My Name Is Julia Ross Blu Ray Review

Highly recommended; Hollywood studio production at its peak. 4.5 Stars

Arrow Academy has released Joseph H. Lewis’ 1945 psychological melodrama My Name is Julia Ross on Blu-Ray.  A Columbia B picture that clocks in at a tight 65 minutes, Julia Ross transcends its low budget origins with talented artists behind and in front of the camera at the top of their craft and is more memorable than a lot of the studio’s A budget films of the era.

My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)
Released: 27 Nov 1945
Rated: APPROVED
Runtime: 65 min
Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Cast: Nina Foch, May Whitty, George Macready, Roland Varno
Writer(s): Muriel Roy Bolton (screenplay), Anthony Gilbert (novel)
Plot: Julia Ross secures employment, through a rather nosy employment agency, with a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hughes, and goes to live at her house. 2 days later, she awakens - in a different house, ...
IMDB rating: 7.2
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Other
Distributed By: Other
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English PCM 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 5 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: Keep Case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 02/19/2019
MSRP: $39.95

The Production: 4.5/5

My Name is Julia Ross opens during a down pour with the title character returning to her London boarding house after another futile day of job hunting.  Julia (Nina Foch) is several weeks behind in her rent and is desperate.  She has no relations to turn to and her only friend is male co-boarder who is about to be married, unaware that Julia is in love with him.

During an antagonistic encounter with the boarding house cleaning woman, Julia sees a newspaper job listing advertising for a personal secretary to a wealthy widow, Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Witty).  Julia hurries to the employment agency office where she interviews with Mrs. Sparkes (Anita Sharp-Bolster).

Upon learning that Julia has no ties or relations, Mrs. Sparkes immediately arranges for an interview with the kindly Mrs. Hughes and her son Ralph (George Macready).  Finding Julia highly satisfactory, Mrs. Hughes gives Julia a generous advance and insists that she report to work that night.

Julia awakens two days later in a Cornwall seaside estate far away from London only to find herself in a living nightmare; she is told that she is Ralph’s wife Marion, and that she has suffered a nervous breakdown.  This is also the story that the mansion staff and town locals are told thereby guaranteeing that Julia’s objections would be met with disbelief.

My Name is Julia Ross is a perfect example of an unpretentious, yet thoroughly satisfying Hollywood studio programmer.  Based on the novel, The Woman in Red by Lucy Beatrice Malleson (a cousin of British actor/writer and early Hammer regular, the wonderful Miles Malleson) writing under a male pen name Anthony Gilbert in what was a fairly common practice of the day.  The script by the prolific Muriel Roy Bolton is an almost perfectly constructed bit of craftsmanship with so little flab that moves so quickly that one doesn’t have time to question some of the more outrageous elements of the story.  The lean script also is effective in what it doesn’t explicitly state – particularly the perverse nature of Ralph whose sadism is only hinted at by his attraction to knives and other sharp objects.  This is better left to the viewer’s imagination.

The casting is nearly perfect with the lovely and versatile Nina Foch as Julia.  Her Julia is always believable in what is often unbelievable circumstances.  Foch is very restrained playing a character that is being driven insane.  Dame May Witty and George Macready are perfect as what could be described as genteel forerunner to Norman and Mrs. Bates.  Witty’s warm and kindly Mrs. Hughes masks a true monster preying on a young woman’s vulnerability.  Macready is his usual wonderful velvety sinister villain.  One of the interesting elements to the script is the cooperation of the characters Mrs. Sparkes and Peters (Leonard Mudie).  Usually such characters are motivated by greed but because the goal of this charade isn’t a heist, one can only speculate at what the Hughes’ have on them.  They are participating in a truly horrible crime.  Other supporting standouts include Joy Harrington as the cleaning woman, Bertha and Doris Lloyd as boarding house owner Mrs. Mackie.  The only weak link is leading man Roland Varno in a perfunctory one-dimensional B-movie leading man role.

