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  • From the wheelchair to which the actress was confined as the result of a hunting accident three years earlier, Susan Peters builds a controlled, subtle, expert performance that's the centerpiece of John Sturges' The Sign of the Ram. As the paralyzed young stepmother of three children living in a great Gothic pile on the Cornish coast, she conceals her frustrations under a mask of serenity (she writes mawkish poems for a London newspaper under the name Faith Hope) only to unleash them in sly, vindictive manipulation.

    The wheelchair may render her immobile, but her hands, restless and expressive, are ever on the move: posturing with cigarettes and lighter, picking out waltzes on the keyboard, plying her pen, knitting and purling. They seem to have a life of their own – a slithery, reptilian life, fueled by the cold instincts of the brainstem alone.

    The cast around her pulls its weight, too, in particular husband Alexander Knox, best remembered as the president in Darryl Zanuck's overblown biopic Wilson; Phyllis Thaxter as a hired secretary/companion; and Peggy Ann Garner, as an adolescent girl whose warped loyalty to Peters almost has irreversible consequences. Sturges maintains the pace, a brooding andante, while Burnett Guffey coaxes the most out of the labyrinthine house and crashing Irish Sea.

    But it's Peter's movie, and her last (she died four years later). When her machinations come to light, with the fog rolling in, Sturges devises a superb final scene – a cinematic `schlussgesang,' as they called those overwrought soprano passages that rang down the curtain in German opera. She deserved nothing less.
  • SUSAN PETERS had been an Oscar nominee already(RANDOM HARVEST) and a star-on-the-rise when a hunting accident led to paralysis. But this gifted young performer did not stop acting. Despite difficulties, she starred in THE SIGN OF THE RAM and gave a remarkable performance. As a manipulative, youthful stepmother, she creates dangerous problems for all those around her. Ms. Peters' performance is all the more striking, because it is not the kind of sympathetic role one might expect from a true-life actress in pain. She blithely moves from decent, lovely, caring woman to a woman desperately seeking control of all those around her. Her growth in the characterization is powerful, and she deserved award consideration. Everything else in the film works well -- from the work of Alexander Knox, Peggy Ann Garner, Phyllis Thaxter, Allen Roberts, Dame May Whitty, etal. to the cinematography of the cliffside house, to the art direction, music, etal. John Sturges' direction manages to avoid the pitfalls of melodrama as much as possible. But it is Susan Peters' charisma that makes this an important, albeit forgotten, work of art. She would go on to touring the country in THE BARRETTS OF WIMPOLE STREET and onto TV in the MISS SUSAN series, but she deserved further critical acclaim. This film should be given more prominence; it is a strong work starring a fine actress.
  • SIGN OF THE RAM drew a great deal of publicity at the time of its release, with the focus on Susan Peters for whom this marked a return to acting after a tragic hunting accident that left her paralyzed below the waist. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this cinematic moment is that Ms. Peters does not play a sympathetic character in the film. Instead she is a controlling paraplegic whose lovely personality masks her domination over her family. Ms. Peters' performance indicates that her widely different Oscar-nominated work in RANDOM HARVEST was not a fluke. It moves the potentially melodramatic plot along with an unique force. John Sturges' direction is on a par with his other fine work, and there is no faulting the excellent work of such actors as Alexander Knox, Allene Roberts, Peggy Ann Garner, Phyllis Thaxter...and, of course, the ever reliable Dame May Whitty. It is sad that this semi-forgotten but exquisite work is not available on any format. It deserves to be restored and saved if only for Ms. Peters' skills.
  • dougdoepke22 September 2007
    Intense psychological drama of the type so popular at the time. Scheming Leah (Susan Peters) is wheel-chair bound in a houseful of young women; so of course we're all initially sympathetic, but then events begin to unfold. The movie is generally under-rated by the professionals, perhaps because the material sizes up as a "woman's picture". Nonetheless, it's a broodingly atmospheric production, well-acted and superbly directed. Since events take place in and around a single sea-side mansion, keeping the audience engaged becomes a challenge. Thus direction, acting and set design take on more than usual importance. I'm rather surprised that the normally budget-minded and outdoorsy Columbia studio responds as well as it does. Note how beautifully composed each frame is-- director Sturges' very real artistic eye is already in evidence, well before his celebrated conquest of wide-screen Cinemascope. Even the process shots (always a tricky challenge) of a roiling surf are expertly done, adding greatly to the sinister mood. (In passing-- there's a 10 second shot two-thirds of the way through of Phyllis Thaxter standing at a window, exulting in Logan's departure. A brief scene like this could have easily been done in spartan fashion. But notice how artistically this passing shot is both mounted and composed. It's touches like this that add up to a memorable production.) If I'm going on about the technical side, it's because this obscure little film more than most exemplifies studio craftsmanship at its 40's best.

