Jealousy

Released July 23, 1945: JEALOUSY, starring Jane Randolph, John Loder, Karen Morley, and Nils Asther.  Directed by Gustav Machaty (Ecstacy, Nocturne, Within the Law).  This rare noir gem is infused with a dark, somber mood that rarely lets up.  Jane Randolph lives in Los Angeles jealousywith her Eastern European husband (Nils Asther), who was once a prolific and successful writer.  After fleeing his war torn homeland, Asther is unable to re-establish his stature in the US, and gradually succumbs to drinking, depression, and even attempted suicide.  To make ends meet and support Asther, Randolph works as a cab driver (female cab drivers were a new phenomenon in 1940s America, emerging during WWII due to the shortage of men stateside), but her home life with Asther is beyond miserable.  One day, she befriends one of her fares, a handsome doctor (John Loder), and eventually they fall in love.  However, Loder’s longtime assistant (Karen Morley), a brilliant doctor in her own right, has been secretly in love with Loder for many years, and she bristles at Randolph’s romantic intrusion.  Morley puts on a friendly face in Randolph’s presence, and even goes shopping and lunches with her, but when she learns Randolph intends to divorce Asther, and Loder wants to quit his practice to be with Randolph, she becomes desperate.  Seizing an opportune moment, Morley uses Randolph’s gun to murder Asther, and plants evidence to frame Randolph for the murder.  There are very few smiles to be seen in this bleak story.  Even the joy of Randolph and Loder’s blossoming love is darkened by Morley’s burning jealousy and Asther’s possessiveness.  The weight of the story is further reinforced by slow, deliberate pacing that has us wallowing in Randolph’s hopeless life with her despondent husband.  It isn’t until well into the second half of the film that Asther is murdered, and by that time, we’re ready to embrace the brief sense of relief it brings with open arms.  While most of the film is shot in a conventional style, there are a few isolated flourishes of cinematic creativity and experimentation to be found.  The film’s opening features a montage of tilted angle shots that culminates in a shaky point-of-view sequence from inside Randolph’s cab.  Later in the film, the handheld POV technique is used once again as we inhabit Asther’s murderer running to and from the scene of the crime.  And the final scene between Loder and Morley makes use of some striking low-angle deep focus shots.  These scattered forays into adventurous cinematography make us wish the director had dared to be as bold with the rest of the film.  But ultimately, it’s the atmospheric story and competent cast, Jane Randolph and Karen Morley in particular, that help this gloomy little film transcend its low-budget limitations.  We give Jealousy 3.5 out of 5 fedoras.

3.5 Fedoras

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