The File on Thelma Jordon


1h 40m 1950

Brief Synopsis

A woman seduces a District Attorney and pulls him into a web of theft and murder.

Film Details

Also Known As
Thelma Jordon
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1950
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Jan 1950
Production Company
Wallis-Hazen, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--County Jail, California, United States; Santa Ana--Santa Ana Courthouse, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,998ft

Synopsis

Assistant district attorney Cleve Marshall goes on a drunken binge and misses celebrating his anniversary with his wife Pamela. Left alone in chief investigator Miles Scott's office, Cleve drunkenly pursues Thelma Jordon, an alluring and confident woman, who is reporting an attempted burglary at her elderly aunt Vera's house. Thelma agrees to join Cleve for a drink after he offers to fix a parking ticket for her. He stays with her until late that night, when she throws him out of her car for proclaiming his love. The next day, Cleve proffers an apology and meets Thelma for dinner, as Pamela and their children have taken up their usual summer residency at the beach. Cleve is drawn to Thelma, who confesses she is lonely, and agrees to see her again. Unknown to Cleve, Thelma is also seeing a shadowy character named Tony Laredo, but once she has started dating Cleve regularly, she lies that she is in a loveless marriage with Tony. One night, Vera is shot and killed while investigating a noise in her house, and Thelma is delayed in picking up Cleve for a weekend holiday. Cleve, who uses a pseudonym, calls the house shortly after Vera is shot, and Vera's butler listens on the extension as Thelma urges Cleve to come immediately. After Cleve arrives, Thelma admits that she tried to cover up the murder, because she once wrote to Tony about Vera's expensive emerald necklace and fears he may have killed her. Cleve insists that Thelma restore her fingerprints to the room, and ducks out just as the butler enters. Cleve retreats to the beach house with Pamela, who forces him to admit that he is having an affair. Cleve is called to help investigate Vera's murder, and suspicion soon falls on Thelma, who begs Cleve to prosecute the case in order to protect her. Apparently unaware of Thelma and Cleve's indiscretion, Miles is unable to identify Thelma's mysterious caller, who has been dubbed "Mr. X," and who was seen by the butler leaving the crime scene. Based on Thelma's fingerprints, the recovered jewels, and a newly rewritten will which favors Thelma, a grand jury indicts her for Vera's murder. Cleve anonymously hires lawyer Kingsley Willis to defend Thelma, and cleverly arranges for the disqualification of the district attorney, so that he will be made prosecuting attorney. During the trial, Cleve purposely antagonizes the jury in order to lose the case. Although the trial exposes Thelma's sordid past--the gambling, blackmail and illicit relationship with Tony--it fails to sway Cleve's love. Willis makes a convincing case for Thelma's innocence, and "Mr. X" is never identified as Cleve. After the trial, Thelma immediately packs to leave with Tony, who planned the robbery and now intends to live off Thelma's inheritance. Cleve pays Thelma a final visit, during which Tony forces her to admit that they set Cleve up, and that she murdered Vera. Tony knocks Cleve out and leaves with Thelma, but when Thelma attacks Tony with a hot cigarette lighter, their car crashes through a barrier over a cliff. As Thelma lies dying in the hospital, she admits the full truth to Miles, but still refuses to identify "Mr. X." Thelma dies, and Miles realizes that Cleve is "Mr. X." Having already given his resignation to the district attorney, Cleve bids Miles farewell, asking him to tell Pamela that he will see her later.

Film Details

Also Known As
Thelma Jordon
Genre
Drama
Crime
Thriller
Release Date
Jan 1950
Premiere Information
New York opening: 18 Jan 1950
Production Company
Wallis-Hazen, Inc.
Distribution Company
Paramount Pictures Corp.
Country
United States
Location
Los Angeles--County Jail, California, United States; Santa Ana--Santa Ana Courthouse, California, United States

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 40m
Sound
Mono (Western Electric Sound System)
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,998ft

Articles

The File on Thelma Jordon


The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) was the final film noir of German émigré director Robert Siodmak, who had made his first noir, the richly atmospheric Phantom Lady (1944), on a shoestring and gone on to make such notable noirs as The Killers (1946), The Dark Mirror (1946), and Criss Cross (1949). The File on Thelma Jordon marked the only time Siodmak worked with legendary femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck, in a role that has been described as a more complex version of her Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944).

