Sunday, May 23, 2021

Tonight's Movie: They Won't Believe Me (1947) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Some of the best movie news in recent memory was learning that the Warner Archive had restored 15 long-missing minutes to THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947). I'm delighted that the restored version has just been released on Blu-ray.

I first saw the shorter 80-minute version of this film at the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs. I really enjoyed it then, and I'm glad to say that the movie plays even better now that it runs its full 95 minutes.

The somewhat complicated plot finds Larry Ballatine (Robert Young) rather inexplicably attracting women, one after another after another.

The only problem in that regard is that Larry already has a wife (Rita Johnson); said wife is very wealthy, and he ends up wordlessly dumping his first extramarital girlfriend (Jane Greer) when his wife offers him an attractive financial deal.

Unfortunately Larry's not smart enough to ignore the wiles of Girlfriend No. 2 (Susan Hayward) and plots to run away with her, possibly absconding with some of his wife's money, but a fatal car wreck is only the beginning of Larry's life becoming very, very complicated. (As if it wasn't already complicated enough!)  Things get especially interesting when Girlfriend No. 1 re-enters the picture...

THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME is a splendid film with terrific performances, especially by Robert Young, who fearlessly plays an extremely self-involved man, and by Susan Hayward as the quick-thinking gold-digger who falls for Young.

I'll refer readers to my original review for more detailed thoughts on the characters and plot -- spoiler alert, I go into considerable detail -- and focus here on how the restored footage impacts the film. A good film has become that much better; it's truly excellent in every way.

Reviewer Glenn Erickson did us all a great service in doing a side-by-side comparison of the 95-minute and 80-minute versions; he compiled a detailed list of what's been restored, which was quite interesting to refer to as I watched.

The movie had been "sliced and diced" very carefully when the original running time was reduced, but even so, I found that those changes had quite an impact. The main thing I noticed is that in the full-length version, Larry's wife's conduct is more nuanced and sympathetic; yes, she essentially tries to buy him, but she comes off as less brittle and more hurt by his behavior. She is, after all, his wife.

On the flip side, Hayward's character becomes even more calculating and amoral, mentioning in one previously cut line that she's "not particular where she gathers her rosebuds."

There's a key concert scene which was completely excised from the shorter version which better shows both Hayward and Johnson's characters in their true light; Hayward is explicitly calculating, trying to make Larry jealous, while Johnson is worried and wounded.

Greer's character remains somewhat of an enigma, but she worked better for me this time around as well.

The movie was directed by Irving Pichel from a screenplay by Jonathan Latimer. It was filmed in black and white by Harry J. Wild. The musical score was by Roy Webb. 

The movie was produced by longtime Alfred Hitchcock associate Joan Harrison, who was recently the subject of a biography by Christina Lane. If only Harrison's life had unfolded a bit differently and she'd made more movies! The list is short but extremely high quality.

The supporting cast includes Frank Ferguson, Don Beddoe, Tom Powers, Byron Foulger, George Tyne, Anthony Caruso, and Harry Harvey.

IMDb has updated locations over the years, indicating that the bus stop scene was filmed in the Sierras at Crowley Lake, with the swim scene filmed at Mammoth Lakes. (Some of the scene also appears to be in a soundstage.) Since first seeing the film I'm even more positive that the film's ranch is the "hacienda" set at Lone Pine's Anchor Ranch; that location on Highway 395 also makes sense as it's on the way to Crowley Lake and Mammoth.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray print and sound are outstanding.

For those who might have seen an initial Warner Archive press release indicating the film would have an introduction by Eddie Muller, he recently Tweeted that it was scripted but Warner Bros. decided not to go ahead with it "at the last minute." It's our loss, but even so I can say that this restored print makes this Blu-ray a "must buy."

Highly recommended.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Warner Archive Amazon Store or any online retailers where Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger john k said...

Hi Laura,
I totally agree with you regarding your fine review.
I found this film a knockout and the restoration from Warner Archive is splendid.
In some ways it reminded me of OUT OF THE PAST in the way the action shifts from interiors to often stunning locations. And then there's that jury each face seemed to register "defenders of American morality" I thought what chance does Robert Young stand with this lot but as always with great Noir things are not always as they seem...great twist ending I thought.

11:11 AM  

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