The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
This 1946 movie stars some pretty darn big guns including Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Kirk Douglas and Lizabeth Scott, so its got its noir bona fides. Its written by The Hustler writer/director Robert Rossen and directed by Lewis Milestone, who handled movies as diverse as 1939's Of Mice and Men to the great war picture, Pork Chop Hill.
I always like "out of the past" stories (who haunts us more than the people we knew as children or teen-agers?), and short of Once Upon a Time in America, its hard to think of a movie that does a better job of making (melo)drama out of the vagaries of one's youth.
|what have you been up to, children?|
Martha's town has boomed as she's led her family's mill/factory/smokestack factory to undreamt of levels of success, and she's married Walter O'Neil, who has turned to drink even as he's let Martha set him up for political success as the DA (with plans beyond). Walter is played by Kirk Douglas in one of his first roles, and its kind of wild to see him cast as an impotent nebbish when you grew up on tough-guy Kirk Douglas roles.
|If this is mopey giving up, apparently I'm a real big quitter.|
|Lizabeth Scott loiters extremely well|
|Van Heflin realizes he just accidentally fell into the Archie/Betty/Veronica Paradox.|
The scale of the movie is a bit small given how powerful the O'Neils have become by present day and the industrial backdrop suggested by the script, but perhaps that's the way things should feel when an old friend is back in town. The script riffs on some fairly common threads of rich vs. poor, tilting towards Pre-War attitudes about the wealthy industrialist in the manse on the hill, and how that plays out for the likes of Sam Spade on a routine basis. Had this movie's Sam never returned, sooner or later some private dick would be nosing around the ole Ivers place looking for clues as to why one O'Neil did the other in.
|I'd be lying if I said I posted this picture for any reason other than to look at Lizabeth Scott a bit longer|
The finale of the movie has the inevitable doom over it that good noir so often has. You knew this was going to end poorly, but you're going to wind up there, anyway. And so it does for our leads.
Anyone else seen this one? Thoughts?