    The plot itself provides the tragically star-crossed Peters with her final film role, and she's excellent in a carefully modulated performance that could have easily gone over the top. Notice how expressively she uses her hands and fingers to suggest repressed inner feelings as she navigates through a house full of surging hormones. (I wonder how much of the real person crippled by a hunting accident is in that performance.) On the other hand, Alexander Knox as her husband strikes me as a shade too old and too stolid, but maybe he's supposed to be. The young couple, Logan and Catherine (Diana Douglas) are appropriately callow, while Douglas brings off her big scene with Peters in convincing fashion, a difficult challenge. Too bad that fine actress Phyllis Thaxter is given little more to do than stand around and look helpful as the "other woman". For those whose imagination tends to take over, it's perhaps not a stretch to think of the film as Leah's final few moments before going over the edge. Considering the movie's claustrophobic setting, a strictly "mental" dimension seems not far-fetched. However that may be, the film is a real sleeper, unfortunately under-rated, and well worth a look see, especially on a foggy night.
  • Since I was a teenager, I loved this movie! It had just the right amount of mystery, intrigue and drama. I loved the study of a controlling, manipulative woman, who was wheel-chair bound, who caused much heartache and death. I didn't know until recently that Susan Peters was actually wheel-chair bound from an automobile accident, I believe. I have been trying to find this movie to purchase it for my home for ages, but no luck! I also wanted to find out if the movie was based on a novel, and what the name is. I thought it was one of the best movies I ever saw, and loved the scenery, with the waves crashing on the shore. I have fond memories of it, and would like to relive them. My horoscope sign, incidentally is THE SIGN OF THE RAM! I don't believe the movie is still available, and would hope that Ted Turner or whoever owns the rights would reprint the movie, so that we could buy it!
  • ronjo24 August 2001
    Incredible evil in a seemingly quiet English home. Susan Peters is step-mother to three grown children and slowly becomes a dominating force over the entire family. She breaks up romance for one daughter and drives her son's fiancee to suicide. The youngest daughter Christine,played by Peggy Ann Garner,is driven to give an overdose of pills to her sister,thinking that she needs to protect her mother at all costs. Peggy Ann gives a very stirring performance when confronted with this.
  • Susan Peters stars as a mentally imbalanced matriarch of a rich English family. As part of the back story, you learn that the man of the house, Mallory (Alexander Knox), remarried a very young woman, Leah (Peters). Shortly after the marriage, Leah is severely injured in an accident and she is paralyzed. On the outside, she is a very happy and well-adjusted woman despite her being stuck in a wheelchair. However, very slowly during the course of the film you start to see that there is a hidden malevolence--a malevolence that is manipulative and just plain nasty. But, because she does all this cleverly, it takes folks a long time to realize what a horrid person she has become. See it yourself to see how wicked she becomes as well as what comes of all this.

    This is an interesting film because in real life, Peters really was wheelchair-bound. A short time before making "The Sign of the Ram", she was accidentally shot and could no longer walk. This Columbia picture is the first and last film she made following her tragic accident. Even more tragic is what happened to Peters' life in the subsequent years.

