Monday, September 07, 2009

Tonight's Movie: The Locket (1946)

This seemed to be a day for movies from 1946: first TILL THE END OF TIME and then a far different film, the psychological film noir THE LOCKET.

THE LOCKET is the absorbing story of charming Nancy (Laraine Day), who seems to be the sweetest girl who ever lived. But as viewers find out in a somewhat dizzying flashback within a flashback within a flashback, Nancy is actually a kleptomaniac who's left a trail of bodies and broken men in her wake.

The triple flashback is launched on Nancy's wedding day, when her fiance (Gene Raymond) is visited by a psychiatrist, Dr. Harry Blair (Brian Aherne), who also happens to be Nancy's ex-husband. As Harry recounts Nancy's history, we are introduced to her earlier love, Norman (Robert Mitchum), whose story then transitions to Nancy's own flashback to her childhood.

Day is terrific as the butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth Nancy. It's a fascinating character and performance; at times Day makes even the viewers question if Nancy really could be guilty of what Norman and Harry suspect. The script raises more questions than it answers; for instance, without being too spoilerish, did Nancy have anything to do with how things turned out for Karen (Gloria Donovan)?

The exploration of Nancy's background and motivations is quite interesting. Psychological themes were especially popular toward the end of and just after WWII, whether in lighter films such as Ginger Rogers' LADY IN THE DARK (1944) and IT HAD TO BE YOU (1947), or in mysteries like Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND (1945). THE LOCKET also has some similarity with a much later Hitchcock film about a disturbed kleptomaniac, MARNIE (1964).

The film has a tremendously deep cast, starting with Aherne and Mitchum. (There's a scene with Mitchum I sure didn't see coming which packs a wallop.) Sharyn Moffett, who later played one of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy's daughters in MR. BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE (1948), is effective playing Nancy as a child.

The cast also includes great pros like Ricardo Cortez, Henry Stephenson, and Reginald Denny. Nella Walker, Ellen Corby, Myrna Dell, and Katherine Emery are also in the cast. Look for Martha Hyer as a bridesmaid. Lillian Fontaine, who plays Lady Wyndham, was the mother of Joan Fontaine and Olivia DeHavilland.

THE LOCKET was directed by John Brahm. It was shot in black and white by Nicholas Musuraca and runs 85 minutes.

This film has not had a DVD or video release. It can be seen on Turner Classic Movies.

August 2010 Update: THE LOCKET is now available in DVD-R format from the Warner Archive.


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