Anne Parkson (Frances Gifford) has been married for a decade to Ted (George Murphy), a lawyer, and Ted's preoccupation with his career has caused her to feel taken for granted. Lonely Anne is an easy target for Ted's client, nightclub owner Tony Arnelo (John Hodiak), who asks to meet with her to discuss her interior decorating skills; however, interior decorating is the furthest thing from his mind. What he really wants is Anne.
Anne listens to Tony's lines and then leaves, but she's flattered and curious enough to meet with him a second time; again, that's as far as it goes. Almost immediately thereafter, Tony murders another of his paramours, and he decides to blackmail Anne into "cooperating" with him by leaving Anne's compact at the murder scene. Anne is caught between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between betraying her husband -- who is remorseful when he realizes he's been neglecting their relationship -- or exposing their family to scandal and ruining Ted's career.
It's a fairly interesting premise; the film does a good job with the marital side of the story, depicting two basically good people who need to step back and take the time to focus on what's important. The noirish side of the story is a little less successful. Tony explains to Anne how he'll blackmail her, but despite that I just kept thinking that if she'd only go to her husband and the police and explain exactly what happened, she wouldn't have a problem.
One of the reasons I recorded the film is that I enjoy Frances Gifford. Gifford was a native of nearby Long Beach, California, who had a short but notable career at MGM in mid-'40s titles like OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945), LITTLE MISTER JIM (1946), and LUXURY LINER (1948); her career was derailed in the late '40s after she suffered a serious head injury in a car accident.
Gifford is lovely in THE ARNELO AFFAIR; at some points she looks curiously like dancer Ann Miller, as Miller appeared in the 1948 MGM film EASTER PARADE. Gifford is quite effective at times, portraying her character's boredom and later anguish. Unfortunately, far too many scenes require her to stare vacantly into space, whether listening to Hodiak's come-on or agonizing over her situation. The blank stares get a bit old after a while; it's too bad the actress and director weren't able add a bit more spark to her performance.
Murphy and Hodiak are likewise strong in some scenes but a bit too low-key in others, and Hodiak's character is written as a bit of a dim bulb. Sure, he's from the wrong side of the tracks and covets a beautiful woman, but as a handsome, successful businessman, surely he shouldn't have trouble finding a lovely woman of his own?
Fortunately there are a pair of supporting actors who give the film some energy: Eve Arden in a typical Arden-esque role as the heroine's wisecracking, understanding best friend, and Warner Anderson as an observant police detective. (But what was he thinking, accusing a murder suspect while driving with the suspect in the passenger seat?) Dean Stockwell is cute as Gifford and Murphy's son, and Ruby Dandridge is a pleasing personality as their maid.
THE ARNELO AFFAIR was written and directed by Arch Oboler. It was shot in black and white and runs 87 minutes.
This film has not had a video or DVD release, but it can be seen on Turner Classic Movies, which has the trailer available here.
Another review of this film can be found at The Night Editor.