When Alfred Hitchcock protégé Joan Harrison went off on her own to produce films, one of her most effective efforts was They Won’t Believe Me, a tidy little noir suspense tale with the expected twists and turns and a surprise ending.
The Production: 4/5
When Alfred Hitchcock protégé Joan Harrison went off on her own to produce films, one of her most effective efforts was They Won’t Believe Me, a tidy little noir suspense tale with the expected twists and turns and a surprise ending that has met with some annoyance by fans over the years. Directed by Irving Pichel, They Won’t Believe Me is unpretentious and enjoyable even with a few too many coincidences thrown in which spoil an otherwise craftily plotted little tale.
Stockbroker Larry Ballentine (Robert Young) is on trial for his life, and in his flashback testimony in court we hear the somewhat pathetic tale of a weak man with an unending eye for the ladies. Married to the wealthy but controlling Greta (Rita Johnson), Larry falls for the attractive Janice Bell (Jane Greer), but Greta puts a stop to it by buying Larry part ownership in a brokerage firm on the West Coast where they move leaving the calculating Janice high and dry. But his attractive secretary Verna Carlson (Susan Hayward) quickly catches Larry’s eye (and also the eye of her other employer Trenton – Tom Powers), and the two begin an affair once again stymied by Greta who moves them to a secluded ranch without a telephone and lots of wide open spaces, but Larry can’t get Verna out of his blood, and he’s willing to scheme to kill his wife in order to gain both her money and his independence. But fate has ways of making even the best laid plans go somewhat awry.
Adapted from a story by Gordan McDonell and with a screenplay by Jonathan Latimer, They Won’t Believe Me is definitely pulp fiction at its most basic, but with the courtroom framing device holding us in its spell until we know whose murder he’s accused of committing and how it’s all going to play out, the narrative more or less works as it should even with the occasional coincidences and obvious contrivances that we see through immediately and expect that the leading man ought to have been able to do the same. Director Irving Pichel offers meat-and-potatoes direction throughout though the ranch scenes do offer some majestic landscapes with the gorgeous cinematography by Harry J. Wild. A car accident is also well staged, but later significant events happen off camera due to the Production Code of the era, and the jury’s verdict is most definitely in doubt right up to the last words in the script.
Larry Ballentine was a true change-of-pace role for Robert Young who usually played the bland do-gooder but here is a cad beyond measure who continually falls for women other than his wife but allows his wife’s money to lure him away from one temptation only to fall into another soon after. The film might have played rougher or more believably with someone like Robert Mitchum in the lead: one finds it hard sometimes to understand why Rita Johnson playing wife Greta works so hard to hold on to such a weak, sniveling wimp. Jane Greer as jilted girl friend Janice Bell enters and exits the story several times with large gaps in between when Susan Hayward takes over as the love interest Verna Carlson. She’s the keeper, of course: bright, young, and incredibly alluring without even trying, a fact also not lost on Tom Powers’ jealous, goading Trenton. Also making things tough for Larry are nosy storekeeper Thomason played by Don Beddoe and good-natured but professional police detective Lieutenant Carr played by George Tyne. Always reliable Frank Ferguson is Larry’s wily defense attorney who gets the film underway.
3D Rating: NA
The film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.37:1 is faithfully rendered in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. The image quality is aces throughout with terrific sharpness and detail and an impressive grayscale that features rich, deep black levels and clean, crisp whites. Contrast has been dialed in to perfection. There are no visual anomalies like scratches, tears, or missing frames. The movie has been divided into 43 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is very true to its era. Dialogue has been professionally recorded and has been mixed with professional ease with Roy Webb’s background music and the appropriate sound effects. There are no instances of hiss, pops, flutter, or crackle.
Special Features: 0/5
There are no bonus features on the disc, not even a theatrical trailer.
Irving Pichel’s They Won’t Believe Me is an intriguing and entertaining suspense noir with an against-type leading performance by Robert Young and great work opposite his unfaithful husband character by Susan Hayward, Jane Greer, and Rita Johnson. While the Warner Archive disc doesn’t offer any bonus features for fans of the stars, the producer, or director, the enclosed video and audio transfer couldn’t be more glorious to watch and listen to.
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