Without Honor (1949)

“You make me guilty of the most shameful, disgusting thing a woman can do.”

Set in the San Fernando Valley, Without Honor is the tale of adultery and its consequences. Unhappily married Jane Bandle (Laraine Day) is embroiled in an affair with married man Dennis Williams (Franchot Tone). When Dennis suspects that the affair has been discovered, he arrives at Jane’s ranch style home, and abruptly ends the relationship. During an hysterical scene, Jane accidentally stabs Dennis. Then her smarmy brother-in-law, Bill (Dane Clark) arrives …

Without Honor (other titles: Twilight, and Woman Accused) is a domestic drama with just a dash of noir. It’s not a bad little film, and on the plus side, the film shows how just a handful of characters inside a house can create an interesting drama. The best role here is Dane Clark as the brother-in-law–he acts his heart out. After he arrives at Jane’s home, he’s full of snide comments and calls her “the Duchess”, but his nastiness hides an unrequited lust for Jane. When he sees her looking out of the window, he says, “You ought to have a long-haired artist paint a picture of you watching the sun go down.” Bill, a liquor salesman, seeks revenge against Jane, but this feeling is laced with a desire he tries to deny.

The role of Jane is problematic. She’s a combination of a Betty Crocker housekeeper and an hysteric. At crucial moments throughout the film, instead of the script giving Jane’s character some decent lines to deliver, interior dialogue reveals her anguish while she chews her knuckles, and remains mute. There’s also an unintended camp element at play–after stabbing Dennis, Jane immediately flips into housewifely behaviour and cleans the floor. Then she changes, brushes her hair, contemplates wearing jewelry, and applies lipstick–she’s not hardboiled or cool enough to be this collected.

The very best scenes in the film occur with Jane and Katherine Williams (Agnes Moorehead). As the wronged wife, she should loathe Jane, but instead she feels pity for the fact that Jane’s been “taken in” by her Lothario of a husband. The film’s ending is clumsily moralistic, and Hays Code aside, the speeches didn’t have to be quite so preachy.

The film’s print quality is excellent–the picture is clear and crisp. The DVD from Geneon has no extras.

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