Dark Corner [1946]

The Dark Corner can't seriously be proposed as a great film noir, but it's one that people cherish. For one thing, it's unique in having Lucille Ball--who has absolutely no "splainin'" to do--as the smart, resourceful, devoted secretary of beleaguered private eye Mark Stevens. Lucy actually rates top billing, with Clifton up-to-his-old-Laura-tricks Webb and William vicious-brute-in-a-white-suit Bendix also getting their names above that of the hero in the credits. In this, there's a certain justice; they all deliver the goods, whereas Stevens seems a tad lightweight as the hardnose, Phil Marlowe type cracking wise and punching his way through the mean streets. His character comes burdened with more backstory than usual for movie detectives; this time, the case the private eye has to solve is his own. The intriguingly convoluted screenplay (by Jay Dratler, who co-wrote Laura, and Bernard Schoenfeld, from a story by Leo Rosten) takes hold like a vise and sustains the tension even though, by rights, its credibility should be shrinking with each passing reel. Henry Hathaway's direction is crisp, and the cinematography by Joe MacDonald (who would next shoot John Ford's My Darling Clementine) is both pungent and gorgeous. With Cathy Downs, Kurt Kreuger, and Reed Hadley, who plays a police detective here but more often supplied the voiceover on Fox's semidocumentary thrillers and Anthony Mann's T-Men. --Richard T. Jameson

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