Cast & Crew
After New York police lieutenant Frank Reeves warns private investigator Bradford Galt, who is new to town, that Reeves's California friends have asked him to keep an eye on him, Brad, frustrated that his past has continued to haunt him, invites his secretary, Kathleen Stuart, to dinner. When they notice a man in a white suit following them, Brad puts Kathleen in a cab, instructing her to park by his office and follow the man after he meets with him. Brad then surprises the man in a dark corner and forces him at gunpoint to go to the office. There, Brad coerces him into revealing that his client is attorney Anthony Jardine. When the man spills ink on Brad's desk, Brad wipes it on the man's suit and sends him out, keeping his wallet. Kathleen tries to follow in her cab, but "White Suit" loses them. She finds Brad drinking in his office, and when she tells him she wants to help, he kisses her. He then warns her to leave and not get mixed up in his problems, but she insists on staying. Meanwhile, at a party celebrating the anniversary of elderly rich art dealer Hardy Cathcart and his young, attractive wife Mari, Jardine returns to Lucy Wilding, an older, married woman, the love letters he once wrote to her, having received a Van Gogh painting as blackmail from her. The next evening, White Suit follows Brad and Kathleen from a nightclub to her apartment, and after she refuses to let Brad in, White Suit tries to run him down in his car. A newsboy tells Brad the partial license plate number of his assailant, and as Kathleen and Brad wait at a neighborhood café for the police to trace the plate, he tells her about Jardine: In San Francisco, Jardine, who preyed on wealthy women by seducing and then blackmailing them, was his partner in a law firm. When Brad caught Jardine stealing the firm's money, Jardine offered to drive Brad to his house to pay back the money from his safe, but instead knocked him out, plied him with scotch, and put him behind the wheel, after which he hit a truck, killing the driver. Brad received a two-year sentence for manslaughter, but was released early for good behavior. As Brad relates his story, White Suit parks his car in front of the Cathcart Gallery, and Jardine drives off in it. Later, after Cathcart leaves to buy a painting, Mari goes to Jardine's apartment, where she convinces him to run away with her the next day. Brad, having gotten Jardine's address from the police trace, visits him, and while Mari, hiding in the bedroom, listens, he knocks Jardine out after Jardine denies hiring White Suit to follow him. Mari calls the police, and when they arrive, Jardine sends her out the back way and only gives up Brad's name after they threaten to take him in for questioning. The next day, at an exhibition, Cathcart escorts some guests to his downstairs vault to show them the Raphael that he recently bought. The guests and Mari are surprised to see that the portrait greatly resembles Mari, and Cathcart explains that he worshipped the portrait ever since he saw it, and when he met Mari, it was as if he had always wanted her, too. After the others go back upstairs, Cathcart overhears Mari and Jardine plan to leave that night, and sees their shadows as they kiss. Cathcart then finds White Suit, the man he hired to follow Brad, waiting to report that Brad roughed up Jardine but failed to kill him as Cathcart had hoped. Cathcart instructs White Suit to call Brad and, offering to sell him information on Jardine, set up an appointment at Brad's apartment. After Brad sends Kathleen to a movie, he returns to his apartment, where White Suit, who has slipped in through a window, anesthetizes him with ether. When Jardine, summoned by Cathcart, arrives, White Suit kills him with a fireplace poker, then puts the poker in Brad's hand and departs. Awakened by the sound of Kathleen ringing his door buzzer, Brad drags the body under his bed and tells her to leave. Instead, she cleans the blood from the poker and rug, and says she is hanging on to him. They try to find White Suit, but the wallet Brad seized from him turns out to be stolen. Brad awakens the next day in Kathleen's apartment, and when they spill a cup of coffee, he remembers the spilled ink on the white suit. They contact the large cleaning and dye plants to inquire about a white suit, but find no leads. Meanwhile, White Suit phones Cathcart to demand his money, and Cathcart instructs him to meet him at his dentist's office that afternoon. Brad finally tracks down the white suit and goes to the address of its owner, but discovers that the man, whose real name is Stouffer, has just left with his suitcases. A girl, however, overheard Stouffer telephoning Cathcart and gives Brad the address. At his dentist's building, Cathcart pushes Stouffer out a high-rise window, and Brad arrives just in time to witness his death and overhear the cab driver say that his bags are still in the cab. Brad steals the cab, but when he and Kathleen search Stouffer's belongings, they find no helpful information. Brad then remembers that the little girl mentioned something about "cascara at the galleries." With Kathleen's help, Brad deduces that the girl was referring to the Cathcart Gallery and goes there, just as the police, who have found Jardine's body, arrive at his office to arrest him. At the gallery, Brad meets Mari, and while they both wait for Cathcart, who has gone to the vault, he guesses that she was involved with Jardine. After he tells her that Jardine is dead, she faints. Entering the room, Cathcart orders Brad into the vault at gunpoint, planning to kill him, but Mari, now revived, shoots her husband, then throws the gun down in disgust. Afterward, Reeves makes an appointment to meet Brad the next day, and Kathleen says it will have to wait until the afternoon, as they have a date to get married at city hall in the morning.
