Today’s film is Universal Pictures’ 1947 gothic noir “The Lost Moment,” starring Robert Cummings (Lewis Venable/William Burton), Susan Hayward (Tina Bordereau), Agnes Moorehead (Juliana Bordereau), Joan Lorring (Amelia), Eduardo Ciannelli (Father Rinaldo), and John Archer (Charles). Directed by Martin Gabel; cinematography by Hal Mohr. Produced by Walter Wanger; distributed by Universal Pictures. Music by Daniele Amfitheatrof. Screenplay by Leonardo Bercovici; based on “The Aspern Papers,” by Henry James.
The film debuted November 21, 1947 and was a critical and financial flop, losing over $800,000. However, more recent viewers take a kinder attitude toward it.
Even though YouTube and Wikipedia refer to this as a gothic/psychological melodrama, it reads gothic noir to me, which is why I’m covering it. 🙂
You can watch the film here:
Publisher Lewis Venable hears from Charles Russell that Juliana Bordereau–famed love interest of poet and playwright Jeffrey Ashton–is still alive at 105. It was said that Ashton had written beautiful love letters to Juliana, which publishers and literary historians would give anything to find. So Lewis heads to Venice to try to obtain the letters, either by asking for them or taking them.
He and Charles cook up a plan whereby Lewis will pose as William Burton, a young writer here to board in the house while he finishes his novel. Juliana lives with her niece, Tina, plus a housekeeper and her daughter Amelia. Tina and the housekeeper take an instant dislike to “William,” but Juliana is slightly more cordial to him. Her motive for accepting him as a border is she’s about to lose the house. She jacks up the rent to a ridiculous sum of 1000 gold lire per month, demanding three months in advance by that evening. William agrees, desperate to remain in the house so he can search for the letters.
But it soon becomes apparent there’s much more going on in that spooky old house. One question lingering in the shadows is just what happened to Jeffrey Ashton? He’d come to the home to have his portrait painted by Martin Bordereau, Juliana’s father. But the last time the world saw him alive was July of 1843. He simply vanished, never to be seen again.
One night while in his rooms in the other wing of the house, William hears piano music faintly playing. One of Amelia’s cats leads him to a secret section of the villa, where the severe and stodgy Tina is playing. Except, she doesn’t look like the “Miss Tina, who walks dead among the living” but instead is living among the dead, believing she’s Juliana!
So William must figure out where the letters might be hidden, as well as possibly save Tina from her own delusions.
I found this a very good film. The acting was subtle and natural, with the possible exception of Joan Lorring as Ameila. There was a perfect suspenseful air, created by the cinematography as well as the score. The sets were massive and impressive, particularly those of the villa and the canals of Venice.
I give this 4.5 out of 5 unfiltered cigarette puffs.