Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Lady in the Lake (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Lady in the Lake (1947)

In director/star Robert Montgomery's film-noir murder mystery (an adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel), noted for its unusual and gimmicky film perspective - shot from the first-person POV ("subjective camera") of the main hard-boiled detective:

  • in the opening prologue, the main character - mystery writer/detective Phillip Marlowe (Robert Montgomery), introduced the plot; fed up with his low-paying profession as a PI, he decided to write the script for a murder story titled "If I Should Die Before I Live" that he had investigated ("based on an authentic case"), in retrospect - to be sold for a profit to a lurid, horror-story pulp magazine:: ("...Right now, you're reading in newspapers and hearing over your radios about a murder. They call it "The Case of the Lady in the Lake." It's a good title. It fits. What you've read and what you've heard is one thing. The real thing is something else. There's only one guy who knows that. I know it. This "Lady in the Lake" business started just three days before Christmas. I was tired of being pushed around for nickels and dimes so I decided I'd write about murder. It's safer. And besides, they tell me the profits are good. So I pounded out a story - on that - and I sent it up to the Kingsby Publications, Incorporated, specialists in gore."); he cautioned the audience to look for clues: "You'll see it just as I saw it. You'll meet the people, you'll find the clues and maybe you'll solve it quick, and maybe you won't. You think you will? Okay, you're smart. But let me give you a tip. You've got to watch them. You've got to watch them all the time. Because things happen when you least expect them"
  • the intriguing, twisting plot began in the office of Kingsby Publications, Incorporated, where Marlowe met with the pulp magazine publisher's conniving, self-interested and witchy executive Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter); she had contacted him on false pretenses - she was less interested in his manuscript than in hiring him to investigate a case of a missing wife - the wife of her own boss, Crystal Kingsby (Ellay Mort) - the promiscuous missing wife of her millionaire editor-in-chief Derrace Kingsby (Leon Ames); allegedly, Crystal had run off to Mexico two months earlier, according to a telegram (revealed to be fake), with muscle-bound, smarmy, smooth-talking gigolo boyfriend Chris Lavery (Dick Simmons)
  • the camera's (Marlowe's eyes) followed the publisher's receptionist, a flirtatious blonde bombshell (Lila Leeds)
  • Marlowe's suspicions were that Kingsby's tough-girl, manipulative editor-assistant and career woman Adrienne Fromsett was interested in her own boss, the rich editor-in-chief Derrace Kingsby; Adrienne was eager for Kingsby to begin divorce proceedings against Crystal, or to find Crystal dead, so that she could marry her boss
  • Marlowe visited the residence of Crystal's gigolo lover Chris Lavery, who denied knowing anything: "I haven't seen her in a month of Sundays...I don't hanker for any part of her. Not for all the money in the world." Feeling insulted by Marlowe's attitude and questioning, Lavery abruptly punched him in the face - rendering him unconscious
  • before leaving for Little Fawn Lake where Crystal was last seen, the case became even more complicated when Marlowe and Adrienne learned that a female's drowned body was found in the lake ('the lady in the lake'); the corpse was suspected to belong to Muriel Chess, the wife of Kingsby's caretaker Bill Chess; Chess was charged with murdering his wife Muriel; Adrienne suspected that the caretaker's wife was murdered by Kingsby's wife Crystal (who hated Muriel)
  • after visiting the summer resort area, Marlowe reported back to Adrienne at four in the morning - he told her that the body (submerged for almost a month) was not Crystal's; his main discovery was that the victim Muriel Chess had another name - Mildred Havelend. She had recently married Bill Chess because she was a fugitive from unknown circumstances ("she wanted a place to hide...a tough cop was after her"). Marlowe also surmised that Mildred/Muriel had squabbled with Crystal over Chris Lavery's affections, and that Lavery was a key figure in their disappearances ("That ties him up with two missing women, Crystal and Muriel").
  • during a second visit to Lavery's house, Marlowe encountered fast-talking Mrs. Fallbrook (Jayne Meadows), the alleged landlady, who had a gun in her hand (she said she found it on the stairs); she claimed she was there to collect the overdue three months rent; soon after, Marlowe discovered running water in Lavery's bathroom sink, bullet holes in the shower door glass, and Lavery's corpse slumped on the shower floor (the killer was presumably Mrs. Fallbrook)
  • Mr. Kingsby denounced Adrienne for scheming and meddling in his private affairs regarding Crystal, and for using Marlowe to find her: "You had no right to meddle. Crystal is to be left alone to do what she wants to do....I won't have you prying into my private affairs." He believed his wife was innocent regarding Lavery's death, and wanted Adrienne to quit interfering; as a result, the failed gold-digger Adrienne fired Marlowe who was then re-hired by Kingsby to find his wife and exonerate her: ("I'd like to keep my wife out of it"); Kingsby stressed his continuing love for his wife, with no plans for divorce: "But the one thing I know is, I love my wife intensely"
