great film noir featuring stanwyck and ryan. directed by fritz lang. the real meat of the film is in the script. it’s just great writing, the kind you don’t hear too often. stanwyck summarizing her life: “four words: big talk, small results.” stanwyck talking to (marilyn) monroe: “you’re very pretty.” “well, the boys whistle a lot.” stanwyck in response to monroe saying it must be good to be back home: “home is where you come when you run out of places.” ryan talking to bartender who has just served up three shots of bourbon: “i thought i said four.” “you said a couple.” “well, how many is a couple?” “to me, three.” this last one turns out to set the table for the rest of the picture. stanwyck marries douglas, but ryan constantly pursues stanwyck and eventually pries her from douglas. it’s a film about the clash between two philosophies, between to parts of stanwyck. there’s douglas who plays a harmless, weak, nice guy; and there’s ryan who plays a strong, brutish, unstable character. stanwyck is the protagonist with the questionable past (think naked kiss). by the end of the film she has to choose between responsibility and stability or freedom and instability.
the film takes place in a fishing town, on the edge of the world. it echoes the feeling that everything is close to falling apart and floating away. stanwyck and ryan are great, douglas is serviceable. the ending was probably issued by the hayes code. that’s not to say it was awful, it was okay, but i would have preferred the darker alternative. watch it for the performances and the writing.