As Thelma, Stanwyck complicates the life of an Assistant District Attorney (Wendell Corey) when she comes to his office late one night to complain about attempted break-ins at the home of her rich aunt. He's in a troubled marriage, and soon the two are having an affair and he's helping her cover up a murder. But unlike the more straightforwardly evil Phyllis Dietrichson, Thelma's motivations and emotions are harder to read. Does she love the hapless D.A., is she using him, or a little of both? Stanwyck, as usual, delivers an intense performance as a woman with a past who is more conflicted than wicked, and for whom it may be too late to change.

Producer Hal Wallis, who had made The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) with Stanwyck at Paramount, wanted to make another thriller with Stanwyck, and commissioned an original story by Marty Holland, from which Ketti Frings wrote the screenplay for The File on Thelma Jordon. The film was intended for director Otto Preminger who had previously scored a huge hit with Laura (1944) in the same genre, and Stanwyck agreed to the project. It would have been her first film with Preminger. But he turned out to be unavailable, so Siodmak took over. Siodmak and Stanwyck apparently either didn't have much rapport, or she didn't need much help by this point. For whatever reason, they didn't really communicate. As Siodmak later recalled, "Barbara always had the character worked out. Before we started shooting she would be sitting in her chair, her eyes closed and her concentration on the scene she was to play," ignoring the hair and makeup people who fussed over her. "One day, before a very difficult scene, I tried to give her some last minute advice. That was the only time she showed any temper. She brushed me impatiently aside. I didn't mind, for I was sure she knew what she wanted to do," he added without rancor.

Strong performances by Stanwyck, Corey, and an excellent supporting cast, along with Siodmak's stylish staging, George Barnes' shadowy, low-key lighting, and Victor Young's dramatic score more than compensated for the film's uneven pace. Particularly effective is the staging of Stanwyck's long walk from the jail through the street to the courthouse. Little seen today, The File on Thelma Jordon is a worthy addition to the noir canon of Siodmak and Stanwyck. Within a few years, Siodmak returned to Europe, and ended his film career in Germany in 1969. He died in 1973. Stanwyck would go on to make several more noirs (Clash by Night [1952], Jeopardy [1953], Crime of Passion [1957]), and worked in films and television until the mid-1980s. She died in 1990.

Director: Robert Siodmak
Producer: Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay: Ketti Frings, based on a story by Marty Holland
Cinematography: George Barnes
Editor: Warren Low
Costume Design: Edith Head
Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick
Music: Victor Young
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Thelma Jordon), Wendell Corey (Cleve Marshall), Paul Kelly (Miles Scott), Joan Tetzel (Pamela Marshall), Stanley Ridges (Kingsley Willis), Richard Rober (Tony Laredo), Minor Watson (Judge Calvin Blackwell), Barry Kelley (District Attorney Pierce), Laura Elliot (Dolly), Gertrude Hoffman (Aunt Vera Edwards).
BW-100m.

