BLONDE ICE (director: Jack Bernhard; screenwriters: based on the story by Whitney Chambers/ Kenneth Gamet; cinematographer: George Robinson; editors: Douglas W. Bagier/Jason H. Bernie; music: Irving Gertz; cast: Leslie Brooks (Claire Hanneman), Robert Paige (Les Burns), Walter Sande (Hack Doyle), John Holland (Carl Hanneman), James Griffith (Al Herrick), Russ Vincent (Blackie), Emory Parnell (Murdock), Michael Whalen (Stanley Mason), Mildred Coles (June Taylor, Secretary), Julie Gibson (Mimi Doyle), David Leonard (Dr. Jeffrey Kippinger), Rory Mallinson (Benson); Runtime: 78; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Robert E. Callahan; Film Classics Inc.; 1948)
“A minor film noir about a cold-hearted femme fatale …”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A minor film noir about a cold-hearted femme fatale who is capable of not only deceit but of murder. It’s a precursor to the more hardboiled neonoir films of today. Jack Bernhard directs a film that is based on a Whitney Chambers story, and allows the storyline to remain an oddity because of how ruthlessly cold and insane the femme fatale character played by Leslie Brooks is presented.
Claire (Brooks) is a real looker and is ambitious, having arisen from humble beginnings and is now spoiling for money, respect, and status. She’s a columnist for a San Francisco newspaper who has dated investigative reporter Al Herrick (Griffith), but has thrown him overboard for sportswriter Les Burns (Robert Paige-his last film as a star; he was reduced in the 1950s into doing Schlitz commercials for TV). But she dumps the modest wage-earner Les for wealthy businessman Carl Hanneman (Holand), as the film opens to her wedding celebration and her passionately kissing Les on the terrace of the Hanneman estate. On her honeymoon, Carl catches her writing a love letter to Les and tells her their marriage is over and she won’t get a penny from him. She’s not sure why she can’t let go of Les, but she can’t let him go even though she doesn’t think she loves him. Immediately after this incident, Carl angrily heads back to San Francisco and leaves her alone in their Los Angeles honeymoon suite. The calculating Claire obtains sleeping pills from the hotel physician and arranges with a private charter plane pilot, Blackie, to be secretly flown round-trip that night to San Francisco. She murders Carl and makes it look like a suicide. After her return to L.A., she gets Les to meet her at the San Francisco airport and take her home. Les finds Carl dead and calls the police, who suspect both of them but have no evidence to hold them.
The newspaper editor, Hack Doyle (Sande), assigns Al Herick to do the suicide/murder story. Claire will soon be a very wealthy woman, as she inherits after only a week’s marriage all of Carl’s wealth. But the charter pilot returns to blackmail her, and she’s forced to execute him when he presses her too hard for money to pay off his bookies. She also is introduced to an ambitious, womanizing, bachelor lawyer, Stanley Mason (Whalen), who helps her arrange the estate she’s about to inherit. They carry on a secret romance, as she’s impressed with the influence he wields and that he’s running to be a congressman. When Mason wins, he announces at the victory celebration his engagement to her and their plans to live in Washington. But Claire still doesn’t want to lose Les, and therefore strings him along without telling him about her marriage plans to Mason. When Les finds out, he calls her with disdain a heartless and cold woman — “blonde ice.”
Warning: spoiler to follow in the paragraph.
Mason’s close friend is the criminal psychologist Dr. Jeffrey Kippinger (Leonard), who talks him out of marrying the woman he analyses as being perversely ambitious and unfit for marriage. When Mason calls off the engagement, she can’t handle the rejection and stabs him to death. Claire then connives to frame Les as the killer, as Les found the body and now knows she’s a murderess and someone he can never love again. Kippinger works with the police to corner Claire into confessing. She’s so upset with the shrink for seeing through her, that she tries to kill him. But her gun is wrestled away and in the struggle it goes off killing her.
REVIEWED ON 10/13/2002 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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