Monday, April 18, 2022

My Name Is Julia Ross

Nina Foch as Julia Ross.
After reviewing Gun Crazy, the Cafe's staff decided to seek out more of director Joseph H. Lewis' work. That led us to My Name Is Julia Ross, a 1945 "B" picture with an intriguing premise that sadly fell short of our expectations.

It gets off to a very promising start when unemployed, unmarried Julia Ross (Nina Foch) answers an agency's ad for a live-in secretary to a wealthy widow. After securing the position, she reports that night to her new home and place of work in London. The next morning, Julia wakes up in a different room in a different house overlooking the coast. All her clothes bear the initials M.H. and everyone is calling her Marion--even her husband.

Meanwhile, Julia's almost-boyfriend Dennis is unable to find any trace of her. No one is living at the address she gave him and the employment agency is no longer in business.

My Name Is Julia Ross was adapted from the novel The Woman in Red  by Anthony Gilbert. The author's name is a pseudonym for Lucy Beatrice Malleson, a cousin to British actor-screenwriter Miles Malleson. She was a prolific mystery writer and The Woman in Red was part of a series featuring an uncouth lawyer named Arthur Crook. However, his character does not appear in My Name Is Julia Ross.

Foch and George Macready.
The opening scenes brim with atmosphere (e.g., rainy London streets, the coastal house sitting on a cliff) and mystery. However, much of that goodwill evaporates when the screenplay reveals too many details too quickly. As soon as Julia leaves the employment agency, we learn that a devious plot is afoot. It would have been far more effective to keep the viewer in the dark along with Julia. That way, director Lewis could have even made us question whether Julia was a victim or a patient in need of psychiatric care.

Nina Foch delivers a believable performance as Julia, but she is saddled with a character who makes a number of ridiculous decisions. After successfully hiding in a car that leaves the estate, she tries to jump out much too soon. She reveals the contents of a letter for help to her captors. And she too easily trusts a physician who makes a house call. It's enough to make one wonder if she might murdered at the end after all!

Dame May Whitty.
As she often did, Dame May Whitty steals the film as the sinister Mrs. Hughes, the most intelligent person in the film. Dame May was 72 when she moved to Hollywood in 1937 and promptly earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Night Must Fall. She died in 1948 at the age of 82, three years after completing My Name Is Julia Ross.

The 1987 movie Dead of Winter, starring Mary Steenburgen and directed by Arthur Penn, is a very loose remake of My Name Is Julia Ross.

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