    As for the film itself, it's got a great setup and the first 85% of it captured my attention very well. It was a great idea and was a bit reminiscent of "Leave Her to Heaven"--another film about a VERY twisted wife who manipulates and kills to get what she wants. Unfortunately, the resolution to the film seemed to come much too prematurely and although good, the ending COULD have been much better. Good but a bit lacking.
  • The Sign of the Ram is directed by John Sturges and adapted to screenplay from Margaret Ferguson's novel. It stars Susan Peters, Alexandev Knox, Phyllis Thaxter, Peggy Ann Garner, Ron Randell, Dame May Witty and Allene Roberts. Music is by Hans J. Salter and cinematography by Burnett Guffey.

    Wheelchair bound Leah St. Aubyn (Peters) manipulates everybody around her...

    "It's the sign of the ram. People born under this sign are endowed with a strong will power and obstinacy of purpose"

    The setting is a cliff top mansion, a lighthouse is nearby, its purpose is to steer ships out of the fog and away from harms way. This is the fictitious Cornish place known as Tremerrion, and our play unfolds in the mansion known as Bastions. It's film that has proved to be a bit illusive to pin down, for whatever reasons, and that is a shame because there are plenty things for fans of such devilish dramas to be excited about. The backstory of the leading lady is itself tragic, for Susan Peters would be paralysed from the waist down after a freak hunting accident, this would see her appear in her last film. She gave up on life, tortured by pain and the loss of her ability to walk, she would starve to death and pass away four years later. Thankfully, and it's not sympathetic praise here, she's excellent and leaves film fans a fitting farewell to the movie world.

    "Haven't you sensed it? The undertone, like a warning drumbeat"

    Stripped down it's the story of a woman who manipulates everyone close to her, cunningly so, her reasons deliberately shaded in grey, and the question constantly gnaws away as to just how come her family and confidants can't see it?. Sooner or later something is going to give, and it's the waiting that gives the pic an edginess that's most appealing. This woman has no shame, we are told by her loyal spouse that she's not bitter about her accident, but she so is, but wears it well. She's not only spell bindingly pretty, but she's pretty spell bindingly devious too. The fog rolls in, the waves crash against the coast to marry up with the psychological discord being set loose in Bastions. Salter's music swirls and bites, while genius cinematographer Guffey turns in some class frames (one scene involving criss cross shadows is film noir nirvana).

    "They will stop at nothing to accomplice their purpose - and sometimes meet a violent death"

    Pulsing with jealousies, betrayals, suspicions and a whole host of devious machinations, this be a crafty old devil, a pic deconstructing the human condition with malicious glee. 7/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Before this movie was aired by TCM last night, I reviewed the rating and comments on this website. Noting the extremely high rating and rave reviews, my wife and I eagerly tuned in. We were both very disappointed. This movie promises much but delivers little. The location and the scenery are great, and they are captured nicely by the cinematography. True, the film is a bit obvious in its symbolic use of mist and storm and surf sequences, but their beauty and power more than compensate for the heavy-handed symbolism. Along with the great architecture, they effectively establish the film's dark mood.

    The acting is also very good; in what is essentially a melodrama, there are no real histrionics. The cast is nicely restrained and credibly reflects "real" people. Although a little too young for the role of "evil stepmother," Susan Peters is great as Leah, the central character. Beneath her radiant beauty, winning smile and demure demeanor, she is palpably evil and cruel. But why? After setting itself up as a psychological thriller, the film completely ignores the psychological aspects of the pathological, wheel-chair-bound Leah.

    In an early scene that seems full of portent great emphasis is placed upon the photograph of Leah's best friend - her husband's deceased first wife and mother of her stepchildren. Her death is never explained, although it seems essential to understanding a story and a character that become increasingly ominous. As we become acquainted with Leah's devious character, we wonder if she had anything to do with her friend's death. Remarkably this idea is never confirmed or laid to rest!

