Thursday, October 17, 2013

Ladies in Retirement ( 1941 )

Within a secluded cottage on the desolate foggy English moors, Ellen Creed, a paid companion to the wealthy retired stage actress Leonora Fiske, enjoys a life of comfort and peaceful quiet until distress stirs within her one day when she receives a letter notifying her that her two mentally deranged sisters will be evicted from their city lodgings. With no place for them to go, she convinces Miss Fiske to allow them to visit for "a few days" but when they overstay their welcome Ellen takes drastic measure to provide for her sisters and commits ......muuurder. Murder most foul! 

Ida Lupino heads a strong cast in this superb gothic thriller based on Reginald Denham's stage success. Isabel Elsom reprises her Broadway role as Miss Fiske while Elsa Lanchester and Edith Barrett relish in their parts as Ellen's two sisters. Louis Hayward ( Lupino's husband at the time ) plays her delightfully mischievous "nephew" who has more than just suspicions about the whereabouts of his aunt's employer. And with the help of love-struck housemaid Lucy ( Evelyn Keyes ) they delve deeper into the matter then they bargained for and uncover a sinister secret. 



" Once you sell your soul to the devil, murder is so much easier the second time... "

Ida Lupino once called herself " a poor man's Bette Davis " but in truth her talent was on par with that legendary actress, and in this film in particular the resemblances between them are remarkable. Ida delivers one of her finest dramatic performances as strong and capable Ellen, who in desperation to protect the sisters she loves commits the murderous act which in time consumes her with remorse and fear. 



" Ladies in Retirement " originally debuted in London in 1940 with Flora Robson playing the lead role. Columbia Pictures purchased the rights to the story that same year, originally intending it as a vehicle for one of their most popular stars, Rosiland Russell, who three years earlier had scored a success at MGM with a similarly atmospheric thriller - " Night Must Fall ". 

Although relatively obscure today, "Ladies in Retirement" was at its time a highly acclaimed play which garnered critical attention when word came out in 1941 that it would be brought to the silver screen. Intense and silently suspenseful, the film now deserves a place among the other famous English mysteries of that period, such as "Gaslight" or "The Portrait of Dorian Grey", for like these it is film brimming with entertainment...Entertainment with a capital E!


4 comments:

  1. Enjoyed your review and agree it is a very good thriller and great starring role for Ida Lupino

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    1. Glad you liked it Vienna. Ladies in Retirement was a relatively "new" find for my sister and me but it has quickly become a fall favorite, in no small part due to Ida Lupino's fine performance and the great atmosphere of the film.

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  2. You certainly are picking some GREAT, but rarely seen films here! "Ladies in Retirement" is an ESSENTIAL for any Ida Lupino fan and the mystery and "mood" that accompany this film stays with you for a long, long time. WELL WORTH THE VIEWING and thank you for the great review! I highly recommend this film to everyone as well.

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    1. Yes, it is a great film. And as you pointed out to me...a true story! We did not know that. I wonder if the real "Ellen Creed" really did stuff her employer in the oven! Oooh.....tsk, tsk, tsk...now that was naughty.

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