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CAUSE FOR ALARM (director: Tay Garnett; screenwriters: from an unpublished story by Larry Marcus/Mel Dinelli/Tom Lewis; cinematographer: Joseph Ruttenberg; editor: James E. Newcom; music: Andre Previn; cast: Loretta Young (Ellen Jones), Barry Sullivan (George Z. Jones), Bruce Cowling (Dr. Ranney Grahame), Margalo Gillmore (Mrs. Edwards), Brad Mora (Hoppy Billy), Irving Bacon (Mr. Carston, Postman), Georgia Backus (Mrs. Warren), Don Haggerty (Mr. Russell), Art Baker (Postal Superintendent), Greta Granstedt (Mom); Runtime: 74; MGM; 1951)
The film looked more like a 1950s TV show than a feature film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A film noir set in the suburbs of California, that is more of a melodrama that a mystery story. The film looked more like a 1950s TV show than a feature film. It was a quickie B-film made in 14 days, instead of the usual two months it normally takes to shoot such a pic. Producer and screenwriter, Tom Lewis, hired his then wife Loretta Young to play the distraught housewife. MGM studio director, Tay Garnett, had the cast and camera crew well-rehearsed before shooting started, which is the reason it was finished so quickly.

George Z. Jones (Barry Sullivan) is the former Navy pilot during the war, who swept wartime military nurse Ellen (Loretta Young) off her feet and married her in a fast wedding before they got to know each other. He took her away from her other suitor, his best friend, the more timid Dr. Ranney Grahame (Bruce Cowling). They all have since remained friends, with Grahame still being George’s physician.

The film opens on an extremely hot day with housewife Ellen taking care of her bed-ridden and mentally unbalanced businessman husband, who is not only suffering from a lingering heart condition but is consumed with unfounded jealousy that his wife is having an affair with Dr. Grahame. To get revenge, George writes an incriminating letter to the DA suggesting that his wife and his close friend and physician are conspiring to kill him. George mentions how they are acting to aggravate his condition and are giving him an overdose of his heart medicine. George also mentions about the life insurance policy he has, that if he dies his wife will come into a lot of money.

George gets his wife to mail the letter, and then he calls her up to his room and tells her the contents of the letter and pulls a gun. But before he can kill Ellen, he gets a heart attack and dies. Ellen’s only aim is to now get the letter back. But she can’t convince the postman to break regulations and give her the letter back, and when she sees the postal superintendent she is also prevented from having the letter returned because of strict postal regulations.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the next paragraph.

The frantic housewife is left alone with the unreported corpse in the house and has her whole suburban life turned upside down. But, Ellen’s saved when the postman brings back her letter because of insufficient postage.

The hopeless situation Ellen’s faced with is jarring, as all her dreams of raising a family and living the good suburban life are suddenly beyond her reach. The new next-door neighbor’s young child, who is enamored with TV cowboy star Hopalong Cassidy, acts to remind her of the good life she can live in the suburbs. It ends on an unconvincing and tiresome note, as the script was bare and unable to provide more than showing how panicked Ellen has become because she now realizes that it is possible in America for an innocent person to be charged with murder.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”