Movies and Film

Not What the Other Expected – The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)


Originally released as just Thelma Jordon, the movie would star Barbara Stanwyck in yet another film noir, a genre that she would excel in over the years, and would end up playing with and against Wendell Corey. While the former would grab the attention of the audience immediately as soon as she would come on the screen making people hang on to her every word and action, so too would Corey, unassuming at first until his destiny would intertwine with Stanwyck’s, a mistake he would never see coming until it was far too late.

Playing the titular Thelma Jordan, Stanwyck was once again perfectly cast and here she would portray the damsel in distress, a woman looking for help and getting it in the least likely of places in the form of Cleve Marshall, a district attorney who would rather drink himself into a stupor instead of going home to his family. The two would go off together to get a drink, a drink that would soon turn into far more as a kiss would manifest between the two. One can say that Cleve, the character that Corey plays is doomed, entangled in a web he does not even know has been spun as of yet, but he walks into it with eyes wide open, the man thinking it love until there is nowhere to go except forward, even though he knows not where it leads.

Directed by Robert Siodmak, the man no stranger to film noir with movies such as The Killers in his back pocket, he would begin the picture off slowly so that one might think it a romance or straight-up drama, but as it would progress, he would begin to show his hand. Little by little through Stanwyck’s character, she would turn out to be not as she seemed and caught up in it would be Cleve, who for his part, was exactly as advertised. Working from a script by Ketti Frings and featuring some incredible photography from George Barnes, Siodmak would take his time unveiling what was to come and he would do it on darkened roads, with furtive glances, but more importantly, through the actions of the leading players. Stanwyck and Corey worked well together, bringing out the best in each other’s performance and it would be almost impossible for people to tear their eyes away as the drama unfolded.  Additionally, Paul Kelly and Joan Tetzel would star to round out the cast, the two of them completely in the dark as to what was happening and making the tension that takes place all the more sharp.

All of it would come to a crescendo in the final act, taking place in a courtroom where Jordon would walk away unscathed, but paying for her deceit later in a scene that might have been a little cliché, but nevertheless played out perfectly, summing up all that had happened and leaving things off not on the happiest of endings, but one that at least would let Cleve off the hook. As it turns out, no matter how complicated it might be, love is a wild card no matter what form it might take and despite the two characters coming together as they did, they discovered that neither, in the end, were exactly who they thought they were. The File on Thelma Jordon may not be talked about in the same circle as The Killers or Double Indemnity, but it should not be dismissed as anything but a solid and brilliant little thriller with Corey and Stanwyck in excellent form.

4 out of 5

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