Today’s flick is 1947’s Warner Bros. purported thriller, “The Two Mrs. Carrolls,” starring Humphrey Bogart (Geoffrey Carroll), Barbara Stanwyck (Sally Morton Carroll), Alexis Smith (Cecily Latham), Nigel Bruce (Dr. Tuttle), Ann Carter (Beatrice Carroll), Isobel Elsom (Mrs. Latham), Patrick O’Moore (Charles “Penny” Pennington), Barry Bernard (Horace Blagdon), and Anita Sharp-Bolster (Christine). Directed by Peter Godfrey (who gives himself a small part as a racetrack tout); cinematography by J. Peverell Marley. Produced by Mark Hellinger for Warner Bros. Music by Franz Waxman. Screenplay by Thomas Job, from the stage play “The Two Mrs. Carrolls,” by Martin Vale (pseudonym for Marguerite Vale Veiller).
No expense was spared on this Warner Bros. film with a budget of $1.4 million. Warner obtained the film rights for the play in 1944 for $225,000. (Not a bad payday for playwright Marguerite Vale Veiller.) Their first choice to play Sally was Betty Davis.
On paper, this should be a good film; it has major stars Bogart and Stanwyck in their only appearance together, it’s source material is a play that was a minor Broadway hit, and it has a big budget from a major studio. Unfortunately, it falls far short of expectations and delivers a derivative story, being similar to much greater films like Hitchcock’s “Suspicion” (1941), “Gaslight” (1944), and another Bogart vehicle “Conflict” (1945). As a matter of fact, today’s movie sat on the shelf for two years before it was finally released, for just that reason that Bogey had already made a similar film.
The performances from Bogart and Stanwyck are surprisingly poor. Both overact at times (he when he’s showing us his “crazy” side, and she’s over-the-top hysterical and overly chipper at turns) and there’s virtually no romantic chemistry between them. It’s just not believable that he ends up killing his wife to be with Sally (Stanwyck) when he’s so wooden with her. And then in a couple of years he meets Cecily and suddenly, he’s ready to give Sally the “First Mrs. Carroll Treatment.”
The pivotal scene, when Geoffrey is about to give Sally the lethal dose…
Did you catch that she doesn’t hold the glass so that it can drain on the floor, yet he finds a puddle of poisoned milk there? (Yeah, I watched and re-watched this scene to make sure I saw what I saw…)
Bogart realized this was a poor performance from him, but this dud was quickly forgotten by audiences as they embraced his later roles.
One thing that irked me is that the accents were all over the map, even though this film is set in rural England. They cover for Bogey by saying he’s American, but that doesn’t excuse Stanwyck’s Mid-Atlantic accent.
Finally, the film score from Franz Waxman is overpowering in key scenes, to the point it’s distracting.
I’d give this 1.5 unfiltered cigarette puffs out of 5…