THE SECRET FURY, 1950
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Robert Ryan, Jane Cowl, Vivian Vance
During the ceremony marrying Ellen and David, a stranger stands up when that phrase "if anyone knows why these two may not be joined..." is spoken. The stranger announces that Ellen is already married. Ellen however insists she is not, and the strain of proving she is telling the truth pushes her mind towards a breakdown and results in the death of the man she has supposedly already married (among others.) Ellen is charged with this death. But David believes in her innocence and sets out to uncover the conspiracy and the reason behind it. REVIEW:
The Secret Fury starts out as a romantic-comedy but soon becomes a mystery/suspense film. Ellen Ewing (Claudette Colbert) is set to marry David McLean (Robert Ryan), of whom her Aunt Clara (Jane Cowl) seems to disapprove. While there is a lot of witty banter within the first thirty minutes, the first scene actually foreshadows the suspenseful turn that the film takes later on. David first appears to the viewer as an intruder to his own wedding. He is introduced as a sketchy character who is attempting to enter a wedding party even though he is not on the guest list; meanwhile, Ellen is the one who is apparently the sketchy one in the relationship. During the ceremony, two men enter and claim that Ellen is already married to a man named Lucian Randall (Dave Barbour). She claims that she doesn’t know who Lucian is and denies having ever been married before.
David has no reason to mistrust Ellen and neither does the audience. The audience has trust in the protagonist until Ellen’s story seemingly begins to unravel. Although she denies having been married, the evidence against her starts to mount up. First, a marriage license book holds her signature, showing her to be married to Lucian. The justice of the peace recognizes her as well as several other people in town who address her as Mrs. Randall. Ellen begins to doubt her own memories and finally agrees to meet Lucian so that she can prove she does not know him. Despite her insistence that she has never met him before, Lucian addresses her as his wife.
The audience is perfectly manipulated into believing Ellen is insane. How could so many unrelated people know Ellen as Mrs. Randall? And if they knew she wasn’t Mrs. Randall, why would they pretend? A massive conspiracy would be only the explanation for Ellen’s insistence that she doesn’t know a Lucian Randall. Once Lucian Randall is killed by a gun held in Ellen’s hand (she swears she didn’t shoot him), she is on trial for his murder. At this point, her family and friends are beginning to doubt her innocence. Ex-lover and district attorney Eric Lowell (Paul Kelly) is the prosecutor of the case; he attempts to get a guilty plea. Her lawyer and friend to her father, Gregory Kent (Phillip Ober), tries to get her off on an insanity plea. The entire scenario is quite preposterous and the ending is quite contrived. It is a surprising ending undoubtedly but only because it is inexplicable.
The cast provides good performances overall, though the material isn’t good enough to showcase great acting. In the courtroom scene Paul Kelly does a good job giving an intimidating cross examination to Ellen and outshines Claudette Colbert’s melodramatic outbursts. Although, in her defense, the material given to her was not great. The only thing I can really recommend about this movie is its ending. It’s a short film overall (85 minutes) and worth it to watch it just for the last ten minutes which involves an attic and a giant, antique mirror.
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