Neglected Noir: Bedelia (1946) by K A Laity

bedeliaI finally got around to watching this because I am still (again, always) obsessing about Hannibal and the presentation I’ll be giving on it in April. What’s the connection? Show runner Bryan Fuller named a new character after her, Bedelia du Maurier (obviously the Rebecca author for the other half of her name). The novel should be showing up later this week: I’m looking forward to it. 

It’s hard to top Vera Caspary’s Laura – novel or film, though the author wasn’t entirely happy with choices in the film, like turning proto-incel Waldo Lydecker into a swanning Svengali. It’s hard to avoid that when you cast Clifton Webb. He certainly revels in it: who can forget him typing in the bath? And the rest of the supporting cast fills out the story well. When is Vincent Price bad? And Judith Anderson! Dana Andrews hits the right grumpy note for the reluctant detective who falls for a painting.

Despite making a late entrance to the starring role Gene Tierney is at her most magnetic – which is why it’s hard to avoid wishing she had taken the role of Bedelia, too. It’s a great story but the pieces aren’t as good as you could imagine them being, which is a pity because it is good. Margaret Lockwood is fine as the titular character: impulsive and mercurial, flashes of anger alternating with wheedling sweetness. Ian Hunter ably embodies the hapless husband who doesn’t realise his wife may actually be dangerous.

Barry K. Barnes is the detective in disguise as a painter who is convincing as neither. He’s sort of the poor man’s Leslie Howard; he even played the Scarlet Pimpernel in one of the later film sequels. Things get better when the action moves from (a very unconvincing) Monte Carlo to Yorkshire. Things crack on a little faster as the pressure gets applied. Is Bedelia having second thoughts? Or simply choosing a different victim?

Conclusions: dolls are always creepy. Cats vs dogs tells you a lot about a person, apparently. Murderers deserve better outfits. Worth a watch; well worth a remake, too.

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