Portrait In Black

1960, Movie, NR, 112 mins

Review

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This glitzy, glossy, murder-suspense picture was shot like one of Ross Hunter's romantic films. It took 15 years for the 1945 play to reach the screen, after an interesting history. Goff and Roberts' stage production premiered in New Haven with Geraldine Fitzgerald in the lead. There was a two-year hiatus until it went to New York for 61 performances starring Clare Luce, Donald Cook, and Sidney Blackmer. The film rights were bought by Bruce Manning and Jack Skirball, who announced Joan Crawford to star and Carol Reed to direct. When that didn't happen, Universal picked up the rights and held them until they needed a film Turner could appear in to follow-up her successful remake of IMITATION OF LIFE. Turner was dressed in some eye-catching Jean Louis gowns, and the film employed some beautiful sets, but neither of these flashy touches could conceal PORTRAIT IN BLACK's contrived plot. Married to Nolan, an invalid multimillionaire, Turner is having an affair with Nolan's doctor, Quinn. The lovers would like to marry, but divorce is out of the question. Turner convinces Quinn to murder Nolan in what they believe will be an untraceable way--with the injection of a bubble of air into Nolan's veins. Nolan dies, and Turner and Quinn feel safe until she gets an unsigned letter of congratulations on her successful murder. She thinks that the author of the letter may be Basehart, the family's investment advisor, who has had his eye on Turner for quite a spell. Quinn and Turner get rid of Basehart, and toss his remains in San Francisco Bay. When Basehart's body is found, the police learn that he had argued with Saxon, a boat owner, who is charged with the murder. However, this development doesn't make things any easier for the murderous lovers because Saxon is engaged to Nolan's daughter, Dee, the stepdaughter of Turner. When Quinn can no longer live with what he's done, he gives up medicine and leaves for Switzerland. Claiming that she's received another threatening letter, Turner summons Quinn back to California. When Quinn returns, Dee overhears Turner and Quinn arguing about the murders they have committed and confronts them. Quinn is then killed trying murder Dee, and Turner is left to face the cops alone. In a small role, note Anna May Wong, who had starred in an equally silly British murder film, PICCADILLY, 30 years earlier. leave a comment

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Portrait In Black
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