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Based on the mystery novel by Wilkie Collins, The Woman in White is the sort of intricately plotted, gothic melodrama that was so popular with audiences in the early part of this century. In fact, there were a total of five silent film versions produced; one in 1912, one in 1914 titled The Dream Woman, another in 1917 as Tangled Lives, a version in 1920 called Twin Pawns, and a 1929 adaptation. There was also the first sound era version entitled Crimes at the Dark House (1940). But the 1948 remake, directed by Peter Godfrey, is the most atmospheric and technically polished of them all. It also has all the essential ingredients that make stories like this so intriguing: murder, insanity, hypnotism and a cast full of odd, eccentric, and evil characters.
In the dark of night, Walter Hartright (Gig Young) disembarks from a train and proceeds on foot, along a country road, to Limmeridge House where he has been hired to teach drawing. Upon his approach, he is surprised by the sudden appearance of a strange and terrified woman who warns him away from his destination. Before he can question this apparition in white, she vanishes into the darkness. Later, at Limmeridge, he meets Laura (Eleanor Parker), a beautiful young woman who bares an uncanny resemblance to the woman who accosted him previously.
The film is an ideal showcase for Eleanor Parker who is cast in a dual role playing identical first cousins. Thanks to some expert trick photography, she even gets to play opposite herself in a few scenes. But when it comes to stealing scenes, her co-star Sydney Greenstreet, wins the competition hands down. As the villainous Count Falco, Greenstreet is the perfect poster boy of the seven deadly sins, enacting every vice from gluttony to greed while he plots dastardly deeds.
Director: Peter Godfrey
Producer: Henry Blanke
Screenplay: Stephen Morehouse (based on the novel by Wilkie Collins)
Cinematography: Carl Guthrie
Editor: Clarence Kolster
Art Direction: Stanley Fleischer
Costume Design: Bernard Newman
Music: Leo F. Forbstein
Cast: Eleanor Parker (Laura Fairlie/Anne Catherick), Alexis Smith (Marian Halcombe), Sydney Greenstreet (Count Falco), Gig Young (Walter Hartright), Agnes Moorehead (Countess Falco), John Emery (Sir Percival Glyde).
by Jeff Stafford