Friday, February 06, 2009

Tonight's Movie: Cause for Alarm! (1951)

Ellen Jones (Loretta Young) lovingly nurses her husband George (Barry Sullivan), who has a heart condition and seems to be slipping into paranoia. Just before fatally collapsing, George tells Ellen that he's mailed a letter to the district attorney accusing her of conspiring with his doctor (Bruce Cowling) to murder him, which gives Ellen CAUSE FOR ALARM!

CAUSE FOR ALARM! is a fairly low-budget MGM film which was produced by Young's husband, Tom Lewis. The story's origins as a radio play are somewhat evident, particularly with the device of Young narrating much of the film, but the movie is quite gripping thanks to a tour de force performance by Young as the bewildered and then terrified suburban housewife. Young is in virtually every scene, and it's fascinating to watch her panic build as her ordinary middle-class existence spirals out of control in the course of a single day.

I recently saw Barry Sullivan as a detective in TENSION (1949). He's appropriately creepy as the deranged husband; his behavior is at first baffling but as the back story is revealed his character becomes easier to understand.

The supporting cast includes Margalo Gillmore as George's aunt, Irving Bacon as the postman, Georgia Backus as a neighbor, and Bradley Mora as a cute little boy next door. Richard Anderson can be glimpsed briefly early in the film.

CAUSE FOR ALARM! was filmed in black and white and runs 74 fast-paced minutes. It was directed by Tay Garnett (THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE). The cinematography is by Joseph Ruttenberg; the exteriors were filmed in a Los Angeles neighborhood, which gives the film an extra touch of realism.

The musical score is by Andre Previn. The theme music seemed very familiar, but I was unable to find an indication that the score was used in another film.

CAUSE FOR ALARM! was an MGM film but seems to have fallen into public domain, as it has had multiple video releases. The VHS copy I watched from VCI was a good print.

CAUSE FOR ALARM! is shown on Turner Classic Movies. The trailer can be seen here.

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