Monday, January 21, 2013


TCM is running a day of films tomorrow about uxoricide, real and suspected. One entertaining film that I haven't recommended before is The Two Mrs. Carrolls, which comes on at 9:00 AM tomorrow.

Humphrey Bogart stars as Geoffrey Carroll, an artist living in London, who's doing some painting up in Scotland, which is where he meets Sally Morton (Barbara Stanwyck) and falls for her. The only thing is, he's got a sickly wife back in London, a fact he fails to tell Sally about. Oh, and a daughter, too. When she finds out about that, there goes the relationship. So Mr. Carroll paints a portrait of Mrs. Carroll called "The Angel of Death", and during the same time, she dies! Woo-hoo; Mr. Carroll is free to marry Miss Morton.

Fast forward a couple of years. Carroll and Morton did obviously make up, because they got married and moved into Sally's lovely country house outside London. It's time for Sally to let out a secret that Geoffrey didn't know about. While Geoffrey had had a first wife, Sally had had a former fiancé. It all seems like a plot device contrived by the screenwriters to increase the tension between our two main characters. Add to that that Geoffrey takes on the job of painting the portrait of the wealthy socialite Cecily (Alexis Smith) for the money.

At which point we learn why he needs that money. It seems that the first Mrs. Carroll may not have been so sickly after all. She was in fact poisoned, and by her husband no less! Howevewr, they pharmacist who sold him the poison has decided to start blackmailing him! Oh, and if you think things can't get worse for Geoffrey, you'd be wrong. Stanwyck falls ill, and then starts to suspect that there might be something wrong, as does the daughter. What was the deal with the first Mrs. Carroll, and what is that painting Geoffrey keeps locked up in his studio. OF course, we viewers know the answer, but the characters don't, which is what you need for a good suspense film.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls fills the necessary conditions for a good suspense film. But is that sufficient? There's something in this movie that seems a bit flat, especially the questoin of why Sally would marry Geoffrey. She seems like an independent enough woman, and one who has already been lied to by the guy. There should be some serious red flags. The presence and absence of the daughter also seems all too convenient, as does the sudden presence of a burglar in the community when Geoffrey might be getting ready to kill Sally. That having been said, Bogart gives a good performance as a bad guy who isn't a gangster, while Stanwyck is fun as always playing a woman in danger. The two leads take mediocre material and make it worth the while to watch.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls has received a DVD release courtesy of the Warner Archive Collection.

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