Lady in the Lake (1947)

103 mins | Film noir | January 1947

Director:

Robert Montgomery

Writer:

Steve Fisher

Producer:

George Haight

Cinematographer:

Paul C. Vogel

Editor:

Gene Ruggiero

Production Designers:

Cedric Gibbons, Preston Ames

Production Company:

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Corp.
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HISTORY

According to a Mar 1945 HR news item, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the film rights to Raymond Chandler's best-selling mystery novel for $35,000. Due to censorship restrictions, the novel's complex drug motive for the murders was eliminated entirely and the book's suggestion of "Philip Marlowe's" romantic interest in "Adrienne Fromsett" made central to the script. Due to concerns expressed by the Production Code Administration over "Lieutenant DeGarmot's" illegal actions, the script also built up sympathy for "Captain Kane."
       While a Dec 1945 HR news item indicates that M-G-M was developing Chandler's mystery as a starring vehicle for Lana Turner, the part was ultimately assigned to Audrey Totter, an M-G-M contract player who was removed from the Universal film The Killers (1946, see entry) to appear in this film. According to an Apr 1946 HR news item, M-G-M "nullified" Totter's loan-out to Universal for The Killers due to a re-shuffling of the M-G-M production schedule, which was required after Robert Montgomery walked out on the film Desire Me (see entry). Actor Lloyd Nolan was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. A 26 Nov 1946 HR review noted that the onscreen credit for Ellay Mort as "Chrystal Kingsby," who is the murder victim and never seen onscreen, is a pun, phoenetically spelling out the French elle est morte for "she is dead." The film marked Montgomery's first directing credit, although it was also his last picture for M-G-M, the studio to which he had been under contract since 1929. The film also garnered Totter her first star billing. Totter was a former radio actor ... More Less

According to a Mar 1945 HR news item, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer bought the film rights to Raymond Chandler's best-selling mystery novel for $35,000. Due to censorship restrictions, the novel's complex drug motive for the murders was eliminated entirely and the book's suggestion of "Philip Marlowe's" romantic interest in "Adrienne Fromsett" made central to the script. Due to concerns expressed by the Production Code Administration over "Lieutenant DeGarmot's" illegal actions, the script also built up sympathy for "Captain Kane."
       While a Dec 1945 HR news item indicates that M-G-M was developing Chandler's mystery as a starring vehicle for Lana Turner, the part was ultimately assigned to Audrey Totter, an M-G-M contract player who was removed from the Universal film The Killers (1946, see entry) to appear in this film. According to an Apr 1946 HR news item, M-G-M "nullified" Totter's loan-out to Universal for The Killers due to a re-shuffling of the M-G-M production schedule, which was required after Robert Montgomery walked out on the film Desire Me (see entry). Actor Lloyd Nolan was borrowed from Twentieth Century-Fox for the production. A 26 Nov 1946 HR review noted that the onscreen credit for Ellay Mort as "Chrystal Kingsby," who is the murder victim and never seen onscreen, is a pun, phoenetically spelling out the French elle est morte for "she is dead." The film marked Montgomery's first directing credit, although it was also his last picture for M-G-M, the studio to which he had been under contract since 1929. The film also garnered Totter her first star billing. Totter was a former radio actor whose previous film work was limited to minor roles or offscreen voices.
       The film was the first motion picture to use, in its entirety, the subjective camera technique (also known as "Camera I" technique), in which all the events in the film are seen from the viewpoint of the protagonist. The film is divided into three segments, and between each segment and at the film's opening and closing, Robert Montgomery, as Philip Marlowe, faces the camera and addresses the audience directly. During the course of the action Marlowe is seen onscreen only during the brief narrative interludes or when his reflection is caught in a mirror. A Nov 1946 AmCin article about the film's subjective technique noted that John Arnold, head of the M-G-M camera department, devised an especially mobile dolly for the picture, which allowed free and erratic camera movement on the set. For the fight sequences, Arnold designed a special shoulder bracket and brace to secure the camera on the cameraman's shoulders so he could perform a realistic fistfight while filming. The camera used in these sequences, the Bell and Howell Eyemo, was adapted to shoot 400 feet of film at a time, a significant improvement over the 100-foot cameras that were in standard use.
       Although several contemporary reviewers credited the success of the film to the use of the subjective camera, some reviewers and moviegoers found the technique too distracting. A May 1947 HR news item noted that a Michigan lawsuit was filed against M-G-M and the theater chain exhibiting the film by a woman named Betty Brown Cadiff, who alleged that she had originated the subjective camera technique. The outcome of the lawsuit has not been determined. Montgomery and Totter reprised their film roles for a 9 Feb 1948 Lux Radio Theatre adaptation of the story. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
Nov 46
pp. 400-01, 425.
Box Office
30 Nov 1946.
---
Daily Variety
26 Nov 46
p. 3.
Film Daily
29 Nov 46
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Mar 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
31 Dec 45
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
12 Apr 46
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 46
p. 3, 5
Hollywood Reporter
5 Jul 46
p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Nov 1946.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Nov 46
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
5 May 47
p. 9.
Life
13 Jan 47
pp. 65-66.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
16 Nov 46
p. 3312.
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
30 Nov 46
p. 3333.
New York Times
3 Nov 1946.
---
New York Times
24 Jan 47
p. 18.
Variety
27 Nov 46
p. 14.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
PRODUCER
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
COSTUMES
Cost supv
MUSIC
Mus score
Choral dir
SOUND
Rec dir
VISUAL EFFECTS
MAKEUP
Hair des for Miss Totter by
Makeup created by
PRODUCTION MISC
Unit mgr
STAND INS
Double for Robert Montgomery
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (New York, 1943).
DETAILS
Release Date:
January 1947
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 23 January 1947
Production Date:
9 May--early July 1946
Copyright Claimant:
Loew's Inc.
Copyright Date:
30 October 1946
Copyright Number:
LP674
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
103
Length(in feet):
9,230
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
11803
Passed by NBR:
Yes
SYNOPSIS

