Black Widow (1954) starring Van Helfin, Ginger Rogers
In Black Widow, an aspiring young writer is found dead …. In a Broadway producer’s apartment. Is the Broadway producer helping her guilty?
- Ginger Rogers (The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle) … Carlotta ‘Lottie’ Marin. The very successful, and arrogant, actress. She’s married to Brian, whom she thinks is totally under her thumb.
- Van Heflin (Woman’s World) … Peter Denver. The playwright and protagonist. He’s wrongly suspected of committing Nancy’s murder. He plays detective, trying find out who the real murderer is. Before the police can find him.
- Gene Tierney (Here Comes Mr. Jordan) … Iris Denver. Peter’s wife, who initially stands by him, then doubts, then stands by him again. She’s sure he’s innocent. Later, she tries to decoy Lottie, so Peter can talk with Brian uninterrupted.
- George Raft (Around the World in 80 Days) … Detective Lt. C.A. Bruce. The investigating police detective. He’s quiet, determined, and good at his job. He puts together what really happened, from the various conflicting stories.
- Peggy Ann Garner (Blondie Brings Up Baby) … Nancy ‘Nanny’ Ordway. The dead woman. She turns out to have been a not-very-nice person. Cold, calculating, and willing to ruin other peoples’ lives to get what she wants. And her suicide turns out to have been a murder.
- Reginald Gardiner (The Great Dictator) … Brian Mullen. Lottie’s “nobody” husband. He’s totally dependent on her. But the question is, will the worm turn?
- Virginia Leith (The Brain that Wouldn’t Die) … Claire Amberly. The dead woman’s friend, who believes exactly what the dead woman told her.
- Otto Kruger (Dracula’s Daughter) … Gordon Ling
- Cathleen Nesbitt (Desiree) … Lucia Colletti
- Skip Homeier (The Ghost and Mr. Chicken) … John Amberly
- Hilda Simms …Anne
Editorial review of Black Widow courtesy of Amazon.com
Ginger Rogers steals the show as a selfish, snide Broadway superstar in Nunnally Johnson‘s Black Widow, preening, snooping, gossiping, and bestowing air kisses in equal abundance. This late-era (1954) color film noir is as delicious for its fabulous performances as for its dishy look at showbiz, fangs and all. Think of it as All About Eve with murder. Rogers is Carlotta Marin, a grande dame of the thea-tah, married, it would seem happily, to Brian Mullen (Reginald Gardiner). Discussing friends whose marriage is threatened by an alleged affair, Brian assures Lottie they wouldn’t face such disgrace. “After all,” he deadpans, “we have an understanding.” “What kind of understanding?” Lottie asks warily. “The understanding that if you catch me with another woman, you’ll break my neck.” The two collapse in laughter.
Yet at the heart of Black Widow is something grim, the death of a young, ambitious writer named Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner), who gloms onto a theater producer (Van Hefflin), who’s in love with his wife, Iris (Gene Tierney, heartbreakingly lovely). Nancy’s death appears to be self-inflicted, and yet as each piece of evidence–a weird suicide note, a threatening letter received in the mail–piles up, things begin to point to murder.
The cast is excellent, especially delivering the great backbiting dialogue. And the plot contains more twists than Lombard Street in San Francisco, and will keep viewers guessing, and riveted, to the end. Extras include a great commentary by Alan K. Rode, an expert in film noir, as well as two wonderful featurettes, on the careers of Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney respectively. Robert Osbourne offers his always insightful thoughts on the roles of Rogers, especially, as she sought to carve out a career after being paired with Fred Astaire. These solo steps are not to be missed.–A.T. Hurley