Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Woman in the Window (1944)




(Some people find spoiler warnings to be an affected annoyance, but the Siren doesn't write this stuff to lessen anyone's pleasure. And so she warns you that this post concerns the ending of The Woman in the Window. See Lang's great movie before you read this, is the Siren's advice.)

In the comments thread to the Siren's post on You and Me, Kevin Deany told a charming story about Fritz Lang's defensive reaction when asked why his films didn't include humor; and this led to some cracks about the term "German humor," to which sallies the Siren nonetheless has a two-word response. The Siren has written before that she finds Lang's films quite sexy (another quality he's occasionally said to lack) and adds that You and Me is very funny.

Plus, the Siren has her own example of an underrated Lang joke, and it's The Woman in the Window, a film she likes very much indeed.




Edward G. Robinson plays a contented professor of criminal psychology, Richard Wanley, who's adrift in Manhattan on a sultry July evening after he's seen his wife and children off to the country. At his club (do men still have those?), Wanley knocks back a couple with old friends, and on his way home he stops to admire a portrait of a beautiful woman in a gallery window. Suddenly, the portrait's subject is standing beside him, as if conjured by the heat cooking his subconscious. The woman, Alice, is Joan Bennett in her most seductive Hedy Lamarr-lookalike phase, and Wanley needs little persuasion to buy her a drink. They repair to Alice's apartment for champagne, and nothing more than that is happening when Alice's lover bursts in and, without much in the way of preamble, starts to throttle Wanley.

Wanley stabs his attacker dead with a pair of scissors. Flush with the classic film-noir determination to make a bad situation worse, he and Alice decide to cover up the crime. Alas, Dan Duryea arrives, puts two and two together and blackmails them. Alice and Wanley decide to bump off Duryea (also the time-honored choice), but Alice botches the poisoning attempt. With Duryea more disgustingly alive than ever, and demanding even more money, Wanley commits suicide. And then, o then...

We see that Wanley has been having a nap in his cozy club chair. Yes, friends, it was all a dream. Still a little freaked out, he exits the club, walks to the gallery window and looks at the portrait, when who should show up? And Wanley takes off in terror, leaving the puzzled beauty on the sidewalk.

What with sample reactions like "copout," "spuriously happy," "it seemed to be tacked on," and "the ending annoyed me so much that it compelled me to re-watch Scarlet Street"--hm, the Siren detects a certain resistance to accepting "it's all a dream" as any kind of a self-respecting film noir ending. There's a few defenders; Brian Kellow allowed as how it "beautifully underlines the inexorable, dreamlike pull of the story." And this gentleman, who helped restore Woman in the Window (without a negative, no less), hated the ending but thought

the technique used in the transitional shot is amazing...Edward G. is sitting in a big overstuffed chair in an apartment, the camera tracks in to a tight close up of his face, then it tracks back revealling him in an entirely different location. There’s no dissolve so you know the crew was flying walls in and out, changing furniture, replacing props, all in a few seconds. Really a great effect.

Well, the Siren, perverse mortal that she is, likes the ending. She can't claim to have seen it coming, but it made sense. Although it also makes sense that many people would hate it. Laughing Boy Fritz Lang plays a practical joke, and a large segment of the audience reacts the way people do to a practical joke: "That's NOT FUNNY."




But the joke doesn't shimmer in out of nowhere, like Jeeves. Girish Shambu (in a video essay the Siren recommends) says, "I find this film, in its own ironic and grim way, to be quite funny." Screenwriter Nunnally Johnson (who admittedly didn't like the end either) wrote some mordantly amusing lines, many delivered by Raymond Massey as Wanley's friend, an assistant district attorney. Massey's fossilized appearance can turn a scene into an instant Charles Addams cartoon anyway, more so when he's patting Wanley's shoulder and saying, "We rarely arrest people just for knowing where the body was." There's also the intrinsically amusing fact that Wanley is a professor of criminal psychology, but for all his ability to plan and execute a crime, he might as well be Father O'Malley in Going My Way.





