The Velvet Touch (1948)

“Love…I don’t even know how you spell it.”

“I’ll tell him things he won’t be able to forget and believe me, what I can’t invent I’ll leave to his imagination. ”
“When I get finished talking, if he ever touches you, he’ll wash his hands. ”
“You toss around affection as though it was in mass production.”
“Success and money–that’s what runs the world.”

Extremely successful and popular Broadway stage comedienne Valerie Stanton (Rosalind Russell) has enjoyed a long successful partnership with producer Gordon Dunning (Leon Ames). At one time, their relationship was more than just professional, and when the film The Velvet Touch begins, Valerie wants to break off her relationship with Gordon. There are two reasons for her decision: she’s going to marry straight-arrow architect Michael Morrell (Leo Genn) and she wants to shed her old life (and Gordon) in the process. As part of her metamorphosis, Val intends to drop her sharp, sarcastic comedienne persona and accept the serious role of Hedda Gabler with a new producer at the helm.

It’s closing night for latest popular play, and Valerie thinks it’s the perfect time to confront Gordon and announce her decision to put an end to their partnership. But the working arrangement between Gordon and Valerie is extremely successful and lucrative, plus Gordon, who’s acted as a sort of Svengali to Valerie, still holds a torch for his leading lady. An ugly scene takes place with Gordon threatening blackmail, and in a moment of blind anguish, Valerie kills Gordon.

Just how Valerie copes with her guilt is the subject of this film. The story flashes back to when she met Morrell and how he managed to break through her brittle, practiced exterior to the woman underneath. The film is loaded with ironies–including the fact that Valerie, in a desperate bid to hide the truth from her fiance, wants him to believe that she’s every bit as good as he thinks she is. The wonderful Sidney Greenstreet appears as Captain Danbury, the sagacious detective assigned to the case, and Claire Trevor stars as Marian Webster, a woman who plays second fiddle to Valerie both on and off the stage. Some of the film’s best scenes occur between these two actresses who square off every chance they get, and the words they exchange are loaded with spiteful double meaning. As an aside, pay attention to Leon Ames’s hair. In The Velvet Touch, it’s combed to give him a rakish, slightly untrustworthy air, and it works. Directed by Jack Gage.

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Filed under Film Noir

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