    Prior to the film's beginning, Leah has martyred herself: a couple of years after her marriage to her friend's widowed husband, she sustained a broken back, saving 2 of her stepchildren from drowning. Confined to a wheelchair, she has adopted a pseudonym, Faith Hope, to write syrupy poetry, reflecting an attitude of optimism and determination. That she writes in such a vein to mask her true feelings seems clear, but what are her true feelings? Does she blame her stepchildren for her injury? Are there even deeper, darker feelings about her old friend that she has been struggling to hide? Did she play a part in her death? Why does her cynicism gradually seize control at the moment of the film? Does Dame Witty finally get to her; is she completely susceptible to the old woman's suggestions? Is she really suspicious of her new personal secretary?

    At the climax, she smashes the photo of her stepchildren's biological mother, screaming, "I hate you; I hate your whole family!" But why? In a voice-over, all we are told is that she rues being alone. This extremely shallow explanation, reflects no real psychological insight. In the end, Peters' Leah is just a cruel enigma.

    Leah is a beautiful menace, manipulating everyone around her to her own selfish ends. But without insight into her twisted mind or the background of those relationships, this film is confused and unsatisfying. It squanders all the makings of a good psychological thriller and ends up more superficial than the daily soaps. Way too many loose ends here.
  • Other than marking the brief return of actress Susan Peters to the screen, there's nothing much noteworthy about this film. It's pretty bland. I can see why audiences back in 1948 were not receptive to this film. It simply has a big "case of the blahs." Too bad, because it has a good cast, leading with Peters who was making a comeback after a horrendous accident three years earlier left her paralyzed from the waist down. If you want to read a sad biography, check out the one here on IMDb Peters and the tragic ending to her brief life.

    Anyway, her character in this movie, was the wheelchair-bound "Leah St. Aubyn." Leah appears bright and optimistic despite her physical state but obviously, underneath, is the opposite and winds up a manipulative, selfish person who uses a teen girl to attempt a crime. Nothing against Miss Peters but I couldn't help think that someone more dynamic (i.e. Bette Davis) would have brought a much bigger edge to this story, an edge the film badly needed.

    The young manipulated teen was "Christine," played by Peggy Ann Garner of "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" fame. Three or four years past the filming of ATGIB, Peggy Ann is no longer the little girl having grown up and filled out, but her role in here is that of an emotionally immature youngster whose whole world is in the house where this story takes place.

    As a fan of Peggy's I was glad to see she had a fairly big role in this movie. She didn't have many opportunities after this movie, for various reasons none of which involved her fine acting talents.

    I was also pleased to see Phyllis Thaxter in this film. She plays "Sherida," the hired secretary. Phyllis boasted a wholesomely-beautiful face, one of the better and underrated one of the 1940s glamor decade. Like the aforementioned women, she was never a star as an adult.

    I particularly mention the women in this film because it's a woman's movie, a melodrama pure-and-simple. The men in the movie - Alexander Knox, Ron Randell, Ross Ford and a few others - are okay but nothing special.

    That pretty much sums up this chick flick; nothing special. The film takes place in England and the actors didn't even bother to fake a British accent!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    No other starlet seemed to have a brighter future in the early 1940s than Susan Peters - with an MGM contract, an Oscar nomination for "Random Harvest", a happy marriage and a booming career, she seemed to have it all. By 1953 she was dead, the result of an awful hunting accident in 1945 that left her facing life in a wheel chair. Although in her interviews she projected a "never say die, I'm going to make it" attitude it was hard for her to constantly stay so positive. Radio offers poured in and Susan was interested in filming the story of Connee Boswell but the project fell through. She was sick of being sent scripts about "crippled girls who were all sweetness and light" so when she read "The Sign of the Ram" about a paralyzed woman who wrecks her family by possessive domination and murder, Susan felt it was a role she had to play.

