Monday, June 16, 2014

Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1946)

Woman in the Window (1944) - Edward G. Robinson (Professor Richard Wanley), Joan Bennett (Alice Reed), Raymond Massey (Frank Lalor, District Attorney), Edmund Breon (Dr. Michael Barkstane), Dan Duryea

Scarlet Street (1946) - Edward G. Robinson (Christopher Cross), Joan Bennett (Katherine "Kitty" March), Dan Duryea (Johnny Prince), Margaret Lindsay (Millie Ray), Rosalind Ivan (Adele Cross)

Joan Bennett as Alice Reed in Woman in the Window

In Woman in the Window, Professor Richard Wanley, played by Edward G Robinson, sees a portrait of a woman in a window.  He meets this woman, Alice, played by Joan Bennett while his wife, son, and daughter are out of town.  He goes to her home with her and he ends up killing her boyfriend when her boyfriend shows up.

Joan Bennett as Kitty March in Scarlet Street

In Scarlet Street, Edward G. Robinson plays a hen-pecked husband who wants to get away from his wife.  So when he meets model Kitty, played by Joan Bennett, he decides he's going to paint her.  She and her real boyfriend milk Christopher of money.  Naturally, with tragic results.  Kitty is just so darn whiny, you just love to hate her.  I can't stand the character of Christopher, but Robinson plays it well.  He's the perfect hen-pecked husband, I just don't like a hen-pecked husband.  I guess I don't like weak leading men.  Maybe it's because I'm so weak myself.  I like my leading men to be assertive or strong.  Perhaps it says more about me than the film.  Maybe I'm hen-pecked (even though I'm the hen)!

Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson in Scarlet Street

This film immediately made me think of the film Scarlet Street (1946).  Even before listening to Robert Osborne's introduction, I noticed some of the obvious similarities.  Having viewed Scarlet Street just last week, it was fresh in my mind while watching Woman in the Window.  First of all, they are basically the same cast.

Scarlet Street

Secondly, both films are Noir.  The mystery, the black and white film, murder - plots are quite similar.  In both Robinson plays a married man who has a flirtation with Bennett which ends in trouble and murder.

Kitty in Scarlet Street

Thirdly, painting is involved.  In Scarlet Street Robinson plays a painter who paints the girl.  In Woman in the Window, he is drawn to a girl in a painting.  Naturally, both films feature Joan Bennett portraits.  I have to say the painting in Woman in White of Bennett is stunning.  I couldn't find out who painted it.  Or perhaps it was a doctored photograph like the one of Gene Tierney in Laura.  But there is a vibrancy to the portrait of Bennett in Scarlet Street.  I adore it.  I wonder what happened to the paintings?  John Decker painted the pictures for Scarlet Street.  By the way, John Decker sounds like a fascinating person.  Another fun guy to research.

Joan Bennett and Edward G. Robinson in Woman in White

Having seen both films, I much prefer Woman in the Window.  I'm not much for the hen-pecked husband motif, so the plot was preferable.  The plot seemed less forced.  The hen-pecked husband with a girl seems so cliche.  The bumbling hubby who gets duped by a girl is just too predictable.  Perhaps at the time it wasn't, but I was almost embarrassed watching it.  The characters also felt more real and the acting more authentic.  Maybe the actors felt like it was a redo, too.  Or maybe I prefer the stone cold nature of the characters better than the sad hen-pecked Christopher.

Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea in Woman in the Window

John Decker painting from Woman in White

I recommend watching both films either separate or together.  They are both great examples of the noir genre.  If I had to make a choice between the two, I would watch Woman in the Window (8 out of 10) over Scarlet Street (5 out of 10).  Both films are highly regarded as examples of Film Noir.  I challenge everyone to watch both.  Compare the similarities and differences.  Think about the constraints placed about them by the Hays' Code.  While many hate it, I think the creativity brought upon by the code make films much more interesting.    

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