NO MAN OF HER OWN is a story of mistaken identity,blackmail,murder – and mother love – and Barbara Stanwyck in every scene!
It is the story of Helen Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) and the circumstances that lead her into a double life.
Helen is in a train crash and is mistaken for a victim Patrice Harkness (Phyllis Thaxter). Helen and her baby are welcomed into the Harkness home as the daughter-in-law they’ve never met.
Although she is always on edge because of her deceit,her only concern is her baby son.


But her past catches up with her when she receives a telegram. Her life starts to unravel as Steve Morley ( Lyle Bettger ) turns up with blackmail on his mind. He is the father of her child and threatens to expose her.
In a downhill spiral,Helen realises Morley will never leave her alone and what follows leads to Morley’s death.


One memorable scene near the beginning has a desperate Helen,pregnant and penniless,wearily carrying a suitcase up a flight of stairs.She knocks on a door but there is no answer.She calls out,”Steve,let me in.I don’t know anyone in New York.I haven’t any money.” Inside is Steve and his girlfriend Irma (Carole Mathews). He puts a railway ticket and a $5 dollar bill in an envelope and slips it under the door.Helen takes out the ticket – it’s a one way ticket, New York to San Francisco.The money falls to the floor unnoticed. She wipes her tears and struggles back down the stairs.
Barbara is so good in this scene and the slimy Steve is such a coward, he cant even face her.
His hard looking girlfriend says to him, “Don’t ever try to brush me off like that.”

Lyle Bettger,Barbara Stanwyck

Lyle Bettger,Barbara Stanwyck


Cast members include John Lund and Jane Cowl ,both of whom provide excellent support for Barbara. I was particularly impressed by Jane Cowl whom I had never seen before. She was a stage actress who only made a handful of films in the last years of her life – she died in 1950 not long after the film’s release. She looked so comfortable and assured on the screen and played Mrs Harkness (whose son and daughter in law were killed in the train crash) with such warmth and sweetness.

image    John Lund is convincing as the dead man’s brother who falls for Helen even though he has suspicions about her identity.

The title  is the only weak part of this film – the overseas title, THE LIE far better describes the story.     And  No Man of Her Own might be confused with a 1932 film of the same name.


Barbara’s performance conveys all Helen Ferguson’s vulnerability,anxiety,despair and constant fear of exposure.It’s a complex and compelling character,and a great role for Barbara. With its release on dvd,I hope No Man Of Her Own will jump up the list of Barbara’s best performances.

Based on a Cornell Woolrich story,”I Married A Dead Man”,the film was directed by Mitchell Leisen.

This review is part of the BARBARA STANWYCK BLOGATHON. Hope you’ll pay a visit. there is so much to read about Barbara.

29 responses »

  1. Oh my goodness! I never realized it until just now, but the movie “Mrs. Winterbourne” is totally a remake of this! Right down to the new girlfriend saying, “Don’t ever try to brush me off like that.” I’d never heard of this, but I MUST find it somehow now! I’m imagining Stanwyck in it and loving it!

  2. I ought to read the Woolrich story again. I do recall reading it years ago and realising for the first time that No Man of Her Own was a film version of the story.

    I haven’t seen Mrs Winterbourne but will try and see it sometime. But nothing will beat No Man of Her Own.

  3. Your post is my read of the Barbara Blogathon. I actually thought Helen deliberately dropped the $5. I needed the SOB to die right then and there. How vulnerable Barbara looked on the train. No wonder the other couple took her under their wing. Loved how Irma’s remark is more than a crack.

  4. Thanks so much.
    I think Helen was in such a state,she didnt notice the $5 falling from the envelope.
    Barbara looked so worn out on the train and Richard Denning and Phyllis Thaxter were so kind to her . In a way, I’m sorry Denning and Thaxter’s scenes were so short.
    And yes, that remark from Lyle Bettger’s girlfriend is prophetic,isn’t it!
    Lyle Bettger is just so good.

  5. I haven’t seen this one but would really like to – it sounds like a great noir and a powerful role for Stanwyck. You’ve whetted my appetite here, Vienna.

  6. Nice tribute to one of those intriguing little noirs that’s just waiting to be rediscovered. It’s interesting to see Stanwyck as the weary, victimized woman of the opening scenes. She really does look like someone almost devoid of hope. And then she gets what she wants, but the price she has to pay! I agree that Lyle Bettger is wonderfully slimy here. And that the title “I Married a Dead Man” is much better than “No Man of Her Own.”

  7. I think some of Barbara’s best acting is in that opening scene where we only have to look at her to know she is hanging on by a thread. I do hope more folk see this film.
    Cornell Woolrich always came up with intriguing titles for his stories and I agree his title should have been used.

  8. I Married a Dead Man is one of my very favoritest suspense novels and this film preserves most of it (it’s not as bleak in the end, but I don’t know how it could be). I love how it uses the opening passage of the book as a voice over at the outset with its doomed refrain, “Not for us, not for us.”

  9. I don’t usually like voice-overs, but Helen’s thoughts before the flashback are so intriguing you are immediately hooked and want to know what’s going on.

  10. I’ll have to get back to you in a week or so when I’ve sat down and watched my copy of this film. I read the Woolrich novel years ago, and remember it as being quite good.

  11. I watched this last night and it pretty much hit the spot for me. I think the title change was an effort to play up the more melodramatic aspects of the story. Even so, I reckon “I Married a Dead Man” should have been retained – it’s such an evocative and intriguing title.

    That opening section is excellent, pure Woolrich, and sets the tone nicely. I like Stanwyck a lot but I have to admit she could have an off-putting hardness about her, especially in the late 40s and 50s, but totally buries that in her performance here. The result is that she’s extraordinarily sympathetic, and this makes the whole movie work better.

    John Lund could be a little too upright at times in films but he uses that stoic quality well as Stanwyck’s love interest and he taps into the right kind of controlled intensity at the climax. I agree too on the good work done by Cowl and Bettger.

    Excellent article.

  12. Glad you liked it,Colin. I agree Barbara isn’t always sympathetic but then I think of her in this and Ball of Fire and as Dixie Daisy in Lady of Burlesque.
    But boy is she right for Phyllis Deitrichson or Mae Doyle. (She and Robert Ryan hit sparks off each other in Clash By Night).
    Joan Crawford and Bette Davis also had that hard- edged quality perfect for some of their roles – sympathetic wasn’t their best side!
    It’s all down to quality acting.
    Other actresses just didnt do ‘hard-edged’ – Colbert,Loy,Dunne.

  13. Good points. Personally, I’ve always had a problem with the likes of Davis and Crawford. Davis was the better actress though and had far more range, while Crawford can be a real struggle for me to watch – I actually tend to avoid her films since I’ve rarely seen a movie where I can say I “liked” her.

    Stanwyck could certainly play tough but there was something about her that suggested more humanity, even when she was at her most hard-nosed.

  14. Barbara is always great. By your review, I can see it’s a very good movie, and now I can’t wait to watch it!
    Don’t forget to read my contribution to the blogathon! 🙂

  15. Great review, Vienna! I also really enjoyed this movie. Of course I love Barbara Stanwyck and am a sucker for any movie with a train scene in it. 🙂 Jane Cowl really stood out to me too. I liked how she added a warm presence to the movie.

  16. I loved this movie, but I don’t think I could ever stand to watch it again because of that evil boyfriend. I hate watching people being bullied! I agree w/ FlickChick though, Stanwyck elevates this movie. Without her, it might have been totally forgettable.

  17. This is such a wonderful movie — I was thrilled to have the chance to see it on the big screen at UCLA last December. Stanwyck is excellent — so is Jane Cowl — but I think my favorite performance is John Lund. He really hits all the right notes in quite a romantic performance, and I think he was quite underrated.

    Really enjoyed your perspective on the film and then reading through the above discussion!

    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s