Phantom Lady (1944)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Engineer Scott Henderson (Alan Curtis) is at a seedy midtown Manhattan bar early one evening, drowning his sorrows over a failed marriage, when he strikes up a conversation with a woman (Fay Helm). She's well dressed, with a very ornate hat topping off her ensemble, and also seems even sadder and more lost than he is. Henderson persuades her to join him in taking advantage of the two theater tickets he has. They attend the show -- a song-and-dance showcase by a Brazilian artist (Aurora) -- and then part company without ever exchanging names. He returns home to find three detectives in his apartment and his wife strangled. Inspector Burgess (Thomas Gomez) questions Henderson and tries to verify his alibi, but no one -- not the bartender, the cabbie who hauled them to the theater, or the drummer in the band who was watching her -- admits to remembering the woman. Henderson can't prove that he was elsewhere when his wife was strangled and is convicted of murder and sentenced to death. His assistant, Carol Richman (Ella Raines), who has watched all of this happen, can't sit by while Scott is destroyed, and decides to get at the truth, joined by Inspector Burgess, who now believes Henderson to be innocent. Carol hounds the bartender (Andrew Tombes) until he seems ready to crack, but before he talks, he tries to get away from her and dies in an accident. The drummer, Cliff Milburn (Elisha Cook Jr.), proves more talkative and reveals that someone paid him 500 dollars to forget about the woman, but before Burgess can question him, he's strangled. It seems as though there's no hope left, even with the added help of Jack Marlow (Franchot Tone), Scott's best friend, newly returned from Brazil, when Carol gets a line on the unusual hat the woman was wearing. She traces the hat to its owner in a mansion on Long Island, where she is recovering from a breakdown over the death of her fiancé -- that was her trouble on the night she crossed paths with Scott Henderson. It is only on returning to New York, while awaiting Burgess' arrival, that she realizes that Jack Marlow is the murderer -- that he returned after having dinner with them, following their fight, and strangled Henderson's wife; paid off the bartender, the cab driver, and Cliff Milburn to keep them from revealing the existence of the woman that Scott was with; and killed Milburn to prevent him from talking; and he plans to kill Carol before she can talk to Burgess. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
Drama , Mystery & Suspense
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Ella Raines
as Carol Richman
Alan Curtis
as Scott Henderson
Franchot Tone
as Jack Marlow
Aurora Miranda
as Estela Monteiro
Thomas Gomez
as Insp. Burgess
Fay Helm
as Ann Terry
Elisha Cook Jr.
as Cliff March
Andrew Tombes
as Bartender
Regis Toomey
as Detective
Joseph Crehan
as Detective
Doris Lloyd
as Kettisha
Virginia Brissac
as Dr. Chase
Milburn Stone
as District Attorney
Jay Novello
as Anselmo
Harry Cording
as Courtroom Spectator
Samuel S. Hinds
as Judge (offscreen)
Joe Kirk
as Stage Manager
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Critic Reviews for Phantom Lady

All Critics (5)

Brilliantly stylized crime thriller.

Full Review… | August 9, 2007
Classic Film and Television

Channeling the spirit of the Russians (Eisenstein, Dovshenko, Vertov), the director uses grotesque angles, close-ups, and rhythms to suggest a powerful sense of seduction and torture.

Full Review… | May 1, 2006
Slant Magazine

Superior, stylish thriller marred by an obvious and over-the-top "mystery" killer

August 7, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

The Phantom Lady proved to be a boon to the German-born director Robert Siodmak's career.

Full Review… | August 24, 2001
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Quote not available.

July 25, 2005

Audience Reviews for Phantom Lady

Another classic Film Noir marked off the list, this one the story of a poor guy searching for the mystery woman in the distinctive hat who can clear his name by providing an alibi for the time of his wife's murder. Well worth a rental.

Bill Bryant
Bill Bryant

The film uses the motif of a mysterious lady who cannot be found and it stars a cast of only a couple recognizable names, however Robert Siodmak does a decent job at making this noir interesting and it is worth a watch.

Four Star Film Fan
Four Star Film Fan

OK pre-noir B-movie with striking Ella Raines determined to save her boss from death row by finding his only alibi to his wife's murder, a woman in a peculiar hat who nobody seems to remember. Boosted by some nifty lighting and frame composition, but a contrived plot applies a Medieval knowledge of mental illness as the psychological slant and the crafty Raines does some unbelievably stupid things just to create tension at the end. Ultimately it's nothing you haven't seen before, except perhaps the crazed drum solo at the tiny jazz club no larger than my closet which seems to take its cues from Reefer Madness!

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