THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) B/W 81m dir: Irving Pichel
w/Robert Young, Susan Hayward, Jane Greer, Rita Johnson, Tom Powers, George Tyne, Don Beddoe, Frank Ferguson, Harry Harvey
Man intending to kill his wife doesn't succeed, but through a quirk of fate goes on trial anyway. Absorbing, ironic melodrama.
In the July-August 2004 issue of Film Comment, the magazine published by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, director Guy Maddin (THE SWEETEST MUSIC IN THE WORLD) writes about THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME, a film he considers one of his "Movie Treasures": "How am I not supposed to see a little bit of myself in Robert Young's genial and dapper portrayal of Lawrence Ballentine, the antsy husband, would-be murderer, and Detour-ishly passive coward tangled up in a plausibly complicated, well-paying, white marriage in They Won't Believe Me? The studios felt that Young was too sexless for leading roles, in spite of a nice turn in The Enchanted Cottage, and so he was shunted off into radio and eventually TV, where he gave satisfaction playing reassuringly undangerous uprights in the long-running Father Knows Best and Marcus Welby, M.D. But there's nothing noble about what his character gets up to in Irving Pichel's twistily plotted, outdoorsy sunlit noir. On trial for murder as the film opens, Young takes the stand to tell his story in flashback; even his own lawyer admits he had to use a dictionary to look up all the words to describe his client's sordid behavior. As Young testifies, he confesses to reams of moral transgressions, but in such a frank, dulcetly avuncular, and persuasive voice that you are convinced his reasoning is sound. In fact, you're convinced his reasoning is yours and that he's guilty only of marital unhappiness and some softness of spine. Two deaths, countless infidelities, and some inheritance fraud later, you're still simpatico with this charmer!
"Susan Hayward, still fresh of cheek, plays one of Young's unlucky correspondents, a tawdry femme fatale turned good just in time to be burnt to ashes in a crashed woody at the zenith of her redemptive-love happiness. Jane Greer, one film away from Out of the Past, plays another nymphy looker given the old go-by.
"It being an RKO picture, there are some comforting bit players recognizable from the Val Lewton canon. [Lewton produced successful horror films for RKO such as I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE and THE SEVENTH VICTIM.] Lewton's composer Roy Webb has supplied a most atypical noir score, all pine freshet and waterfall. Naturalific!"