Film: My Name is Julia Ross (1945)

May 18, 2011 | By

Film: Very Good

DVD Transfer: n/a

DVD Extras: n/a

Label: n/a

Region: n/a

Released: n/a

Genre: Mystery / Thriller

Synopsis: A woman applying for a secretarial job is forced by her new employers to live another woman’s life – until she’s no longer needed.

Special Features: n/a

 

 

Review:

Perhaps greenlit after the success of Alfred Hitchcock’s gothic creepy Rebecca (1940) and his malevolent husbandry shocker Suspicion (1941), Columbia’s B-thriller is actually based on Anthony Gilbert’s novel “The Woman in Red,” which was remade (of sorts) decades later as Dead of Winter (1987).

Pity this adaptation was limited to 65 mins., because this tale of ‘forced identity’ is near-perfect… until the hastening ending necessitated choppy scene jumps that bring the saga to a fast close.

Nina Foch (The Dark Past, The Undercover Man) plays a striking, recently dumped babe with no income prospects and back rent hanging over her head in trendy, pricy London.

Seeing an ad in the paper, she makes haste and manages to snag the secretarial position, aided by her unique personal situation of having no friends, no family, and no beau – ideal for the conspiring family who plan to whisk her away to a country estate in Cornwall, where she’s dropped into the role of a rich but mentally unstable wife to a short-tempered mama’s boy who likes to play with sharp knives.

SPOILERS

 

 

Julia Ross forcibly becomes Marian Hughes, and no matter how hard Julia tries, she just makes herself look crazier to the maid and visitors, ensuring her captors have a perfect public display of mental degeneration before she’s pushed over the edge for their financial benefit.

For the 1987 remake, the screenwriters took the basic story elements – a young woman with a wobbly romantic situation accepts a long-term job – and transposed the locations to New York City and ‘somewhere in snowy Canada’ and changed her profession from secretary to hungry actress. The four participants in the Marian Hughes charade (crazy son, the mastermind mum, the phony employment agent, and ersatz butler) were compressed into two characters (crippled psychiatrist and loyal butler / former mental patient).

Elements retained were a big old house, a remote location, a bedroom with a secret door, role-playing, and the ex-lover’s involvement in her rescue, but the ’87 version sought to create a more isolated environment, and introduce plenty of stressors which either kept Julia in the large home, or gave audiences enough reasons to find her confinement and inability to simply run away plausible. There was also a modification of the ultimate goal: money was still at the top of the pedestal, but it was now a game of wits between a blackmailing shrink and a twin sister.

 

 

END OF SPOILERS

Director Joseph Lewis made a handful of memorable baby noirs (Gun Crazy, The Big Combo, The Undercover Man) before sliding into episodic TV (The Rifleman), and in spite of some precious dialogue moments, he gives Julia Ross a nice edginess via moody lighting, and letting George Macready indulge in wild mood shifts, and Dame May Whitty (The Lady Vanishes, Suspicion, Lassie Come Home) shrugs off her dotty old dame persona for a possessive, manipulative matron.

Strong performances make up for the fast-tracked finale (which literally feels like whole scenes were junked during a compressed editing schedule), and while a forgotten thriller, it’s a fine little B-movie with a wonderful puzzle plot (and visual proof Macready was once, indeed, young… but always creepy without saying a bloody word).

 

 

© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

 

 

External References:

IMDB Composer Filmography

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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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