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Thursday, September 10, 2009

BLACK WIDOW (1954)


After two decades as a favored writer/producer @ 20th/Fox, Nunnally Johnson began directing his own stuff. NIGHT PEOPLE/’54 with Greg Peck & a fast-talking Broderick Crawford came first and then this odd conflation of a swanky/bitchy NYC murder mystery like LAURA/’44 with a swanky/bitchy NYC backstager like ALL ABOUT EVE/’50. The attempt at high-style falls flat, even laughable, yet it’s quite watchable in a weird artificial way. Ginger Rogers, in B’way diva mode, is married to the weak, but likeable Reginald Gardiner and they live one floor above her producer, Van Heflin & his heiress wife Gene Tierney. Life gets complicated when scheming vixen Peggy Ann Garner is found dead in Heflin’s apartment. Then, when the investigating detective turns up, it’s a phlegmatic George Raft! That's more acting styles than even CinemaScope can hold, even on those football-sized drawing room sets designed for the depth-of-field problems inherent in those early CinemaScope lenses. The film is catnip for parodists, but why settle for a 'camp' knock-off when you can enjoy the real McCoy?

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