) is out of her mind over the loss of her fiance but she has the hat she wore which she turns over to Richman but turns up missing tipping Richman that Marlow took it. Marlow admits everything but Burgess arrives in time and Marlow jumps to his death.

Franchot and Ella

Joan Harrison, secretary for Hitchcock, was the first woman to produce a film in Hollywood co-writing Rebecca, and Foreign Correspondent, garnering her Oscar nominations. She ended up doing the television program for Hitchcock for years.

Robert Siodmak escaped to Hollywood from Hitler and went on to become quite notable in the noir field his highlight picture being The Killers. He was given accolades for his filming of the jazz/drum sequences of Elisha Cook Jr. in the film. He ended up doing over 20 pictures before he returned to Germany in the early ’50s.

Elisha Cook Jr. one of the great character actors of the ’40s played a drummer in the orchestra as a sleaze who ends up dead. MP3 is included

The photography, lighting, and camera angles are all highly rated and classic noir trademarks. The acting was superb. Even though the story was from Cornell Woolrich, one of the masters of noir, there were a lot of holes and the film deserved a better script. I haven’t read the novel so it wouldn’t be fair to comment on it. I found the Lux Radio Program to be better than the film. (***1/2 )

Book cover phantom lady

Cornell Woolrich as William Irish