Fritz Lang spent years telling skeptical interviewers that the Production Code didn't determine the end of The Woman in the Window, he did, and Lang went so far as to tell Peter Bogdanovich that he did it to make the film more plausible. In a way, it does. The film goes from twisted, to bleak, to horrifying, but that's the way a dream often progresses. You're in slumberland, dreaming of, say, a torrid X-rated encounter with Basil Rathbone circa Captain Blood, an example the Siren is pulling out of the purest hypothetical thin air, you understand. And then your creepiest co-worker shows up, and the dream becomes anti-erotic in one quick hurry, and then you hear footsteps on the ceiling and you know the footsteps are after you and when you awake and clutch the sweat-drenched bedclothes, you realize the dream was directed not by Michael Curtiz, but by David Fincher.





Don't lie to the Siren. You've dreamed about sex with a wildly inappropriate partner and found an excuse to skedaddle the very next time you saw the person. Maybe you've even gone to sleep and discovered that your subsconscious has given you permission to go full-dress Raskolnikov on your landlady. Waking up is a release, but there's a catch: Once your mind has revealed all the bits of anxiety playing bumper-cars around your amygdala, you can no longer pretend they aren't there. And Fritz Lang, never one to shy away from bitter truths, says the dream message could be worse.

Wanley says good-bye to his wife, who looks more like his mother than that of his children. And then he goes for a drink and muses that he can't even work up the energy to go see some strippers. And what does his dream bring him? A beautiful woman he never gets to have sex with. A moment of self-defense that he must cover up in the most craven way possible. A co-conspirator who can't manage a poisoning. Consequences he can't evade for acts he didn't even commit. Impotence, in other words, over and over again. Wanley flees from the lady of the evening and his nightmare, but the truth beneath his plumply bourgeois existence is running right with him.

Sure, that's depressing as hell. But it's also pretty funny.

60 comments:

Ed Howard said...

Nice piece. I also quite like the ending. It's very easy to call it a copout, and I had heard that it was forced on Lang by the studio, though I guess he says otherwise, but in any event it's actually totally consistent with the theme of the film as a whole. This is a story about a man pursuing a fantasy, with a femme fatale materializing out of the darkness to tempt him into sex and murder, so it's dreamlike from the very moment the woman's face appears in the reflection, melting out of nowhere. It's all a fantasy, so though it's a surprise when he wakes up, it's not a nonsensical twist by any means. "It's all a dream" is often a copout and a cheap twist, but not always. This film is in fine company with Mulholland Dr. as a film where the protagonist waking up doesn't erase the psychological implications of the dream.

Gloria said...

Well, as for me, I never disliked this ending... Even if the "dream" trick avoids the film ending in tragedy, the dirty deed has been done in manley's mind

In fact, and I guess most people will disagree with me, I don't dislike the ending of The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry, either.

readerman said...

I like this film a lot, even more than Lang's next outing with the same actors, Scarlet Street. Speaking of humor, I laugh how Professor Wanley makes a quick getaway up the street when another girl comes up behind him to look at the painting. Another Robinson gem and Joan Bennett is darn sezy. I think the end is great

D Cairns said...

I think a lot of people dislike the ending because they feel Lang, and noir in general, should preach that fate is inexorable and a tiny mistake can send a man to his doom, and Lang betrays them by telling just that story and then deciding, at the last minute, that he doesn't believe it after all.

Seeing it as a nightmare of impotence suddenly makes me think of Eyes Wide Shut, too.

The Siren said...

David, you're on to something; maybe nobody wants to see impotence as an inexorable fate. ;)

DavidEhrenstein said...

I like the ending too, and it's effect is comparable to the ending ofStrangers on a Train -- where Farley Granger and Ruth Roman skedaddle when importuned by. . .a priest.

I've had my share of inappropriate sexual partners in my time and none of them looked like Joan Bennett.

They looked like Farley Granger.

"Imotence as an inexorable fate" is the province of Marco Ferreri and late period Fellini -- especially his wildly undderated City of Women

DavidEhrenstein said...

Impotence Fellini Style

The entire film is a dream.

Shamus said...

What about the infuriating ending to Der Letze Mann (made by the other master of German expressionism, who was also called Friedrich)? Another instance of German humor?

Also, Lang's chief contribution to Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was to supply its twist ending. Its seems to have been endemic.

Yojimboen said...

