Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, Van Heflin. A high-strung, back-stabbing milieu about a Broadway producer who must clear his name after his innocent female proteg+ª is found murdered in his apartment and the real killer may not be done yet. 1954/color/95 min/NR/fullscreen.
Ginger Rogers steals the show as a selfish, snide Broadway superstar in Nunnally Johnson's Black Widow
, preening, snooping, gossiping, and bestowing air kisses in equal abundance. This late-era (1954) color film noir is as delicious for its fabulous performances as for its dishy look at showbiz, fangs and all. Think of it as All About Eve
with murder. Rogers is Carlotta Marin, a grande dame of the thea-tah, married, it would seem happily, to Brian Mullen (Reginald Gardiner). Discussing friends whose marriage is threatened by an alleged affair, Brian assures Lottie they wouldn't face such disgrace. "After all," he deadpans, "we have an understanding." "What kind of understanding?" Lottie asks warily. "The understanding that if you catch me with another woman, you'll break my neck." The two collapse in laughter. Yet at the heart of Black Widow
is something grim, the death of a young, ambitious writer named Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner), who gloms onto a theater producer (Van Hefflin), who's in love with his wife, Iris (Gene Tierney, heartbreakingly lovely). Nancy's death appears to be self-inflicted, and yet as each piece of evidence--a weird suicide note, a threatening letter received in the mail--piles up, things begin to point to murder.
The cast is excellent, especially delivering the great backbiting dialogue. And the plot contains more twists than Lombard Street in San Francisco, and will keep viewers guessing, and riveted, to the end. Extras include a great commentary by Alan K. Rode, an expert in film noir, as well as two wonderful featurettes, on the careers of Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney respectively. Robert Osbourne offers his always insightful thoughts on the roles of Rogers, especially, as she sought to carve out a career after being paired with Fred Astaire. These solo steps are not to be missed.--A.T. Hurley