W. D. Flick
Paul S. Fox
Lt. Paul "bevo" Helmick
R. A. Klune
Harry M. Leonard
Maurice De Packh
Sgt. Dave Silvers
J. Watson Webb
The Dark Corner
Dratler and Schoenfeld adapted their screenplay from an original story by humorist Leo Rosen, who used the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross when his tale was serialized in Good Housekeeping in the summer of 1945. Fox paid $40,000 for the rights and threw around a lot of names before settling on a cast. Fred MacMurray (still hot from Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity ) was discussed for the role of Bradford Galt, a troubled private dick framed for murder, and Ida Lupino (whom Warner Brothers would not release from her commitments there) as his loyal secretary and potential lover. In their places, Fox slotted up-and-comer Mark Stevens (who had been playing uncredited bits only the year before) as Galt and Lucille Ball as Galt's plucky gal Friday. Ball gets top billing in and her presence brings a refreshing lightness to an otherwise dark and even oppressive tale of love, hate, jealousy and greed. Ball had quit RKO for MGM around the time that she married Cuban bandleader Desi Arnaz but the rubber-faced redhead was no happier at Metro. Suing to break her contract, Ball was instead knocked down a pay grade and loaned out to other studios. In later years, the actress was vocal about hating the experience of shooting The Dark Corner. The lion's share of her resentment was pointed at Henry Hathaway, whose bullying reduced Ball to stuttering at which point Hathaway had the temerity to accuse her of being inebriated. Stevens and Ball repeated their roles for a radio version of The Dark Corner broadcast on Lux Radio Theatre November 1947.
Clifton Webb's pivotal role of epicene art collector Hardy Cathcart is modeled on the actor's immortal turn as Waldo Lydecker in Otto Preminger's Laura (1944), also produced by Daryl F. Zanuck. Zanuck had opposed Preminger's casting of Webb in the earlier film, partly because Webb had no real film career prior to 1944 and also because he couldn't accept the fey and fussy stage performer as a heavy. Audiences, however, loved Waldo and the success of Laura ensured that Hardy Cathcart would be supplied with a fund of wry Henry Wotton-isms ("The enjoyment of art is the only remaining ecstasy that is neither illegal nor immoral") and tart rejoinders. Webb's withering reprimand to oafish hireling William Bendix ("Stop flicking your ashes on my rug. It's a genuine Kashan.") anticipates a similar exchange in Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg's Performance (1970) a generation later between Mick Jagger's pretentious ex-rocker and James Fox's nervous gangster on the lam.
Clearly enjoying a chance to play a non-Nazi for a change is Kurt Kreuger from Fritz Lang's Hangmen Also Die! and Zoltan Korda's Sahara (both 1943) while perennial narrator Reed Hadley turns up in the flesh throughout The Dark Corner as a good cop with Galt's best interest at heart.
The New York location doubling as The Cathcart Gallery is recognizable as Manhattan's Burden Mansion at 7 East 91st Street. The structure's next door neighbor on New York City's "Museum Mile" later starred as the upscale apartment building besieged by Sean Connery's crew of home breakers in Sidney Lumet's The Anderson Tapes (1971).
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Director: Henry Hathaway
Screenplay: Jay Dratler, Bernard Schoenfeld; Leo Rosten (story)
Cinematography: Joe MacDonald
Art Direction: James Basevi, Leland Fuller
Music: Cyril Mockridge
Film Editing: J. Watson Webb
Cast: Lucille Ball (Kathleen Stewart), Clifton Webb (Hardy Cathcart), William Bendix (Stauffer, alias Fred Foss), Mark Stevens (Bradford Galt), Kurt Kreuger (Anthony Jardine), Cathy Downs (Mari Cathcart), Reed Hadley (Lt Frank Reeves), Constance Collier (Mrs. Kingsley), Eddie Heywood and His Orchestra (Themselves).
by Richard Harland Smith
Lucy A to Z: The Lucille Ball Encyclopedia by Michael Karol
Lucille: The Life of Lucille Ball by Kathleen Brady
Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball
Otto Preminger: The Man Who Would Be King by Preston Hirsch
Audio commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini, The Dark Corner DVD
The Dark Corner
The Dark Corner on DVD
Mark Stevens plays Bradford Galt, a P.I. who has set up shop in San Francisco after serving a jail term on manslaughter charges. Galt was framed by his former partner, Tony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), and when he finds himself now tailed by a thug in a white suit (William Bendix), Galt believes Jardine is after him once more. Soon Galt finds himself in a complicated maze which also includes Clifton Webb as an effete art dealer named Hardy Cathcart and Cathy Downs as his trophy wife Mari. Helping Galt work his way out of this mess is his secretary Kathleen - the top-billed Lucille Ball.
