Friday, November 15, 2013

Reassessing Julia Ross

So My Name Is Julia Ross was on TCM again last night. I got sucked into it again because it's just so darn entertaining, and it's only about 65 minutes. But this time I was thinking of some other movies as well. Warning: this way lies some serious spoilers

It's surprising just how many hostage moives there are, when you think about it. Specifically, the scene that got me to thinking about it was the one in which Julia Ross (Nina Foch) tries to get a message out by crumpling it up and tossing it through the gate. You know this early attempt is going to be unsuccessful, but part of the fun is in seeing how obvious the movie makes it that the hostage is going to fail in the beginning. The message isn't always crumpled, but Tyrone Power tried to pass a message to visitors to the stagecoach station in Rawhide (the message falls out of the recipient's coat); or Ethel Barrymore in Kind Lady (her captors have convinced visitors that she's going insane and that any message like this is a fake). In the case of Julia Ross, the gatekeeper notices it before anybody else does. Frankly, I think the most clever attempt to get a message out is the one by Priscilla Lane in Alfred Hitchcock's Saboteur.

Later on in the movie, Julia tries to send a letter to her on-again, off-again boyfriend Dennis in London. Very obvious shots are made of Julia's captors taking the letter out of the envelope and replacing it with an empty sheet so that this attempt will fail too. Although, I wonder how the boyfriend will react to getting a blank letter from some mysterious persno and address he's never heard of before. But the bigger point of the attempt is to have Julia write a second letter, and replace the blank with that before sending the envelope. This scene is handled in a florid style that made me wonder how the other two people in the car didn't see what Julia was doing. When they learn that she replaced the blank with an actual letter, they send a servant to London to get it, and that scene is so obviously handled as well to attempt to make the viewer question whether or not the guy got away with the letter or whether the police caught him.

One other thing I wondered about is when the movie was set. It was released in 1945, which is obviously smack in the middle of World War II. Don't these people know there's a war going on? Presumably, the movie is set at some point before the war, but this is never quite made clear. At any rate, My Name Is Julia Ross is still quite entertaining and worth a watch if you didn't get to see it last night. (It is available on DVD.)

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