The Greatest
Femmes Fatales

in Classic Film Noir

1947 - 1

Greatest Femmes Fatales in Classic Film Noir
(chronological by film title)
Introduction | 1941 | 1944 | 1945 | 1946-1 | 1946-2 | 1947-1 | 1947-2
1948 | 1949 | 1950-1952 | 1953 | 1954-1956 | 1958

Greatest Femmes Fatales in Classic Film Noir
Movie Title Screen
Film Title and Director, Femme Fatale and Description
Screenshots

Born to Kill (1947)
d. Robert Wise

Helen Trent (Claire Trevor)

Robert Wise's dark, racy, cynical, amoral and noirish crime melodrama was based on James Gunn's novel Deadlier Than the Male, with themes of rampant criminal behavior, jealousy, deceit, selfish social-striving, greed, temptation, and infidelity. Forces of censorship at the time (the Breen Commission) were upset by the film's story - "a story of gross lust and shocking brutality, and ruthlessness." One of the film's taglines described the two despicable and unredeemable main characters - a homicidal maniac and a promiscuous, danger-loving female:

"Bullet-Man and Silken Savage!"

The morbid story opened in Reno, Nevada, with the just-announced divorce of wealthy, worldly and beautiful socialite Helen Brent (Claire Trevor). She was renting a room from Mrs. Kraft (Esther Howard), the elderly, card-cheating, alcoholic landlady of the establishment, owned by young Laury Palmer (Isabel Jewell).

Four Main Characters Introduced Early
Helen Brent (Claire Trevor)
Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney)
Laury Palmer (Isabell Jewell)
Mrs. Kraft (Esther Howard)

Laury bragged to Mrs. Kraft and Helen about her new "young squirt" dating prospect Danny Jaden (Tony Barrett) on the side. She was dating him only to make her regular boyfriend Sam Wilde (Lawrence Tierney) jealous. She described Sam as a brute: "He's the quiet sort, and yet you get a feeling if you stepped out of line, he'd kick your teeth down your throat...He knows he's got me all wrapped up. So I've got to start him worryin'. It's a bore but that's the way you got to handle men." (Later, feeling humiliated and manipulated, Sam mentioned that Laury was "makin' a monkey outta me...I never let anybody cut in on me on anything!")

On her last night in Reno at the Northern Club casino, Helen flirted unknowingly with another craps-dice table customer (Sam Wilde) while betting. Helen greeted Laury and her date Danny, within view of Sam. Upon Laury and Danny's return to the boarding house, Danny was alone in the kitchen where he was awaited and confronted by jealously-enraged bad guy Sam with a hair-trigger temper - they engaged in a brief fistfight before Sam bludgeoned Danny to death. When Laury walked in on the scene, she was also murdered.

[Note: Megalomaniacal and violent Sam was an irresistible male homme fatale with an insane killer instinct - an obvious reversal of the typical noir pattern.]

Later upon her return home (Sam watched her from the bushes), Helen discovered the cold-blooded, double-murder - the two bodies on the kitchen floor. The self-centered Helen remained calm and although she considered calling the police to report her grisly discovery, she instead called the railroad station - she had immediate plans to travel to San Francisco to marry wealthy fiancee Fred Grover (Phillip Terry). Meanwhile, Sam returned to his apartment and admitted his crimes to his close-friend and understanding confidante Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.), who immediately questioned his sanity:

"...the way you go off your head! And it's been worse lately. Ever since that nervous crack-up last summer. Honest, Sam, you go nuts about nothin'. Nothin' at all. You gotta watch that. You can't just go around killin' people whenever the notion strikes ya. It's not feasible."

When Helen and Sam fled town separately, they found themselves on the same night-time train and became reacquainted in the closed club-car. He knowingly told her: "I know what I want when I see it." She complimented him on his straight-forward manliness: "You're not a turnip, are you?" On the Berkeley ferry shuttling across the Bay to the city, she was intrigued by his comment about their common destination:

"We're going in the same direction, you and I."

