Thursday, March 11, 2010
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers - 1946
Movies - August 1946 004
Originally uploaded by Quiltin' WaYnE
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a black-and-white film noir released in the United States in 1946, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and Kirk Douglas in his film debut. The movie is based on the short story "Love Lies Bleeding" by playwright John Patrick, using the pseudonym Jack Patrick, and was produced by Hal B. Wallis. The screenplay was written by Robert Rossen and Robert Riskin, who was not credited, and was directed by Lewis Milestone. The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.
On a rainy night in 1928 in a Pennsylvania factory town called Iverstown, Martha Ivers (Janis Wilson), a young girl yearning to escape from the guardianship of her wealthy, domineering aunt, is caught trying to run away with her friend, the street-smart, poor Sam Masterson (Darryl Hickman). Martha is taken home. Later that night, Sam comes for her, but hides when her aunt hears Martha's beloved cat wandering on the staircase. When Mrs. Ivers attacks the pet with her cane Martha intervenes, with fatal consequences. This is witnessed by Walter O'Neil (Mickey Kuhn), the son of Martha's tutor (Roman Bohnen). The greedy Mr. O'Neil suspects what happened, but presents Martha's version of events to the police, that a strange man was responsible. However, he uses his power over Martha to move into the mansion and take control of her life. Years later, he blackmails her into marrying his son by having her testify against an innocent man, resulting in his execution.
Eighteen years later, Walter (now played by Kirk Douglas) is the district attorney, while Martha (Barbara Stanwyck) used her inheritance from her aunt to build a large business empire. However, their marriage is one-sided; he loves her, but the reverse isn't true. Sam (Van Heflin), now a drifter and gambler, stops in the small town by chance when he crashes his car and has to wait for it to be repaired.
At his old home, now a boarding house, he meets Antonia "Toni" Marachek (Lizabeth Scott), who has just been released from jail. She is later picked up for violating her probation by not returning to her hometown. Sam goes to see Walter, to see if he can use his influence to get her released.
Walter worries that he has returned with blackmail in mind. When he observes his wife's joyful reaction to the news, he has an additional motive for running Sam out of town. He forces Toni to set Sam up. Sam is beaten and driven out of town, but he is too tough to intimidate. When all else fails, Walter makes a half-hearted attempt to kill Sam himself, but is easily disarmed. Martha then inadvertently blurts out the couple's fears, but they prove to be groundless: Sam never witnessed the death. Martha breaks down and laments that he left without her all those years ago, taking with him her only chance for love and freedom.
Sam is torn between his old love and his new. Although he eventually forgives Toni for betraying him, he and Martha spend an idyllic day together, rekindling his feelings for her.
Walter arranges to meet Sam to finally settle matters. Before Sam arrives, Walter gets drunk and Martha finds out about the meeting. When she urges Sam to kill her husband, Sam's love for her is extinguished. He leaves the guilt-ridden couple to contemplate the wreckage of their lives. Before he goes, he gives Walter back his gun and turns his back on him, but Walter does nothing. Martha picks up the gun, but she cannot fire either.
After Sam leaves, Walter embraces Martha, then points his gun at her midriff. Oddly relieved, she puts her hand over his hand on the trigger and presses. As she is dying, she defiantly states her name is not Martha Ivers, but Martha Smith. Outside, Sam hears the shot, then soon after, a second. Sam starts toward the house, then realizes it is too late and departs. He leaves town with Toni.
* Barbara Stanwyck as Martha Ivers
* Van Heflin as Sam Masterson
* Lizabeth Scott as Antonia "Toni" Marachek
* Kirk Douglas as Walter O'Neil.
* Roman Bohnen as Mr O'Neil, Walter's father
* Judith Anderson as Mrs Ivers
* Janis Wilson as the young Martha Ivers
* This film marked Kirk Douglas' screen debut. Producer Hal B. Wallis was on his way to New York to look for new talent when Lauren Bacall suggested he look up her old drama school classmate, Issur Demsky, AKA Kirk Douglas.
* Future film director and producer Blake Edwards has an uncredited bit part as a sailor who hitches a ride with Sam.
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