(director: Peter Godfrey; screenwriters: from the play by Martin Vale/Thomas Job; cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley; editor: Frederick Richards; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Humphrey Bogart (Geoffrey Carroll), Barbara Stanwyck (Sally Morton Carroll), Alexis Smith (Cecily Latham), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Tuttle), Isobel Elsom (Mrs. Latham), Patrick O’Moore (Charles Pennington), Ann Carter (Beatrice Carroll), Barry Bernard (Horace Blagdon), Peter Godfrey (Tout); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mark Hellinger/Jack L. Warner; Warner Brothers; 1947)

“Inert and overwrought crime/melodrama that never gets over being stagy despite the teaming of Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Britisher Peter Godfrey (“Cry Wolf”/”The Woman in White”/”Hotel Berlin”) directs this inert and overwrought crime/melodrama that never gets over being stagy despite the teaming of Humphrey Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck. There’s almost no action, the dialogue is from hunger, and the familiar plot has been better done in many other films. It’s based on the play by Martin Vale and scripted by Thomas Job. It was finished filming in 1945 but sat on the shelf at Warner’s for two years before being released, supposedly because it resembled Gaslight (1944). Bogart is cast as the American portrait painter Geoffrey Carroll (Humphrey Bogart), who resides in London. Geoff’s M.O. is that he eliminates his wives after painting their portraits, which he calls “The Angel of Death.”

The artist Carroll’s first wife, of ten years, is an invalid; he poisons her after he falls madly in love with the wealthy Sally Morton (Barbara Stanwyck), someone he meets while on a work/vacation in Scotland. Back in London, Geoff used a pseudonym to buy poison from the pharmacist Horace Blagdon (Barry Bernard), and then sent his petulant daughter Bea (Ann Carter) away to school while he nursed wifey with poisoned milk. Geoff marries Sally a year after his wife’s death and she becomes stepmother to Bea. We see them again after they’ve been married for a year and are living in her country mansion outside of London. The struggling artist is talented but grouchy, and is irked that Sally’s ex-fiancĂ©, a lawyer named Charles Pennington (Patrick O’Moore), keeps hanging around Sally using as an excuse that he’s visiting their wealthy neighbors Mrs. Latham (Isobel Elsom) and her attractive daughter Cecily (Alexis Smith). After seeing Geoff’s critically successful one-man show in London, Cecily has fallen in love with him and wants him to paint her portrait. At first Geoff disses her and gruffly turns her down, but later, because he needs the dough to pay Blagdon’s blackmail demands he agrees. It leads to Geoff murdering the blackmailer and falling in love with the Ice Queen model, and his wife suddenly taking sick from a mysterious illness and being treated by the incompetent and alcoholic physician Tuttle (Nigel Bruce).

Sally suspects her hubby of cheating with Cecily, and when pumping Bea learns that her mother was not always an invalid, but became sick when he returned from Scotland with the same symptoms she now has. It leads to a concluding confrontation between the two, as Geoff is seen as a madman driven to kill wife number two, after also secretly painting her portrait, but is prevented when the alert Charles brings the police in the nick of time just as Geoff is choking his wife and saying some nonsense about how her death will make him a better artist.

This film never had much of a chance from the beginning. Only Alexis Smith’s performance as the scheming other woman was pleasing.

REVIEWED ON 10/20/2006 GRADE: C+