Directed by the criminally underrated Joseph H. Lewis (So Dark The Night, Gun Crazy, The Big Combo, and Terror In A Texas Town).  Lewis broke into the industry as a camera assistant, working his way up to editorial supervisor and finally director.  The early part of Lewis’ career was spent toiling away in low budget genre pictures where he developed a style of shooting with objects in the foreground, earning him the nickname Wagon Wheel Joe.  Lewis states in an interview with Peter Bogdanovich that this style was an effort to inject visual interest in routine scripts.  When confident with the script Lewis claims he eschewed this trick and in Julia Ross with exception of a couple of minor instances this is true.

My Name is Julia Ross was shot by one of Columbia’s most talented DPs, Burnett Guffey (Johnny O’Clock, The Reckless Moment, All The King’s Men, Bonnie and Clyde).  Guffey is a great cinematographer who never shows off for the sake of showing off.  Guffey’s work is always in service of the subject, the ultimate Hollywood craftsmen.  One example is the opening shot of the film with Nina Foch walking in the rain with her back to the camera; Burnett uses a fog like filter on the edges of the frame, probably to cover up the fact that this is the Columbia back lot and not a London street.  It’s a simple, yet effective illusion.  Burnett’s work along with production designer Jerome Pycha, Jr.’s contributions go a long way to disguise what is reported as a $175,000 budget.

My Name is Julia Ross is described as a film noir, but this is inaccurate both thematically and stylistically.  It is firmly grounded more in the Woman in Distress genre than noir.  It isn’t often that a classic Hollywood movie is based on a novel by a woman as well as adapted by a woman.  Julia is a wonderful and rare female character in Hollywood movies – she starts as a victim but extricates herself from danger entirely by her own strength and intelligence.  Unlike a noir character Julia is not trying to scam a corrupt system only to be outsmarted and come up short with tragic results.  Julia is down on her luck but is sincere and seeking honest employment only to find herself victimized by monsters.  Her honesty and goodness prevail when confronted by perversion.  It resembles movies like Rebecca, Suspicion, and Gaslight much more than Out of the Past, Lady From Shanghai, or Night and the City.  It does ask the question, are there any real female noir (anti) heroes in Hollywood films outside of femme fatales?  I guess it doesn’t matter how the picture is sold as long as uninitiated viewers discover this little known gem.

 

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

My Name is Julia Ross looks great.  Arrow Films claim that the blu ray is from a 2K restoration from Sony Pictures.  The Film Foundation logo is featured on the back cover though I found no mention of the film being restored on their website.  In any case, it looks very film like with nice contrast and deep blacks.  Grain is present throughout the film.

 

Audio: 5/5

The audio is uncompressed mono and is very good.  Dialogue, music, and effects are all clear and loud.

Special Features: 3/5

It is a little light on extras but includes:

A commentary by Alan K. Rode, author of biographies of Michael Curtiz and Charles McGraw.  It’s a good, if somewhat unpolished commentary. Rode clearly believes this is a film noir; I disagree.  He makes mistakes in describing shots as when he says the first shot of Julia’s face is an insert or when he describes her looking over a room as a 360 degree pan; it’s closer to 180 degrees.  Rode gives a lot of information about the production and cast and crew.  He spends a great deal of time dissecting some of the personal mythmaking director Lewis engaged in during his long retirement.  I think he is a little hard on Lewis at times, but don’t doubt much of what he says.

A video entitled Identity Crisis: Joseph H. Lewis at Columbia featuring The Nitrate Diva, Nora Fiore.  Most of what Fiore talks about comes from the Lewis interview in Peter Bogdanovich’s indispensable collection of director interviews, Who The Devil Made It?  When she talks about Julia Ross in the context of women’s role in the post WWll workplace I think she is stretching.

The original theatrical trailer.

 

English subtitles

Overall: 4.5/5

My Name is Julia Ross is top notch Hollywood studio filmmaking.  I find it irresistibly entertaining and hope this stellar release from Arrow helps the film find new fans.

 

Published by

Timothy Bodzioney

editor

12 Comments

  1. Thank you for your review. Alan K. Rode's colleague at the Film Noir Foundation, Eddie Muller also thinks it's a Film Noir, but he's kind of on the fence about it. At the very least, he thinks it's part of a subset of Film Noir. I tend to think it has some Noir elements and I also consider it part of a subset of Film Noir. There are so many of these crime dramas that you can argue for or against them being Film Noir. My first viewing of this film was last Novermber, when I caught a TCM broadcast of it. I have this BD release on order, but my retailer hasn't shipped it yet. I'm really looking forward to watching this again on a more presentable video presentation. I do plan on watching this disc twice with my second viewing with the audio commentary by Rode.