In San Francisco, Helen joined up with her wealthy fiancee Fred Grover (Phillip Terry) (of the Grover Steel Co.) and her pretty half/foster-sister Georgia Staples (Audrey Long), an affluent newspaper heiress. Sam located Helen in Georgia's mansion, and became acquainted with Georgia. Knowing that Helen was already 'taken' (although she was acting coy and playing a continual game of cat-and-mouse with him), and that single and available Georgia also had wealth and status, he flirted with her and after a few weeks of courtship, they were married.

Still, Helen craved Sam's attention and was strangely drawn to and thrilled by the repellent Sam - she engaged in an illicit relationship with him (never fully sexually portrayed on-screen due to censorship guidelines), while jealously resenting him for marrying her sister. She allowed herself to be kissed by Sam immediately after the wedding.

Meanwhile, seedy and corrupt, portly Bible-quoting private detective Matthew Arnett (Walter Slezak) had been hired by Mrs. Kraft in Reno to find Laury's killer. Arnett trailed Marty to SF, and posed as a hungry vagrant at Georgia's home before being thrown out by Helen for asking too many questions about Mr. Wilde. Sam and Georgia's honeymoon was cut short by one week when they argued about Sam's intentions to manage the newspaper that Georgia had inherited from her father.

In one repellent scene late the night after Sam's aborted honeymoon, Helen and Sam met together in the kitchen, when he called her his lustful and passionate "soulmate." He insightfully noted: "Your roots are down where mine are!" before embracing and kissing her. She mentioned that she loved Fred, mostly for his money, peacefulness and security: ("All my life, I've lived on other people's money. Now I want some of my own. But there's another kind of security that Fred can give me. Without him, I'm afraid of the things I'll do. Afraid of what I might become. Fred is goodness and safety"). And then she complimented Sam's darker nature:

"You're strength, excitement, and depravity! There's a kind of corruptness inside of you, Sam!"

Kitchen Scene Between Helen and Sam

As Sam gleefully reminisced about the murder scene in Reno and complimented her for her calm reaction to the two deaths: ("You had guts then, you didn't yell or faint...Blood all over the place and you didn't yell!"), she suddenly realized to her revulsion that he was the double-murderer. [Note: The film's tagline described their relationship: "The coldest killer a woman ever loved."]

Helen tried to notify PI Arnett by phone - while Sam eavesdropped on a different extension. He began to suspect that Helen was entrapping him with her seductive charm ("I don't get her at all...Maybe she is against me, I don't know. She puts herself in my arms and tries to trap me. She feels, digs, and looks inside of me"). Later in person, Helen vaguely told Arnett about her suspicions about Sam. However, to protect Sam and suppress Arnett's search for justice, she tried to buy off (or blackmail) Arnett for $5,000, but he tripled his demands to $15,000 to keep silent. When she refused, he said he would continue to pursue his investigation: "In that case, I shall have to forge ahead with my inquiry. And may I remind you that Nevada courts have rather puritanical views. Why some of our more impassioned juries even insist that a man who commits murder pay with his life." Helen claimed her motive to protect Sam was because he was her sister's husband, but Arnett surmised that Helen as Sam's sister-in-law had also succumbed to Sam's attractive "charms." When she returned home, Sam confronted Helen about her contact with Arnett, but was able to persuade him that she was on Sam's side.

Circumstances became more complex when Sam became unreasonably jealous of his close friend Marty's interest in Helen. He noticed them in her bedroom while they were innocently plotting to kill visiting Mrs. Kraft (who had hired Arnett to pursue Laury's murder), and suspected that they were having an affair. That evening, Mrs. Kraft was directed to a remote sandy beach-side location to meet up with Marty - his intent was to eliminate her. He pulled out a switchblade and threatened her: "The moral is, don't hire detectives." As Mrs. Kraft fought back and fled for her life, Sam appeared, grabbed his long-time pal, held the knife to his throat, and then stabbed him to death in the chest.

The next morning when questioned by the police, Helen continued to cover for Sam by perjurying herself with a false alibi (she affirmed she had played cards with Sam until midnight). After the police left, Helen prophetically expressed her intense dislike for Sam's 'thick-headed' homicidal tendencies: "You who let every mad whim that enters your brain whip you around. I'd bet you'd even kill me if I made a move that didn't meet with your approval."