Of course Lang wasn’t strictly German, he was Viennese (why is it, I wonder, we don’t say ‘Austrian’), and he was just as funny as his fellow-Viennese ‘the vons’ Stroheim and Sternberg. (Not to mention those comic cut-ups Freud, Wittgenstein and Schnitzler.)

Joking aside (mit ironisch zunge), did ever a greater exception prove the rule than Ernst Lubitsch?

Ed Howard said...

What about the infuriating ending to Der Letze Mann (made by the other master of German expressionism, who was also called Friedrich)? Another instance of German humor?

That was forced on Murnau by the studio, who didn't approve of his ending where the hero would've died.

But yes, it's definitely some (bitter) humor. In my opinion, the "happy" ending of that film is also quite good just because Murnau fulfilled the dictates of his studio bosses while making an ending so dripping with sarcasm that its absurdity is very obvious. He makes it so ridiculous that it's very obvious how disconnected it is from the rest of the movie.

Rachel said...

There's a brain teaser for you. Try to imagine Lubitsch's take on Fury or how Lang would have steered Heaven Can Wait. Of course, Lubitsch had his own dark streak (can you imagine You've Got Mail lingering over an adultery/suicide subplot the way Shop Around the Corner Does?). And Lang could do humor and charm.

Actually I get a pretty good giggle out of great swaths of Scarlet Street even if the darkness of the ending hits you like a cement mixer. The humor's black but it's there. Hell, with a little tinkering, you could imagine a lot of Joan Bennett's dialogue on fine art as something that could easily have been read by Marilyn Monroe.

("I bet you get as much for your paintings over there as those Frenchmen get right over here. Ah, you're never appreciated in your own country!")

All that said, I can't say I'm fond of the Woman in the Window ending, even if Lang does lay the groundwork right from the beginning. But now, I really want to go back and take another look at it, now that the Siren's given me a whole new perspective.

X. Trapnel said...

Y, becuase "Viennese" is something quite different from Austrian. The point of reference here is Hugo von Hofmannsthal's efforts to forge a cultural identity for Austria via the Salzburg Festival (and much else) following the collapse of the Habsburg Empire (the imperial attitude was for more significant than any sort of Austrian nationalism which didn't really exist), a long and fascinating story. But very briefly Viennese connotes a pan-European urbanity deriving heavily from German, Hungarian, Czech, French, and, above all, or at least the binding element, Jewish sources. Lubitsch, though a Berliner, was Viennese in spirit as surely as the Viennese Wilder was a spiritual Berliner.

Dave Enkosky said...

I never liked the ending to The Woman in the Window (for what it's worth, I think Scarlet Street a much better picture--not that it's the same story but, you know, similar cast and noirish themes and whatnot), but after reading you're review I've definitely rethought it. I'll have to give this movie another shot.

X. Trapnel said...

I never thought the painting in WITW did anything like justice to Joan Bennett. John Decker's portrait in Scarlet Street, eerie though it is, seems closer to the mark.

An interesting subject here: The female portrait in forties film: these two, P of Jenny, the portraits in Laura, The Uninvited, The Dark Corner; this could be extended to the portrait of Carlotta Valdez and the one in Pandora and the Flying Dutchman.

jwr said...

I both liked and disliked the ending at the various times I've seen it....Probably because it is exactly the kind of dream I tend to have and I always wake up from not knowing whether to be relieved or disappointed...But then I always knew Fritz understood me.

Arthur S. said...

It's interesting about the "it's a dream" endings, in light of the fact that Lang was the original choice to direct ''The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari'' and his main contribution was to insist that the set design of the sanatorium be as sober and realistic as possible to contrast with the famously jagged sets of the rest of the film.

I actually have a fondness for "It's all a dream" endings because a lot of them are rarer than supposed. The most recent film that pulled it of, is Brian DePalma's FEMME FATALE where the unhappy end is shown to be a daydream/prevision and is seemingly reversed at the end.

Lang always identified himself as German and cited himself as being a Berliner in contrast to say Ophuls, who is more Viennese. I think the ending of WomanInWindow upsets some people because it kind of reflects on something that's not often talked about, namely that film-noir can sometimes be seen as a kind of middle-class defeatist fantasy.

