The File on Thelma Jordon (AKA Thelma Jordon)
It took me awhile to really get into The File on Thelma Jordon. For one thing, I was expecting a noir and it started out as a romance - and with a drunk man who was not that great looking to begin with. I would've thought Barbara Stanwyck had had better taste! In a nutshell, Stany's the prime suspect in a murder case, and her lover, Wendell Corey as an assistant district attorney, is the one who must prosecute her. The two of them also appear together in The Furies, from the same year, 1950.
She meets Corey under false pretenses, where he leads her to believe he's the DA when he's not. He's drunk out of his mind and tries to hit on her (he's married), even going so far as to chase her out of the building and to her car. But when he kisses her, wouldn't you know it, she kinda likes it a little.
Stany's not riffing on Phyllis Dietrichson here; in her opening scene, she comes across as a fairly normal woman, so why she would find Corey anything but repulsive is beyond me. Still, once he sobers up the next day, he's not as bad, so I guess I could buy her giving him a second chance. Maybe.
I would've skipped the courtship between the two and started the film on the night of the murder, because that's when things start to get interesting. Corey thinks he can protect Stany, even when it comes time for the trial, but there's something he doesn't know that turns out to make all the difference in the world.
Stany's Thelma doesn't come across as your typical femme fatale anti-heroine at first. We slowly get hints that she may not be as innocent as she seems, but she doesn't quite come across as the type to commit murder, either. In movies like The Strange Love of Martha Ivers or Crime of Passion, we see her ambition, her willingness to manipulate her men into doing her bidding, but here it's the reverse. It's Corey who's pushing her to do this and that at every turn, especially on the night of the murder. I guess I'm just not used to seeing her in that kind of role.
|I wish we could've seen more of this dog.|
Thelma isn't bad overall, but it doesn't quite compare with those other Stany movies I mentioned. I liked Corey better in The Furies, where the creepiness of his character works for him. I didn't completely buy him as a leading man, and certainly not as one worthy of Stany.
All my Stany posts (so far!)
Night Nurse/Ladies They Talk About
Sorry, Wrong Number
The Big Valley
The Lady Eve/Forty Guns
Barbara Stanwyck: The Miracle Woman (book review)
Banjo on My Knee/Remember the Night