Afterwards, Helen met alone with Mrs. Kraft and was able to intimidate her into abandoning her investigation of Sam for any reason - claiming that she feared for the old lady's life:

"If you go to the police, you'll see Laury sooner than you think....I'm just warning you. Perhaps you don't realize, it's painful being killed. A piece of metal sliding into your body, finding its way into your heart. Or a bullet tearing through your skin, crashing into a bone. It takes a while to die, too. Sometimes a long while."

Although Helen was convincing, Mrs. Kraft precisely described how ice-cold Helen had become: "You're the coldest iceberg of a woman I ever saw, and the rottenest inside. I've seen plenty, too. I wouldn't trade places with you if they sliced me into little pieces." As Helen left, Mrs. Kraft spit on her shoulder and warned: "You carry your own curse inside of ya!"

Helen had often confided in Sam that she was "doing it all" for him (and for the two of them) in order "to patch up (his) bungling." But she finally realized Sam's destructive influence when her fiancee Fred suddenly broke off her engagement because of her increasingly-heartless and cold behavior: ("I feel that our getting married would be a mistake...the point is Helen, you don't love me...You told me once a long time ago that you'd always land on your feet, no matter what happened. You won't always, Helen"). Her needy pleadings for forgiveness yielded no change of heart: ("I'm afraid I can't help you...You've changed so, particularly since Sam came into this house").

By phone, Arnett told Helen that he wouldn't give up his investigation, even though Mrs. Kraft had dropped him. He quoted a revealing Bible verse (Ecclesiastes 7:26) to Helen:

You remember the verse from the Bible, Mrs. Brent? "I find more bitter than death the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and he who falls beneath their spell has need of God's mercy."

After her break-up and loss of financial security with Fred, Helen schemed to warn Georgia about Sam's true criminal identity, to break up their marriage: ("Sam's going to be arrested. He killed Mart. He killed those people I found in Reno...Sam's a murderer, a maniac. How can you stand the thought of even looking at him again?"). She lied that she had known about Sam's evil deeds for only a few days, causing Georgia to suspect Helen's devious motivations for her sudden remorse: ("You won't get another nickel from me as long as I live...You're through, washed up as far as I'm concerned...All you're crazy about is money and yourself!"). To prove her assertion that Sam didn't love Georgia, Helen passionately kissed Sam when he came into the room and didn't notice Helen sitting there. She made plans to run away with Sam herself at midnight ("Things are piling up on us, Sam...I'm afraid for you. Let's go away together, you and I....Tonight, right now!"). After Georgia revealed herself in the room, Helen spitefully criticized and threatened her own sister:

"Sam, she'd never let us be happy, never while she's alive...She doesn't want us to go away. We can never be together, never til she's dead!"

An enraged Sam - who heard the police breaking into the house - suspiciously believed that it was Helen who was back-stabbing and double-crossing him. As Helen fled up the stairs to hide behind her locked bedroom door, Sam pursued her. Helen screamed back at him: "Sam, you're out of your head. I should have known that long ago!" He fatally shot her through the door with multiple gunshots, just as police confronted him and shot him dead with gunfire.

Helen - Fleeing From Sam Into Her Bedroom - Shot Through the Door
Sam's Killing by Police
Helen: "Fred was right. This time I didn't land on my feet"
Newspaper Headlines of Helen's Death

Before she died of her abdomen wounds, she offered a final thought about how her fiancee Fred had confirmed for her that she couldn't save herself from being irresistibly drawn to Sam, her own married brother-in-law:

I did take too big a chance... Fred was right. This time I didn't land on my feet.

The film ended with the headlines from the SF Times: "SOCIALITE SLAIN!"


Laury Palmer Noticing Danny Dead on Kitchen Floor (with Sam in Shadows)

Laury About to Be Murdered by Sam


Helen's Calm Reaction in Kitchen to Double-Murder


Sam Confessing His Crime to Friend Marty "Mart" Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.)