Regarding Lang's sense of humour and "happy endings", the original of SCARLET STREET, Jean Renoir's LA CHIENNE is in fact a jet-black comedy and it has a perverse and anarchic happy ending. Where Edward G. Robinson is absolutely and completely humiliated, Michel Simon finds out that he likes being a bum a great deal.

The Siren said...

Ha...it's not nice to play favorites but I do love JWR's comment esp. that last line. Sometimes, given what's up on screen, it worries me that this man's movies speak so loudly to my inner psyche. But yes, Fritz understands me too.

I want to reiterate that I haven't a thing against anyone who hates the end. I mean, when even the guy who helps restore the film thinks the ending smells (I really like his blog btw so I hope everybody clicks over), it's time to acknowledge there may be an entirely legitimate case to make against it. It's a big fat risk Lang took artistically, if not commercially. I just wanted to put my reasons for liking it out there.

The Siren said...

Arthur, in Bogdanovich's writings on Renoir I recall that he mentioned that while Renoir was too much the gentleman to go off on Lang in public, his wife was openly upset about Lang's remakes and said that Renoir was, too. Bogdanovich said that was probably because the remakes endangered the negatives of the originals. I have no problem with loving both Scarlet Street and La Chienne because, as you say, they play quite differently.

Josh Z said...

This makes me wonder, what was the first movie to use the "It was all a dream" ending? How far back does this go?

The Siren said...

Hm, that's a good question. We have Cabinet of Dr. Caligari but Lang himself implied the device was older than that. I'm sure there's plenty of early dream sequences, but it's the fake-out we're looking for, I assume.

Yojimboen said...

Dream of a Rarebit Fiend (1906) by Winsor McCay.

Tom Block said...

I don't mind the ending, but Lang was pushing it when he put Bert Lahr next to Wanley's chair.

>she finds Lang's films quite sexy (another quality he's occasionally said to lack)

I suppose somebody somewhere at some time has complained about this if only because mankind seems intent on saying every possible ridiculous thing before the sun finally supernovas, but that really is just plain nuts. Haven't they seen the moment in Scarlet Street when Bennett starts wiping the mud off her see-through raincoat? It's like watching her take a shower.

Shamus said...

Ed, I knew about the studio imposed ending but Murnau was, at the time, the most revered filmmaker in the world and he could still finish things his way. In many ways, the "happy" ending is more effective than the image of Emil Jannings receding into the darkness- the ending is more, uh, Brechtian.

Rachel, WIW has a lot of doors: E. Robinson and J. Bennett have to open/close/lock/unlock a lot of them when they are transporting the corpse. Very Lubitchian, I say.

Also, Buster Keaton's movies have lot of these "twist" endings- Sherlock Jr., of course, but also some of his shorts like Love Nest and a few others. For Keaton, cinema was a sort of a dream and Everson once wrote that Keaton makes no distinction between the obstacles of his "dreams" and the obstacles which bedevil his "waking reality".

Casey said...

Interesting that people find Lang's films sexy. I have to say they have the opposite effect on me. As good as his best work is, I don't feel like I derive any pleasure from watching it. In fact, for me there's a weird vibe to his movies that generally leaves me kind of depressed. But I guess it's all down to taste.

The dream device is tricky. First, it usually seems like a cop out. Second, it's been done to death. But I think it's also tough to justify in film, and especially film noir, because what we're seeing and hearing is already so close to the things we dream about. Lang's ending may be a comment on that.

I feel like John Farrow was really exploring this in a lot of his movies. Anybody seen Where Danger Lives?

surly hack said...

An Occurrence at Noir Creek Bridge.

D Cairns said...

Now the ending of Uncle Harry, that DOES stink. Fortunately the film up to that point is complete and wonderful and we can imagine it ending before Uncle H wakes up.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Good point about women-and-portrait films in the 40's. The late, great Ramond Durgnat said Vertigo was part of that su-genre, though it arrived tardily in 1958.

Kim Novak is going to be making a personal appearance this season for one of Bob Osborne's live TCM shows here in Hollywood. Vertigo will be shown, than he will interview Kim about it. Naturally that interiew is goign to be filmed for later showing on TCM.

Kirk said...

I was going to say "An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge" but surly hack beat me to it. One thing about that story, though, it's not the DREAM that's ends unhappily.

