Hawaiian Noir

Murder Calls

French film actress, Jeanne Moreau, best known for her role in the French New Wave Film, Jules et Jim, has passed away. She was 89.

Moreau also starred in Francois Truffaut’s film, La Mariee Etait En Noir adapted from the noir classic, The Bride Wore Black by William Irish (Cornell Woolriich.) The Bride Wore Black is about a young woman named Julie, widowed on her wedding night, who methodically sets out to assassinate the men she believes killed her husband. She uses a variety of methods and disguises to accomplish her task. In the movie, she appears wearing either black or white or both.

LaMariee copyShe approaches her first victim, a womanizer, at a lavish party on the eve of his wedding. He is immediately intrigued and attracted to her. She connives to get him alone on a balcony where she tells him her name and pushes him over.

She poisons her next victim, a lonely bachelor, by luring him to a concert and then arraigning a rendezvous at his apartment the next night. She serves him a drink from a bottle of liquor which she has already spiked. She reveals her identity to him as he dies in agony.

Her third victim is a politician. She follows the man’s wife and son, befriends the boy and decoys the wife away. Then she poses as the boy’s teacher to gain access to the house. While in the house, she uses a ruse to trap the man in a tiny closet which she seals up. As he begs for his life, she reveals her identity. He suffocates in the closet.

The fourth man is an artist. Julie poses for him as the huntress Diana, eventually shooting him in the back with an arrow. She cuts out her face from the canvas he was painting in order to conceal her identity, but later she discovers he has painted a mural of her in the nude. She decides to leave the mural in place.

The final victim has been arrested and is in jail. She attends the artist’s funeral where she is arrested. Julie confesses to the murders, but refuses to reveal her motives. Julie is sent to prison, the women’s wing, and her intended victim is in the men’s wing. Julie gets a job in the kitchen. In the final scene, Julie is making the rounds with a serving cart on which she has hidden a knife. Julie and the cart turn a corner. After a brief pause, a man’s scream is heard.

Bride copyCornell Woolrich, 1903-1968, was a novelist and short-story writer. In the1940’s he established himself as one of the great mystery writers along with Earl Stanley Gardner, Raymond Chandler, and Dashiell Hammett. His stories, which tend to be dark, became noir classics. More of his stories have been adapted to the noir cinema than any other writer’s. He wrote The Bride Wore Black in 1940, which Truffaut brought to the screen in 1968. In 1969, Truffaut filmed Waltz Into Darkness as Mississippi Mermaid.

Woolrich’s 1942 story, It Had To Be Murder, was made into the Hitchcock film, Rear Window (1954). Woolrich struggled with illness, alcoholism, and self-doubt. He was tortured by guilt over homosexuality. After an attempt at screenwriting in Hollywood ended in 1933, Woolrich moved to New York where he lived with his mother and began writing pulp fiction. After his mother’s death in 1957, Woolrich went into decline and became a recluse. He did not attend the premiere of Truffaut’s film. La Mariee Etait En Noir, even though it was held in New York in 1968. He died shortly after.

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