The Two Mrs. Carrolls
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Matrimony means different things to different people. For temperamental artist Geoffrey Carroll, it means he's in his element. And out of his mind. In their only screen pairing, two of film's all-time greats star in a psychological thriller rife with pelting rain and pealing bells, blackmail and murder, calculated dread and an unnerving finale. Humphrey Bogart portrays Geoffrey, who's making a habit of poisoning one wife and marrying another when the former no longer inspires his canvases. Barbara Stanwyck plays his current wife Sally, who puts two and two together and comes up with six - as in six feet under, the place she'll be if she continues to accept the glass of milk Geoffrey regularly offers as a nightcap. Alexis Smith also stars as a predatory neighbor who becomes the object of Geoffrey's thirst for feminine variety. Drink up, thriller fans!
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But if there were ever two stars that could save bad material, it was Bogart and Stanwyck. Bogie made the choppy, incoherent character Gerry come out to more than the sum of his parts. And Stany, rest her soul, did her best in everything, from Preston Sturges literary tour de force *The Lady Eve* to the string of nickel westerns she did in the '50s. This pairing deserved a better vehicle, but it's fun to watch even so.
Bogart is an artist who marries his muses. When we meet him, he is on an adulterous vacation with Stanwyck, the problem being that she doesn't know she is the other woman. She leaves him in a fit of tears and in another world, that would have been the end of it. But Carroll needs the inspiration that Stanwyck provides for his painting. His mysteriously sickly wife isn't quite doing the job - but she has one more painting in her, the beautiful and disturbing Angel of Death that is featured heavily in the film.
After the death of the first Mrs. Carroll, Bogart reunites with Stanwyck and we next see them married and living the life of landed gentry in an English manor house. Paintings of Stanwyck have joined the Angel of Death and they are to all appearances deliriously happy. But Carroll isn't painting as well as he used to and isn't selling what he did paint.
What happens next is predictable and that is my main criticism of the movie. Too much is telegraphed to the viewer far too early. Nor is the red herring even remotely believable. The prodigious talents of Bogart and Stanwyck and the rest of the cast have to carry a script that is weak in terms of mystery and suspense. For a movie that is a mystery and a thriller in the noir tradition, this is a genuine weakness.
That said, this is a solid film and worth watching, especially for fans of the silver screen and the stars and character actors involved. Final grade, solid but not spectacular, despite all of the star power involved.