X. Trapnel said...

David,

Did Durgnat by any chance mention The Light That Failed in that connection? Or draw parallels with The Picture of Dorian Gray?

Yojimboen said...

An Occurrence at Noir Creek Bridge?

The Noirzard of Oz?

Laura said...

Funny this came out the same year as Laura, since that movie seemed like it was setting the audience up that it's all a dream, and then in Woman in the Window--and I genuinely didn't see the end coming either--provided that very twist. And let's not forget the stunning portraits of comely dark-haired lasses in both movies, symbols of something beautiful you can't touch except in those very dreams. Fritz, Otto, were you boys in cahoots during filming?

"But the joke doesn't shimmer in out of nowhere, like Jeeves." See, that's why you're one of my favorite writers on the internet.

jwr said...

I think the final measure of any "trick" ending is whether or not the film remains worth watching repeatedly. That is, it's the same measure of worthiness required of any other sort of ending...For me at lest WITW passes that test. While I can certainly imagine it doing the same if it had ended in the direct tragedy it seems headed for, there's never a guarantee about these things. I'll take any film I really like as is, over whatever "improvements" might or might not have existed in an alternative universe.
Which doesn't mean I can't understand the frustration others might feel--I think Lang knew he was going to alienate plenty of folks. I'm not even sure the ending is "earned." But I keep watching, so I can't complain.
I do think it helps that he didn't make a habit of ending on a joke.
And incidentally, the Siren can play favorites anytime she wants. That's why she's the Siren.

Kathy G. said...

"Flush with the classic film-noir determination to make a bad situation worse" -- indeed!

Like the Siren, I am quite fond of this film, although unlike her, I do think it has kind of the worst ending ever. I view it as a charming but lesser companion piece to the great Scarlet Street, which is a darker, truly tragic take on many of the themes that Woman in the Window treats in a comic fashion.

I really do need to see Woman in the Window again, though, because I too didn't see the ending coming. In retrospect, however, there are plenty of clues. For instance: when the hero becomes the chair of his department at the college, there is an article about it in the newspaper. That, for sure, is a "now, wait a minute!" moment -- how many newspapers of large metropolitan cities (IIRC, the city the film is set in is New York, implicitly if not explicitly) would report on something that from a journalistic standpoint is so obviously trivial? But if it's your dream, and it you're the one who becomes department chair, it makes perfect sense.

Anyway, this bit is one of many nice little touches in the film that give the game away to some extent, if you know how to read them. So perhaps Lang is playing fair after all? I do need to see this film again to make up my mind about that.

Vanwall said...

I've always thought Lang as a humorist was more in the vein of Grosz and Dix, the kind of grim hammer and tongs approach disguised as social commentary. His curious up-angle shots in 'M', along with his sardonic views on love and desire that run through all of his films, fascinates me - I can watch a lot of his UFA and Nero films just to catch the sly black portraits of the average characters, let alone the main ones. He was wonderful at background details that reinforce his character's actions, and I had a flashback to that kind of thinking while watching "Hugo" recently - the inspector checks his wristwatch, (similar to the analog time aspects that were often important in Lang's films, BTW} and I loved that it was an armored trench watch - it had a brass grill to keep the crystal from cracking from shrapnel, which just in that flash, tells a whole story about the inspector's war service: going over the top prolly led to the bum leg he had - something similar to what Lang would've done as a matter of course, many of his characters dripping in little side-story details like that. I do have a problem with dream endings, but mostly because many aren't done in a manner that really would fit the main story line. TWIW is really for watching Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea for me, anyway.

Dan Leo said...

I only want to add that Dan Duryea is so great in this movie doing what Dan Duryea did. Coming from the stage, he'd only been in pictures for a few years at this point, but he was already and so thoroughly "Dan Duryea".

DavidEhrenstein said...

I'll have to check, X. I don't recall Durgnat mentioning The Light That Failed but he did of course deal with The Picture of bDorian Gray

The Siren said...

With regard to Dan Duryea--I hope it was clear that I meant trying to bump him off was the time-honored way to deal with Duryea. He shows up, and I assume someone will be trying to murder him before the credits roll. I consider this a vital part of his appeal.