Sam and Helen on the Train to SF



(l to r): Georgia Staples, Fred Grover, and Helen


Georgia Dancing with Sam


Reno PI Matthew Arnett (Walter Slezak)


Sam and Georgia's Wedding

Sam Kissing Helen After His Wedding



Sam Holding a Knife to Marty's Throat Before Killing Him


Newspaper Headlines of Marty's Murder


Helen Scaring Mrs. Kraft Into Dropping Case Against Sam


Helen - Still in Love With Sam, and Covering Up For Him



The Tell-Tale Kiss Between Sam and Helen - Witnessed by Georgia

Dead Reckoning (1947)
d. John Cromwell

Coral 'Dusty' Chandler (Lizabeth Scott)

This overly complex, who-dun-it film noir from Columbia Pictures and director John Cromwell was about doomed romance, conspiracy and betrayal.

In the film's opening set in the southern town of Gulf City in the year 1946, an injured fugitive named Capt. Warren 'Rip' Murdock (Humphrey Bogart), a returning WWII military paratrooper veteran, fled to a church confessional where he spoke to Father Logan (James Bell), an ex-paratrooper ("the jumping padre"). He told about recent events in his tumultuous life - related in flashback.

At the end of WWII, 'Rip' described how he and his army buddy Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince) were to be decorated with the Congressional Medal of Honor to Drake and the Distinguished Service Cross to 'Rip.' They were enroute by plane from a Paris hospital to NYC and then to Washington DC by train to receive their war service honors.

Capt. Warren 'Rip' Murdock (Humphrey Bogart)
Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince) - aka John Joseph Preston

Drake told 'Rip' that he was haunted by a blonde in his past, and was advised:

Johnny, why don't you get rid of the grief you've got for that blonde, whoever she is? Every mile we go, you sweat worse with the same pain. Didn't I tell you all females are the same with their faces washed?

Mysteriously, camera-shy Drake ran off and jumped onto another departing train in Philadelphia when photographers and news-reporters appeared to take photos on the platform during a five-minute stop. 'Rip' suspected Johnny's fears of being uncovered as a fraud: "I got it alright why Johnny had taken a powder. He'd faked a birth certificate to enlist. John Joseph Preston, eh? The Yale pin said so."

'Rip' went AWOL to try and trace Drake's whereabouts. He was led to Drake's sultry southern Gulf City hometown (on the Gulf of Mexico) where he rented a room in the Hotel Southern - he was surprised that his visit was expected (Johnny had already made a reservation for him). A cryptic front desk phone message awaited him that he would be contacted later by Drake, signed by the paratrooper code-name "Mr. Geronimo" ("a paratrooper's jump call"). 'Rip' was impatient for contact: "What to do in a hot wind, smelling of night-blooming jasmine except wait and sweat, and prime the body to sweat more?"

While waiting for contact from Drake over a two-day period, 'Rip' dug through Drake's past (or John Joseph Preston's past) via old Gulf City Statesman newspapers. He learned that Drake (or John Preston) - about a month before he had enlisted in October of 1943 - had confessed and been charged with the murder of Stuart Chandler. The victim was the wealthy and elderly husband (and real estate magnate) of night-club singer Mrs. Coral 'Dusty' Chandler, Drake's own love interest (and Coral's "English tutor" - English professor actually), when he became involved in a deadly love-triangle. The murder had been witnessed by a waiter named Louis Ord (George Chandler) at the Sanctuary Club, Coral's place of employment, where "Victim and Preston Clashed Over Wife." To escape prosecution during a manhunt, John Preston had fled to join the Army with a fake name - Drake.

John Preston Charged with Murder - in September 1943 - of "Rich Realtor" Stuart Chandler
Waiter Louis Ord at the Sanctuary Club Was a Witness to Chandler's Murder

'Rip' was confused by the allegations: "How could Johnny be a murderer? Why come back here where he was even hotter than the weather? And why? Why not another word from him since that first call?"

