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Lady in the Dark

Lady in the Dark(1944)

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Liza Elliott, the stern editor-in-chief of Allure fashion magazine, finds that she is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Liza rejects her physician's advice to go into psychoanalysis and seeks solace in her work, but her condition is aggravated by jokester Charley Johnson, her publicity and advertising manager, who constantly challenges her authority. Liza's married boyfriend, Allure publisher Kendall Nesbitt, also fears that his unavailability is contributing to her confusion. Frightened by her own lack of control, Liza starts therapy with Dr. Alexander Brooks. During her first session, Liza recalls that in her most recent dream she wore an extravagant blue gown, which baffles her as she hates the color blue. In the dream, Charley is commissioned to paint Liza's portrait for a two-cent stamp, but the portrait is a caricature, and Liza becomes a laughingstock. Brooks surmises that although Liza is controlled and severe in her appearance, it may be her secret childhood dream to be glamorous. Later that day, Liza's staff loses control when handsome Hollywood star Randy Curtis comes in to model for photographs and makes it impossible for photographer Russell Paxton to do his work. Liza is unmoved by Randy's good looks, but when Kendall announces that he is now free to marry her, Liza greets the news with trepidation, and agrees to a dinner date with Randy. That night, Liza dreams that she falls in love with Randy just before her wedding. Charley officiates at the dream wedding, and when he asks if anyone opposes the marriage, the guests shout at Liza to reveal her true self. After she relates her dream to Brooks, he suggests that Kendall is a father figure, and that her "true self" wants to be glamorous. Liza angrily rejects Brooks's diagnosis and cancels all future sessions. The next day, Charley announces his resignation so that he can work as an editor at another magazine. Liza offers Charley a raise, but he rejects her offer because he knows that she will never step down from her position. Kendall then confronts Liza, and when she admits that she does not want to marry him, he insists that she fulfill her commitment. After Randy later implies that it is Liza's plain appearance that pleases him, Liza puts on a lavish gown for their dinner date. That night at supper, Randy confesses his love for Liza, but she leaves abruptly when their intimate conversation is interrupted by Charley and his date, who is an ardent fan of Randy. At home, Liza is tortured by her inability to make a decision about marrying Kendall, about using Charley's new idea for a circus-themed Easter cover, and finally, about the kind of woman she wants to be. Inspired by Charley's drawings for the circus-themed cover art, Liza dreams that she is a child attending a circus, and that Charley is the ringmaster: Liza is suddenly a grown woman in a cage and is put on trial for her indecision. Liza defends herself by singing the "Saga of Jenny," about a woman whose firm decisions always lead her astray. Liza then hears the strains of "My Ship," a tune from her childhood, which she hums any time she is worried. When Liza seeks comfort in an image of her father, he angrily responds that she should take off her outrageous dress. The next day, Liza returns to Brooks, and they confirm that the source of Liza's trouble lies in her childhood: One day, Liza's father asks her to sing "My Ship" for her mother's friends, all of whom cherish her mother for her beauty. Liza is humiliated when they find no resemblance between mother and daughter, and she is unable to sing the song. Liza's mother dies shortly after, and to draw her father out of his grief, Liza tries on her mother's blue gown. Liza's father angrily demands that she take off the dress, and thereafter, Liza avoids her father and focuses only on schoolwork. When she is invited to her high school graduation dance by Ben, who is considered the most handsome boy in the school, a little light comes back into her life, but this soon dims after Ben abandons her at the dance in favor of his former girl friend. Brooks now suggests that Liza has withdrawn from femininity to avoid being hurt, and therefore, has forced men to accept her as their superior. Brooks believes that she may only be happy with a man who will dominate her. With a new outlook on life, Liza gently rejects Kendall and accepts Randy's marriage proposal. When Randy asks her to head his new production studio, however, Liza realizes that he is not the man for her. Liza then offers Charley a partnership, with the possibility that she will eventually relinquish her position, and Charley delightedly accepts. While discussing new ideas for the magazine, Charley and Liza discover they love each other and kiss. Russell, frustrated by the demands of his work, stops into Liza's office and, seeing them kissing, announces, "This is the end, the absolute end!"