It took me a while to finally sit down and watch the fetching 1947 DISHONORED LADY starring Hedy Lamarr from SAMSON AND DELILAH fame. I have this thing, you see: once I start collecting stuff I never stop. My partner calls it an obsessive compulsive behavior (or OCD, if you prefer), and he’s right, of course. Whether it’s movies or novels, or heck, even writing reviews like this one, I just can’t put a halt when the inspiration comes my way. So to make a long story short, DISHONORED LADY was in my possession for a very long time, having first discovered it on the Internet among public domain greats, then as one of the many titles in my Mill Creek’s 100 Hollywood Classics DVD collection. Suffice to say, once I popped the disc in I made a promise to share my thoughts with you all, so here it goes.
A grand film we’re talking about here, dear readers, one that even reminds me of the camp classic THE LONELY LADY. No, I kid you not. Both heroines have the same father figure issues, both are used and abused by men and both have a nervous breakdown at a pivotal point. But DISHONORED LADY is way better handled as a whole. For starters, Robert Stevenson knows how to keep everything and everyone in check with slick production values, a strong script and a leading lady’s solid performance. Unlike the Peter Sasdy’s film, we never approach DISHONORED LADY as a total joke, never feel like scratching our heads in bewilderment, and most importantly we never guffaw at this lady in a distress situation. Well, not totally, but more on that later.
Another plus regarding DISHONORED LADY is its film noir status. Contrary to the Pia flick, this one borrows greatly from earlier Barbara Stanwyck films. You know, the ones involving smoky atmosphere and femmes fatales. All DISHONORED LADY needs to be truly dark is the rough ways of some male antagonist, one who only lives to swing drinks and dames. Oh, wait, we do have one but he’s a bit… how shall we say… softer (Lamarr's then-real life hubby John Loder) compared to the hoodlums of those genre films. Yes, in DISHONORED LADY, the villain is more of a debonair-type rather than of a chewed-up cigar churning bum with a trigger happy gait.
But getting back to DISHONORED LADY versus THE LONELY LADY topic; though both films have many things in common, the latter has the highest form of camp. Yet, some scenes in DISHONORED LADY do end up being rather unintentionally funny, especially those having to do with Lamarr’s psychiatrist (Morris Carnovsky, overacting), and the sudden switch of tempo in the second half involving a murder trial does lessen the film’s appeal. But I can clearly confirm that, overall, DISHONORED LADY wins the better involvement award but NOT the lovable one. As much as I dig this film, it can never replace the Pia fare. We go way back, THE LONELY LADY and I. Still, I urge anyone to see DISHONORED LADY, if not for the plot line alone, then just to make the connection with THE LONELY LADY. It is worth the time and effort, I promise.
Until next post—Martin