The House on Telegraph Hill (1951) Robert Wise
A Polish woman named Viktoria (Valentina Cortese) and her friend Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) are barely hanging on in a Belsen concentration camp near the end of WWII. Karin dies just before liberation and Viktoria, whose husband died in the German occupation of Poland, assumes Karin’s identity. Why? Karin’s little boy Christopher (Gordon Gebert) was sent to live in San Francisco with his wealthy Aunt Sophia. The aunt has died and Christopher probably doesn’t remember his real mother, so it’s worth the risk, right?
Things are looking up when Viktoria (now Karin) discovers that a man named Alan Spencer (Richard Basehart), a relative of Aunt Sophia, has been awarded custody of the child as his guardian. Spencer’s not bad looking and he’s got plenty of money… But this is film noir and things are going to get very, very messed up.
The House on Telegraph Hill is part No Man of Her Own (1950), part Rebecca (1940), and parts of several other films, but it stands apart due to some fine performances, Robert Wise’s direction, and a great use of San Francisco locales. This is worth watching and is easy to see right now on Netflix. Please check it out.
Side note – If you’ve seen The Narrow Margin (1952), you’ll recognize Gordon Gebert, the little boy playing Christopher in The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), but might be confused because he’s quite a bit smaller in The Narrow Margin, since that film was actually shot in May/June 1950 when Gebert was eight years old, but the film was released nearly two years later. In The House of Telegraph Hill, he’s nearly 10.
Photos: Doctor Macro, The Movie Title Stills Collection, Reel SF, Different Drummer, IMDB