TOA/V: A Woman’s Secret

A Woman’s Secret
Dir. Nicholas Ray
Script: Herman J. Mankiewicz
Gloria Grahame, Maureen O’Hara, Melvin Douglas

Of course I wanted to see this for glorious Gloria. The make-up! As the star Estrellita, they try to make her look more ‘exotic’ I guess and they do the extra lip thing: you know creating a fuller top lip which looks so wrong, though they did that to a lot of actresses at the time.

Nothing wrong with her lips!

The film starts off with the star flouncing into her apartment and telling off O’Hara, saying she’s had enough of her Svengali act and is quitting. The two argue and behind a closed door, a gun goes off. The rest of the film is flashbacks to see how we got there and what really happened.

O’Hara is a peach but she can’t hold a candle to Grahame, who’s not on screen nearly enough but is magic whenever she is. The rough protégé tries O’Hara’s patience, but also becomes her vicarious double, robbed of stardom herself after a tragic illness. I want to read the novel Mortgage on Life by Vicki Baum because I suspect there’s a lot more intrigue than ended up on screen.

So much skirting the censors: Douglas and O’Hara make great beards for each other. There’s even a ‘phew, since we’re not interested in each other, let’s hang out instead’ scene and O’Hara is so obsessed with Grahame she looks like a cat ready to pounce. Meanwhile the singer-in-training is as likely to follow a man to Algiers on a whim as show up for her star debut.

Douglas is a hoot, but so too are the husband and wife detecting team the Fowlers (Mary Philips, as the mystery-reading amateur and as her proper policeman husband, Jay C. Flippen). Fun stuff!

See all the gems at Todd’s blog.