Portrait of Alison (1955)



(director/writer: Guy Green; screenwriter: from a story by Francis Durbridge/ Ken Hughes; cinematographer: Wilkie Cooper; editor: Peter Taylor; music: John Veale; cast: Terry Moore (Alison Ford), Robert Beatty (Tim Forrester), William Sylvester (Dave Forrester), Josephine Griffin (Jill Stewart), Geoffrey Keen (Inspector Colby), Allan Cuthbertson (Henry Carmichael), Henry Oscar (John Smith), William Lucas (Reg Dorking), Terry Alexander (Fenby); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Frank Godwin; RKO Radio Pictures; 1955-UK/USA)

“A tidy crime drama.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director-writer Guy Green presents a tidy crime drama. It’s filmed in London and told in the form of a police procedure story, that is adapted from a popular British TV serial.

Portrait artist Tim Forrester (Robert Beatty) learns from his roommate brother Dave (William Sylvester), who’s a pilot running a charter business, that their younger, wilder journalist brother Lewis died in a car accident in Milan (plunging over a cliff) along with an actress named Alison Ford (Terry Moore). Both the Italian police and Scotland Yard believe it was murder, and Scotland Yard Inspector Colby (Geoffrey Keen) questions Tim if he received a postcard with a sketch of an oddly labeled bottle of Chianti. The police believe his murder is tied to an international diamond-smuggling operation and that the vic sent the postcard as a means of protection, since he was doing an investigative story on that subject and uncovered some vital information about the smugglers.

When Tim’s steady model Jill Stewart (Josephine Griffin) is found strangled to death in his flat, just after she leaves him to marry a wealthy mystery man posing as a dullard, named Henry Carmichael (Allan Cuthbertson), and a portrait of Tim’s drawing of Alison is defaced, the police question Tim’s story as he tells them that Alison’s grieving father John Smith commissioned the portrait drawing by presenting him with a photograph of his daughter. Tim finds himself involved in this mystery even deeper when he’s contacted by a sleazy used-car dealer, Reg Dorking, who offers to sell the postcard for a tidy sum. Later Alison turns up alive in Tim’s flat and asks for his help in tracking down the killers, saying her father is part of the smuggler’s ring but now wants out–which is the reason she wants to get to dad before the police do. Alison suspected her father when he warned her not to go with Lewis to Milan, knowing the mob had contracted to kill him. In the car Alison had a row with Lewis after he accused her father of being in the ring and she then left him, and the unidentifiable body of the girl found was probably a hitchhiker. It all leads to the police getting hold of the postcard and deciphering its invisible ink code, and with a few twists and heroics performed by Tim who winds up the case by locating a mystery man known only as Mr. Nightingale.

It was tightly scripted and directed, and the acting was crisp without any false notes. It had the luminous look of a film noir, and is an above average detective story.