(director: Joseph M. Newman; screenwriters: Leo Townsend/novel by John Dickson Carr; cinematographer: Joseph LaShelle; editor: William H. Reynolds; cast: Jeanne Crain (Ruth Bowman), Michael Rennie (Dr. Paul Manning), Carl Betz (John Bowman), Mary Anderson (Anna Quinn), Casey Adams (Jim Logan), Willis Bouchey (Capt. Peters), Karl Ludwig Lindt (Foreign Passenger), Marjorie Hoshelle (Kay Prentiss); Runtime: 75; TCF; 1953)
“A good old-fashioned mystery yarn.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A good old-fashioned mystery yarn. It is adapted from John Dickson Carr’s novel but this time instead of the “Lady Vanishes,” it is the husband. Ruth Bowman (Jeanne Crain) has married a few hours ago and her husband John (Betz) has arranged for a honeymoon cruise aboard a luxury liner across the Atlantic.
John carries the blissful bride across the threshold to their cabin and the stewardess (Anderson) who is arranging the flowers, quickly excuses herself. John goes to the purser to leave some money in the vault for safe keeping and plans to meet his wife in the dining room. But that is the last time Ruth sees him, as he vanishes along with their tickets and passport. When Ruth tries to explain this to the ship personnel, they don’t believe her. She can’t remember where she got married and has no proof of the marriage and when they check the cabin, they find that it is deserted and wasn’t booked for the voyage. On top of that, no one on board has seen them together. Oddly enough the stewardess denies seeing her. When Ruth asks about her luggage, the steward traces it to her maiden name and a different cabin than the one she mentioned. There is no luggage for her husband or mention of him.
The kindly ship’s doctor, Paul Manning (Rennie), is called in to calm Ruth down and get the real story. Paul wants to believe her, but thinks she is hallucinating. Ruth tells him that her father died four months ago and she was very close to him, and she had a nervous breakdown after his death. Feeling depressed and lonely she meets John and he makes her feel happy again, so they secretly got married after a short romance.
Ruth can’t believe John is not on the boat and after the captain (Bouchey) tells her he had the boat searched and there were no stowaways, she still believes John is aboard. Ruth then receives a mystery call from John as he tells her to trust no one, that both their lives are in danger and that he will get back to her as soon as possible.
Ruth is hysterical as the ship’s crew thinks she is imagining things, though Paul sticks with her through thick and thin. Being suspicious of her marriage he finally asks her who would benefit from the death of either her or her husband, and she tells him her father was a wealthy industrialist and in his will he left her the company.
The story itself if examined closely had many improbabilities, but its strength lies in the tension it creates within Crain and how she handles it. Ruth never quite figures out, until it is almost too late, that her husband wants to kill her. She had a blind trust and it is hard for me to imagine another person in her situation acting as naively. Yet it’s possible.
This B&W melodrama was always suspenseful and was aided by scenes with a heavy fog, which created a rich noir flavor. The vulnerable Crain seemed so helplessly alone as she tried to keep her sanity. This was highlighted by showing Ruth sitting by herself at the dining table. It is tersely directed and superbly acted.
REVIEWED ON 8/7/2000 GRADE: B-