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Into the Vortex: Female Voice in Film

Friday, August 14, 2009
8:10 p.m. No Man of Her Own
Mitchell Leisen (U.S., 1950)

Archival Print

Based on Cornell Woolrich’s I Married a Dead Man, this has all the trappings of a film noir (uncertain identities, murder, forbidden desire), but the film’s use of voice cuts through noir convention to underscore an address to women in postwar America. Barbara Stanwyck, pregnant and deserted, on a track to nowhere, is mistaken for another pregnant woman who is killed in a train wreck. Desperate, confused, she impersonates the woman for the sake of her newborn, living with the wealthy in-laws whose newlywed son also died in the crash. In their tranquil villa, her voice reveals, “it’s a pleasant life . . . but not for us, not for us.” The narration of the story in flashback underscores its fatalism, and its pulp mystery roots, but it also draws us deeply into this character’s subjective consciousness, with its poetical, highly personal and affective speech, underwritten by a subjective camera that lingers with longing on the home she wishes were hers.

—Britta Sjogren

• Written by Sally Benson, Catherine Turney, based on the novel I Married a Dead Man by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich). Photographed by Daniel L. Fapp. With Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Jane Cowl, Phyllis Thaxter. (97 mins, B&W, 16mm, From Academy Film Archive, permission Paramount)