In Los Angeles, private detective Philip Marlowe recalls the day he became involved in the infamous "lady in the lake" murder case: Frustrated over the low pay of detective work, Marlowe writes a short crime story which he submits to Kingsby Publications. While meeting with magazine editor Adrienne Fromsett to discuss the publication of his story, Marlowe learns that she has summoned him to the Kingsby offices under false pretenses. Adrienne is not interested in Marlowe's story, and instead asks him to help her find Chrystal Kingsby, the estranged wife of Derace Kingsby, the magazine's publisher. When Adrienne tells Marlowe that Kingsby's wife is a liar and a cheat and that Kingsby wants a divorce, Marlowe accuses Adrienne of trying to break up Kingsby's marriage so that she can marry him herself. Marlowe is intrigued by Adrienne's desperation, and because he is also attracted to her, he agrees to work for her. After learning that Chrystal was last seen with a playboy named Chris Lavery, Marlowe begins his investigation with a visit to Lavery's home in Bay City. Lavery invites Marlowe into his home, and calmly answers his questions before abruptly knocking the detective unconscious. Hours later, Marlowe regains consciousness in a jail cell and is taken to see Bay City police detectives Lieutenant DeGarmot and Captain Fergus K. Kane. Kane warns Marlowe not to start trouble in his district and then releases him. Marlowe later reports to Adrienne, who advises him to take his investigation to Little Fawn Lake, where the Kingsbys have a resort home and where Chrystal was last seen. Before Marlowe leaves Adrienne's office for the lake, a reporter arrives with ... +


