The Accused

Film noir never seems to go out of fashion. Sure it has seen its box office power ebb and flow somewhat since its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s but movie fans keep coming back to it and if the number of articles, books and releases are anything to go by, its popularity remains strong. Is there then some paradox at work that sees something retaining popularity when at heart it relies on dark and/or pessimistic themes? Is it the cautionary tale aspect of it all that draws viewers, that vicarious thrill which comes from seeing others experience the dangers? Or is it the fact that noir is not so much dependent on the depiction (and the exploitation) of bad luck as on poor decisions? I feel it’s difficult to actively enjoy or take pleasure in witnessing bad luck, even the fictitious variety. However, looking at characters making poor or unwise choices is a different matter, not requiring one to indulge in something as distasteful as schadenfreude. The Accused (1949) is a classic film noir where the lead finds herself drawn into a typically dark vortex by her poor judgement and questionable decision making.

In characteristically noir style The Accused opens with a sense of urgent desperation. A woman is trying to put some distance between herself and what looks like something ugly. She is Wilma Tuttle (Loretta Young), a psychology professor, and after she stumbles guiltily along the highway, cadges a ride from a helpful truck driver and finally makes it back to her apartment, we learn via a brief flashback sequence about those bad decisions. Disoriented, disheveled and distraught, she mumbles to herself how her life has crumbled in less than twenty-four hours, and the image dissolves, pulling us back into the past. A provocative student Bill Perry (Douglas Dick) has developed something more than a crush on the professor yet instead of sticking to her guns professionally and passing the matter on to the dean she not only accepts a ride home from this guy (she’d missed her bus), but ends up sharing a meal with him and then a detour to the cliffs above the ocean. Here Perry assaults her and, in an effort to defend herself, Wilma Tuttle bludgeons her assailant to death. Those rotten choices keep on coming: rather than do the sensible thing and report the incident, she tries to cover it up, to fake a fall and subsequent drowning, and of course make it look as though she’d never been near the spot in question. At first, it seems she may get away with it, the inquest returns a verdict of accidental death after all. However, Perry’s dissatisfied guardian San Fracisco lawyer Warren Ford (Robert Cummings) has his doubts, as does the doggedly persistent Lieutenant Dorgan (Wendell Corey). While the net of suspicion draws inexorably tighter, Wilma allows her attraction to Ford to develop into a full-on romance, a situation requiring more delicate decisions to be taken by all concerned.

Having generally enjoyed Red Mountain, I find I’m on a bit of a William Dieterle kick just now. I liked his handling of the western setting but I think it’s fair to say that The Accused, with its dark melodama and a script by Ketti Frings (Foxfire) represented more comfortable territory. The pacing is well judged, hooking the viewer right away and adding developments and complications in sufficient numbers and at appropriate intervals to keep the tension simmering without allowing it to boil over or become unnecessarily confusing. In terms of visuals, Milton Krasner’s cinematography switches smoothly between the brighly lit outdoor scenes where all feels well and the characters are correspondingly open and moodily rendered interiors where ambiguity makes its home. There is also a strong emphasis on mirrors and reflections throughout; this particular motif shows up time and again and alludes to the differing images presented by the characters – the faces they present to the world and those they present to themselves. As a result, there is a constant sense of duality and even duplicity as none of the principals fully reveal themselves to others.

Apparently, The Accused was originally planned as a vehicle for Barbara Stanwyck. Now, anyone who has spent any time browsing this site will know that I hold Stanwyck in the highest regard, I’ve always liked her work and admire her versatility. However, the role of Wilma Tuttle called for someone who could convincingly portray a woman whose judgement is almost perpetually in question, whose vulnerability will constantly overide her intelligence. I can’t see Stanwyck pulling that off successfully, there was forever a sense of resourcefulness just beneath the surface that would have made it a tough sell. In contrast, Loretta Young had that doe-eyed trustfulness about her, so somehow it doesn’t feel like such a leap to see her repeatedly taking the wrong turn.

Robert Cummings gets the slick likeability of his part across well. He’s smooth and polished, sure of himself and solid enough to provide an emotional crutch for Young. He comes into his own particularly in the third act when, in the wake of a well staged and shot boxing bout which reveals much, he confronts and accepts the truth and really grows in stature. Wendell Corey’s cop is fine too. There’s a trace of cynicism which feels right for a man in his position and he also does  good line in self-awareness, a smidgen of doomed romanticism sharing space with a barely concealed dissatisfaction with the kind of things his job forces him to do. In support Douglas Dick is creepily effective as the victim, while Sam Jaffe is just about what you expect a forensic scientist ought to look and behave like. Finally, both Sara Allgood and Mickey Knox make brief but very welcome appearances.

