Woman’s Secret, A (1949)

Woman’s Secret, A (1949)

“I want you to get this straight once and for all: you’re not going to give up your career!”

When former singer Marian Washburn (Maureen O’Hara) confesses to shooting her young protegee (Gloria Grahame), Marion’s pianist-friend (Melvyn Douglas) tries to convince police detective Jim Fowler (Jay C. Flippen) that she’s lying.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Criminal Investigation
  • Flashback Films
  • Gloria Grahame Films
  • Maureen O’Hara Films
  • Melvyn Douglas Films
  • Mentors
  • Nicholas Ray Films
  • Singers

This melodramatic flashback film — written by Citizen Kane‘s Herman Mankiewicz, and directed by Nicholas Ray — bears a vague resemblance to All About Eve (1950) in its tale of quibbling mentor/protegee, but is ultimately much less satisfying: because the characters (particularly O’Hara) are underdeveloped, we never quite believe or understand their motivations, and the entire narrative drifts along without much defining energy. Fortunately, O’Hara and Douglas are both fine (albeit unexceptional) in their roles, and Grahame gives a typically eccentric performance as loopy Susan — though it’s undeniably strange to hear her dubbed voice (in real life, she was tone deaf) crooning beautiful melodies. I was most impressed by Edward Stevenson’s lovely gowns; both leading ladies look gorgeous in them.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Gloria Grahame as Susan
  • Jay C. Flippen as droll Inspector Fowler
  • Edward Stevenson’s gowns

Must See?
No, but it’s worth viewing once.


One thought on “Woman’s Secret, A (1949)

  1. Not must-see. This one’s much ado about not very much ultimately, but agreed; somehow it’s worth a viewing.

    This is mainly due to director Ray. One might be tempted to think and feel that this is one of Ray’s director-for-hire outings – that he seems to have very little invested in the project personally. That isn’t the case, though. Ray burrows into the overly talky material and unearths those moments of under/above-the-surface rage that are at the root of the story – and which are right in line with the trademark of his better films.

    Ray also gets terrific performances out of his cast – esp. Grahame (married to Ray at the time), but all are much better than the script deserves. Not that the storyline itself is all that bad, but the dialogue often seems awkward and/or a mouthful for the actors to say. Working from Vicki (‘Grand Hotel’) Baum’s novel, Herman Mankiewicz seems to struggle with a proper tone: some of the script is actually tight – some of it is even refreshingly amusing – but too often the proceedings appear ho-hum, esp. the drab denouement.

    The reference to ‘All About Eve’ is fitting here. After all, one year after this film, Herman’s brother Joseph would unveil ‘AAE’. One would think they were sharing (or at least reading) the same kinds of source material.

    Nicholas Ray is among my favorite directors – and I’ve always seemed to find reason enough to be glad I took in even those films of his that aren’t nearly as satisfying as others.

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