“This is a refreshing change of pace. A totally new kind of topic for a Blogathon. Theresa Brown from Cine Maven’s Essays From The Couch invited Bloggers to write a post on a movie with a planned “Murder” as its plot. However, there is a twist: The victim must be a Spouse of the murderer. In reality, this type of murder happens more often than one would think. If you consider the three e three main motives for murder: Greed, lust, or revenge, and compare them to what most couples fight about: Money, sex, and past hurts, it should not be surprising that spousal murder is as old as time itself. As a result, it has been the theme for many stories. These timeless tales come from around the world: India’s Schehezade, Germany’s Grimm’s fairy tales, Shakespeare’s Othello, and shown in hundreds of movies. Uxorcide (technical word for murder of one’s wife) or mariticide (technical word for killing one’s husband), are hideous tales that we have all heard, at some time or other. As a result, they can be seen in a fictitious work or in a newspaper headline.
When I first received this invite, I thought of all kinds of different movies. Strangely, I realized some of these were also personal favorites of mine. The best movies of this murder theme is either a thriller or a comedy. So, here are five of my personal favorites. From the favorites, I chose Midnight Lace (1960) to explain more in detail. All of them are deserving of a blog post; and, if you followed the link below, you may find a blogger who chose one or more of your personal favorites to write about too.
1) I love the movie classic Gaslight (1944). This is the American version of a British movie with the same title from 1940. In Britain, it is also know as A Strange Case of Murder. Both British and American versions are based on a 1939 play by Patrick Hamilton. Usually, remakes are horrible. But this film is anything but horrible. It is directed by George Cukor with an amazing cast. They include: Ingrid Berman, Charles Boyer, and Joseph Cotton and eighteen year old, Angela Lansbury.
This movie is made with the perfect mood of mystery and fear (Film Noir). The Husband, Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer), tries to convince his wife, Paula (Ingrid Berman) she is going slowly going mad. With mental illness in her family, it is suggested that a number of tragic actions may eventually happen to her such as a suicide, or a deadly accident or possibly, she needs to be locked away in a mental hospital.
Paula’s aunt Alice, a famous Opera singer, was murdered years ago in the same house that she and Anton reside. In this spooky house, Paula hears strange sounds, she images she see things, and personal items of Gregory’s turns up missing; but, are later found in Paula’s possession.
A young inspector from Scotland Yard, Brian Cameron (Joseph Cotton) notices Paula’s striking resemblance to her famous murdered aunt. As a boy, he had a huge crush on the Opera singer. Being a sharp detective, he senses something isn’t quite right between Paula and her husband. He begins to watch them both. This isn’t a good movie, this is a great movie. If you claim to be a movie lover, this movie cannot be missed. I must have watched it a dozen times; and, each time, I liked it more than the last time.
2) Then there is the French film, Les Diabolique (1955) with Simone Signoret, Vera Clouzot, and Paul Meurisse. This is another psychological thriller; and, this is also another great movie Classic, that must be seen. Yes, it has English subtitles for those of us who do not speak French. A fragile wife, Christina DeLassalle (Vera Clougzot), with a serious heart condition, is married to a sadistic, greedy man, Michel DeLasseelle (Paul Meurisse), who has a mistress, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret). Michel is bitterly cruel to Christina and deliberately humiliated her in everyway that he can think of. He even forces his wife to accept the fact he is in love with Nicole. Michel and Nicole plots to murder Christina. The plan is especially horrid…to scare her death. With her weak heart, this should not be too difficult to accomplish. However, trying to figure out what actually happens has delightful surprises throughout the movie.
This film is as artistic film that takes terror to a whole other level at that time. Many considerate this film a cinema masterpiece. There is a tamer, American version of this movie with nearly the same title, missing the article, Les. This movie remake stars Sharon Stone, Isabelle Isjani, Chazz Palminteri, and Kathy Bates. When most critics compared the 1995 version to the 1955 classic, most felt the remake was a travesty. It is rare to find a remake better than a near perfect Classic.
3) My next choice is not a film Classic like Gaslight or Les Diabolique; but, Midnight Lace (1960) is an extremely enjoyable movie to watch nonetheless. This Hollywood movie unbelievably places wholesome Doris Day in harm’s way. Her real husband, Marty Melcher, co- produced this movie. Nothing like adding a bit more pressure to making a movie a success than a spouse who invested the family money into the deal. Poor Doris, she had to “act” stressed outfor the movie and lived it at home. I will write more about this movie in more detail shortly.
4) Faithful (1996) This is my first comedy-drama favorite starting Cher, Ryan O’Neal, and Chazz Palminteri. Yes, Palminteri also played the husband in the remake of Diabolique (1995). He also wrote the movie screenplay that is based on his play. In this film, he plays the hitman, Tony, hired to kill the Margaret (Cher) by her husband, Jack Connor (Ryan O’Neal) on there twentieth wedding anniversary. There is more comedy than drama. Tony holds Margaret hostage as he waits for a call from Jack to signal the “go ahead” to kill her. That is the drama. Listening to Margaret outsmart her assailant while she bargains for her life is the comedy. In their discourse, we learn Tony is in therapy to help him to stop being a hitman. He even becomes so frustrated, he calls his threapist, Dr. Susskind (Paul Marzursky) while he wrestled with his budding conscious. Marzursky is also the director of this movie. This movie is fun regardless of its dark subject matter.
