A Woman's Vengeance


1h 36m 1948

Brief Synopsis

Country squire Henry Maurier is patient with his wife Emily, a neurotic invalid, but her brother surprises Henry with his young mistress Doris. The same night, Emily dies of her chronic heart disease, and Henry promptly marries Doris, to the chagrin of neighbor Janet Spence, who loves him. When a post-mortem shows that Emily's death was precipitated by arsenic, Henry is placed on trial for his life. But is he guilty?

Film Details

Also Known As
Aldous Huxley's A Woman's Vengeance, Mortal Coils
Release Date
Feb 1948
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Jan 1948
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Monica, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Giaconda Smile" by Aldous Huxley in his Mortal Coils (New York, 1922)

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,788ft

Synopsis

Wealthy, middle-aged English squire Henry Maurier has a bitter quarrel with his querulous, invalid wife Emily, when he finds her giving a check to her no-account brother, Robert Lester. Henry tears up the check and orders Robert from the house, then turns to long-time friend and neighbor, Janet Spence, to help him patch things up with Emily. Janet, who has spent most of her life caring for her arthritic father, General Spence, agrees, but finds that Emily is bitterly cynical about Henry. Janet also talks with Emily's nurse, the man-hating Caroline Braddock, who is contemptuous of Henry's insensitivity toward Emily. Later that evening at a club, Henry meets young Doris Mead, whom he has secretly been romancing for some months, then runs into Robert, who promptly demands money to remain silent. When Henry returns home that night, family physician James Libbard informs him that Emily has died, apparently of a heart attack. Janet is shocked when Henry immediately takes a trip after Emily's death. Upon his return, Janet meets Henry at his home during a violent thunderstorm and when the power goes out, gains the courage to confess she has been in love with him for years. Embarrassed, Henry admits he has married Doris while away and Janet pretends her revelation was only a joke. Later, when Nurse Braddock, angered over Henry giving Doris a broach meant for her, tells Janet she believes Henry murdered Emily, Janet encourages her to report her suspicions to the police. Henry and Doris are called back from their honeymoon and Emily's body is exhumed for an autopsy, which confirms that she was indeed poisoned by arsenic. At the subsequent inquest, Henry's relationship with Doris before Emily's death is revealed, as is Doris' pregnancy and the fact that on the day of Emily's death, Henry purchased a weed killer laced with arsenic. In a moment of guilt and doubt, Doris attempts suicide, but is saved by Dr. Libbard, who believes Henry is innocent. Henry is bound over for trial, found guilty and sentenced to be hanged. When Dr. Libbard notices Janet's increasing strain during and after the trial, and she admits to being plagued by insomnia. Just before the execution, Janet visits Henry in prison and coldly reveals that she murdered Emily hoping he would then marry her. Henry tries to have this reported to the authorities, in vain. The night of the execution, Dr. Libbard, in an attempt to force a confession from Janet, sets the clock forward an hour, and as the time of execution approaches, she breaks down and ultimately confesses in exchange for medication that allows her to sleep. Dr. Libbard telephones the authorities and stops Henry's execution in time.

Film Details

Also Known As
Aldous Huxley's A Woman's Vengeance, Mortal Coils
Release Date
Feb 1948
Premiere Information
New York opening: 29 Jan 1948
Production Company
Universal-International Pictures Co., Inc.
Distribution Company
Universal Pictures Company, Inc.
Country
United States
Location
Santa Monica, California, United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the short story "The Giaconda Smile" by Aldous Huxley in his Mortal Coils (New York, 1922)

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 36m
Sound
Mono
Color
Black and White
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.37 : 1
Film Length
8,788ft

Articles

Rachel Kempson, 1910-2003


Rachel Kempson, the matriarch of the Redgrave acting dynasty, and a notable performer of the stage and screen in her own right, died on May 24 of natural causes at the home of her granddaughter, the actress Natasha Richardson in Millbrook, New York. She was 92. Her family of performers included Kempson's late husband, Sir Michael Redgrave, children Vanessa, Lynn and Corin Redgrave, and granddaughters Natasha and Joely Richardson.

