Friday, January 23, 2015

Dishonored Lady (1947)

     Dishonored Lady (1947) [D: Robert Stevenson. Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe, John Loder] A soaper, as these movies came to be known. Lamarr plays a playgirl fashion magazine art-editor whose empty life leads to a nervous breakdown. A psychiatrist suggests complete withdrawal from the glitzy life in order to rediscover her true womanhood (although it’s not put as bluntly as that). She does so, takes up painting again, meets a young post-doc (O’Keefe) doing research on blood, does the illustrations for him, and of course they fall in love.
     A lecherous old flame (Loder) picks her up when she returns to New York to help out her successor, and takes her to his place. But before any further compromising behavior can occur, the lecher’s associate arrives, there’s a dispute about missing jewelry, and Loder is murdered. But Lamarr has already left. Of course she is wrongfully arrested and tried, which puts the kibosh on her romance with O’Keefe, but he figures out the truth and gets the bad guy. Lamarr, still feeling guilty over her hoydenish past, flees, but O’Keefe catches up to her at the airport, clinch, and fade-out to happily ever after.
     The plot is not quite as ludicrous as this summary might imply, both the writing and the acting make the characters plausible enough, and with the exception of the murderer, they are nice enough. What 70-odd years have done is change the both the psychological theory and the mores that explain and govern our lives. It’s in the light of those explicit and implicit assumptions about human nature that we read this as a thoroughly dated movie. But we’d better not feel too superior about it. In every age popular fiction rests on the world-view of the day, and the 2010s will no doubt seem just as ludicrous to our descendants as the 1940s seem to us.
     A workmanlike piece of film making, worth a look, especially if you like Lamarr.  **

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