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Black Widow

4.2 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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(Mar 11, 2008)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

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

Special Features

  • 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

Product Details

  • Actors: Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner
  • Directors: Nunnally Johnson
  • Writers: Nunnally Johnson, Hugh Wheeler
  • Producers: Nunnally Johnson
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, Closed-captioned, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 4.1)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: March 11, 2008
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0010KHOSA
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,275 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Black Widow" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Black Widow" is an entertaining 1950s murder mystery set in the world of theatre, and written and directed by Nunnally Johnson, who made a number of good movies at that time ("How to Marry a Millionaire," "Night People," "The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit," "The Three Faces of Eve"). It stars Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, Ginger Rogers, George Raft, and Peggy Ann Garner as sort of the Eve Harrington of the cast.

(Amazon's habit of listing the cast alphabetically is very misleading. Mabel Albertson has a small part, Reginald Gardiner plays Ginger Roger's husband. But Harry Carter and Richard H. Cutting play policeman, listed on, but they are also "uncredited" in the film! So it's totally misleading to see those names at the top of the page.) (Note: this complaint has been corrected on this page, but I decided to leave it because I do note the same issue in other listings, where unknown actors in tiny roles are listed because they're first in the alphabet.)

So that little parenthetical complaint aside, it's a small but fun film. The milieu of theatre is entertaining, with Peggy Ann Garner someone on the way up (or hoping to be), and managing to hang out with successful writers and actors, and starting to seduce several of them. Heflin is the serious husband/playwright and a bit of a patsy, Tierney is the "good wife," and Ginger Rogers is fun as the grande dame actress who annoys everyone a bit. Peggy Ann Garner was the little girl so good in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." This is one of her adult roles, and she does a good job. It's not a classic, but an entertaining B film with some A list stars and some good dialogue from Mr. Johnson. I'm glad it's going to be out on dvd.
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Format: DVD
What a joy it was to discover that this rarely seen 1950's murder mystery set against the glamour, ambition and back stabbing ruthlessness of New York's Theatre world was finally making it to a DVD release! Often mistakenly referred to as a "Film Noir", "Black Widow", really doesn't fit that bill at all, saturated as it is in glorious colour photography, dazzling costumes, and larger than life characters that are far removed from the types normally associated with the "Noir" genre of movie making. Aside from that minor point "Black Widow", is tremendously entertaining and boasts a superb cast of actors and actresses from Hollywood's Golden Age in a story in some respects in a similiar vein to the legendary "All About Eve". It has the added twist of a murder mystery complete with plenty of Red Herrings thrown in for good measure that really does keep you guessing if you haven't viewed the film before. One of the great surprises of "Black Widow", for me was seeing the sublime Ginger Rogers in one of her most showy,( and I might add very non-traditional for her) later roles from the time when her film career was beginning to wind down. This role for Ginger couldn't be further removed from the beloved characters she famously brought to life at RKO Studios in the 1930's opposite the legendary Fred Astaire. She is a bitchy delight here as the catty and acid tongued "Margo Channing-like", Diva who among a cast including Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, Reginald Gardiner, and Otto Kruger, is a suspect in the murder of aspiring young writer Peggy Ann Garner in the very heart of New York's elite and glamourous Theatre world...........
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Its really difficult to hate any film with a stellar cast such as Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, George Raft and Van Heflin. For that matters, its difficult to hate any of their individual films. Bring them together for one picture and "hate" might be a strong word, but "indifferent" fits the bill. "Black Widow" feels more like a Cinemascope experiment than a cohesive and engaging film. Cinemascope was brand spanking new and you could tell that 20th Century Fox was attempting to churn out as much product as possible in every genre possible. No matter if the material was particularly engaging or the scripts particularly good, the studio seemed to think the public would embrace anything that was spread out on the Cinemascope canvas. "Black Widow" is testament to this. At 94 minutes there is very little here other than a scenery chewing performance by Ginger Rogers, an understated and misused Gene Tierney and a campy story line that can't quite find its footing, even after its predictable conclusion. What does it have going for it? Lush cinematography, gorgeous colors and excellent 1950s chic sets do a lot to keep the viewer glued to the screen. Also, look out for an unusual Ginger Rogers role. She plays against type which serves the plot beautifully.

The DVD of this film is really extra special with not one but two mini-docs about Ginger Rogers and Gene Tierney. Also included is an isolated film score, an interactive pressbook, commentary and an "over the top" trailer that will leave you howling. It is really an excellent group of extras. The picture quality is truly luminous and the soundtrack is well spaced and exceptionally clear.

Movie **1/2
DVD ****
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Format: DVD
First, although this is part of the Fox Noir series, it's not noir. It's shot in color, brightly lit, mostly done on stages, and has no "hard boiled" or low life characters. It's a slick "Who done it," and a reasonably enjoyable one. You can read some of the other reviews for more details on the story and cast. Fox gives us a nice bunch of extras in this DVD -- good commentary and two nice featurettes on Gene Tierney and Ginger Rogers. It's far from a classic, but it's a pleasant way to spend an evening.
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