“Another woman once thought she owned me. Don’t drive me too far!”
When a smitten housemaid (Jean Simmons) discovers that her widowed employer (Stewart Granger) secretly poisoned his wife, she blackmails him into giving her a higher position in his household — but his interest in a beautiful heiress (Belinda Lee) causes tensions in their uneasy relationship.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Courtroom Drama
- Historical Drama
- Jean Simmons Films
- Homicidal Spouses
- Obsessive Love
- Social Climbers
It’s been duly noted that the plot of this Victorian-era melodrama — starring real-life husband-and-wife Stewart Granger and Jean Simmons — occasionally “strains credibility”; yet its themes of blackmail, duplicity, obsessive love, and murderous spouses make for an enjoyably stylish thriller, one which is sure to appeal to fans of Hitchcockian cinema. Simmons’ lowly housemaid and Granger’s successful lawyer are seemingly worlds apart, but they’re united by their common quest for social ascendance: savvy Simmons deeply resents being ordered about by the head cook of the household (Marjorie Rhodes):
… while Granger secretly admits to marrying his dead wife for her money, and plans to woo another eligible young heiress (Elizabeth Travers) as soon as propriety allows.
While both are initially conniving, however, Simmons’ Lily Watkins eventually emerges as a sympathetic protagonist — and we can’t help cringing at the ill-founded loyalty she maintains for her murderous master.
Granger’s acting is as limited and campy as ever, but he’s well cast:
Meanwhile, Simmons demonstrates once again why she remains one of the unsung actresses of her time (c.f. her differently plucky turn-of-the-century role in 1950’s So Long at the Fair). Fine set designs and Benjamin Frankel’s score add to this suspenseful film’s overall period ambiance; and while it never reaches the heights of Hitchcock’s masterpieces (Arthur Lubin’s rather perfunctory directorial style prevents this), it’s certainly worth a look.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Jean Simmons as Lily Watkins
- A suspenseful Victorian-era narrative
- Benjamin Frankel’s atmospheric score
No, but it’s worth seeking out.