Black Widow (1954) Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner - movie review on The Movie Scene

Black Widow (1954)   3/53/53/53/53/5


Van Heflin and Ginger Rogers in Black Widow (1954)

A Rising Star

After seeing off his wife on a visit to her ill mother, theatre producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin - Shane) reluctantly heads to a party being thrown by one of his stars, Lottie Marin (Ginger Rogers - We're Not Married). It is at the party he comes across Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner), a young woman who wants to write for a living. After taking Nancy under his wings Peter learns that she hasn't been in the city long but despite her seemingly shy nature had made a series of connections within the industry. But when Nancy is found hanging in Peter's apartment the initial suspected suicide turns to suspected murder with Detective Lt. C.A. Bruce (George Raft - A Dangerous Profession) investigating with suspicion of course falling on Peter.

"Black Widow" is an interesting title for this 1954 movie for the simple reason it isn't like other, much later movies about women who use and discard the men in their life. Instead we have more of a traditional murder mystery where we have a man on the run trying to prove his innocence when a young woman is found dead in his apartment. But what "Black Widow" has is almost a double storyline as whilst during the second half we get to watch Peter trying to clear his name we also get the back story to Nancy and her time in the city.

Peggy Ann Garner in Black Widow (1954)

Now that back story is in many ways just as traditional as we see that despite her seemingly timid nature she was a manipulative social climber who makes contacts and uses them to make the next step up. And of course that back story is connected to Nancy's murder as we discover along the way she upset a few people. But then we have that mystery as to who killed Nancy and during all this build up every single character we meet has a side to them which makes us wonder be it Peter whose kindness to Nancy seems to border on grooming whilst Lottie has an extremely caustic side, not bothered who she offends. And I could go on as even those who Nancy meets early on seem to end up having issues with her.

There is though one problem to all of this and not a single character in "Black Widow" rings true from every woman speaking like they had just walked out of elocution classes to not reacting when they come across a dead body. But whilst the characters often feel wrong the performances end up entertaining with Ginger Rogers delivering one of her most over the top performances as the catty Lottie whose every word seems to be laced with venom. It gets to the point that the character almost feels like it is being played for laughs which to be truth doesn't work in what should be more of a serious thriller but still ends up entertaining.

What this all boils down to is that "Black Widow" ends up heavily flawed with characters which simply don't feel right. Yet the acting is enjoyable and the story has a nice series of crossovers when it comes to the mystery surrounding Nancy's death and her connections


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