The next classic in The Criterion Channel’s Columbia Noir collection, “My Name is Julia Ross” plays out more like a serious episode of “Scooby-Doo” than a serious noir style film.
It’s quite enjoyable, the film is paced just right to keep you glued to the screen the entire runtime. The lighting and direction are pretty top notch, other than a questionable opening angle (really, a camera tilt with vaseline fog on the lens just ONCE in a noir film? Why?! What was the point?)
“My Name is Julia Ross” was directed by Joseph H. Lewis in 1945. Lewis would go on to be known as a B-Movie director in Hollywood, directing mainly low budget westerns as well as some action pictures. However, this would be the film he was known for.
We join the film as Julia Ross (played by Nina Foch) returns back to her flat, failing again to find a job and three weeks behind on rent. She looks at the paper and is astounded to find a new job agency that she immediately leaves to apply at.
Nina Foch was a Dutch-born actress that would sign her first contract with Columbia Pictures at only age 19. She was a regular actress throughout the Noir and Horror genres at Columbia. She won numerous awards over her long entertainment career, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress (1954 Robert Wise’s Executive Suite). She’d go on to star in numerous large Hollywood productions, such as Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments and Stanley Kubrick’s Sparticus.
Shortly after arriving and interviewing, she meets Mother Hughes (Dame May Whitty) and her son, Mr. Ralph Hughes (George Macready) who both eagerly approve and tell her she must move in that evening. After returning to her flat to pack, we meet her fellow, Dennis (Roland Varno), with hints that they want to rekindle an old relationship.
Julia moves in that night, in a house in London. She awakens two days later in a countryside house to find the family and staff calling her Mrs. Marion Hughes, aka, Ralph’s wife. The family make excuses for her confusion, saying she’s sick in the head.
Days pass, escape attempts are made to no avail, Julia learns more about her captors. Ralph killed the real Marion and they’ve hid the body in the sea. Mrs Hughes is just as crazy as her son.
Finally, and not to spoil the end, Julia gets a letter to Dennis, tricks the family, gets the police involved, and all ends happily ever after.
Dame Mary Louise Webster (known professionally as Dame May Whitty) was known for her stage and film acting. Interesting little tidbit, she was one of the first two British female entertainers to be honored with the title of “Dame”. Also, the British Actors Union Equity was established in her own home. Later in life she would move to Hollywood to continue her film career, winning awards for several of her roles.
Our lead male actor, George Macready, began his career in the 1942 classic, “Commandos at Dawn”. Macready would continue to play in war movies throughout his career, notably in Stanley Kubrick’s “Paths of Glory” (which is a FANTASTIC film, I hope to cover at a later date). Modern viewers may know Macready from his role in 1970’s “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, in which he played Cordell Hull, the United States Secretary of State. This would be his final role, as the actor passed away not long after the film came out.
“My Name is Julia Ross” is a great tale of pulp style fiction, wonderfully portrayed by a great cast. I definitely say give it a watch while it’s on The Criterion Channel! Head on over to www.criterionchannel.com to start a 14-day free trial.
You may be able to catch some of these fantastic Columbia Noir films before they leave the channel!
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