Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SORRY, WRONG NUMBER


SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948). Director: Anatole Litvak.

"Henry! There's someone at the top of the stairs!"

Barbara Stanwyck gives an outstanding, Oscar-nominated performance as the highly neurotic Leona Stevenson, who overhears a murder plot on a crossed telephone wire and tries to save the victim's life -- only to discover the life she's trying to save is her own. Long before the end of the movie you may want to strangle the self-absorbed Leona with her air of entitlement yourself, but Stanwyck also manages to work up some sympathy for the character. Burt Lancaster is also on the money as Leona's husband, Henry. A lot of suspense is worked up in trying to figure out what kind of dark business Henry has got himself cooked up in. While some may feel there's way too many flashbacks and telephone conversations in the picture, Sorry, Wrong Number is quite absorbing and has a terrific, scary finale. Screenwriter Lucille Fletcher opened up her radio play in convoluted but entertaining fashion. Top-notch photography by Sol Polito; fine score by Franz Waxman; well-directed by Litvak. Ed Begley (as Leona's father), Harold Vermilyea, Ann Richards and others offer solid supporting portrayals.

Verdict: Stanwyck in top form! ***1/2.

4 comments:

Colin said...

I think this movie is very underrated. It's an excellent noir picture that pays off beautifully. The flashbacks are a large part of the charm for me, and anyway they blend together perfectly and never confuse.

I'm with you on the acting, and I was particularly impressed by Harold Vermilyea - there was something genuinely touching about his performance.

Oh, and those scenes on Staten Island are pure gold - marvellously realized.

Laura said...

Hi William - I've started my own old movie blog (I know, I know, there's LOTS of us out there already...); I'm targeting viewers in the Palo Alto, CA area to get them interested in old movies, specifically those shown at our vintage moviehouse Stanford Theatre.

I love the obscure and classic picks on your pages!
Stanwyck is one of my all-time favorites; especially in "Stella Dallas." 5-hanky performance.

How do you pick films to review - chronologically? showing in your local area? thematically? Thanks.

Laura

William said...

Thanks for your comments, Colin and Laura.

Vermilyea manages to make you feel sorry for him even though he's essentially a crook, albeit a sympathetic one. "Sorry Wrong Number" is definitely under-rated, someone never quite achieving the status of a classic.

Laura, I basically post whatever I watch or feel like watching, although I do try each week to have a good blend of movies from the golden age with more recent films and the occasional new movie as well.

I'm adding your blog to my blog roll. I also recommended Colins blog, which is on therre as well: Ride the High Country.

The more blogs extolling the virtues of classic films -- both well-known and obscure -- the better!

Laura said...

Thanks for ideas.
Will add your blog to my list of recs, too.
Will check out Colins blog per your rec.
I like the idea of writing what I feel like - but I will also try to tie my comments to what is playing at our local vintage theatre - check out Nick's Classic American Theatres blog for neat pictures of vintage moviehouses across the country!
- Laura