    Sherida (Phyliss Thaxter) has come to St. Aubyns on the Cornish coast to as a secretary to Leah, a poetess and also a wheelchair bound matriarch to the St. Aubyn family. She is awed that Leah has been able to rise above her handicap and project such a strong, positive attitude. The whole family are devoted to Leah, who was paralyzed years before, rescuing two children, Logan and Jane, from the ocean. The younger daughter, Christine, (Peggy Ann Garner) has an almost abnormally slavish devotion to Leah that is really never explained in the movie.

    But Leah's kindness masks an evil martyrdom and tyranny that goes unnoticed by the family, who look to her for strength and guidance. She fears loneliness and has already caused a rift between sweet Jane (Allene Roberts) and her boyfriend Dr. Crowdy (Ron Randall). When Logan announces he is to marry his childhood sweetheart Catherine (Diana Douglas, Kirk Douglas's then wife) Leah's schemes go into over drive. She convinces Catherine, who was a foundling, that she has traced her real parents and that there is insanity in the family, thus leading Catherine to attempt suicide. Sherida also provides an outlet for jealous fantasies but there may be some foundation there - Mallory (Alexander Knox) seems to like her company enormously!! When Leah inspires the unstable Christine to poison Sherida's night time drink Mallory finally realises that Leah is insane. He then decides to send Christine to boarding school causing Leah, who realises that she will now be truly alone to plunge to her death.

    It sounds melodramatic but it is played in very tasteful fashion. Susan felt she had never played a role with so much emotional range before and it was a real challenge. Her powerful performance kept the rest of the excellent cast in the shade (Dame May Witty, Phyliss Thaxter, Peggy Ann Garner, Alexander Knox). There is no attempt to sensationalize the story, written by Charles Bennett, who wrote many of Alfred Hitchcock's classic screenplays ("The 39 Steps", "Sabotage", "Young and Innocent"). The title "The Sign of the Ram" comes from astrology, as Dr. Crowdy says at one point "those born under Aries - the sign of the Ram, have an obstinacy of purpose and a need to lead that can often end in disaster".

    Highly Recommended.
  • ... It's a soap opera! Or at least, it's a melodrama. I can picture Bette Davis playing the Susan Peters part. It really isn't far from the territory of "The Little Foxes." Note: My hat is off to Ms. Peters for having undertaken a role in which her actual wheelchair plays a central part.

    John Sturges did direct some excellent films noir a bit later. He gave us one of the very darkest: "The People Against O'Hara." And the cinematographer, Burnett Guffey was no stranger to the genre, either. Indeed, he was later to win an Oscar for a sort-of noir, "Bonnie and Clyde." (The recurring shots here of waves crashing on rocks prefigures the movie for which he won his other Oscar, "From Here To Eternity," and its most famous scene.) I (myself born under the sign of the ram, for the record) didn't find the movie especially convincing. For example, the lovely Phyllis Thaxter's character is really nothing more than a plot device.

    Peters does a decent job. Of course one has to feel empathy for her situation. As a disabled person myself -- and one born under the sign of the ram,I am very much in favor of disabled actors getting roles. She may be the only actress to get billing above the title, and billing as Miss Susan Peters, no less, who has performed in a wheelchair to which she is actually confined. Much credit must be given to her.

    The other performers range from OK to good (with the exception of Dame May Witty, who is as always excellent.) They seem somewhat at a loss here.

    It has the potential of being like "Ivy," a well regarded and very good Joan Fontaine movie. It's also like Ms. Fontaine's "Born To Be Bad." (Or vice-versa, as that film came a few years later.) But it's more a women's picture. And that was hardly John Sturges's fare.

    I realize I have written mostly about what it is isn't. But what it is is terribly disappointing and memorable only for Ms. Peters's brave performance as a disabled person.
  • SUSAN PETERS plays a wheelchair-bound woman who is the matriarch presiding over a household of ill-defined cast members--including RON RANDELL as a doctor in love with her sister Jane (ALLENE ROBERTS), an alliance she wants to destroy. She's equally manipulative with PHYLLIS THAXTER, DAME MAY Witty and hubby Alexander KNOX, but fools each of them with a demure surface performance that conceals her controlling nature.