The Accused was released in the US as part of the Universal Vault MOD prorgram, and it can be found in various European countries too, looking OK but showing room for improvement.  I understand it’s due a Blu-ray upgrade via Kino in the near future so that might be worth bearing in mind. This is the kind of noir melodrama I generally respond to, it’s well cast, stylishly directed and smartly written. What’s not to like?

43 thoughts on “The Accused

  1. Hi, Colin – another one for my wish list: it sounds a classic noir. Was very interested in your comments about the casting of Young instead of Stanwyck. Like you, I think Stanwyck is an exceptional actress, capable of playing any kind of role. But I have also come to esteem Young’s abilities. I had thought she was always playing the sweet, charming beauty such as her role in THE BISHOP’S WIFE but I recently saw her in the tidy thriller CAUSE FOR ALARM in which a new, harder side to her persona emerges. I can’t wait to see her in THE ACCUSED.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Colin
    Nice work as always. Saw it once years ago on a rather beat up vhs taken from a tv broadcast. It is back on my re-watch list. Never could decide if Miss Young was a real actress or just a pretty face. The more of her stuff I see I must say I am now leaning to the former.

    Gord

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  3. I was looking forward to watching “The Accused” but the only print I can find is not quite watchable. Unfortunately, I can’t get it from the library. I guess I’ll watch “The Turning Point” for my Dieterle fix.

    By the way, I did some research on Douglas Dick and noticed that though he lived until 2015, his filmography ended in 1971. Reading his bio on IMDB, I learned that he earned a PhD in Psychology in 1971 and then practiced psychotherapy until 2003. Who knows, maybe his role as a psychology student in “The Accused” sparked his interest in the field.

    Off-topic, but I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite Tyrone Power movies, “Nightmare Alley”, has been remade by Guillermo del Toro and is due to be released in December. It has an impressive cast but the trailer doesn’t lead me to believe that del Toro’s film will make me forget the 1947 version.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I’ve yet to check out the trailer but will do so shortly. As for remakes in general, I like to think that one of their advantages, particularly when they are remakes of good movies to begin with, is the fact they help to raise the profile of (or even inform people who may have been entirely unaware of the existence of) the original film. Even if they turn out poorly, and that is often true, the original still exists and its quality will not be dimmed.

        Liked by 1 person

    • That’s too bad the film is difficult for you to access. The current DVDs are OK but not perfect, I imagine the forthcoming Blu-ray will be much better and this is a film where a good visual presentation helps a lot.

      I knew of the remake of Nightmare Alley but that’s about all – the original is, of course, superb.

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  4. You always write such fine reviews, Colin, as good as any professional critic, and I was reminded of the quality of your reviews by this one, The Accused. (making me want to re-watch this one though I’m not a Loretta Young fan).
    As a fellow blogger, I find film reviews the most difficult for me , but you ( and Laura of Laurasmiscmusings) are always so good.
    So bask in some praise, you deserve it!

    Liked by 5 people

  5. This sounds great. I always need to be reminded about Loretta Young, who is never my first for anything but in fact is usually very dependable. I was always a fan of Dieterle wither for his biopics at Warners or his later fantasy films like THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER and PORTRAIT OF JENNIE – very curious about this now. Thanks chum.

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    • There is an Italian DVD out there, but the new Blu-ray will almost certainly surpass all the versions currently circulating.
      I like Dieterle, at least anything I’ve seen of his work, and I might even feature another of his movies next time – but we’ll have to wait and see.

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  6. My films for this weekend are…
    1-NEWS OF THE WORLD 2020 First time watch for this Tom Hanks western.
    2- DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD 1954 A re-watch of this Mickey Rooney noir.
    3- ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC 1943 Always liked this Bogart, Ray Massey Alan Hale flag waver from Warner Brothers.
    Plus I will work in a few episodes of THE RIFLEMAN

    Have a good weekend all!!!!

    Gord

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  7. I agree with Vienna – a very fine and well-written review, Colin.

