To Do What She Must – No Man of Her Own (1950)

No Man of Her Own, a film that is more drama than noir and starring Barbara Stanwyck, finds her playing a single woman who is pregnant and heading home on the train thanks to her cheating boyfriend when all of a sudden it crashes. Mistaken for a dead woman and for the sake of her child, she decides to keep the identity given her and is taken in by the family of the dead woman’s husband. Things it seems, have a way of working out sometimes. Just when all is well in her life, Helen starts receiving strange messages and that is when her former beau returns looking for a handout, threatening to tear her life down around her.

Directed by Mitchell Leisen from a story by Cornell Woolrich, those elements of film noir which are present, are played down in favour of melodrama and while the movie turned out to be captivatingly good, one has to wonder just what the finished product might have looked like if it the soapy elements were not so enhanced. As it is, there is nothing to really complain about here as the cast is in top form with Stanwyck leading the charge, putting in a very solid performance as only she can. Her role as a beleaguered mother is believable and the audience is made to feel sorry for her even though she is deceiving everyone around her, good intentions or not. Helen does manage to redeem herself a number of times though, ready to confess or leave the family at a moment’s notice and never taking advantage until she has to thanks to the man she left behind coming back into her life. Stanwyck is followed by John Lund as her brother-in-law and the man who falls in love with her despite knowing her truth, Jane Cowl as her mother-in-law in an understated role that drives home the emotions throughout and Lyle Bettger as the villain and all-around scoundrel.

While the picture is fairly dramatic, tension and suspense are soon added into the mix during the final act of the film as Bettger’s character is re-introduced with the pace definitely picking up. Stanwyck’s character goes through a bit of a transformation when this happens, as she discovers just what it is she is truly capable of when it comes to those she loves being threatened. Events play out far different than one might expect when it is all said and done and the film which began as one thing, would end as another.

From start to finish, there is a lot to love about this picture, whether the strong direction from Leisen who weaves his story tightly throughout or the cast of standout players who never faltered for a second. With one of Stanwyck’s best performances in a career full of them, No Man of Her Own is worth every second of one’s time.

4 out of 5

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