The Phantom Lady (1944)

 “She was too spoiled and too beautiful.”

The Phantom Lady is the mystery woman Scott Anderson (Alan Curtis) meets at a bar. The woman seems despondent and Scott persuades her to accompany him to a musical. She agrees–but only on the condition that he asks no questions and names are not exchanged.

Later that night, Anderson returns home to find his wife brutally murdered. Without an alibi–and only the untraceable mystery woman can provide that–Anderson is facing the death penalty. In a race against time, Scott’s assistant, Carol “Kansas” Richman (Ella Raines) begins a little detective work of her own ….

The interesting thing about this film is that the identity of the murderer is revealed about half way through the film. This has the potential to kill suspense–however, the film remains tense and suspenseful–and this is largely due to the performance of the extremely talented Ella Raines. She stalks witnesses, and even goes undercover as a party girl (and for this role, she’s almost unrecognizable). Every lead takes her to a dead end, but soon she has an ally–Inspector Burgess–the man who originally investigated the Anderson murder. “Kansas” really is a fantastic character. Her tough, disciplined, and no nonsense approach to the mystery elevates the film. Also noted are the performances of Estela Monteiro (Aurora Miranda) as a tempestuous singer, Cliff (Elisha Cook Jr.)–the manic, swinging drummer who knows more than he’s willing to tell, and Scott Marlow (Franchot Tone) as Anderson’s best friend. The Phantom Lady is an excellent example of Film Noir. Directed by Robert Siodmak, the film is based on a Cornell Woolrich novel.

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