SINCE YOU WENT AWAY (1944), SECRETS OF A SECRETARY (1931), and THE GILDED LILY (1935). Tonight marked number four in the Colbert festival, SLEEP, MY LOVE.
SLEEP, MY LOVE is a psychological thriller in the tradition of GASLIGHT (1944). Alison Courtland (Claudette Colbert) wakes up on a train in the middle of the night, having no idea how she got there or why she has a gun in her purse.
Alison's husband Dick (Don Ameche) has reported her missing to Sergeant Strake (Raymond Burr). Dick seems relieved when Alison turns up unharmed, but we soon learn that Dick is drugging Alison as part of a plot to ultimately allow him to enjoy Alison's wealth with gorgeous Daphne (Hazel Brooks).
Fortunately Alison's new friend Bruce Elcott (Robert Cummings) quickly surmises that something fishy is going on, and along with his "honorary brother," Jimmie (Keye Luke), he sets out to solve the mystery.
SLEEP, MY LOVE is a most enjoyable film. Nothing in the plot is particularly surprising, but it's all carried off with polish by the excellent cast.
One of the hallmarks of Colbert's performances is that she radiates great intelligence. Given that, one may briefly wonder why her character doesn't suspect her husband sooner, but she's just fine as the terrified wife, and it does make some sense that a woman who normally has such a sunny disposition would be the last to suspect the man she married.
Cummings is particularly enjoyable as sharp-eyed Bruce, and he and Ameche have a nice thinly veiled verbal duel over a game of darts. Cummings also has a very amusing exchange with a maid (Lillian Randolph). He has a fun rapport with Keye Luke, and there are some cute bits related to Jimmie's marriage to Jeannie (Maria San Marco). Cummings is quite charming in a role which is something of a forerunner to his part in DIAL M FOR MURDER (1954), where he must save another woman from her husband's dastardly plans.
Particular kudos go to Hazel Brooks as the femme fatale. One can rather understand why Ameche is so desperate to be with her.
Rita Johnson lends good comic support as Alison's friend Barby. George Coulouris is Ameche's "four-eyed" henchman, with Queenie Smith as his wife. Jimmie Dodd (THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB) appears in a couple scenes as an elevator boy, and Bess Flowers plays Ameche's secretary.
There's some stylish set design, with Colbert's ancestral home featuring a very creepy door knocker, an endlessly twisting staircase, a "jungle" conservatory, and effectively used sliding doors.
The movie was directed by Douglas Sirk, whose previous film was another thriller, the very enjoyable LURED (1947). SLEEP, MY LOVE was filmed in black and white by Joseph Valentine. The film runs 97 minutes.
The film began with the title "Mary Pickford Presents." The film's producers included Pickford and her husband, Charles "Buddy" Rogers.
SLEEP, MY LOVE isn't available in the U.S. on either VHS or DVD. It's available in multiple Region 2 DVDs, including German and Spanish editions. DVD Beaver reviewed the German DVD.
I watched SLEEP, MY LOVE thanks to our new Roku, which streams Netflix onto our TV set via our wireless network. I was extremely pleased with the Roku's picture quality; you'd never have known we weren't watching TCM or a DVD.
SLEEP, MY LOVE is one of a number of interesting Region 2 and other titles which have recently turned up on Netflix's "Watch Instantly" service so there will be lots more to enjoy on the Roku in the future.
Update: SLEEP, MY LOVE is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.
September 2014 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see this film in 35mm at UCLA and wrote a little more on the film here.