Saturday, May 19, 2012

Film Review: No Man of Her Own (1950)

Film based off of Cornel Woolrich's novel,
I Married a Dead Man.
Photo Courtesy of
TCMDb: Helen Ferguson, pregnant, penniless, and dumped by her boyfriend, takes on the identity of Patricia Harkness, when she and her husband are killed in a train crash to try to ensure a better life for her and her child.

   In many cases No Man of Her Own seems nothing more than a very well-produced "B" picture--and maybe that's exactly what it is. All I know is that I like this picture because it's so different. Sure, maybe the premise of the film is a very well-used one, but it's one that I find directors and producers back during the Golden Age of Hollywood and even up to now like to go back to time and time again; it's like a favorite pair of sneakers--you just can't get rid of them.
     In my opinion, however, the few aspects that keeps No Man of Her Own, which most definitely should not be confused with the single Gable and Lombard 1932 pairing, from falling into the "B" picture category are: Barbara, the noir intensity of the film, and John Lund's voice.
     You don't have to be a mathematician, all you really need to know how to do is subtract 1907 from 1950, and you'll know that once again, Hollywood didn't, and still doesn't, give a fig about stretching the boundaries. At the age of forty-two, Barbara Stanwyck was probably a little too old to be playing a pregnant woman done wrong, whom I can only assume is meant to be portrayed as a woman in her mid to late twenties, early thirties at most. And at forty-two, Barbara is four years older than her leading man, John Lund who was thirty-eight, but I ask you this: Who really cares? I don't, and I'm guessing if you're a Barbara Stanwyck fan, you don't either (besides, does the woman even look like she's forty-two?).
On a crowded train headed towards nowhere.
Photo Courtesy of
     Admittedly, I haven't seen too many noirs. In fact, I'm pretty sure, I wouldn't end up using all ten of my fingers if I had to name them off to you, but then again, I may be wrong. One of the best thing about noirs, is that sometimes you don't really know if it is or isn't. Granted, you can usually tell by the lighting or the lack thereof, but I'm sure you get my drift. Maybe this isn't considered a noir by the "professionals" whomever they may be, but for my benefit, I'm going to say that it is. The cinematography is simply breathtaking to me; the shadows add just the right amount of tension that really captures your attention, and keeps it. I know next to nothing about cinematography, so I can only hope that what I think to be right is actually so. If not, please correct me and inform me as to what really makes a good old fashion noir film just that.
Barbara and John Lund.
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     Now, I'm sure one or two of you, or however many of you actually read this blog, might be wondering as to why I said one of the things that makes this film for me is John Lund's voice. Strange, I know, but it's true. Your voice is just as identifying as your fingerprints or your dental records, and I find even though I'm good at remembering people's faces and names, I'm even better at recognizing them by their voices. John Lund's voice is exactly what amused cynicism sounds like, if it does have a sound. Though he was in some very good films such as To Each His Own (1946) in a dual role as Olivia de Havilland's lover who's a pilot in World War I, and then her son who's also a pilot, but this time in World War II; and A Foreign Affair (1948) with Jean Arthur and Marlene Dietrich, he never really hit it big, which to me, is a total shame. Was he the greatest actor ever, no. But was he good enough? In my opinion, yes.
Cornell Woolrich's stories.
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     Again, just to reiterate the caption under the first image, this film is based off of Cornell Woolrich's/William Irish's novel I Married a Dead Man. I have actually read this book, and I did so a few months back not too long after I had watched them film. As we all know by now, I'm sure, rarely, if at all, does the film follow the book. To my surprise, the film matches the novel pretty well. The only real big difference in the novel is that at the end, you don't really know if what has happened between the two leads, the roles portrayed by Barbara and John, are going to be able to make it after all the lies that have been told. You want them to, and you have an idea that they might, but there's that nagging voice at the back of your head going: But that's what he wants you to think . . . and so you begin to doubt yourself. In the film, however, they give Barbara and John the happy ending that you want them to have. The code was still very much in force in 1950, and so we all know that when a character kills someone, they're suppose to pay, they can't get off because that would be romanticizing murder (and we all know that Hollywood has never done that before--oh, no, of course not), but in the end we find the few missing pieces of the puzzle and put them together, and the ending is able to be tied off with a nice little bow.
     I give this film a 3/4 star rating, and if just by chance you would like to see this film, you can view it over on what I like to call the "Holy Grail of Classic Films" also known as youtube, type in the title, and voila! You can either watch it in parts, or watch it all in one piece. They're both there (though how long that'll stay, I'm not sure. You know the youtube gremlins, and how they are, so don't come and hunt me down because I said that it's on youtube, and then you go look and it's not there. At this moment in time as I'm writing this, it is on there).

1 comment:

Clara said...

I LOVE this film, it's soooo awesome!! In fact, I love a lot of films by director Mitchell Leisen,a really underrated guy. Barbara plays her character in such a emotive & believable way...and the poor lady at the end :) I didn't know it was based on a novel, I'll have to check it sometime, thanks for your post!