No Man's Woman (1955)

No Man's Woman (1955) Front Cover DVD

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No Man's Woman (1955) Back Cover DVD

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No Man's Woman is a great title; add that to Marie Windsor and you have what's good about the picture. The movie is a whodunnit with a screenplay written to formula. Windsor has a ripe role in Carolyn Grant, a scheming art gallery owner who tries to manipulate three men to her selfish ends. Ten minutes into the picture, everybody we see has gained a credible motivation to murder Carolyn, who thinks she can get away with anything. She's been separated from her husband Harlow (John Archer) for quite awhile, and enjoying his allowance.

Harlow now asks for a divorce so he can marry his sweetheart Louise Nelson (Nancy Gates), but Carolyn likes the idea of owning half of her hubby Harlow, especially because his company is set for a big expansion. She puts a $200,000 price tag on Harlow's freedom, and when he balks, ups it to $300,000. Meanwhile, Carolyn is carrying on an affair with art critic Wayne Vincent (Patrick Knowles). He'd like to get serious but she just wants him around to help her sell her paintings through his dishonest newspaper column. What she really wants is the handsome young fisherman Dick Sawyer (Richard Crane), the fiance of her assistant, Betty (Jil Jarmyn). Carolyn maneuvers everyone with lies and trickery to get Dick out on his boat, and break up his engagement. When a murder goes down right in Carolyn's swanky art gallery, the killer could be anybody.

Carolyn's blithe faith in her ability to warp people to her whims certainly fits in with the characters Joan Crawford was playing, especially the part where Windsor tries to seduce the younger boat owner. (Actually, actor Crane was one year older than Marie.) Harlow Grant claims he has no grounds to sue Carolyn for divorce, when he ought to know her well enough to reason that she must be seeing other people while still married to him. Carolyn's tricks wouldn't work in junior high school, as the people directly affected by her lies have full contact with each other, and are sure to compare notes.

The second half of the picture mainly follows Harlow's attempt to extricate himself from a murder rap. Everybody else has lied to the cops to avoid embarrassment of one kind or another. There's no particular tension, even when the innocent Louise finds herself face to face with the killer, who must now kill her to remain undetected.

Marie Windsor has little choice but to overplay Carolyn, to make the role interesting. Not Joan Crawford overcooked, but probably more emphatic than Windsor would like. She does nothing wrong, but the character as written and directed is just wicked, with no attempt to explain how she got that way. Carolyn keeps up the vamp act, but really gets no response, Richard Crane's Dick shows no interest.

The other actors are just fine. Richard Crane looks good but seems a fool for not politely telling Carolyn to take her unwanted romantic moves elsewhere. Louis Jean Heydt pulls detective duty, strolling through the investigation scenes. Squeaky Percy Helton's superintendent is underused. The actor that fares best among the support folk is gorgeous, personable Nancy Gates. She'd rack up an enviable record of excellent performances big and small (The Atomic City, Some Came Running, Comanche Station, Gunfight at Dodge City, many more) without ever becoming a major star.

No Man's Woman gives us glimpses of a couple of standout Los Angeles locations. The first shot sees Marie Windsor driving a convertible down Cahuenga Blvd toward Hollywood; the Mullholland Drive Bridge is visible in the background, but not the Cahuenga Freeway below it, a glorified parkway that right about this time was redubbed the Hollywood Freeway. That bridge is used as the Santa Mira Bridge for the nighttime conclusion of Don Siegel's Invasion of the Body Snatchers, with Kevin McCarthy yelling, "You're next!" Anybody who ever attended UCLA or a movie in Westwood will recognize the little art nook where Carolyn's gallery is located on Glendon just two blocks up from Wilshire. Views of cars pulling to the curb show a view over the rooftops, where I believe we can see the tall tower of the Fox Village Theater in the background. The view is a bit hazy, and it does seem rather close, but I can read Fox on the tower.

The movie hasn't been easy to see for quite a while. Fans willing to give Marie a chance will not feel cheated by the quality. Along with the lurid title, Windsor's come-hither smile must have lured some walk-in business into the theaters in 1955.


Marie Windsor as Carolyn Grant
John Archer as Harlow Grant
Nancy Gates as Louise Nelson
Patrick Knowles as Wayne Vincent
Richard Crane as Dick Sawyer
Jil Jarmyn as Betty Allen
Fern Hall as Virginia Gillis
Louis Jean Heydt as Detective Lt. Colton
Percy Helton as Youth at Union Station
Morris Ankrum as Capt. Hostedder
Franklyn Farnum as Police Criminologist

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