    Unfortunately, the recent TCM showing of the film features an audio track that makes some of the conversations inaudible and the soundtrack has a background score by Hans J. Salter that flares up with melodramatic excess at any of the more melodramatic moments--of which there are plenty.

    There's a contrived, artificial air to the proceedings despite the competent cast. Peters does what she can with the role of the dominating woman, but none of the characters really come to life under John Sturges' leaden direction. Although based on a novel, it gives the impression of being based on an old-fashioned play with all the stock characters inhabiting a drawing room drama.

    Considering that this was a tailor-made vehicle for Susan Peters' return to the screen after an unfortunate hunting accident left her paralyzed from the waist down, it's sad to report that it's not a worthy vehicle for her as the wicked step-mother. The final scene is an example of the worst sort of melodramatic excess of '40s-era weepies.
  • The problem about this film is that it is totally predictable. It stands written all over Susan Peters' face from the beginning the moment she first appears in her wheelchair, and every detail that happens as the drama rolls on just confirms the inevitability. Of course, it's a magnificent film, replenished with beauty all around, many beautiful women (and Dame May Whitty) and splendid candidates for sons-in-law, and Alexander Knox is totally reliable as usual. Even the music is outstanding, and the scenery and environment couldn't be more romantic, although the action consistently takes place in one place only, with a few excursions down to the sea. But you don't mind this over-obvious predictability, because Susan Peters is such a marvellous actress. You can't think any ill of her in her role, and when her mind begins to manipulate with her "band of slaves" as the intelligent doctor puts it, you want to defend her by your understanding, for her case, a deep psychological traumatic case, must needs understanding. She is the most lonesome possible among women because of her crippled state and beauty and talent, like a caged paradise bird, and she suffers outrageously for it, like she did in real life from her actual tragic handicap some years before, which hopelessly crippled her as an actress, while this film actually stands out as something of a monument to the state of a cripple, which she personifies and makes more real than anyone could have. It's a marvellous film, overhwhelmingly beautiful and horribly disturbing for its presentation of an outrageously unfair human state and destiny.
  • You know the minute you read the credit that comes all by itself very early in the movie -- "The return to the screen of / Susan Peters" -- that this film will be her de facto magnum opus, her masterwork. You are therefore not surprised when the the camera lingers time and again on Peters, left hand contracting like a sinister claw, facial expressions that keep hovering from neutral to grimly pleased with her own successful manipulations to horrified that plans have gone awry. That's why the other characters can only make so much of an impression. The opening scene of the arrival of the new secretary promises much of that woman, but by the end of the film she is reduced to a blank stare while stroking an errant child's hair. What do you call character development that goes backwards -- deconstruction? Technically too, it seems all the effort went into making the Peters character look striking. Could they really not have bothered to re-record the music of the finale when they surely realized it was too distorted to be pleasant, not to mention effective? Who cares, so long as we get the shots with the lady in the wheelchair right. Rather crudely put, but think about it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This was not the "chick" flick the other reviewer said it is. This was a very important role for Susan Peters for two reasons. One, the script was crafted especially for her after she was paralyzed in a hunting accident in her 20's. This is the earliest known film (to my knowledge) that was specifically designed for a disabled performer. I only wish Hollywood had kept her working! The other reason this film is important is that she plays a cold and calculating villain to a "T". The viewer really cannot empathize with this villain despite the handicap and that is because the writing of the script was simply brilliant. There is only one performance that topped this and that was the performance of Dame Judith Anderson in "Rebecca"...Think about it.

    This was a film definitely ahead of it's time. This villain manipulated all who loved her and we got to watch this woman disintegrate mentally before our eyes. Susan Peters brought her to life in a way no other actress ever will, and she should have gotten award nods for this performance--not to mention an Oscar.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'd like to wonder how Susan Peters felt doing this film three years after a shooting accident paralyzed her for the rest of her brief life.