  2. Timothy Bodzioney

    I respectfully disagree. It's much more Gothic than noir.

    Disagreement is the lifeblood of this forum.:) Just about every Noir book I've read consider this a Film Noir so I guess it will remain a disagreement.

  3. Robert Crawford

    Disagreement is the lifeblood of this forum.:) Just about every Noir book I've read consider this a Film Noir so I guess it will remain a disagreement.

    Disagreement is the lifeblood of any forum, not just this one. I am frequently appalled by the way – not here, but elsewhere – posters become aggressive and rude whenever they meet a contradictory opinion. They obviously don't understand what a forum is. Having visited others, I am pleased the moderators here at HTF come down hard on bad manners and aggression.

  4. Robin9

    Disagreement is the lifeblood of any forum, not just this one. I am frequently appalled by the way – not here, but elsewhere – posters become aggressive and rude whenever they meet a contradictory opinion. They obviously don't understand what a forum is. Having visited others, I am pleased the moderators here at HTF come down hard on bad manners and aggression.

    True, but I only care about this one.:)

  5. Timothy Bodzioney

    I respectfully disagree. It's much more Gothic than noir.

    There are Noir scholars, such as Eddie Muller, and also Martin Scorsese, who have repeatedly stated that Noir is not a genre but a mood and a style. There are Noir Westerns, Noir Melodramas, Noir Docu-dramas, even Noir Musicals (well, parts of a musicals, anyway; the ballet sequence from AMERICAN IN PARIS & the mirror image dance scene from COVER GIRL immediately come to mind) So, one COULD call MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS a Gothic Noir & you'd both be right! AS for me, I haven't seen the film in 40 years. I just remember it was pretty amazing; though I will say that I recall that the both the emotional tenor and manner of the film, in addition to many of the visuals, bring the film into Noir territory, though the story/genre is woman's picture/melodrama/gothic. There are those people who insist that Noir needs a femme fatale, but I feel they're confusing crime pictures with Noir. For me, Noir is more a feeling of dread, of bleakness and dead ends, & ESPECIALLY of one's own personal life and self-image suddenly turned inside out, a personality crisis that is both existential in feeling and expressionist in terms of image, and that is certainly a very strong aspect of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS.

  6. lark144

    There are Noir scholars, such as Eddie Muller, and also Martin Scorsese, who have repeatedly stated that Noir is not a genre but a mood and a style.

    I'm in agreement with that, and tend to believe that's the general philosophy. Noir is primarily (but not quite exclusively) a visual style, while Gothic is a thematic or literary style or genre. They aren't exclusive. The example that comes immediately to mind is Bladerunner, which is science fiction (thematic genre) as well as noir (visual style). When I say "visual style", it doesn't limit it to movies, but can be the mental images created by novels as well.

  7. Noir is the slipperiest of definitions. No two people have the exact same idea of what's noir and what isn't.

    I'm firmly in the "Julia Ross is noir" camp, and it's one of my faves. I haven't had time to watch the Blu yet, but it's waiting for me.

  8. Keith Cobby

    Noir seems to be an over-used marketing term these days. A film with 'dark' elements! Is Vertigo therefore a film noir, I don't think so. I agree with the reviewer that it is a gothic film.

    To some people, yes, Vertigo is film noir.

  9. I like what film writer Richard Barrios said about the broad way the term film noir is used now:

    "At this point, it seems that almost any movie made between 1939 and the 1960's that is not an overt comedy or musical can qualify. All that is required, it seems, are some shadows, a serious or menacing tone, and perhaps a sardonic or fatalistic air."

    I remember when a similar thing was going on with the term "screwball comedy." To call a comedy "screwball" was a shorthand way of saying it was from Hollywood's Golden Age and it was good. Hence, arguments over whether a particular comedy was or was not a screwball comedy were a shorthand way of saying "I think it's good" or "I don't think it's good." I think something similar is going on with the term film noir now – at least for some.

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