Where Film Noir Lives...Too!
Phantom Lady (Universal, 1946). French Grande (47" X 63").
A first for Heritage, offered here is visual feast from the film noir thriller, Phantom Lady. Designed by artist Rene Lefebvre, this bright, well preserved piece will look fabulous in the collection of any devoted noir fan.
Scott Henderson's (Alan Curtis) marriage is on the ropes, and while drowning his sorrows at a Manhattan bar, he picks up a hat-wearing woman (Fay Helm). They attend the theater together, never exchanging names before they part for the evening. Returning home, Henderson finds his wife strangled and becomes the prime suspect in her murder.
The phantom lady has vanished, leaving him with no alibi, and Henderson's assistant (Ella Raines) and friend (Franchot Tone) intervene, believing in his innocence. Signs of light use include crossfold separation, fold wear, a small tears at the folds in the image area. Very Fine-.
Joe McElhaney @ Sense of cinema:
"Phantom Lady (1944) is one of the high points of '40s film noir, the title alone evoking a potent mythology of this era. At the center of its narrative is the seemingly hopeless search for the title character who potentially serves as the only reliable witness in the murder trial for Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis), falsely accused of killing his wife.
But the search is frustrated by Henderson's inability to remember any details about the woman outside of a flamboyant hat she wore during the night they spent together, an unlikely memory lapse that only intensifies his apparent guilt.
Furthermore, no one else who saw Henderson and the woman together will admit to the police that they had seen her. It is up to his assistant, Carol (Ella Raines), to initiate an investigation of her own.
This implausible journey takes her on a tour of a decaying 1940s New York, during which Carol undergoes some implausible transformations of her own before."
"...Perhaps what is most interesting about Phantom Lady is its relationship to a strain of '40s cinema in which traditional narrative logic is subservient to a primarily poetic or lyrical approach.
In this regard, the film is not simply of its moment but also anticipates certain aspects of post-war modernist cinema, in particular narratives revolving around the search for an elusive figure who may be alive or dead and who may have existed in reality or be a figment of someone's imagination.
Here we find narratives built less around traditional cause-and-effect, character driven investigations than narratives dominated by an obsessive form of stalking and trailing (see, for example the work of Antonioni, Resnais, Duras and Robbe-Grillet). Two creative figures behind Phantom Lady are central here: its director, Robert Siodmak, and the author of the novel upon which the film was based, Cornell Woolrich."
...Woolrich's work often revolves around the problematic nature of memory, most often in relation to a crime which the protagonist may have committed but which their faulty memories (often aggravated by extreme trauma) cause them to either forget or be uncertain about.
However, Henderson's memory lapse is brought on by simple distraction – his anger at his wife precipitating his difficulty in fastening onto details about the 'phantom lady.' This is counterpointed with the unshakable certainty of the witnesses who claim never to have seen her. What, then, does Carol hope to achieve through this stare of hers except to force a memory out of a man who otherwise claims to have no memory for faces, a failure which he attributes solely to the distractions of his profession and which he finally dies for – running in front of a car – rather than confess?
The all-powerful male gaze of such archetypal Weimar figures as Nosferatu and Mabuse is here passed on to a protagonist whose concerns could not be more different. In a brilliant reversal of the gender conventions of material of this nature, it is the woman who does the stalking and it is the woman who possesses the most powerful gaze of them all.
But this gaze is not one that she possesses in monstrous terms but in order to uncover the truth and bring a memory into the light of day, as though Poe's Ligeia and Lang's Mabuse had been crossed with Hildy in Hawks' His Girl Friday (1940). "
"Well, to finish, only tell that this is one of my favorite movies of all times..."
[EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one Of my favorite Siodmak film too!...with the other being Hemingway's "The Killers." ]