WHIRLPOOL. 20th Century Fox, 1949. Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford, Barbara O’Neil, Eduard Franz, Constance Collier. Screenplay by Ben Hecht and Andrew Solt, based on the novel Methinks the Lady by Guy Endore (Duell Sloan & Pearce, 1945).

   Editor’s Note: Before continuing on to read Dan’s review of this film, I strongly advise you go back nine years or so on this blog and read his review of Methinks the Lady, the book by Guy Endore the movie was based upon. You can find it here. Use the reverse arrow on your browser to find your way back, and I hope you will.


   Methinks the Lady was filmed in 1949 as Whirlpool, with a screenplay by Ben Hecht, produced and directed by Otto Preminger as yet another attempt to cash in on the success of Laura (1945), Obce again we get Gene Tierney as the innocent re-shaped by a loquacious Svengali — in this case Jose Ferrar as a quack doctor — and implicated in murder.

   But where Endore’s novel was a Mystery (and so was Laura) we know from the outset that Ferrar is up to something, and we catch on very quickly that he means to frame Gene Tierney for murder. The suspense is in figuring out just how he means to get away with it, and seeing how Tierney will slip out of the web … or if she will…

   Writer Ben Hecht thus turns the book completely inside-out, and he does it to good effect, with neatly-drawn characters and mounting suspense building to an ending that’s plaindamn silly but still lots of fun. Preminger’s direction is elegant as ever, and as for the acting…

   Well, Gene Tierney is surprisingly effective in the more emotional stretches, and there’s Ricard Conte, a strong actor too often wasted in bland parts, here wasted in a bland part. But the show really belongs to Jose Ferrar as the talkative quack, and he makes the story the slimy most of it, exuding an unpleasantness that seems compelling at times without ever engaging audience sympathy. Which I think just the effect they were trying for.