Then, 'Rip' heard on a late night police-band radio station about a just-discovered fiery car accident that had occurred two days earlier and an unidentified charred body at the County Morgue. 'Rip' met with homicide officer Lt. Kincaid (Charles Cane), and realized the corpse ("as crisp as bacon") belonged to Johnny. A melted blob of Drake's Yale University 1940 senior society gold graduation pin (with his alias name John Joseph Preston) near the body confirmed the identity of the victim. 'Rip' vowed that he would seek Drake's killer and exonerate his buddy ("But I knew all at once I had a job. They don't give out the Congressional Medal to dead guys wanted for murder but he was gonna get it, even if he got it on his grave. I was going after whoever tried to gyp him out of it. Why should anybody kill Johnny? Because he knew too much? Because he hadn't shot Chandler and maybe knew who did?").

A continuing search led 'Rip' to the Sanctuary Club and the nervous club waiter-bartender Louis Ord, the "star witness" at the Chandler inquest. The club was owned by slick and crooked mobster Martinelli (Morris Carnovsky). Louis told 'Rip' that Drake had been hiding out in his apartment (up until two days earlier), and that Drake had given him a letter (written in code) to give to 'Rip' that might hold vital clues.

Next to him at the club's bar, 'Rip' also met up with another female guest - Drake's enigmatic, blonde ex-lover - Mrs. Coral 'Dusty' Chandler (Lizabeth Scott), the widow of deceased husband Stuart Chandler. (Allegedly, Drake had killed Chandler before he joined the Army.) Coral was an ex-cabaret lounge singer at the Sanctuary Club.

In her memorable entrance sequence, the camera (from his POV) panned up Coral's long legs and evening gown as she prepared to smoke a cigarette - 'Rip' held out a match to the alluring femme fatale. He described her as "Cinderella with a husky voice." In voice-over, Rip reflected about Drake, after thinking about how he had been enamoured by one of her songs when she used to work at the club:

I hated every part of her. I couldn't figure her out yet. I wanted to see her the way Johnny had. I wanted to hear that song of hers with Johnny's ears. Maybe she was alright. And maybe Christmas comes in July, but I didn't believe it.

While sharing a table with 'Rip,' Coral guest-performed the song: "Either It's Love or It Isn't" (dubbed by Trudy Stevens). After dancing with her, he shared news of Drake's morbid death, and he described her reaction in voice-over: "Her whole body had gone soft as custard when I slugged her with it. But I kept thinking, she has to know something." Early on, 'Rip' felt uneasy about Coral:

I didn’t like the feeling I had about her - the way I wanted to put my hand on her arm, the way I kept smelling that jasmine in her hair, the way I kept hearing that song she'd sung. Yeah, I was walking into something, alright.

Early the next morning after finding himself deliberately drugged in Martinelli's office after gambling in the casino, 'Rip' awoke from a stupor in his hotel room ("Coming out of it was like after being tapped on the button. Everything foggy - fur in my throat, an anchor on my head, and ringing in my ears"). He found Louis dead with a broken neck on the second bed in the room - presumably he had been killed by Martinelli to acquire Drake's letter, and planted there to frame 'Rip' for Louis' murder. After dumping Louis' body into a large laundry basket, 'Rip' was met by Lt. Kincaid (who had been given an anonymous tip), but was able to avoid incriminating himself.

When he met with Coral later that afternoon in his hotel lobby (and cleverly avoided Lt. Kincaid's tail on him), they drove out of town for lunch at the Dixie in Flamingo Beach for privacy. As she was driving, 'Rip' described his philosophy regarding women - one of the film's most oft-quoted dialogues:

The trouble with women is they ask too many questions. They should spend all their time just being beautiful....I've been thinking: women ought to come capsule-sized, about four inches high. When a man goes out of an evening, he just puts her in his pocket and takes her along with him, and that way he knows exactly where she is. He gets to his favorite restaurant, he puts her on the table and lets her run around among the coffee cups while he swaps a few lies with his pals....Without danger of interruption. And when it comes that time in the evening when he wants her full-sized and beautiful, he just waves his hand and there she is, full-sized....But if she starts to interrupt, he just shrinks her back to pocket-size and puts her away.