In all, The Dark Corner is a rather implausible story (even for this era) which suffers somewhat from having its main character - Galt - sit around brooding and depressed much of the time, trying to figure out what to do. He's rather passive until light bulbs start popping off inside his head and he then springs into action. Stevens is OK but never quite feels right for the part. He was a Fox contract player who started in musicals, and this film was an attempt to change his pretty-boy image. But he still looks too polished and young to be a tough guy, and as a result his hard-edged, Chandleresque dialogue is prone to sounding forced and unconvincing. Stevens later directed a film noir, Cry Vengeance (1954), in which he virtually recreated this character but made him even more violent and moody.
Lucille Ball was not a happy camper on this set. She had recently sued MGM to get out of her contract, and as revenge they loaned her to Fox for this low-budget movie. She is perky and energetic as the secretary who falls in love with her boss and sticks by him no matter the dark morass he falls into. But Ball hated her performance and suffered a nervous breakdown during filming because of the tyrannical methods of director Henry Hathaway.
Clifton Webb plays pretty much the same part as he did in Laura (1944), which is a movie that Darryl Zanuck desperately wanted The Dark Cornerto emulate. Zanuck put one of the primary writers of Laura, Jay Dratler, to work on The Dark Corner, and the script is partially set in the same upper-crust world and even features a painting of one of the female characters (Cathy Downs), which Webb (another Laura alum) loves more than the real thing.
While the script doesn't rise to the level of Laura, and while Stevens was not ideal casting, the movie is still a winner thanks to several inspired scenes of hard-hitting violence and shocking murder, as well as to the real star of the movie - cinematographer Joe MacDonald. MacDonald was approaching the golden period of his career at this point. His next assignment would be My Darling Clementine (1946), and collaborations with Elia Kazan and Sam Fuller were around the corner. The Dark Corner is full of deep, velvety blacks and hard shadows which create wonderful menace and make otherwise ordinary scenes stunning. From one scene to the next, it's a beautiful-looking movie (which thankfully has received an excellent transfer onto DVD).
The commentary track by film noir historians James Ursini and Alain Silver gets a bit dry in places but is otherwise quite good. They have done several of these DVDs now and have comfortable conversing styles, covering both the thematic content of the film and its techniques. One interesting tidbit of many is their observation of a sequence in which Ball and Stevens enter a diner after Stevens has narrowly avoided being hit by a car. All the characters and extras in the diner, Silver and Ursini point out, are wearing dark clothing "so the light mostly highlights their faces and other bits and pieces. It's a very painterly rendering by MacDonald in anticipation of the motifs that have to do with Cathcart and his obsession with art."
Fox Film Noir will return in March, 2006, with No Way Out (1950), Fallen Angel (1945) and The House on Telegraph Hill (1951).
For more information about The Dark Corner, visit Fox Home Entertainment. To order The Dark Corner, go to TCM Shopping.
by Jeremy Arnold
The Dark Corner on DVD
"I hate the dawn. The grass always looks as though it's been left out all night."- Hardy Cathcart
"There goes my last lead. I feel all dead inside. I'm backed up in a dark corner, and I don't know who's hitting me."- Bradford Galt
I'm as clean as a hard-boiled egg.- Bradford Galt
According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department, located at the UCLA Arts-Special Collections Library, Fox paid $40,000 for the rights to Leo Rosten's story prior to its publication in Good Housekeeping. Rosten published the story under the pseudonym Leonard Q. Ross, a name that he reserved for his fictional and humorous writings. According to the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, PCA director Joseph I. Breen objected to the original ending of the film in which "Cathcart" commits suicide because "the thwarting of justice can not be approved." According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also located at UCLA, studio production head Darryl F. Zanuck argued that the script must make perfectly clear that Carthcart did not hire "White Suit" to kill "Jardine," but instead intended to manipulate "Brad" into killing him.
A November 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item notes that Ida Lupino was initially slated to play the role of "Kathleen," but had to withdraw because of scheduling conflicts at Warner Bros. Publicity materials contained in the AMPAS Library add that Fred MacMurray was to star as "Brad." According to a November 1945 Hollywood Reporter news item, Lynn Bari was tested for a role in the film. Materials in the legal files indicate that Eve Abbott appeared as "Jardine's" secretary, but that scene was deleted from the released print. Although the legal files include Nestor Paiva in the cast, his appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. According to other materials in the legal files, the arcade sequence in the film was shot at a concession stand in Santa Monica, CA. An April 1946 Motion Picture Herald news item adds that exteriors for the process photography sequences were filmed in New York City. The Variety review commented that Clifton Webb's role in this picture was similiar to his role in Laura (see below). On November 10, 1947, Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio version of Rosten's story, starring Lucille Ball and Mark Stevens, and on May 24, 1952, the Screen Guild Players radio program broadcast a version starring Howard Duff and Claire Trevor.