skip navigation
Black Widow

Black Widow(1954)

TCM Messageboards
Post your comments here

Remind Me

TCMDb Archive MaterialsView all archives (0)


powered by AFI

On 6 June, as Broadway producer Peter Denver is bidding farewell to his actress wife Iris, who is leaving to visit her mother, Iris reminds him to attend a cocktail party being held by the star of his current show, Carlotta Marin. Even though Lottie and her husband, Brian Mullen, live in the same building as the Denvers, Peter does not want to go, as he dislikes the overbearing Lottie. Nonetheless, Peter goes and meets wistful Nancy "Nanny" Ordway, a twenty-year-old would-be writer who is among the many uninvited guests. Wanting to get away from the noise, Peter invites Nanny to dinner and assures her that his intentions are strictly platonic. Later that night, Peter talks to Iris on the phone and tells her about the young woman, and Iris laughingly assumes that Nanny will ask Peter for help finding a job. Three months earlier, on 6 March, Nanny arrives in New York: Nanny goes to Greenwich Village and unexpectedly visits her uncle, Gordon Ling, who is a minor actor in Peter's play. Within a week, the ambitious Nanny begins making her way "uptown" by obtaining a job at Sylvia's Café. There, she meets socially prominent artist Claire Amberly and her brother John, a law student who is attracted to Nanny. Nanny soon inveigles an invitation to move in with Claire and begins dating John. Then, in early May, Nanny visits the theater where Gordon is working. Gordon has already left, however, and Nanny bumps into Brian, who charms her with his self-deprecating quip that he has no personality of his own because he is married to such a famous woman. Later, ten days after she met Peter at the cocktail party, Nanny calls him at his office, and he again takes her out. After their dinner, Peter takes Nanny to his and Iris' luxurious apartment, where Nanny dramatically declares her intention of becoming an important author. Nanny states that she could write better in such wonderful surroundings, and Peter, always willing to help a newcomer, allows her to work at the apartment during the day, while he is out. Two weeks later, Peter picks up Iris at the airport and when they arrive home, is irritated to find that Nanny is still there playing records. Iris, who is aware of Peter's efforts to help Nanny, is horrified to find her corpse hanging in their bedroom. Lt. Detective Bruce arrives to investigate the apparent suicide and questions Peter about a drawing he finds of Nanny hanging, with a quotation from her favorite opera, Salome . Peter explains his relationship with Nanny, and that she often scribbled drawings, although he claims to have no idea why she would kill herself. Lottie then barges in with Brian and pointedly tells Bruce that he should not suspect Peter of having an affair with Nanny. The next day, Claire informs Bruce that Nanny had told her that she and Peter were in love, and when Peter confronts her about the statement, Claire reveals that Nanny had turned down John's marriage proposal because of her supposed relationship with Peter. Peter returns home, where Lottie has been telling Iris that he was involved with Nanny and urging her to leave him. The irate Peter castigates Lottie for her interference, and after she storms out, Brian reveals that an autopsy has determined that Nanny was pregnant. The afternoon post contains a letter to Iris, mailed by Nanny, informing her of her feelings for Peter, and the hurt Iris moves out. Later, Bruce questions Brian in his apartment, where he pockets a piece of paper on which Lottie had scribbled some doodles. After Bruce announces that Nanny was choked to death, then hanged to simulate suicide, Brian calls Peter to tell him, and, believing that he is about to be arrested, Peter flees. Peter goes to Claire's and learns that Nanny first told her about her involvement with a married man on 2 June. Peter next questions a waitress who knew Nanny, and learns that she had been staying with her uncle. In Greenwich Village, Gordon tells Peter that he was aware of Nanny's affair, as she used his apartment for her assignations, and relates that she had named him as her lover, although at first all she would say is that her lover had a famous wife. That night, Peter sneaks into his apartment, and is relieved as Iris, who realizes he could not be a murderer, returns home. Peter explains that he could not have been Nanny's lover, as he did not meet her until 6 June, and she had already told Claire about the man on the 2nd. Peter suspects that Brian was Nanny's paramour, and asks Iris to take Lottie out so that he can question Brian alone. When they talk, Brian admits his involvement with Nanny and relates how desperate he was to be loved for himself after being overshadowed by Lottie. Brian then reveals how, on the day of Nanny's death, she told him of her pregnancy and her plan to frame and blackmail Peter so that they would have enough money to marry. Brian was appalled by the sudden revelation of Nanny's scheming, avaracious nature and refused to cooperate, but when Nanny threatened to expose him instead, he wearily acquiesed. Brian's story is interrupted by the sudden appearance of Lottie, who is infuriated to hear about his adultery. Lottie is followed by Bruce, who had planted a microphone in the apartment. Brian insists that he did not kill Nanny, however, and assumes that Peter did because of Nanny's blackmail scheme. Lottie then states that she came home early that afternoon and heard Peter and Nanny violently arguing. Bruce substantiates Peter's alibi for the time of Nanny's death, however, then offers his own theory about the crime: Lottie, having come home without Brian's knowledge, eavesdrops on his phone conversation with Nanny about their affair, then goes to the Denvers' apartment to confront Nanny. Lottie orders Nanny to leave New York, but after the jealous girl yells that Brian despises her, Lottie, overcome by anger, strangles her. Bruce then concludes his story by revealing that the crime laboratory has established that Lottie's doodles and Nanny's suicide drawing were done by the same person, with the same pen. Later, Iris wonders what will happen to Lottie, and Peter states that because she is such a great actress, she will surely persuade the jury to find her not guilty.