Over lunch, 'Rip' confided in Coral, telling her: "I don't think Johnny killed your husband." She admitted (information that she hadn't told the coroner) that she had witnessed the fight between Johnny and her husband Stuart before he was murdered, and that Johnny had taken the blame for the accidental shooting:

"I was right there when it happened. Johnny was afraid they'd somehow blame me, tie us both up with it. You know how they do. Ex-nightclub singer, young college professor's in love with her, then murder her husband. But that wasn't the way it was....Stuart had always been crazy jealous. That night, he was drunk too. When we got home, he started hitting me and jabbing a gun into me. He was mad enough to kill me, and I was terrified. And then suddenly, Johnny came into the room. He'd followed us home from the club. He took the gun away from Stuart, or he was trying to, I don't know what happened. But it seemed to go off right in my ear. I passed out and when I came to, Johnny was kissing me. That was the last time I saw him until he came back, two days ago."

'Rip' was skeptical of her story, but remained uncertain.

In an effort to still acquire the coded letter that Drake had written to him, presumably now in Martinelli's safe, Rip's efforts to hire a safecracker in town named McGee (Wallace Ford) failed, so he decided to obtain it himself. He found the safe already open in Martinelli's office, caught a menacing whiff of jasmine perfume (Coral's favorite), and then was knocked unconscious.

'Rip' regained consciousness during threats from Martinelli's sadistic, psychopathic bodyguard Krause (Marvin Miller) to beat him up unless he turned over the missing letter. 'Rip' tricked Krause and Martinelli into believing he had an incriminating letter to turn over to police about their complicity in causing Johnny's fatal car crash. Upon his return to his hotel with Krause to supposedly retrieve the letter, 'Rip' was able to escape in the chaos (when Lt. Kincaid appeared at the front entrance). He fled to the local church where he met up with Father Logan - the film's opening. He offered his suspicions about Coral to the Father:

I remember there was a whiff of jasmine just before I was knocked out. Maybe, maybe it was her. Suddenly I got a feeling I know it was. Jasmine.

To find out what had actually happened (to discover who was responsible for the recent killings and to find the original killer of Coral's husband), 'Rip' visited Coral at her apartment, where he expressed how he felt betrayed. He suspected that she had knocked him out in the office, and had possibly stolen Johnny's coded letter. She vowed that she was innocent and added: "I ought to hate you for thinking a thing like that." Her tears didn't move him to believe her: "I'm not the type that tears do anything to. I'm the brass-knucks-in-the-teeth to- dance-time type."

However, she was tricked into admitting that she convinced Johnny to take the murder 'rap' when she was the one who had committed her husband's murder: "You killed him, why lie?...It was in your hands, not Johnny's, when it went off." She basically confessed that 'Rip's' suspicions was accurate. Afterwards, she said that she had given the murder weapon to Martinelli to get rid of, but Martinelli began to blackmail her (to acquire her inherited money).

'Rip' found himself falling in love with the alluring but treacherous and duplicitous Coral, while still ambivalent. When she made a call to the police to admit her guilt and clear Johnny's name, it was enough to prove her honesty to him - and they kissed. She vowed to go anywhere with him ("little trip to paradise") - and he agreed: "Anything you want, any way you want to go. The two of us."

Duped and in love with her, he proposed that they run away together, but first he insisted on reclaiming the missing murder weapon (with her fingerprints) from Martinelli. As 'Rip' (at gunpoint) demanded the weapon from Martinelli in his nightclub office while Coral waited outside in the car ("Keep the motor running and the headlights on"), Martinelli gave him an entirely different story - Coral had been misleading and deceiving 'Rip' all along, and she was the one who had blackjacked him:

  • Martinelli and Coral were a married couple ("She was my wife when she married Chandler. There never was a divorce")
  • Martinelli was the one who killed Coral's rich husband Stuart Chandler, who had lied about having only six months to live; Johnny thought that Coral had killed Chandler, and confessed to the crime to protect her; Johnny was framed for the crime, and Coral inherited Chandler's money: (Martinelli: "Since I was in it with her, that gun could send us both Coral and me to the chair....Old Chandler was so anxious, he not only offered her marriage, he told her he had a bad heart. And in six months she'd come into all his money. Then after the marriage, I found out from the doctor that the old man might live to be 80. That night, Johnny Preston had a quarrel with Chandler, and people heard it. That was all I needed. I followed the old man home and shot him - with Coral's gun." Krause: "The Preston kid thought she did it, took the rap")
  • Martinelli ordered Krause to 'shadow' Johnny when he returned home, but overplayed his hand ("I didn't mean him to get killed. I only told Krause to shadow him"), leading to Johnny's car-crash death