    Like Sergio, Loretta Young is not an obvious choice to follow for me – and yet……whenever I do see one of her films I am impressed with her believability in the roles I have caught her in. Today, I watched “CHINA” (1943) which starred her with Alan Ladd and she was real, a flesh-and-blood character.

    I saw “THE ACCUSED” quite recently actually and enjoyed it very much. One can tut-tut at the crassness of some of her character’s choices in the story but who knows how we would act in certain panic situations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jerry. You make an excellent point about the character’s choices. The film never invites us to sit in judgement, the situaton is merely laid out and the choices and decisions presented and followed through on. We can observe them and see how they’re leading her deeper into the mire but, as you say, they are not inconsistent with the way many of us might behave in a panic.

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  8. My films for this weekend were…
    1-NEWS OF THE WORLD 2020 First time watch for this Tom Hanks western. This is a well done tale of redemption. An excellent story, fine acting and wonderful cinematography. I will not say anything about the story. See it if you have yet to. Solid film.

    2- DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD 1954 A re-watch of this Mickey Rooney noir really hit the spot. I had forgotten most of the story from my decades ago first viewing. .Well done right down the line.

    3- ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC 1943 A first rate Bogart, Ray Massey and Alan Hale flag waver from Warner Brothers. They seemed to have crammed every Warner’s supporting player into a role here. The film follows a US cargo ship as they combat Nazi subs and aircraft. Lots of action.

    Gord .

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    • For myself, as well as taking in more by William Dieterle, I viewed Dario Argento’s The Cat o’ Nine Tails. I’m not that well up on the whole Giallo genre but I thought this mystery with its nods to Hitchcock and Chandler was reasonably entertaining.

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      • Colin
        I have have seen two or three Argento films. i must admit, that while stylish, they seemed a tad hollow story wise. LOL It was back when a few too many vodkas were consumed while video watching, so that might have affected my opinion.. Time for another look.at them.
        Gordon

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    • Hi, Gord – I agree with your take on the two movies from your list that I have seen: NEWS and DRIVE. For my weekend treat, I decided I wanted to watch one of my favourite classic Westerns. Tossed up between three I have watched many times: SHANE, THE MAN FROM LARAMIE AND SEVEN MEN FROM NOW. I settled on SEVEN and, as always, was left marvelling at its quality. Such economy of storytelling by the Director and such a crisp, smart script.

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      • 3 terrific westerns to choose from, Steve! “SEVEN MEN FROM NOW” has to be in my Top 10 favourite westerns (trouble is my Top 10 has about 30 films in it!!).

        My weekend viewing was:
        1) “UNDERGROUND” (1941) a Warners film showing Americans (this before Pearl Harbor) the terrors that were unfolding in Europe. No big name stars but quite powerful stuff.
        2) “CROSSROADS” (1942) a well-made and acted story from MGM with William Powell in a more serious role than we might expect. And Hedy Lamarr looks just beautiful.
        3) “THE PRICE OF FEAR” (1956) a gripping story from Universal-International and starring Merle Oberon and Lex Barker.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I always considered Bogart’s “Across the Pacific” (1942), “Action in the North Atlantic” (1943) and “Passage to Marseille” (1944) to be a wartime trilogy of sorts. I like all three with Passage being my favorite followed closely behind with Pacific.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Coming up on cable here is…
    ALL NIGHT LONG UK 1962 Patrick McGoohan, Richard Attenborough directed Basil Dearden
    DETECTIVE STORY 1951 kirk Douglas
    WILD STALLION 1952 Edgar Buchanan, Ben Johnson
    TENSION AT TABLE ROCK 1956 Cameron Mitchell, Richard Egan
    THE YOUNG GUNS 1956 Russ Tamblyn, Gloria Talbot
    THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE 1964 Stephen Boyd, Sophia Loren, Christopher Plummer Have never seen this though I know it has a big following on RTHC.
    HELL BOUND 1957 Stuart Whitman, John Russell A nifty little noir
    HIS MAJESTY O’KEEFE 1953 Burt Lancaster
    M 1931 Peter Lorre, Fritz Lang

    Gord

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    • I just watched “The Fall of the Roman Empire”. Vilified by the critics and a bust at the box office when it came out in 1964, it has gained in stature over the years with some critics revising their earlier opinions. I think it is a remarkable film. I watched a video extra on the elaborate steps the production and design crew took in constructing the massive exterior set for Rome (not to mention the fortune Bronston spent on it.) Anthony Mann wanted an authentic look.

