Film Noir: Sleep, My Love

1948

Directed By: Douglas Sirk

Screenplay By: St Clair Mckelway and Leo Rosten, from the novel by Leo Rosten

Starring: Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Raymond Burr

Douglas Sirk made his name in Hollywood directing epic melodramas, but before that he tried his hand at film noir with this distinctly average effort.

Let down by a plot that telegraphs itself way ahead, this movie offers no twists and turns to keep the viewer interested. 

In a promising beginning: Alison Courtland (Colbert) awakes on a sleeper train with no recollection of how she got there.  It transpires that her husband (Ameche) is drugging her in an effort to drive her to her death and inherit her high society family wealth.  Unfortunately, we then have to put up with Bruce (Cummings) working out what the rest of us already know.

The main actors seem unsuited to the bleak outlook; Colbert, Cummings and Ameche are all much more suited to wise cracking their way through much lighter material and Colbert, in particular looks extremely uncomfortable as the desperate housewife.  At least Ameche’s character has a good reason for wanting out of the marriage, his new love, a now unfashionably named Daphne is a knockout and sassy too.  I particularly enjoyed her constant reference to another of Ameche’s co-conspirators as 4-eyes.

Even a pre-Ironside and Perry Mason looks like he’s going through the motions as the cop who is on the fringes of the case.

The movie is patchily directed and stylised towards noir, with some excellent lighting and a particularly foreboding staircase, but that theme is not consistent throughout the movie and the whole thing comes across as disjointed.  

Noir Cynicism 06/10: The pursuit of the money and the girl is generally an aberration from the usual happy go lucky high society.
Noir Femme Fatale 08/10: Daphne is fantastic and sassy, but she doesn’t really manipulate convincingly.
Noir Anti-Hero 01/10: Like an extremely sub-standard Thin Man, Cummings jokes his way through the investigation that we are already 10 steps ahead of.  
Noir Crime 02/10: Drugging someone into hallucinating and then trying to cajole them into killing themselves is all a little too far fetched. 
Noir Dough an unspecified inheritance
Noir Body Count 2
Noir Style 07/10:  Some excellent examples, but no consistency of style.
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