  • Marlowe returned to the scene of the crime with the gun; one of the Bay City cops called to the scene was Lieutenant DeGarmot (Lloyd Nolan). Marlowe suspected that he was the "tough cop" asking questions about Mildred/Muriel a few weeks earlier at the lake: ("There was a fellow there a few weeks ago looking for Mildred Havelend. He acted like a cop, I was told. A tough cop with bad manners, like you...She and Muriel Chess were the same girl. She changed her name because she was hiding out from this tough cop. Does it add up?...I think this female had a shady past, and you knew something about it"); Marlowe was extremely suspicious of DeGarmot, who knew both Mildred and Lavery - and both were now dead
  • later that evening, Adrienne visited Marlowe's hotel room, hoping to encourage him to see her more positively ("I thought you liked me"), although he was sarcastic toward her: "The girl I like won't be editing a string of crime magazines, or looking for a quick million bucks, or trying to hang a murder on another woman"
  • Marlowe received damaging information about Mildred's background, and then sought further information from the victim's parents, the Almores, in Bay City - In the past, Mildred was a nurse for a doctor in Bay City named Almore; the doctor's wife, Florence Almore, was found dead; the cop investigating the case was named DeGarmot, who ruled the death was a suicide; it was a probable cover-up to protect Mildred's guilt; Florence's parents disagreed with the ruling and thought it was murder, but then were pressured, presumably by an intimidating DeGarmot, to keep quiet; afterwards, Mildred disappeared
  • after being injured by DeGarmot, Marlowe was rescued and helped to recover by Adrienne; she gladly cared for him in her apartment, when she admitted her love for him (with the camera on her for a lengthy time) - on Christmas Day. She vowed to abandon her evil ways to show her romantic affection for the private detective: ("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")
Adrienne Caring For the Injured Marlowe on Christmas Day
  • Marlowe volunteered to deliver $500 in cash to Crystal, who had called her husband Derrace by phone; a dark-haired woman led Marlowe to her apartment - to his surprise, she was the 'landlady' Mrs. Fallbrook - or Mildred, holding a gun on him; Marlowe explained his reasoning about how Mildred was involved in murdering her previous employer's (a Bay City doctor) wife named Florence Almore, by asphyxiation in her car. And that the missing Crystal Kingsby was the corpse in the lake
  • Mildred had made it look like the corpse in the lake was her alter-ego Muriel Chess. Marlowe believed that Mildred/Muriel and Crystal had fought over handsome male Chris Lavery. This rivalry was clearly Mildred's motive to kill Crystal and make it look like Muriel was the dead body in the lake, so she could run away with Lavery. After Crystal's drowning/murder, Mildred fled and ran away to El Paso - and Lavery "was the only one who knew the real identity of the lady in the lake" - the reason that Mildred killed him too in the shower
  • Marlowe knew about love-struck Lieutenant DeGarmot's romantic involvement with Mildred. Earlier, the cop had partnered with Mildred to hide and cover up the murder of Florence Almore. His covered-up investigation ruled that Almore's death was a suicide. After the case closed, Mildred fled and "double-crossed" DeGarmot by abandoning him and changing her name to Muriel Chess (after marrying Bill Chess, Kingsby's caretaker) with the intent to hide and get away from the "tough cop."
  • the final resolution came when Lieut. DeGarmot unexpectedly arrived and described his feelings of double-cross by Mildred after he had helped her cover up the Almore murder: ("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....Yes I was out of my mind the night that 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.")
  • Marlowe attempted to dissuade DeGarmot: ("The Almore case won't come up. They'll convict her for Crystal's murder or Lavery's. You'll be clear"), but DeGarmot shot her multiple times - point-blank - in view of Marlowe, as she begged: ("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.")
Lieut. DeGarmot's Anger at Mildred for Being Double-Crossed -
He Shot Her to Death, and then Died Himself
  • the crooked cop DeGarmot was then gunned down by police officers through a window, before he could kill Marlowe
  • at the end of the film after the case was solved, Adrienne and Marlowe left NYC together to begin a serious romance

Introduction of Plot by Phillip Marlowe

Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) in the Publishing Office

Flirtatious Blond Office Receptionist

Adrienne with Her Boss Derrace Kingsby (Leon Ames)

Adrienne Speaking to Marlowe in the Publishing Office (Mirror Reflection)

Chris Lavery
(Dick Simmons)

Lt. DeGarmot (Lloyd Nolan)

Adrienne in Her Office - During 2nd Visit From Marlowe

Marlowe Visiting Adrienne at Her Apartment After a Trip to Little Fawn Lake

Mrs. Fallbrook (Jayne Meadows) (aka Mildred) - The Deadly Landlady

Lavery Shot Dead in Shower

Adrienne in Marlowe's Hotel Room

The Lady Demanding $500 Was Not Crystal, but Mildred!

Marlowe and Adrienne Together in the Conclusion


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