    I remember "Written on the Wind," (1956) where a vicious sister destroys her brother's happiness.

    Peters portrays a woman who married a widower (Alexander Knox) only to be paralyzed in an accident when she tried to help 2 step-daughters caught in an undertow.

    As a result, Peters becomes a manipulative, vicious woman who does everything to bring misery to the lives of these children and others around her orbit. This misery even extends to her newly hired secretary, the usually reliable Phyllis Thaxter.

    Knox is terribly miscast in the part of the husband. He offers no real strength to the role. Perhaps, I feel like this because of the outstanding performance he gave in 1944's "Wilson" and as the supportive doctor to Roz Russell in 1949's "Sister Kenny." In this film, Knox was depicted more like a true philosopher then a husband victimized by her selfish-vicious actions.

    The picture is certainly all about Peters. She does receive ample support from Peggy Ann Garner, as a victimized step-daughter.

    The melodramatic ending is appropriate but you want more to happen.
  • Getting back into film watching after a weeks holiday, thought I would ease my way back in and avoid the extremes of sex and violence with a viewing of this 1948 b/w tale starring Susan Peters. Well, it started gently enough, although the Cornish sea is crashing outside the window, but this soon turns edgy, then nasty, until what we have before us, thanks to an amazing wheelchair bound performance from Peters is the very personification of evil. A truly terrible tale of family turmoil unfolds and if there are scenes where the melodrama threatens to take over, there is always Peters, on hand, and wringing her hands, she of the sign of the ram.
  • ksf-225 August 2020
    After wife number one dies, Leah ( Susan Peters) becomes wife number two to Mallory (Alexander Knox). Sherida (Phyllis Thaxter) comes to work for them as a secretary, and the camera shows us that the husband has already given a flower to the new secretary... May Whitty is the nosy next door neighbor, who will clearly play some important role later. Leah is a very controlling person, even though she is in a wheelchair, and wants to keep all family members close, even when they want to get married and move away. some head games are being played here... Leah has so many unspoken issues, and the daughter Christine does as well. when they argue, we see stormy waves and swells crashing against the rocks of the light-house where they live. Many similarities to Queen Bee and Harriet Craig (Joan Crawford! ) .. they were both made AFTER this, but were also made by Columbia Pictures. it's good. all that meddling can't end well! can the family stop things from getting out of hand? directed by John Sturges; no oscars, but made a couple really big films in the 1950s and 1960s. Susan Peters' own personal life had its ups and downs.
  • The big screen career of Susan Peters came to a farewell with this film The Sign Of The Ram. It was her only big screen appearance after the tragic hunting accident that left her a paraplegic. The only other performance like it was that of Christopher Reeve when he did a TV remake of Rear Window after his accident that left him a quadriplegic.

    Certainly both Peters and Reeve brought a dimension to their roles that wouldn't be possible any other way. Peters plays the paralyzed wife of Alexander Knox, his second wife to be sure. Some years back she saved the lives of her two stepchildren while they were swimming, but at the cost of her own mobility as her back was smashed against rocks.

    The kids have grown up and are played by Ross Ford and Peggy Ann Garner. Both are contemplating matrimony and Peters with her manipulation tries to sabotage things.

    In one of his earliest directing assignments, John Sturges kept Peters tightly in check and the result was a beautifully controlled and mannered performance. There's so much beneath the surface of a woman who has gotten kudos for the way she's handled her accident. But we only see what Sturges and Peters let us see.

    The title role refers to Susan Peters astrological sign of Aries and people who are born under that sign are said to be in tight control of their emotions and possessed of an unconquerable will and stubborn fixation about any goal they want, good or evil. Peters is determined that no one will ever have real happiness as she feels she cannot, but especially those kids whom she gave her legs for.

