Black Widow (1954) Nunnally Johnson
Fox Film Noir DVD – library
Famous Broadway producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin, right) attends a party thrown by another famous Broadway personality, actress Lottie Marin (Ginger Rogers) and her wallflower husband Brian Mullen (Reginald Gardiner). While at the party, Denver meets Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner, left), a young woman trying to establish herself as a writer in New York. Nancy persuades Denver to allow her to use his apartment as place to write during the day, even though Denver’s wife Iris (Gene Tierney) is out of town. Denver tells Nancy that that’s all there will be to it, no extracurricular activities. When Denver returns from the airport after picking up his wife, he discovers Nancy has hung herself in his bathroom. Soon the cops – including Detective Lieutenant Bruce (George Raft, below left) – come knocking.
Black Widow has a few things going for it and several things going against it. The film is shot in beautiful widescreen CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color. The movie also boasts an excellent cast. The problem is they’re not given much to do with their acting talents. I don’t know if the 1952 Patrick Quentin novel of the same name that it’s based on is any different, but the story (by Hugh Wheeler) and screenplay (by Nunnally Johnson) are ordinary at best. The screenwriting has almost no rhythm to it at all and the pacing comes across as languid. It probably won’t take you very long to figure out what really happened in this mystery and who’s behind it, but at least the film looks good.
Photos: Dreams are What Le Cinema is For, The Hollywood Revue, Noir Encyclopedia