Film Noir – The Strange Love of Martha Ivers

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The film comes with a vintage performance by Barbara Stanwyck in the title function, a small-town girl whose impulsive, murderous anger toward a nasty older goddess catapults her into a life of wealth, ambition and power but one devoid of pleasure or fulfillment.

Kirk Douglas, Van Heflin Vie For Barbara Stanwyck

Kirk Douglas creates a memorable film debut in a role quite different from his later typecasting as a daring tough man. As Martha’s husband Walter, he occasionally talks hard. In reality, Walter is a weakling that cedes control on many things to his assertive, much broader wife.

Van Heflin is outstanding since Sam, Martha’s love, whose reappearance after almost 20 years kick-starts the action. Lizabeth Scott plays Toni, the misunderstood ex-con Sam matches as he arrives back in Iverstown.

In a vintage noir twist, the entire story hinges the common past and common key of the triangle of Martha, Sam and Walter. That key is established in the film’s 17-minute opening, when all three are still kids.

The past-is-prologue device is assisted significantly by the casting of teens who will reasonably pass the younger Stanwyck, Heflin and Douglas. (For the record, these celebrities are Janis Wilson, Darryl Hickman and Mickey Kuhn.)

Barbara Stanwyck’s Martha Kills Aunt

In 1928, intelligent, rebellious adolescent Martha Ivers — a member of the city ’s founding family — kills the wealthy, mean-spirited aunt (played Judith Anderson) who is raising her. Walter witnesses the killing, and thus, Martha believes, does Sam. The crime is silent up by Walter’s covetous father. This clears the method for heiress Martha to finally assume control of the family’s mill.

Meantime, Sam vanishes, leaving Martha without the one person she loves and trusts. So Martha builds a business empire almost singlehandedly, but longs for Sam.

Martha and Walter wed, since he “has something” on # & her 8211; I.e., understanding of the killing. She becomes the power behind his ascent to become Iverstown’s district lawyer. In the first scene between Stanwyck and Douglas, it’s apparent the marriage is a hollow one, at least for the:

“Tell me, Martha,” Walter asks plaintively, “what should I do about my love for you? Tell me, Martha, why I don’t abandon all this? Why I don’t just throw it back in your face?”

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