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Portrait in Black (1960)

Portrait in Black movie poster.jpg

Lana Turner’s brittle peroxide was dialled down to softer hues to effect empathy in this twisty tale which can only end one way – badly. She’s the bullied wife of ailing shipping magnate Lloyd Nolan and an escape becomes obvious with the help of doctor lover Anthony Quinn. After hubby’s neatly expedited funeral anonymous notes start to arrive indicating the murder is not a secret any longer … and there are a number of prospective blackmailers in the wings. Her suspicious stepdaughter is played by Sandra Dee, who’s dating John Saxon, the disgruntled son of a man done out of his business by the late Cabot (it’s the third time the pair were cast together). There’s Cabot’s devoted secretary, played by Virginia Grey, whose demeanour suggests love rather than just duty. There’s the nervy debtladen chauffeur, played by Ray Walston. There’s Richard Basehart, chairman of the board and keen to assist the grieving widow not just with her proxy but out of her clothes.And there’s the strange housekeeper, the fabulous Anna May Wong, in her last screen role (she died the following year). As the threats spiral, so do the necessary deaths. The pressure builds and our conscientious doctor wants out. And there’s a delicious ending. Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts adapted their stage play and it’s directed by Michael Gordon, whose name you will recall from the previous year’s Pillow Talk with Doris Day and he would do Move Over, Darling, with her a couple of years later. It’s not the greatest Ross Hunter production but the interiors are pretty tasty and the art on the walls is very covetable.

About elainelennon

An occasional movie-watching diary.

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