The File On Thelma Jordon

Eddie Muller and Noir Alley are back from a two month hiatus. I don’t know how I survived. The File On Thelma Jordon was the first movie featured by the Noir Czar upon his return, so consider this a tribute to the dapper don of doom.

There are several quirky things about the title. First, I’ve known Jordans and Jerdens, but never a two-O Jordon. Second, the movie was marketed and shown with the title, Thelma Jordon. I haven’t been able to learn when The File On was added: Mr. Google let me down. It’s a Warner Brothers film and they had great luck with two other Forties noirs with dame names, Mildred Pierce and Nora Prentiss, so it beats the hell outta me why it was changed.

The great Barbara Stanwyck plays the title character. Thelma is a subtle femme fatale not like Stanwyck’s character in Double Indemnity who is an overt temptress. The man she tempts is played by Wendell Corey. The role has all the trappings of a typical Corey role: he’s stolid, solid, married with children, and an assistant district attorney. His marriage feels like a triangle with his father-in-law as one of the points.

The Stanwyck-Corey meet cute takes place in the office of one of Corey’s colleagues with whom Stanwyck allegedly plans to file a complaint about burglaries at her wealthy aunt’s house. I say alleged plan because she shows up at night. Corey is in his cups because he’s avoiding a family gathering with his overbearing father-in-law. The two go out for drinks and the rest is film noir history.

When Stanwyck’s rich aunt is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect. Corey tries to help her cover up the crime, but she’s eventually indicted. The affair is still secret at this point, so Corey ends up prosecuting the case. He loses. That’s as much plot as I’m willing to divulge.

The trial scenes are unusually realistic for a film of any era let alone 1949. I only yelled at the screen a few times when Thelma Jordon was on trial.

This publicity still, however, is not realistic but who among us doesn’t dig shadowy figures?

The File On Thelma Jordon features fine performances by the stars and a stellar supporting cast. Corey nearly drinks his way out of a job but rallies for the trial. In real life, Corey was an alcoholic who died at the age of  54 while Stanwyck kept on keeping on.

Robert Siodmak, the director of The Killers and Criss Cross, helmed this production. It’s full of characteristic Siodmak touches but he spends more time on character development than in previous noirs.

The film was shot by George Barnes whose credits include Hitchcock’s Rebecca and Spellbound.

The screenplay was written by Ketti Frings who became frustrated with how Hollywood treated women writers and became a playwright.

Grading Time: I give The File On Thelma Jordon 3 1/2 stars and an Adrastos Grade of  B+. It’s one of Stanwyck’s finest performances and that’s saying a lot.

It’s time to get back to the roots of this feature and show some posters and shit.

The first poster has a swell tagline, but I’ve never known anyone like Thelma Jordon. Femme fatales aren’t my jam.

I feel the need to stretch my legs and go to the lobby. Unfortunately, I’m at home where there’s no lobby. What can ya do?

Now that I’ve been a card, let’s check out some lobby cards in which the stars are joined by Joan Tetzel, Paul Kelly, and a smirking prison matron.

It’s time to leave jail and watch the trailer.

Eddie Muller gets the last word on this Stanwyck-Corey-Siodmak classic.

FYI, the freeze frame in the outro comes from a 1956 noir Stanwyck made with Raymond Burr and Sterling Hayden, Crime Of Passion.

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