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Shadow of a Woman

Shadow of a Woman(1946)

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Shadow of a Woman (1946)

The advertising for dark thrillers in the 1940s promised raw realism, yet in general avoided real-life subjects that might depress an audience. Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity (1944) opened the floodgates for more sordid crime fare, as seen with 1946's The Postman Always Rings Twice and 1945's Mildred Pierce. Warner Bros.' Shadow of a Woman (1946) is a less accomplished thriller adapted from Virginia Perdue's book He Fell Down Dead. It deals with murderous medical malpractice by a psychotic doctor, and some of the victims are children. The unhappy Brooke (Andrea King) unknowingly marries a quack dietician Eric (Helmut Dantine), who believes that the right diet can substitute for medicine, and can even replace needed surgery. Eric's ugly secret is that he's starving his own son Phillip (Larry Geiger) to death, so as to claim the boy's inheritance. After learning that a lawyer (William Prince) is trying to return custody of Phillip to his mother, Eric's previous wife (Peggy Knudsen), Brooke sees evidence of her new husband's gross malpractice. An elderly woman dies after being refused an operation, and a young man (John Alvin) suffers from a broken leg that was never properly set. The new bride catches on to the awful truth far too slowly. By the time Brooke realizes that her husband has married her only to cement his custody claim on Phillip, her life is in danger. Critics were dismayed by the grim elements in Shadow of a Woman: a malnourished child wastes away in a dark mansion, patients die unnecessarily and a suicide might really be a murder. Reviews were mostly tepid, with low marks for director Joseph Santley's work. Although Helmut Dantine and Andrea King had been well received playing together in Warner Bros.' Hotel Berlin (1945), Shadow of a Woman did little for their careers. The handsome Dantine was fresh from four years playing villainous Germans, a type now less in demand. Andrea King cannot overcome a script that makes her heroine seem far too gullible. Producer William Jacobs also cast Ms. King in his horror film The Beast with Five Fingers (1946). His dark thrillers around this time included other grim downers - the excellent noir tragedy Nora Prentiss (1947) with Ann Sheridan is positively morbid.

By Glenn Erickson

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