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A police detective asks a Broadway couple, an actress and others about a murder. Directed by Nunnally Johnson.
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
- Commentary by film noir historian Alan Rode
- Ginger Rogers at Twentieth Century Fox featurette
- Gene Tierney: Final Curtain for a Noir Icon featurette
- Interactive pressbook
- Isolated score track
- Still galleries
- Original theatrical trailer
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Top customer reviews
Ginger Rogers plays out of type as a bitchy, arrogant rich celebrity amd does it with pizzaz. The supporting characters George Raft as a detective (also playing against type) Peggy Ann Garner (the victim..sort of) and Gene Tierney (I believe this was her last major movie before her personal demons caught up with her)...beautiful as always...were well cast and helped with the suspense. Very good movie
Would-be writer Nancy Ordway (Peggy Ann Garner) arrives in New York and proceeds to take advantage of anyone with a spare room and a smile. The latest 'victim' in Nancy's quest to take on the big city is Broadway producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin), whilst his wife Iris (Gene Tierney) is out of town tending to her sick mother. Could Nancy possibly use the Denver apartment during the daytime to help her in writing? Peter has no problem with that arrangement...until the day he arrives home to find Nancy hanging from the rafters.
What starts out as a simple cut-and-dry suicide soon enough dissolves into a first degree murder case - with Peter as the main suspect. On the run from the detectives, Peter and Iris must work fast to discover the ghastly truth...
Starring Ginger Rogers as the imperious theatre diva Carlotta Marin, BLACK WIDOW (1954) will appeal to those who like their murder mysteries served up with a healthy side order of snappy one-liners and outrageous costumes. Peggy Ann Garner's role as the Eve Harrington-esque writer was one of her first attempts to make the often difficult transition from acclaimed child star ("Jane Eyre", "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn") to sophisticated young adult, and I believe she does it very successfully in this movie. The role of Nancy had originally been intended for Maggie McNamara ("Three Coins in the Fountain") who fell ill shortly before filming was due to begin.
Also keep an eye out for Virginia Leith ("The Brain That Wouldn't Die") playing one of Nancy's accommodating girlfriends, Cathleen Nesbitt as an upstairs maid, and Bea Benaderet ("Petticoat Junction") as one of the guests at Carlotta's cocktail party.
I do find it very curious that Fox has seen fit to package this title as part of their Film Noir series, because apart from some noir actors like Gene Tierney and Van Heflin, BLACK WIDOW doesn't follow the standard noir genre trends at all. Still I'm very glad that BLACK WIDOW is now readily available in a particularly lush widescreen print; and it's one of my favourite movies at the moment.
The DVD has two worthwhile featurettes focusing on Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney, an informative commentary track by movie historian/author Alan Rode; interactive pressbook and picture galleries, isolated musical score track, and the theatrical trailer; plus trailers from other titles in the Fox Film Noir collection ("Daisy Kenyon", "Dangerous Crossing", "I Wake Up Screaming" and "Vicki").