5) I Married An Axe Murder (1993) The is pure comedy about murdering your spouse with Mike Myers, Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia, Amanda Plummer, Brenda Fricker, Alan Arkin, Steven Wright, Phil Hartman, … It has great mix of background music, some Scottish culture, and it is Funny. Mike Myers plays Charlie Mackenzie and Charlie’s father, Stuart Mackenzie. Charlie’s Mum, Kay, is played by Irish actress Brenda Fricker. The times when Charlie visits his family’s Scottish/Canadian home is priceless. His best friend is police detective Tony Giardino (Anthony LaPagelia).
Charlie is a performing artist/ poet in a coffeehouse. He meets a lot of women; but, he hasn’t met the “woman.” We learn about Charlie’s life through his conversations with his cop friend, Tony and his visits home to his Scottish parents. On his way to a visit them, he stops by the butcher to buy some haggis for dinner. The butcher is the lovely, mysterious Harriet (Nancy Travis).
There is instant chemistry. Harriet might be “the woman.” They start dating. There is only a few problems: Harriet’s sister, Rose Michaels (Amanda Plummer) is oddly intense, Harriet’s dead husbands, and a “rag” magazine keeps running a story about a “Honeymood Killer.”
This is my favorite Mike Myers movie. It has an all star cast that only helps to prolong the fun and the many surprises in this charming film.
My list of movies for spousal murders could go on. These are just the top few that come to my mind, now. There is one of the four, I would like to go into with a bit more detail.
The Murder Blog….Midnight Lace with Doris Day
Doris Day was one of the highest paid Hollywood actresses during the 1960s and 1970s. In all of the her forty plus movie roles, her screen presence was phenomenon and her audience was totally mesmerize by her. She is best known for her light comedies and lovely singing voice. There is something so wholesome about her that made you feel good as you watched her on film. In dramas or comedies, when she smiled or laughed, we felt it. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who didn’t like and admire her.
Doris Day usually portrayed a strong, determined contemporary woman who had obstacles to overcome. She usually accomplished this with a smile on her face. In many roles, she played a working woman, single or married, who was placed in unusual circumstances. She tried to lived an ordinary life surrounded by extraordinary circumstances.
One of the joys in watching Midnight Lace is to see Day in some of the most beautiful dresses, gowns, and coats made by designer, Irene Lentz. They are so gorgeous she received a Oscar nomination for costume design for this film. Irene was one of Hollywood’s premier designers (Gaslight, Shall We Dance, Easter Parade….). I can only guess how Day feels as she sees herself wearing fur lined and trimmed garments in this movie. She has been a staunch animal activist for many years now, which I greatly admire.
Besides seeing Day in these stunning outfits, I am intrigued by Day’s performance. You can actually witness Kit Preston’s nervous breakdown spiralling out of control. In Day’s autobiography, she confesses that in scenes where she displayed hysteria, she was not acting. She was hysterical because she relived events in her life where she feared for her own safety. Unfortunately, she feared death from the hands of her ex-husband. After one such scene, she passed out. They shut down production for a few days while Day recovered. This is one of five movies Day made that was not a comedy. Not surprisingly, Midnight Lace would be her last drama.
In Midnight Lace, Doris Day portrays an American heiress, Kit Preston, who recently marries wealthy, British Anthony Preston (Rex Harrison). In addition to Harrison, the rest of the cast is also very impressive: John Gavin, Myrna Loy, Roddy McDowell, …
After moving to London, Kit finds herself stalked and threaten over the phone, in the thick London fog, on a lift (elevator), and just about everywhere she goes. She hears a mechanical, high pitched voice address her by name and tell her he cannot wait to squeeze the life out of her body. There are also attempts on her life. As Kit fanatically tells Tony of these events, there is no actual witnesses. Tony tries to help and even calls Scotland Yard. Yet, no one can collaborate her stories. Overworked, Tony, is constantly being called back to work to deal with a corporate disaster. So, Kit reaches out to her Aunt Bea (Myrna Loy) and her neighbor Peggy.
There are a list of suspects. The construction site manager, John Gavin, who just happens to push her out of the way before a rail would have fallen on her head and killed her. The construction is at a building adjacent to Kit’s building. Later, he saves her from a broken lift (elevator) in her building. He claims knows her name because he looked at her name on her post. Why? When he invites her to have a drink with him, she learns he is a WWII veteran who suffers from severe blackouts (PTSD: Past Traumatic Stress Disorder). Which is kind of ironic since Day suffered from it also in her own life without the blackouts.
Another suspect is the son of Kit’s housekeeper, Nora. She is a sweetheart but her son is a narcissistic, deranged adult (Roddy McDowell) who keeps her poor. Because Kit has a soft spot for maid, she readily gives her money, if she foresees a need, like a new coat. Whatever money Nora receives, she gives it to her worthless son who has been passively and aggressively threatening Kit and his Mum for more money.
Aunt Bea’s boyfriend has some financial woes; and, he wants Tony to bail him out. Then, there is Peggy, the neighbor. She is the only witness who sees Kit pushed in front of a moving bus. Yet, she does not see who pushed her. Plus, Peggy claims she has a husband; but, he works away. We never see him.; but, we do see strange looking men who stalk Kit.
All of these people who surround Kit come under suspicion. While Kit suffers, Scotland Yard believes she is kind of lonely; and, she is unconsciously trying to get attention from Tony. Therefore, she is imagining these events and phone calls. “Gaslighting” at its best. This is a worthwhile movie to watch as it is a beautiful Hollywood film that will keep you guessing to the end.
So, if you have a free afternoon, you might like to watch any of these murder mysteries. Two are wonderfully perfect Classics; two are endearing comedies; or, one is a fascinating Hollywood rarity with Doris Day. Any of these are worth your time, as a movie lover.
To read more posts written for this Death Do Us Part Blogathon, please use the following link: