Kudos to the writers of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS – the original novel, “The Woman in Red “ by Anthony Gilbert (pen name for the English crime writer, Lucy Beatrice Malleson) and adapted for the screen by Muriel Roy Bolton . With the plot of the film centred on a woman in distress, played by Nina Foch, all we needed was Ida Lupino at the helm and this film would have been unique in 1945!
But it is 1945 and it is director Joseph H. Lewis and cinematographer Burnett Guffey who skilfully bring to life this tale of mystery and suspense which , on a B movie budget, only ran 65 minutes. Which means you can’t waste a second! Hold your breath, go on the wild ride and it’s over before you know it.!
Try to take away a person’s identity and you are in the depths of noir.
Julia Ross is set up in a crazy scheme dreamed up by Ralph Hughes’s (George Macready) mother,Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty) to cover up Ralph’s murder of his wife.
Yes, the lovely Miss Froy from THE LADY VANISHES has been reinvented as a venomous old lady determined to do whatever it takes to protect her vicious son.
But,as played by Nina Foch (in the best part of her short Hollywood career), Julia fights against her imprisonment in a large Cornwall mansion on the coast.
To Mrs. Hughes and Ralph , she says, “My name isn’t Marion and I’m not married to you or anyone.”
Start of the film, a rain soaked Julia returns to her boarding house in London . She is behind in her rent and is desperately looking for a job. When she sees a newspaper ad for a secretarial post , she applies at once- and then the nightmare begins!
In her few scenes, Joy Harrington as ‘Bertha’, the cleaner at Julia’s boarding house is very good. (Joy became a producer/writer/director on British television).
Anita Bolster pretending to be an employment agency manager who engages Julia to work for Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty).
Roland Varno as ‘Dennis’ who lives in the same London boarding house as Julia. When she disappears, he tries to find out where she has gone.
The only colour for a cat in a thriller is black! This little one helps Julia discover a hidden panel and this helps her overhear the plans for her demise!
Destroy the evidence! Anything that points to the person known as Julia Ross has to go..
Mrs. Hughes: “I want all her clothing destroyed.”
Julia wakes up from a drugged sleep and finds herself dressed in a gown with the initials MH on it. And when she looks around the room, everything has MH on it – remind you of any other film?
(MH for Marion Hughes whom we never see – well, she was done away with before the film starts!)
”What are you planning to do with me? Why don’t you stop this farce.”
Julia never doubts her identity – she not Ingrid Bergman in GASLIGHT!
George Macready as Ralph is in urgent need of psychiatric treatment! Obsessed with knives, his mother takes them away from him and locks them in a drawer. While she’s not looking, he sneaks one back out of the drawer!
Mrs. Hughes says to him, “If it wasn’t for your temper, we wouldn’t be in this awful trouble today.” (Ie trying to cover up the fact he has killed his wife.)
Another inventive idea by Julia. She writes an SOS and wraps it round a stone and throws it through the railings of the mansion’s gates.
Never mind his mother’s elaborate plan, Ralph is about to throw Julia out the window to the rocks below, when Nancy the maid comes into the room. Ralph immediately expresses solicitation for his ‘wife’ (Nancy being the only person in the house who isnt in on the plot).
He says to Nancy (Queenie Leonard) they must get bars for the windows! And he does.
The ingenuity of Julia is displayed again and again as she tries to escape. Looking at these bottles, one of which contains poison, gives her an idea.
A great scene near the end of the film when Peters (Leonard Mudie), who has been dispatched to the London boarding house Julia lived at, to retrieve the letter Julia has written to Dennis, her off-on boyfriend who’s been searching for her.
Doris Lloyd plays the landlady who is suspicious of Peters.
Ralph is stopped from finishing Julia off.
The final scenes seem a bit rushed and it’s not at all clear how the final denouement is orchestrated, though the police on the scene say that they caught Peters in London.
What an anti- climax of an ending as Dennis drives Julia back to London after her rescue.
Much better to have stayed at the lashing waves of the ocean – the dead body of Ralph, Mrs. Hughes In handcuffs and Dennis comforting Julia. Now that would have made sense. And a perfect ending.
The great supporting cast were nearly all part of the British contingent in Hollywood.
Still enjoyable after a second or third viewing – even though you know what’s coming! A big thank you to Arrow Films for the new print of the film.
Dame May Whitty and George Macready on the set.