Born on May 28, 1910, in Dartmouth, England, Kempson longed for a career in acting. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and made her professional stage debut in 1932 at the legendary Stratford-on-Avon Theater in the lead of Romeo and Juliet. She went on to perform with such distinguished theatrical companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the English Stage Company and the Old Vic. In 1935 she was asked to star in the Liverpool Repertory production of Flowers of the Forest. Her leading man was Michael Redgrave, one of the top actors of his generation. Within a few weeks they fell in love and were married on July 18, 1935.

Kempson took a break for the next few years, to give birth to her three children: Vanessa, Corin and Lynn, but by the mid '40s, she came back to pursue her career in both stage and screen. She began to appear in some films with her husband: Basil Dearden's The Captive Heart (1946); and Lewis Gilbert's tough war drama The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954). She hit her stride as a character actress in the '60s with a string of good films: Tony Richardson's (at the time her son-in-law) hilarious, award-winning Tom Jones (1963); Silvio Narizzano's classic comedy Georgy Girl (1966) starring her daughter, Lynn; and John Dexter's underrated anti-war film The Virgin Soldiers (1969), again with Lynn. In the '80s Kempson had two strong roles: Lady Manners in the epic British television series The Jewel in the Crown (1984); and as Lady Belfield in Sydney Pollack's hit Out of Africa (1985), starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.

Kempson had been in semi-retirement after the death of her husband, Sir Michael in 1985. She made her last film appearance in Henry Jaglom's romantic Deja vu (1998) poignantly playing the mother to her real life daughter Vanessa. Kempson is survived by her three children and 10 grandchildren.

by Michael T. Toole
Rachel Kempson, 1910-2003

Rachel Kempson, 1910-2003

Rachel Kempson, the matriarch of the Redgrave acting dynasty, and a notable performer of the stage and screen in her own right, died on May 24 of natural causes at the home of her granddaughter, the actress Natasha Richardson in Millbrook, New York. She was 92. Her family of performers included Kempson's late husband, Sir Michael Redgrave, children Vanessa, Lynn and Corin Redgrave, and granddaughters Natasha and Joely Richardson. Born on May 28, 1910, in Dartmouth, England, Kempson longed for a career in acting. She trained as an actress at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London and made her professional stage debut in 1932 at the legendary Stratford-on-Avon Theater in the lead of Romeo and Juliet. She went on to perform with such distinguished theatrical companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company, the English Stage Company and the Old Vic. In 1935 she was asked to star in the Liverpool Repertory production of Flowers of the Forest. Her leading man was Michael Redgrave, one of the top actors of his generation. Within a few weeks they fell in love and were married on July 18, 1935. Kempson took a break for the next few years, to give birth to her three children: Vanessa, Corin and Lynn, but by the mid '40s, she came back to pursue her career in both stage and screen. She began to appear in some films with her husband: Basil Dearden's The Captive Heart (1946); and Lewis Gilbert's tough war drama The Sea Shall Not Have Them (1954). She hit her stride as a character actress in the '60s with a string of good films: Tony Richardson's (at the time her son-in-law) hilarious, award-winning Tom Jones (1963); Silvio Narizzano's classic comedy Georgy Girl (1966) starring her daughter, Lynn; and John Dexter's underrated anti-war film The Virgin Soldiers (1969), again with Lynn. In the '80s Kempson had two strong roles: Lady Manners in the epic British television series The Jewel in the Crown (1984); and as Lady Belfield in Sydney Pollack's hit Out of Africa (1985), starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. Kempson had been in semi-retirement after the death of her husband, Sir Michael in 1985. She made her last film appearance in Henry Jaglom's romantic Deja vu (1998) poignantly playing the mother to her real life daughter Vanessa. Kempson is survived by her three children and 10 grandchildren. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Some women cry as easily as a pig grunts. And enjoy it very nearly as much.
- Dr. Libbard

Trivia

Notes

The working titles of this film were Mortal Coils and Vengeance. The film's title card reads: "Aldous Huxley's A Woman's Vengeance. According to production notes, Huxley's short story was inspired by an actual murder trial, in which a Welsh barrister was acquitted of the poison murder of his wife. Portions of the film were shot on location at the Riviera Country Club in Santa Monica, California. Charles Boyer and Ann Blyth repeated their performances in a Lux Radio Theatre broadcast of A Woman's Vengeance on March 22, 1948. Aldous Huxley wrote and produced a play based on his short story, The Giaconda Smile, which opened in London in June 1948, starring Clive Brooks as "Henry Maurier" and Pamela Brown as "Janet Spence."