In Los Angeles, private detective Philip Marlowe recalls the day he became involved in the infamous "lady in the lake" murder case: Frustrated over the low pay of detective work, Marlowe writes a short crime story which he submits to Kingsby Publications. While meeting with magazine editor Adrienne Fromsett to discuss the publication of his story, Marlowe learns that she has summoned him to the Kingsby offices under false pretenses. Adrienne is not interested in Marlowe's story, and instead asks him to help her find Chrystal Kingsby, the estranged wife of Derace Kingsby, the magazine's publisher. When Adrienne tells Marlowe that Kingsby's wife is a liar and a cheat and that Kingsby wants a divorce, Marlowe accuses Adrienne of trying to break up Kingsby's marriage so that she can marry him herself. Marlowe is intrigued by Adrienne's desperation, and because he is also attracted to her, he agrees to work for her. After learning that Chrystal was last seen with a playboy named Chris Lavery, Marlowe begins his investigation with a visit to Lavery's home in Bay City. Lavery invites Marlowe into his home, and calmly answers his questions before abruptly knocking the detective unconscious. Hours later, Marlowe regains consciousness in a jail cell and is taken to see Bay City police detectives Lieutenant DeGarmot and Captain Fergus K. Kane. Kane warns Marlowe not to start trouble in his district and then releases him. Marlowe later reports to Adrienne, who advises him to take his investigation to Little Fawn Lake, where the Kingsbys have a resort home and where Chrystal was last seen. Before Marlowe leaves Adrienne's office for the lake, a reporter arrives with news that Bill Chess, the caretaker at Kingsby's resort, has been arrested for the murder of his wife Muriel, whose body was found in the lake. Adrienne tells Marlowe that she fears that Chrystal may actually be the murderer as she hated Muriel and insists Marlowe go to Little Fawn Lake. Upon returning from the resort, Marlowe tells Adrienne that the body found in the lake had been there for nearly a month and that he also discovered that Muriel used the name "Mildred Havelend," and that she married the caretaker because she was being pursued by someone and needed a place to hide. Marlowe also reports that Muriel and Chrystal had a fight over a man and that he, Marlowe, had found an anklet inscribed with the words, "to Mildred from Chris." Suspecting that Lavery is tied to the disappearance of both Muriel and Chrystal, Marlowe pays another visit to Lavery's house. There he finds the door unlocked and meets a confused woman wielding a pistol, who introduces herself as Mrs. Falbrook, Lavery's landlady. Mrs. Falbrook says Lavery is not in the house and that she found the gun on the landing and gives it to Marlowe before departing. The detective then investigates upstairs and in the bedroom discovers a handkerchief with the initials "A. F." on it and in the bathroom he finds Lavery's bullet-ridden body in the shower. Believing that either Adrienne or Kingsby is responsible for Lavery's murder, Marlowe interrupts a Christmas party at Kingsby's office and shows Adrienne the gun, but she appears genuinely stunned over Lavery's death. When Marlowe brings Kingsby up to date on his activities, the publisher expresses shock that Adrienne has been trying to sabotage his marriage and tells her she misunderstood his interest in her. Though she confesses that she was after Kingsby's money, Adrienne denies Marlowe's accusation that she murdered for it or that she was involved with Lavery. Adrienne then angrily fires Marlowe, but Kingsby immediately hires him to find Chrystal and help him protect her from false murder charges. Marlowe goes back to Bay City to return the gun to Lavery's and finds Kane and DeGarmot there. When left alone with DeGarmot, Marlowe suggests the policeman knows Muriel well and that he could be the man from whom she was hiding. DeGarmot scuffles with Marlowe and the police try unsuccessfully to have the detective charged with Lavery's murder. Later, Marlowe gets information from a newspaper editor contact that Muriel, a nurse, was mixed up in the mysterious death of Florence Elmore, the wife of the doctor for whom she worked in Bay City. After questioning Florence's frightened parents and learning a policeman is involved, Marlowe begins to suspect that it is Chrystal, not Muriel, whose body was found in the lake and that Muriel is the murderer and DeGarmot is covering up for her. Before he can investigate further he is attacked, but before passing out, he phones Adrienne for help and wakes up in her apartment. Adrienne admits she has fallen in love with Marlowe and they spend the day together. Later, Kingsby arrives, looking for Marlowe to tell him that he has received a telegram from Chrystal, indicating that she is in Bay City and in need of money. Marlowe suspects a trap and volunteers to deliver the money to her himself. After leaving a trail for the police to follow, Marlowe discovers that the woman who is trying to collect money from Kingsby is the same woman who introduced herself to him as Mrs. Falbrook. Marlowe realizes that Mrs. Falbrook is really Muriel and that his suspicion that she killed Chrystal and Lavery to cover up her murder of Florence is correct. When Muriel threatens Marlowe with a gun, DeGarmot arrives unexpectedly and threatens to kill both of them and frame them for all the murders. DeGarmot reveals he has been covering up for Muriel who professed romantic interest in him to get him to cover up Florence's murder. Furious at her deceit, Degarmot shoots Muriel, but as he is about to kill Marlowe, he is shot dead by Kane. With the murder case solved, Marlowe resumes his romance with Adrienne. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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