(SPOILER FOR STRANGE AFFAIR OF UNCLE HARRY)

David, I have to agree with you and not with Gloria; Uncle Harry is very much more clearly a Production Code sop. It has no internal consistency with what's gone before at ALL. The WitW isn't perfect, by the way; over at Parallax View Richard Jensen (who likes the end even more than I) does point out that the few happenings from Bennett's point of view undermine the "dream." But it's still thematically cohesive, at least to me. SAUH is just pretending everything's hunky-dory after two hours of showing you it's not. And as you say, it's so marvelous to that point.

esco 20 said...

WITW is also a nice twist on that great Freudian analysis, 'the return of the repressed.' of so many Hollywood movies. Wanley's safe, comfy bourgois existence takes as its price his virility. When he dreams (or yearns?)of returninf to an adventurous sexually exciting life, he finds his unconscious has also been stifled by his middle class life.
He discovers there is no repressed life to return to. He is the same person in his dream as he is in reality. He is too weak, too passive, and lacking the ingenuity and passion to pull it off.
As you so insightfully point out, the dream, in the end, only confirms his impotence.

esco 20 said...

Esco again.

I hasten to add that we like Wanley nonetheless. (Maybe because its Edward G playing him?).He's the nice amiable guy we all like to be. And who wants to trade off a safe comfy life with security and family for gorgeous Joan Bennett and dangerous Dan Duryea anyway. Don't answer that.

Dan Leo said...

Oh, wow, it finally just now hit me. I mean, not to get too Freudian, but the monogrammed mechanical pencil that Joan lifts from Eddie and keeps in her apartment!

And then at the end -- post-dream -- Eddie checks and sees, yes! he still has his pencil!

So maybe, you know, he's not "totally" impotent...

(By the way, the woman on the street that Edward G. runs away from in the end -- was that Joan with blond hair?)

Yojimboen said...

Iris Adrian

Mark T Lancaster said...

Among the clues that might have been supplied to savvy viewers that Professor Wanley was dreaming (though I myself missed them completely on my first viewing last night, courtesy of Netflix streaming) are the various ways that he implicates himself to his friend the DA. Making comments like assuming it’s a murder before they know it’s a murder, and other comments that he has to backpedal on, saying he thought that’s what the DA was implying. And most especially, when he begins to lead the DA to the body in the woods, and the DA’s light-hearted response that the Siren quoted above “We rarely arrest people just for knowing where the body was." These things are the stuff of bad dreams, and an intelligent college professor would hardly be likely to make such mistakes. I think the point of these behaviors is that they underline his extreme anxiety and increasing sense of loss of control of a situation he desperately needs to control. In bad dreams, we can undermine our best interests and let a nightmare get out of hand. In real life, I think this character would have behaved with more control.

Dan Leo said...

Thanks, Yojimbean! Great eye -- I see she got an (uncredited) on imdb.

DavidEhrenstein said...

Off-topic, but. . .

Le Petit mac-Mahon de David Ehrenstein Strikes Back!

X. Trapnel said...

David,

I am also grieved to learn of the passing of GLT, spy and girl delighter.

Shamus said...

So, as proof (or conjecture, anyway) of Lang's quirky sense of humor, some news articles:

1. Serial Killer identified by Edvard Grieg; pleads external compulsions.
2. Innocent Man gets lynched by mob over bag of peanuts.
3. Released asylum inmate eats mouthful of wrong cake; lands in spy net.
4. Innocent man on death-row mistakenly kills priest who was attempting to save him.
5. English dog arrested for attempting assassination on mein furher; insists his actions were strictly for sake of sportsmanship.
6. Girl who confessed Blue Gardenia murder cleared of all charges; claims to be "confused" about night of murder.
7. Television Journalist uses girlfriend to hook serial killer.
8. Gary Cooper plays a nuclear physicist.

[For the sake of spoilers, the movies are left (mostly) unidentified.]

Trish said...

Sigh. Here's another film that's been accused of not playing by the rules of noir: the ending is happy, or satisfactory, and so critics are in an uproar. Very silly. I don't dislike the ending at all. The problem is that dreams are never linear, lucid or like a real life narrative. A dream is like when Dorothy gets knocked on the head, her farmhouse spins, monkeys fly and a big booming head runs things. WITW's dream isn't like this and that's the problem. Why couldn't it have ended with the murder being pinned on the dead Duryea, putting Joan and Edward G. in the clear? I've got to say, I'm so glad Robinson got intelligent roles in the '40s. He's a wonderful actor. And I like Duryea in everything. He's like the nosy next-door-neighbour you know you can't trust...

