The Rivera Touch
Whilst treating shipping tycoon Matthew S. Cabot (Lloyd Nolan), Dr. David Rivera (Anthony Quinn) embarks on a secret affair with Cabot's wife Sheila (Lana Turner) who has had enough of her husband's bullying ways making her life a misery. It is why David suggests he uses his medical skills to kill Matthew and then not only will Sheila be free from her husband but they will be free to be together after some time. But between Sheila's feelings of guilt making her a paranoid wreck and a letter sent to David congratulating him on murder they both come under huge pressure.
With a cast which features many Hollywood greats I wanted to love "Portrait in Black" but in truth I was strangely disappointed by it. Oh it has the star power with stars to spare but it also has so much soap opera style melodrama, over acting, poor dialogue and did I mention over acting that it starts to encroach on that space where it becomes entertainingly bad. Part of that is down to the direction of Michael Gordon as whilst he delivers some beautiful looking scenes it feels like every scene is a small moment of drama rather than being part of a story.
The thing is that what "Portrait in Black" should be about is a lot of corrupt people and how they react following Matthew Cabot's death. You have David and Sheila who have to live with the paranoia brought on by what they have done. You also have Cabot's business partner who seems up to no good which has a knock on effect of making a young sailor angry over what seems a broken promise. We also have the shifty nature of the Cabot chauffeur and the housekeeper who seems to act menacing when ever he is around. The thing is that whilst all these characters are great for delivering melodrama they feel like they belong in some sort of soap opera as they are all too over the top.
What this all boils down to is that whilst "Portrait in Black" is rich in glamour and certainly has a good look it is too rich in melodrama and over the top performances as well as cheesy dialogue making it border on being entertainingly bad.