The Dark Corner (1946) Henry Hathaway
Fox Film Noir DVD
New York private detective Brad Galt (Mark Stevens, right) is starting over after a bad luck streak in his previous home of San Francisco, where he served time for killing a man while driving drunk. Only problem is Galt was framed. But starting over gives you a new perspective and a new secretary in the form of Kathy (Lucille Ball, left), who might just turn out to be more than a secretary if Galt has anything to do with it.
One night Galt and Kathy are tailed by a burly man in a white suit. That man is named Foss (William Bendix, above) and Foss has been hired to follow Galt by the man who framed Galt for manslaughter back in San Francisco, Anthony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger). But Jardine has troubles of his own: he’s having an affair with Mari Cathcart (Cathy Downs), the wife of a cynical art dealer (Clifton Webb, below). Things quickly get wonderfully noirish, sordid and complicated.
The Dark Corner contains great atmosphere, clockwork pacing and one of noir’s great lines, coming from Galt:
“I feel all dead inside. I’m backed up in a dark corner and I don’t know who’s hitting me.” That’s as good a definition of noir as you’re likely to find anywhere.
The film suffers somewhat from its lead performers. Relative newcomer Mark Stevens was touted by 20th Century-Fox as their new leading man, a headliner that would bring in huge crowds, but that just never materialized (although Stevens also starred in another noir classic, 1948’s The Street with No Name). Here, Stevens is often wooden, unsure of himself, a problem which is brought out even more when he’s sharing the camera with Lucille Ball, who had already appeared in dozens of films and, of course, a star we all recognize from her amazing career. We know her so well from her life in comedy television, it’s difficult to remember she did a lot of other work. Ball is clearly comfortable and in control here, which frequently makes it obvious that Stevens isn’t. Plus the two have almost no chemistry together onscreen.
Still, The Dark Corner is a wonderful noir experience with great supporting performances by William Bendix and the always interesting Clifton Webb. It’s a nifty noir you don’t want to miss.