Framed is James M. Cain light. It’s Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice, shaken and stirred. All the ingredients are there, the protagonist, the sap of a guy falling hard for a duplicitous femme fatale who crosses and double crosses anyone who gets in her way. There’s also the dame’s lover, a debonair, adulterous, underhanded white-collar thief masquerading as a model citizen.
Long time studio director, Richard Wallace directs Glenn Ford, playing Mike Lambert, an out of work engineer with a hard drinking problem. He has the unfortunate habit of drinking too much and not remembering what happened afterward. Needless to say, this gets him into deep trouble. When Paula Craig (Janis Carter) first sets her eyes on Lambert, he is in court, given a bum rap for reckless driving. Broke, he cannot afford to pay his $50 fine. Unexpectedly, she coughs up the money to pay the fine. The question arises why is she being so nice to a guy she does not even know? Well, it turns out Paula is looking for a stooge, one to be the fall guy in a plan she and her lover, Bank Vice-President Steve Price (Barry Sullivan), have cooked up. The two are planning to embezzle two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of the bank’s money. Lambert is just about the right size and weight to pass for Price. If Lambert were to have a deadly car “accident” after the robbery, well that would be perfect. The plan begins to go awry when Paula suddenly starts to have feelings for Lambert, and decides to bump off lover boy Price instead.
Paula Craig is one of film noirs forgotten femme fatales. Yet, here she stands as one the most two-faced, treacherous, untrustworthy, deceitful and manipulative woman to grace the celluloid screen. Killing her banker/lover, willing to sacrifice Lambert to the law; for Paula, it is all about the money. Men come easy to a beautiful woman like her, but money, well that’s another story. Fearing Lambert may be able to incriminate her in the murder of Price, she is willing to poison him, only changing her mind once she realizes he was too drunk to remember anything.
Janis Carter gives a convincingly vivid and sexy performance as Paula Craig in a poisonous role that ranks her up there with some of the most treacherous dames in film noir. A tall beautiful, high cheeked boned blonde, Carter runs away with the film. Glenn Ford is well, Glenn Ford, Mr. nice guy only here with a drinking problem. Ford is an actor I sometimes cannot warm up too. Rarely, do I find his performances engaging and he does nothing here to change my mind. Still, there are exceptions in films like Gilda, in which he might just have given his best performance, The Big Heat, The Blackboard Jungle, 3:10 to Yuma, and Jubal. But there are too many other films where he is just lackluster. Other cast members include Edgar Buchanan, who Lambert befriends and who Paula, at one point, attempts to set up as the killer. There is also Karen Morley in a small role as the banker’s wife. However, it’s Carter’s performance that carries this low budget film, raising it above its obvious cut-rate production standards.
Carter’s career was primarily in “B” films with an occasional foray into “A” works. Films included Lady of Burlesque, Miss Grant Takes Richmond, I Marries a Communist, two Whistler films, The Power of the Whistler and The Mark of the Whistler and Night Editor. She also appeared in the Budd Boetticher directed Boston Blackie film, One Mysterious Night, and with John Wayne in Nick Ray’s Flying Leathernecks. In Henry Levin’s hard-boiled Night Editor, one of the most low-down, and dirty noirs, Carter is woman fixated on death, other folks death. It’s to the point where she becomes sexually stimulated right before our eyes. When she and the male protagonist, sitting in a car, watch a man get killed, Carter’s voyeuristic passion rises to almost orgasmic levels. For Night Editor and Framed, Carter deserves to be in the noir hall of fame. In the 1950’s she transitioned into TV, and then pretty much retired from the business by 1955. According to IMDB, she made one more film in 1962. Surprisingly, it was Russ Myers’ Wild Gals of the Wild West.
Framed is based on a story by John Patrick. The screenplay was written by Ben Maddow, whose film writing credits include The Asphalt Jungle, The Mephisto Waltz, The Naked Jungle and Johnny Guitar. The last two were fronted by Philip Jordan when Maddow found himself blacklisted. Maddow also directed the documentary film, The Savage Eye, among others. Additionally, Maddow was a published poet, novelist and later a well know photography critic whose books included a biography of the great west coast photographer, Edward Weston.
This post is my contribution to the 1947 Blogathon. You can find more fine essays at the links below…