    All around the cast delivers well and Sturges did capture the gloomy mood on the Cornish sea shore where the story is set. But Peters is absolutely unforgettable in The Sign Of The Ram.
  • The promising career of Susan Peters, nominated for an Oscar for "Random Harvest," was cut short when she was shot in a hunting accident and wound up paralyzed. MGM kept her going by having her interview stars for the fan magazines. I know Susan's nurse from those days, and everyone from Clark Gable to Lucille Ball - all the MGM stars - came to Susan's home to be interviewed.

    In 1948, she appeared in this film, "Sign of the Ram," which was tailor-made for her, as it concerned a woman in a wheelchair. Peters plays Leah, married to an older man (Alexander Knox). As this was his second marriage, her family was ready-made. Leah is responsible for having saved the lives of two of his children in the ocean, but she was smashed against the rocks and it left her permanently in a wheelchair.

    Her husband and family are devoted to her, but the truth is that Leah is a manipulative witch who does what she has to in order to keep the focus on her and preventing anyone from finding happiness outside the home. She manages to put the kibosh on two potential marriages by devious means and has one of the children (Peggy Ann Garner) totally brainwashed. When a pretty new secretary (Phyllis Thaxter) is hired, she is very threatened.

    This isn't much of a movie. It's atmospheric but fairly predictable. Also, though it's set in England, the Americans in the cast make no attempt at a British accent.

    Susan Peters was a fine actress, and she does a good job here as an angry, brittle woman who hides her true feelings. This was her last film. She had a go at a TV series and toured with a play which, in fact, came through my home town. She died in 1952, at the age of 31, when her kidneys failed, in part due to anorexia. A terrible end for a beautiful actress who had much to offer in life and on the screen.
  • According to the Chinese,if you save someone's life,you are responsible for him forever ; stepmom Leah , who became disabled in a wheelchair,after rescuing her stepchildren from drowning, takes the wise proverb to its extreme limits : "your band of slaves' shouts the doctor in love with one of them ,mentioning the horoscope of the sign of the Ram ,the ominous last sentence will be heard to conclude the tragedy .

    This is an excellent melodrama ,with a great performance by Susan Peters, who does not want her stepchildren to leave the family nest ,and who do all she can to make them break up with their lovers ;her selfishness knows no bounds , abetted by an old gossip lady (the mischievous Dame May Whitty)

    Best scene : overjoyed , Leah plays the piano triumphantly,almost aggressively after her "victory" .
  • Interesting and atmospheric with excellent cast, but lacks credibility. I can't believe anyone would be sonpliable.
  • Nobody has yet mentioned Lionel Barrymore, who the same year this film was made was chewing the scenery in 'Key Largo' after ten years in a wheelchair; so the idea of a paraplegic starring in a film probably seemed less of a novelty then than it would today. (Two years later Marlon Brando made his debut in a wheelchair in Fred Zinnemann's 'The Men'.)

    The initial entrance of Susan Peters - who gets special billing - is held off for a while and one is initially apprehensive if she will be equal to the responsibility her role places on her delicate shoulders; but these fears are soon dispelled by more immediate fears for the rest of the cast as she rises to the challenge and gives a terrific performance as a controlling Queen Bee for which no allowances need be made.

    Based on novel by Margaret Ferguson, 'The Sign of the Ram' is plainly a melodrama like 'Leave Her to Heaven' rather than a Film Noir (although the two genres often resembled each other; just look at Russell Metty's glossy high-contrast Technicolor photography during the 50's for Douglas Sirk). Denied the opulent Technicolor photography and beautiful Maine locations lavished upon 'Leave Her to Heaven, however, director John Sturges, cameraman Burnett Guffey and production designer Sturges Carne (Sturges' older brother) instead create a suffocating studio-bound fantasy Hollywood version of Cornwall with obvious studio exteriors and oppressive Gothic interiors in which the sets are occasionally roofed à la 'Citizen Kane' to further heighten the claustrophobia.
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