SLEEP, MY LOVE. United Artists, 1948. Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Rita Johnson, George Coulouris, Raymond Burr, Hazel Brooks. Director: Douglas Sirk.


   The disparity between actions and words in Caught (see my comments here ) was brought home even harder by the movie I saw right after it, Sleep, My Love, adapted from a novel by Leo Rosten, directed by Douglas Sirk, who helmed juicy films like Written on the Wind, Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows with a lurid sensitivity all his own.

    Sleep is basically Gaslight in modem dress: faithless-husband Don Ameche (quite nice in a rare bad-guy part) convinces naive-wife Claudette Colbert that she`s going loopy, with the help of a bogus shrink (George Coulouris, the nasty banker from Citizen Kane) so he can have her put away, grab her money, and marry lovely-but-cold Hazel Brooks (whose career apparently went nowhere after this promising start).

   Be that as it may, Don’s byzantine schemes … which are not exactly what they appear to be … get thwarted by healthy young Bob Cummings, one of the few leading men in Hollywood who could romance married women on the screen without losing audience sympathy.

   Okay, so Sleep, My Love goes through the whole Gaslight schtick, with Claudette hounded by nasty George Coulouris, then pampered with false sympathy by rotten Don Ameche, who gently prepares her for a nervous breakdown, while setting up his partner for a nifty double-cross.


   Director Sirk has some fun along the way, adding depth to the picture with carefully-observed scenes of a Chinese wedding, or an interview with a black housekeeper who is much sharper than we might expect. But the real impact of his direction comes with an ending that beautifully melds Style and Substance:

   Sirk has previously established that the Colbert-Ameche living room is curtained from the foyer by a frosted-glass sliding pocket-door. Toward the end, Don arranges to have his partner George waiting in the tiling room to hound Claudette some more. Or at least that`s what George thinks; (WARNING!!) actually Sneaky Ameche is handing his half-doped wife a gun and telling her that her persecutor is just beyond that door.


   Claudette almost shoots, but at the last minute awakens, whereupon her husband grabs the gun and shoots through the door himself, shattering the frosted glass to reveal Coulouris on the other side, who shoots back in revenge. (END OF WARNING.)

   Mere description doesn’t do justice to this scene, where, at the moment narratively when her husband breaks through his web of deception, he also visually breaks the barrier that hides his scheming partner: for once, we get a perfect visual correlative to what the story is telling us. And another reason why I go to the Movies.