Movie Critique – The Two Mrs. Carrolls

For review of all movies starring Barbara Stanwyck, go here.

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: May not be a classic movie in your list, but well made to watch none the less. Despite it's failure, it is certainly a likable movie to watch with murder, romance and obsession all woven in.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls is a 1947 American mystery film starring Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith and Nigel Bruce in the lead cast. Directed by Peter Godfrey and Produced by Mark Hellinger based on the 1935 play of the same name by Martin Vale aka Marguerite Vale Veiller. Screenplay was by Thomas Job.

Sally Morton Carroll (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck) is the second wife to painter Geoffrey Carroll (portrayed by Humphrey Bogart). Geoffrey however has an affair with his model, Cecily Latham (portrayed by Alexis Smith). In the meantime Sally has her suspicions on the death of Geoffrey's first wife. She starts to investigate on her own unknowingly putting her life in danger as well. 

Barbara Stanwyck shines as Sally Morton Carroll superbly. However, there are times when the filmmakers made her look oblivious of what was going on in front of her, more like a bit addle-minded. That kind of portrayal never jived for me with Stanwyck. Elisabeth Bergner won high praise as Sally Morton Carroll in the theatrical version. However the film version paled terribly in comparison, perhaps because of the way Stanwyck's Mrs. Carroll was presented to us. Edith Head designed all her gowns in the film. 

This was the only film that Bogart and Stanwyck acted together. I wonder why they didn’t do more since their chemistry was indeed very good - witty, romantic and also in the end antagonistic towards each other - each emotion shown equally well between them.

Bogart's Geoffrey is so disillusioned and obsessed with his art, and the obsession that to grow in his art he has to draw energy from his muse, and when there was none, even if the muse wasn’t dead, he has to kill. That obsession drives him crazy in the end. Bogart goes back to his roots as the bad guy from his earlier films and we can see shades of it reflected. 

Alexis Smith as Cecil Latham could have been a perfect femme fatale. However, this not being a film noir, the femme fatale manner fell out of places. Instead she is a mistress only. Her role's tone hadn't need to be portrayed as a femme fatale. Wonder why the director did so.

Nigel Bruce was being type casted in the 1940s. His bumbling and amiable Dr. Watson along-side Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, made him a success with the radio show The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. However he began being casted as a similar type doctor to the leading couple in several movies there after. And more than often his character suspects of the wife being or planning to be murdered, and the murder weapon usually is a poisoned glass of milk in them. 

Of all the characters, I think Ann Carter as Bea Carroll showed more promise. As the daughter, she showed more emotions than Bogart could produce. She also speaks as if she is a 45 year old woman rather than a child, very matured to her age, and very understanding of the situation her father, Geoffrey, lands himself in; long before anyone else identifies it. 

A movie produced and directed by B-movie film makers surprisingly had A-list actors in the cast. Yet it was a box office failure. Perhaps because the movie plot-line resembled other hit movies such as 1941 Hitchcock's Suspicion and 1944 Gaslight; also a close resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe's 1842 short story The Oval Portrait; and to the French folktale the Bluebeard Legend. 

In the 1940s several movies in film noir had been released that centered around the obsession of a portrait or a picture such as 1947 A Double Life; 1942 Experiment Perilous; 1947 The Paradise Case; 1940 Rebecca, 1945 The Picture of Dorian Gray; 1944 Laura; 1940 Scarlet Street and 1947 A Woman's Vengeance. Perhaps another factor that The Two Mrs. Carrolls failed to cash on as those movies had.

And also that the movie released two years after it's completion didn’t help it any bit. In fact Bogart was considered as miscast in the film. Bogart's marriage with Lauren Bacall a few weeks prior to the beginning of the filming also didn’t help since Bogart was happily married and very much in love with his wife as opposed to his character Geoffrey who is unhappy and doesn’t love his wife. Showing the opposite emotions perhaps were hard for Bogart. 

Ironically Ingrid Bergman won Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in Gaslight beating Barbara Stanwyck who was also nominated for her role in Double Indemnity that year. Over the course of her career, Stanwyck was nominated four times in the Best Actress category at Oscars, all four very different roles - for the 1937 drama Stella Dallas; 1941 screwball comedy Ball of Fire; then the 1944 film noir Double Indemnity; and finally for the 1948 thriller Sorry, Wrong Number.

She never won an Oscar, but in 1982 she was given an Honorary Oscar "for superlative creativity and unique contribution  to the art of screen acting".

I rather liked the movie despite all the reasons the critics have provided for its flop. Stanwyck shines, Bogart is smooth as silky mean; Alexis cruel as a black widow; and the very matured mind of the Ann's Bea, the daughter. May be if it had been released right after it was made instead of waiting two years, filmmakers might have had better luck. May not be a classic movie in your list, but well made to watch none the less.

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. 1940s had several movies central around paranoid women such as 1949 Caught; 1946 Dragonwyck; 1943 Jane Eyre; 1946 The Locket; 1948 Secret Beyond the Door; and 1946 The Spiral Staircase; apart from the ones I mentioned above. 

b. Barbara Stanwyck acted in two other films made by director Peter Godfrey - 1945 Christmas in Connecticut and 1947 Cry Wolf.

c. Humphrey Bogart also acted in another film in 1945 titled Conflict, along-side Alexis Smith, for whom he plans killing for her.

d. Director Peter Godfrey makes a cameo appearance as cockney bookie.

e. The two paintings that Geoffrey paints in the film titled "Angel of Death".

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. When Bea Carroll first runs to her mother's room, her lips are not moving, but the dialogue "Mother" is heard in the background.

b. When Geoffrey enters the Chemist Shop it is raining and he is all wet. However, when he sits down at a table inside, he is all dry. Then again when he stands up, his clothes are went. 

c. At the end of the film, when Penny shows up with two cops, first they are wearing traditional custodian helmets. But once they are inside, one of them is wearing an inspector's cap. Even Geoffrey comments that this needed an inspector to come.


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