Dan Duryea and Dorothy Lamour in Manhandled (1949)


(director/writer: Lewis R. Foster; screenwriters: Whitman Chambers/from the short story The Man Who Stole A Dream by L.S. Goldsmith; cinematographer: Ernest Laszlo; editor: Howard Smith; music: David Chudnow; cast: Dorothy Lamour (Merl Kramer), Dan Duryea (Karl Benson), Sterling Hayden (Joe Cooper), Irene Hervey (Ruth Bennett), Art Smith (Lt. Dawson), Harold Vermilyea (Dr. Redman), Philip Reed (Guy Bayard), Alan Napier (Alton Bennett), Irving Bacon (Sgt. Fayle), Ian Wolfe (Charlie, a fence); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: William Pine/William C. Thomas; Paramount; 1949)
“Unassuming but preposterous B-film crime thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Lewis R. Foster directs without passion this unassuming but preposterous B-film crime thriller that is based on the short story The Man Who Stole A Dream by L.S. Goldsmith. In a film that should have been more suspenseful because of the thick plot, the director mishandles the dramatic moments by introducing silly and unneeded comic moments. All that accomplished was to take away any credibility for it being taken seriously as a film noir while hardly providing any laughs. Foster also fails to make the series of coincidences, that are essential for this tale about a wrongfully accused person, to be convincing.

Merl Kramer (Dorothy Lamour) is an attractive young divorcee who six weeks ago moved from Los Angeles to Manhattan, leaving her three year old at home with her mother. For the last four weeks she was hired to be a secretary to a psychiatrist, Dr. Redman, getting the job when her overfriendly boyfriend neighbor, ex-policeman and shady private detective, Karl Benson (Dan Duryea), gave the desperate woman her forged references. We will later learn that the shrink is a phony, the private detective is crooked, the victim’s hubby an unappealing snob and the victim an adulteress.

Warning: spoiler to follow.

Wealthy writer Alton Bennett (Alan Napier) seeks Dr. Redman’s help over a recurring dream he’s having whereby he kills his unfaithful wife Ruth (Irene Hervey) by conking her over the noggin with her perfume bottle as she arrives home escorted by her smug architect suitor Guy Bayard; she is adorned in expensive jewelry and a classy evening dress. Later that evening Ruth is found murdered in the same way as the dream, and her jewelry worth $100,000 is missing. Naturally the husband is suspected by the lead detective on the case, Lt. Dawson (Art Smith), though insurance investigator Cooper (Sterling Hayden) is not that certain and believes the hubby’s alibi about taking sleeping pills at the time of the murder. When the innocent secretary becomes the main suspect, Cooper comes to her rescue by discovering how she was framed in a number of ways by the sleazeball private eye.

The film’s best scene is Napier’s chilling dream sequence of the murder in the opening act.