by Margarita Landazuri
The File On Thelma Jordon

The File on Thelma Jordon

The File on Thelma Jordon (1950) was the final film noir of German émigré director Robert Siodmak, who had made his first noir, the richly atmospheric Phantom Lady (1944), on a shoestring and gone on to make such notable noirs as The Killers (1946), The Dark Mirror (1946), and Criss Cross (1949). The File on Thelma Jordon marked the only time Siodmak worked with legendary femme fatale Barbara Stanwyck, in a role that has been described as a more complex version of her Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944). As Thelma, Stanwyck complicates the life of an Assistant District Attorney (Wendell Corey) when she comes to his office late one night to complain about attempted break-ins at the home of her rich aunt. He's in a troubled marriage, and soon the two are having an affair and he's helping her cover up a murder. But unlike the more straightforwardly evil Phyllis Dietrichson, Thelma's motivations and emotions are harder to read. Does she love the hapless D.A., is she using him, or a little of both? Stanwyck, as usual, delivers an intense performance as a woman with a past who is more conflicted than wicked, and for whom it may be too late to change. Producer Hal Wallis, who had made The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Sorry, Wrong Number (1948) with Stanwyck at Paramount, wanted to make another thriller with Stanwyck, and commissioned an original story by Marty Holland, from which Ketti Frings wrote the screenplay for The File on Thelma Jordon. The film was intended for director Otto Preminger who had previously scored a huge hit with Laura (1944) in the same genre, and Stanwyck agreed to the project. It would have been her first film with Preminger. But he turned out to be unavailable, so Siodmak took over. Siodmak and Stanwyck apparently either didn't have much rapport, or she didn't need much help by this point. For whatever reason, they didn't really communicate. As Siodmak later recalled, "Barbara always had the character worked out. Before we started shooting she would be sitting in her chair, her eyes closed and her concentration on the scene she was to play," ignoring the hair and makeup people who fussed over her. "One day, before a very difficult scene, I tried to give her some last minute advice. That was the only time she showed any temper. She brushed me impatiently aside. I didn't mind, for I was sure she knew what she wanted to do," he added without rancor. Strong performances by Stanwyck, Corey, and an excellent supporting cast, along with Siodmak's stylish staging, George Barnes' shadowy, low-key lighting, and Victor Young's dramatic score more than compensated for the film's uneven pace. Particularly effective is the staging of Stanwyck's long walk from the jail through the street to the courthouse. Little seen today, The File on Thelma Jordon is a worthy addition to the noir canon of Siodmak and Stanwyck. Within a few years, Siodmak returned to Europe, and ended his film career in Germany in 1969. He died in 1973. Stanwyck would go on to make several more noirs (Clash by Night [1952], Jeopardy [1953], Crime of Passion [1957]), and worked in films and television until the mid-1980s. She died in 1990. Director: Robert Siodmak Producer: Hal B. Wallis Screenplay: Ketti Frings, based on a story by Marty Holland Cinematography: George Barnes Editor: Warren Low Costume Design: Edith Head Art Direction: Hans Dreier, Earl Hedrick Music: Victor Young Cast: Barbara Stanwyck (Thelma Jordon), Wendell Corey (Cleve Marshall), Paul Kelly (Miles Scott), Joan Tetzel (Pamela Marshall), Stanley Ridges (Kingsley Willis), Richard Rober (Tony Laredo), Minor Watson (Judge Calvin Blackwell), Barry Kelley (District Attorney Pierce), Laura Elliot (Dolly), Gertrude Hoffman (Aunt Vera Edwards). BW-100m. by Margarita Landazuri

Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)


Kenneth Tobey, the sandy-haired, tough-looking American character actor who appeared in over 100 films, but is best remembered as Captain Patrick Hendry in the Sci-Fi classic, The Thing From Another World (1951), died on December 22nd of natural causes at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 86.

Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice.

Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957).

Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole

Kenneth Tobey (1917-2003)

Kenneth Tobey, the sandy-haired, tough-looking American character actor who appeared in over 100 films, but is best remembered as Captain Patrick Hendry in the Sci-Fi classic, The Thing From Another World (1951), died on December 22nd of natural causes at a hospital in Rancho Mirage, California. He was 86. Born in Oakland, California on March 23, 1917, Tobey originally intended to be a lawyer before a stint with the University of California Little Theater changed his mind. From there, he went straight to New York and spent nearly two years studying acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse, where his classmates included Gregory Peck, Eli Wallach and Tony Randall. Throughout the '40s, Tobey acted on Broadway and in stock before relocating to Hollywood. Once there, Tobey soon found himself playing a tough soldier in films like I Was a Male War Bride and Twelve O' Clock High (both 1949); or a tough police officer in Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye and Three Secrets (both 1950). Such roles were hardly surprising, given Tobey's craggy features, unsmiling countenance and rough voice. Needless to say, no-nonsense, authority figures would be Tobey's calling for the remainder of his career; yet given the right role, he had the talent to make it memorable: the smart, likeable Captain Hendrey in The Thing From Another World (1951); the gallant Colonel Jack Evans in the "prehistoric dinosaur attacks an urban center" genre chiller The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953, a must-see film for fans of special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen; and as Bat Masterson, holding his own against Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Television would also offer Tobey much work: he had his own action series as chopper pilot Chuck Martin in Whirlybirds (1957-59); and had a recurring role as Assistant District Attorney Alvin in Perry Mason (1957-66). He would also be kept busy with guest appearances in countless westerns (Gunsmoke, Bonanza, The Virginian) and cop shows (The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones, Ironside) for the next two decades. Most amusingly, the tail end of Tobey's career saw some self-deprecating cameo spots in such contemporary shockers as The Howling (1981); Strange Invaders (1983) and his role reprisal of Captain Hendry in The Attack of the B-Movie Monsters (2002). Tobey is survived by a daughter, two stepchildren, and two grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Notes

The working title of this film was Thelma Jordon, and the film was initially reviewed under that title. According to Hollywood Reporter news items, the scene in the women's prison was shot on location in the Los Angeles County jail, and the courthouse scene was shot at the courthouse in Santa Ana, CA.