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  Dark Corner, The Frame Picture
Year: 1946
Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Lucille Ball, Clifton Webb, William Bendix, Mark Stevens, Kurt Kreuger, Cathy Downs, Reed Hadley, Constance Collier
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Starting his new private detective business, the last thing Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) needs is a cop from his shady past sniffing about, and he is reluctant to explain why to his secretary Kathleen Stewart (Lucille Ball) who is loyal to him in the face of questioning from the cop, Reeves (Reed Hadley). Once he leaves, making sure that Galt knows he has his eye on him, the sleuth asks Kathleen out on a date, and they opt to go to the local fairground, although she notices something is not quite right. That something is a man in a white suit (William Bendix) following them, and Galt lets her know that he has spotted him too...

After Laura was a big hit and one of the defining film noir movies of the forties, its breakout star Clifton Webb sought another vehicle for his talents, or rather one was sought for him as what he ended up in was a similarly waspish, well-to-do role that could have been Waldo Lydecker the Second, complete with witty put downs and bon mots aplenty. Webb was essaying the villain part once again, but oddly he and the hero do not meet until the very end of the film, indeed Galt is not even aware of the existence of Webb's art dealer Hardy Cathcart at all for much of the story. They make an interesting counterpoint to each other, particularly in relation to their partners.

Early on, Kathleen tells Galt that she wishes to mother him, and in effect that's what she does as we perceive his tough guy act is not as effective as he would like to think. By the end he is standing on his own two feet, a proper two-fisted hero, and it's all thanks to the love of a good woman who has stuck by him during harsh times; Ball was not the famous comedienne that graced fifties television at this time and made for an attractive leading lady, gracing a handful of thrillers in the decade before her megastardom, which only makes this all the more intriguing. Webb, meanwhile acts as a father figure to his young partner, and jealously guides her as if she were an exquisite work of art.

Mari (Cathy Downs) is that wife, and she finds a way to wriggle out of her husband's clutches by having an affair with one of his associates, Anthony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), which in a stroke of bad luck Cathcart is all too aware of. As if Jardine was stealing one of his paintings - he owns an artwork which bears striking resemblance to Mari - Cathcart determines to buy her back by eliminating the opposition, but will she manage to get her bearings the way Galt does? Not if her husband's plans come to fruition she won't as he prepares to frame the detective, who for too much of the film looks like a sap although he does begin to redeem himself just before we are about to give up on him as a lost cause.

Galt has had dealings with Jardine before, as it was he who put him in prison for two years, which is the detective's big secret. Being a decent sort, Kathleen accepts this and is prepared for him to put it behind him if he can, although Cathcart has other ideas. His heavy is Bendix's Stauffer, who pretends to get beaten up by Galt (if such a thing is possible) to lull him into a false sense of security, and is a far more convincing tough guy than the potential fall guy, but Bendix was born for this kind of thing after all. At times he contributes to the near-cartoonish air of the film thanks to his way with the hardboiled dialogue which you could translate into a Bugs Bunny spoof and not notice anything out of place. But if it seems they're all trying a little too hard in the script department, there are some good lines which don't sound too corny, and the cast are more than capable of bringing them to life in a second division but enjoyable example of the genre. No idea what the title refers too, mind you. Music by Cyril Mockridge.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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