Yojimboen said...

I'm hard put to think of a film where Dan Duryea doesn't get smacked in the mouth - or deserve it. That's quite a talent.

X. Trapnel said...

Black Angel, a strange combination of noir and O'Henry, is a chance to see Duryea in a wholly sympathetic part. Also a chance to see Constance Dowling (sister of Doris) who unwittingly drove the great Italian novelist Cesare Pavese to suicide.

Yojimboen said...

Back to topic A:

Rejoice! The Son of Monte Cristo, a costume meller Joan Bennet made 4 years before TWITW has slipped into Public Domain and is available in its entirety (and legally downloadable) here.

Another reason to grab it (besides its decent quality) is the superbly oily performance by our beloved George, at his Graustarkian, caddish, swinish best.

Enjoy!

Trish said...

X., I'm a huge fan of "Black Angel"! :D

Kevyn Knox said...

I have always assumed that the ending here, one I have no problem with whatsoever, was code-forced, or at least code-influenced. I suppose good ole Fritzy could have been playing a wonderful joke on us all the whole time.

I have never had a problem with the "it was all a dream" ending, and the final shot of Eddie G. running away in fear is quite funny.

As far as Eddie G. goes, I quite like The Woman in the Window (and Scarlet Street) but my favourite is the oft-overlooked The Red House. Not that this has anything really to do with anything, I thought I would drop it in anyway.

As for your words on the subject dear Siren, they are great as always. Now how can I sell you some eyelash drugs? You know of what I speak.

The Siren said...

For whoever was asking about the fate of the painting in The Woman in the Window: Joan Bennett kept it and hung it in her house. Jonathan Byrnes' blog, Shadows of the Night, has a photo of her with the painting.

Yojimboen said...

Check your attics.

gmoke said...

9 out of 10 of those posters are horror or science fiction. The only exception is "Flying Down to Rio."

Untouched Takeaway said...

Apparently someone *did* check the attic...literally.

http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2012/03/12/trove-valuable-rare-movie-posters-found-glued-together-going-to-auction/

DorianTB said...

Siren, THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (TWitW) has long been a favorite of mine, and I loved your post! It pleased me to see that I'm not the only one who liked its controversial ending. Admittedly, I'm a sucker for an upbeat ending, but I agree that the film had a dreamlike aspect from the start, and I liked the explanation of how the twist came about. I enjoyed your wry humor, too. Great job!

P.S.: If you're interested, before I saw and enjoyed your terrific post, I had written a blog post for TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED yesterday, a smackdown between TWitW and SCARLET STREET:

http://doriantb.blogspot.com/2012/03/fritz-lang-noir-smackdown-woman-in.html

Gareth said...

As the Siren advised, I watched the film before reading further; terrific stuff, and I thought the ending entirely fit the film, shot through from the off with the debate over middle-aged fantasy, though I didn't see the end coming. That climactic shot, in which Robinson is revealed to be snoozing at his club, looks like it's torn from a silent film, the framing such that only the pale face is visible .

There's a potential clue buried within the dream as to the outcome: when Duryea goes through Bennett's apartment, he finds the remaining money in a row of books that includes Thirty Clocks Strike the Hour. I scribbled down the title without quite being able to remember at the time why it seemed significant, but it's a collection of stories by Vita Sackville-West, who kept a dream diary, and whose stories are obsessed with memory and dreams. Of course, I can't be sure this isn't some kind of ex post facto clue, never intended...

Revanchist said...

I must say that the first impression when I encountered the ending went along the lines of "WTF?", but upon further reflection it has a strange, twisted integrity to it.

"Uncle Harry" on the other hand, feels tacked on, and artificial, which is why I couldn't like it very much.

Gary Z said...

Strange,but my first impression of the ending was that he HAD died,and gone to......where all the killers and thieves in the film have wound up. Things are not always what they seem in a Fritz Lang movie.
My girlfriend ,after seeing it as well,said she got the 'just a dream' connection right away, and my first reference to that movie ending was The Wizard of Oz.