For Reel

Black Widow (1954)
November 22, 2013, 3:52 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Nunnally Johnson
2.5 Stars
Black WidowNunnally Johnson, the talented writer/producer credited with the screenplays for classics such as The Grapes of Wrath, Roxie Hart, and The Southerner had a short-lived career as a director in the 1950s. Black Widow, his sophomore effort in the director’s chair, is a handsomely made but tedious production. In his review for the New York Times, Bosley Crowther rightly quipped, “It is merely an average whodunnit, stretched out on the CinemaScope screen and performed by a fancy cast of actors so that it looks more important than it is.” Van Johnson plays Peter Denver, a Broadway producer who allows a seemingly harmless 20-year-old girl (Peggy Ann Garner) to use his apartment during the day to work on her writing. When her body is found hanging and it is revealed to have been murder, lead investigator Lt. Bruce (George Raft) pegs Peter as the prime suspect. The bulk of the picture involves Peter seeking the evidence that will clear his name, but it is blandly told with stiff or lousy performances (Raft is sleepwalking, Ginger Rogers overplays her role as a Broadway star). In the end, the secrets that are exposed are absurd and improbable, ultimately calling into question a number of poor casting choices.

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