Dishonored Lady

As a slight deviation from the usual book-stuffs (and possibly a direct violation of my original mission statement)

These are musings on a movie:

Dishonored Lady based on the play by the same name, by Edward Sheldon & Margaret Ayer Barnes, starring Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O’Keefe, John Loder; (1947, B&W).

I think it would possibly fall (just barely) into the film noir category – it has these dark rainy footpaths and interestingly filmed people at unusual angles – there’s this one shot of Miss Damien/Dixon and her medical scientist beau walking up a flight of stairs, and all you can see through the banisters are her (rather gorgeous) brogue-like heels and swishing (probably Burberry) trench coats…



On the whole, the kind of gloomy photography, and events spiralling into nightmare out-of-control-ness make it feel all a bit noir-ish.

The film was utterly delightful. Hedy Lamarr stars as the beautiful Miss Madeleine Damien, an art editor at a high-profile Manhattan fashion magazine; but tiring of life, the pressures of work, using others, and being used, she has a bit of a breakdown, and seeks out the help of a psychiatrist, and under his instructions, moves to a new apartment, changes her name (to Dixon) and starts again, under an assumed name, as an artist. And there, it all starts to get better: she meets and falls in love with a handsome neighbour, finds a love of painting, but just as things are starting to look up, her past revisits…

A quick fall off the wagon, a blackmail attempt, some missing diamonds, and all of a sudden Madeleine is arrested and we are in the midst of a courtroom drama, secrets being spilled left, right and centre.

Oh the drama!

But the movie – despite some hokey, cliched moments, is delightful – and Hedy Lamarr is soo good! Apart from being utterly beautiful from every possible angle – she has magnetism, so when she is on-screen, you just want to keep your eyes on her…and she is able to convey emotion and thoughts very clearly with minimal changes in expression (I think it’s all in the eyes…). It’s very interesting to watch.

But the clothes? oh the clothes — they were outstanding!
Apparently this was one of Elois Jenssen’s first screen credits, for designing Hedy Lamarr’s gowns – (she later won Academy Award for best costume design in Samson and Delilah, which also starred Hedy Lamarr.) I don’t think it’s a coincidence either – no matter what she is wearing, Hedy Lamarr looks fabulous.

There seems to be a bit of a scandinavian influence running through the designs – though don’t quote me – I am not an expert.

But everything looks simple and effortless – and expensive – hallmarks of Scandinavian fashions. There are great basic pieces that are essential to any wardrobe – and less is always more when it came to accessorising. The look is all about uncomplicated palettes, simple separates and smart tailoring… a joyful sense of patterns, graphics and cuts…

A lot of the outfits have that sense of design showing up in folk arty appliqué, fringed shawls, ribbon work etc.

The movie has some good lines as well:

‘Miss Damien – she’s as pretty as a picture and as stubborn as a mule…’

‘Doesn’t it worry you? Playing the Almighty in this fashion?’
‘Not particularly…I’m used to it.’

‘You know I don’t think you’re much of a doctor, you call this a sensible diet? Pancakes and pickle?’
‘Well scientifically, there’s two kinds of diet; the kind that doctors prescribe, and…uh, the stuff they eat themselves…’

‘Daarling – you look wonderful – a little pale…but so interesting…’

There are montages of science things and technical words typed up (the effect of anti-retecilar serum on cell-tissue??)

And Dennis O’Keefe plays a rather cheery and relaxed Dr David S Cousins; square of the jaw, blond of the hair, piercing of the eye.
What more could you want from a movie?

For after all this is a very simple story; to one man, Dr Cousins, she was a pure and noble woman, to the other, Felix Courtland, she was an irresponsible light o’ love. Too self-indulgent to be faithful to the man she wanted to marry, too weak and lacking in character to break with Courtland. Her twisted soul was bent on a heartless deceit.
To make one man believe what all others knew to be a lie’

And just in case your interest is piqued enough to want to search out the film – it is now in public domain, and you can watch it for free here 🙂

image source:

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