17 January 2006 | blanche-2
glossy '50s mystery
Van Heflin is a theatrical producer who's suspected of murder in "Black Widow," a 1954 20th Century Fox Technicolor film directed by Nunnally Johnson. The film is set in New York among the sophisticated Broadway set, and the cast is full of familiar faces: Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Reginald Gardiner, Peggy Ann Garner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger, Mabel Albertson, and even Aaron Spelling.
Garner plays a young writer who, new to New York, keeps making increasingly important friends until she winds up an apparent suicide in the apartment of producer Peter Denver and his beautiful actress wife, Lottie. Soon, however, it's revealed that she was murdered, and Heflin is the prime suspect. During his own investigation as he tries to keep George Raft from putting him in prison, he learns that the sweet young thing may have been young, but she wasn't sweet.
Though a little slow at times, this is a highly entertaining film with its shots of New York and panoramic views from luxury apartments. The acting is wonderful. Ginger Rogers is great as the glamorous, acid-tongued Iris, a well-known actress with a ne'er do well husband, played effectively by Gardiner. Gene Tierney looks lovely but has a supporting role in this as Heflin's wife. The film sports two former child actors: Peggy Ann Garner as the murder victim and Skip Homeier as one of her love interests. Newcomer Virginia Leith is Homeier's sister and Garner's confidante. Garner looks appropriately innocent.
The looping in this film is very obvious for some reason - at least on television, some of the sound was fuzzy and then boom! the dubbing would come in. A very minor point. The mystery is intriguing, the glamor high, the dialogue sharp - an engrossing way to spend one's time.