'Rip' tossed some unstable war souvenir hand grenades at Martinelli to convince him to give up the gun, setting the building on fire. Krause jumped out a window to escape, as both Martinelli and 'Rip' fled from the burning building. As they emerged out the front door, the double-crossing Coral shot and killed Martinelli, thinking it was 'Rip.'

As 'Rip' drove Coral to police headquarters to turn her in (with the murder weapon), and to tell the whole story of her duplicity, he threatened her: "You tried to kill me just now. You expected me to be the first one out of that room...You're going to fry, Dusty...when a guy's pal is killed, he ought to do something about it."

As he was driving, she held a gun on his mid-section, and demanded the murder weapon. He accelerated to 80 mph and warned: "If you shoot, baby, you'll smear us all over the highway," but she fired anyway - leading to a loss of control and a violent car crash into a tree. 'Rip' survived the crash with injuries, and was able to clear his pal Johnny's name (and have him awarded his Medal of Honor posthumously).

'Rip' At Coral's Deathbed

Subsequently, Coral died from her injuries (he was at her bedside and held her hand). He urged her to enter death as if jumping from a plane: "Like going out the jump door. Hold your breath and just let go, Mike. Don't fight it. Remember all the guys who've done it before you. You'll have plenty of company, Mike. High-class company. Geronimo, Mike."


Clue to Johnny Drake's Real Name - His Gold 1940 Yale Graduation Pin


Note to 'Rip' From Drake in Gulf City


Lt. Kincaid (Charles Cane) at Morgue


Sanctuary Club

Waiter/Bartender Louis Ord (George Chandler)






Memorable (POV) Entrance Scene of Coral Chandler (Lizabeth Scott) in Sanctuary Club at the Bar


Club Owner Martinelli (Morris Carnovsky)

Bodyguard Krause (Marvin Miller)

Coral's Reaction to News from 'Rip' of Johnny's Death


On the Drive to Flamingo Beach

Coral's Confession That She Was Present With Johnny When Her Husband Was Killed


'Rip' Falling in Love with the Femme Fatale




Confronting Coral in Her Apartment about Her Husband's Death

A Kiss from 'Rip' to Affirm His Love For Coral

Planning "A Little Trip to Paradise" Together


Martinelli's Revelation About Coral's Deceptiveness

Martinelli Shot by Coral at the Front Door


The Concluding Drive to the Police Station

Coral Holding a Gun on 'Rip' - and then Firing

Lady in the Lake (1947)
d. Robert Montgomery

Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter)
and
Mrs. Fallbrook (Jayne Meadows) (aka Muriel Chess, and Mildred Havelend)

Robert Montgomery both directed (his directorial debut film, with an experimental and revolutionary subjective camera technique) and starred in this classic noir, adapted from Raymond Chandler's 1944 novel of the same name.

In 1940s Hollywood, private detective Phillip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery) was on the case of a missing wife:

  • Chrystal Kingsby (Ellay Mort) - a promiscuous wife, now missing
  • Derace Kingsby (Leon Ames) - Chrystal's millionaire, pulp-crime magazine publisher and husband

Marlowe was hired to find Chrystal by Kingsby's tough-girl, manipulative, witchy and kittenish editor-assistant and career woman Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) - the film's femme fatale.

Supposedly, Chrystal had run off to Mexico two months earlier, according to a telegram, with muscle-bound gigolo boyfriend Chris Lavery (Dick Simmons) - who later turned up dead. The case became even more complicated when another woman's body was found drowned in Little Fawn Lake near Kingsby's summer retreat cabin. The corpse was suspected to belong to Muriel Chess, the wife of Kingsby's caretaker Bill Chess.

Gold-digging, self-interested Adrienne, who suspected that the caretaker's wife was murdered by Kingsby's wife Chrystal, wanted Marlowe to investigate and either find "murderess" Chrystal dead or alive - so that she could be prosecuted for murder.

Adrienne was eager for Kingsby to begin divorce proceedings against Chrystal, or to find Chrystal dead, so that she could marry her rich boss. The plot became even more complex when Kingsby denounced Adrienne for her scheming ways, and announced that he had no plans for divorce.

Angered, Adrienne fired Marlowe, who was then hired by Kingsby to find his wife.

It was ultimately determined that Chris Lavery's alleged, fast-talking landlady Mrs. Fallbrook (Jayne Meadows) (an alias name, actually Mildred Havelend), (who shot and killed Lavery) had made it look like the corpse in the lake was her alter-ego Muriel Chess. But Marlowe revealed that the corpse was in fact the missing Chrystal Kingsby.

[Note: Mrs. Fallbrook/Mildred Havelend was actually married to Bill Chess, Kingsby's caretaker. Her alter-ego was Muriel Chess.]

Marlowe explained his reasoning to Mildred: ("The lady in the lake, instead of being you, is Chrystal Kingsby. Is that an accident?"). Mildred/Muriel and Chrystal had fought over handsome male Chris Lavery - this rivalry was clearly Mildred's motive to kill Chrystal and make it look like Muriel was the dead body in the lake, so she could run away with him: ("Muriel's been found dead, and Chrystal's missing"). Mildred admitted: ("Yes. Chrystal and I traded clothes one night. She had on my things, and I had on hers. We went across the lake to see if we could fool my husband, Bill Chess, that was my husband"). Marlowe deduced: ("And Chrystal fell in the lake and sank to the bottom"). After the drowning/murder, Mildred fled and ran away with Chris Lavery to El Paso - he "was the only one who knew the real identity of the lady in the lake" - the reason that Mildred later killed him too.

In the denouement, love-struck Lieutenant Degarmot (Lloyd Nolan) - was revealed to have earlier partnered with Mrs. Fallbrook (actually Mildred Havelend) in a different case, to hide and cover up the fact that Mildred was involved in the death of her previous employer's (a Bay City doctor) wife named Florence Almore, by asphyxiation in her car. Degarmot's covered-up investigation ruled it was a suicide.

Mildred "double-crossed" Degarmot by changing her name to Muriel Chess (after marrying Bill Chess, Kingsby's caretaker) with the intent to hide and get away from "tough cop" Degarmot. Because of the betrayal, Degarmot had relentlessly tracked her down - and face-to-face, he chastized her:

"People aren't safe with a woman like you in the world and people have to be protected. I never expected to find you here tonight. I thought you were dead. I wish you were, because you're a murderess. And this time, dead's the way I'm gonna leave you... the night Florence Almore died (and) you made a sucker out of me. Even after you ran away, I still loved you. You made a clown outta me, a bad cop. But tonight's the end of it, and of you."

Then, he shot her multiple times - point-blank - in view of Marlowe. She begged for her life, but to no avail:

"No. Please, please wait. Don't honey. Honey, we were gonna, we were gonna be a guy and his girl, that's the way you said it, I remember those very words, I remember...All our dreams can come true if you'll only just...Please! I love you, remember, I'm your girl."

Toward the end of the film, Adrienne had a long concluding dialogue with Marlowe (with the camera entirely on her). She abandoned her evil ways to show her affection for the private detective on Christmas Eve - and in the last scene after the case was solved, left NYC together to begin a serious romance:

We'd be fine together. In everything, we'd be fine together only you just...you don't think I'm honest. I want you to know that I am...I want to take care of you. Maybe it isn't glamorous, I don't know, but I want to be your girl. That's what I want for Christmas. Don't laugh at me...It's just like you said that day. We're both alike. In everything we're alike. We'll be fine together. We will, won't we? This is what the world is really like, isn't it?





Adrienne Fromsett
(Audrey Totter)



Mrs. Fallbrook (Jayne Meadows) (aka Mildred, or Muriel Chess) - The Deadly Landlady Who Killed Both Chrystal and Chris Lavery



Mildred Shot Dead by Lieutenant Degarmot (Lloyd Nolan)


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