      “M” is a “10” in my book – a great film that deserves the accolades it has garnered over the years.

      I never watched all of “All Night Long” but what I saw, I was impressed. It’s going on my watch list.

      “Tension at Table Rock” looks intriguing — that goes on my watch list as well. If I recall correctly, Charles Laughton said that the boy, Billy Chapin, was an intuitive and gifted actor. Laughton worked with him on “The Night of the Hunter”.

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      • Surely The Fall of the Roman Empire is due a more widespread critical reappraisal? Its stock has risen some but it really ought to be lauded much more.

        I’ve wanted to see Tension at Table Rock for a long time now – there never seems to be a decent version of it available though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I watched “Tension at Table Rock” today. The print wasn’t perfect but once you got past the opening night scenes, it was watchable. What a surprisingly good movie! Again, this is another title that I can’t understand why it has been ignored by the critics. Rather than give a synopsis of the plot, let me say that the film is driven by an act of character assassination and explores the themes of ostracism, cowardice, and redemption. The film asks if a man can be free and at peace while living a lie. It moves along at a tense pace and never bogs down. Dimitri Tiomkin’s score is somewhat muted but it complements the film nicely. Richard Egan and Cameron Mitchell both excel in their roles. Edward Andrews oozes slime as an unscrupulous business owner and Angie Dickonson has a small but pivotal role as a scorned woman who ruins a man’s reputation.

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  10. It was nice to see mention of NEWS OF THE WORLD above. It’s surprising to be able to praise a recent Western (let alone one starring Tom Hanks) but this is an excellent movie that can hold up its head with the best of the genre. It’s also surprising that it’s been so little mentioned on blogs such as this where the Western is held in such high esteem. Another new movie well worth your time is Clint Eastwood’s CRY MACHO, in which the Great Man is even seen briefly on horseback (he also sports an mean Stetson). A far better picture than the faintly ridiculous THE MULE. Something of a return to form for the old boy, so (we are led to believe) can still kick ass at 91.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Just a few days ago before Frank’s comments above, I had selected The Magnificent 7, The Great Escape, The Adventures of Robin Hood and The Fall Of The Roman Empire for re-viewing! Guess what, I settled for the latter. I agree with Frank and your goodself that I enjoyed it better than when I first saw it more than half a century ago. At that time I could not accept Plummer in his role therein, but now i found he is ok.

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  12. To return to “on topic” for a while at least,
    THE ACCUSED is a new one for me and Colin’s fine
    write up means that it’s a must for Noir addicts.
    To now go “off topic” well everybody else has…..
    I thought I’d draw attention to Umbrella Entertainment
    out of Australia.
    They have been in the Blu Ray/DVD market for many years
    now but have only recently been releasing vintage films on Blu Ray.
    They have started,recently an on going series of double bills,
    mostly,but not all from the Columbia vaults.
    Already out is a Jack Arnold double bill of THE INCREDIDBLE
    SHRINKING MAN coupled with TARANTULA!
    I understand later they have paired THE DEADLY MANTIS with
    THE MONOLITH MONSTERS.
    Those titles,of course are Universal releases and I must admit a strong
    liking for THE MONOLITH MONSTERS one of the best and most underrated
    of the Universal 50’s Sci Fi/Monster boom.
    Regarding Columbia there’s a Vincent Price double THE TINGLER/
    THE MAD MAGICIAN.
    Also Umbrella have a true stories double bill I AIM AT THE STARS/
    MAN ON A STRING. I’m not too sure regarding the first title but
    MAN ON A STRING is one of the few Andre de Toth movies that
    I’ve never seen.
    Early next month there is an interesting Bogart double bill
    TOKYO JOE/KNOCK ON ANY DOOR both films of which I’ve never
    seen.
    Just out is a Boxing double REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT/
    THE HARDER THEY FALL.
    The Bogart classic was a wonderful swan song for the actor,
    like John Wayne and Randolph Scott he went out on a really high note.
    REQUEIM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT I have never seen before and I must
    admit it’s a knockout (sorry!)
    Ralph Nelson’s Cinema Verite style is in stark contrast to Mark Robson’s
    “classical” direction.
    REQUIEM begins with an astonishing extended POV (Point of View)
    sequence where we see Cassius Clay end Anthony Quinn’s boxing career
    from Quinn’s point of view. That’s it for the boxing footage in the film.
    The rest of the movie is set on the mean city streets and inside
    interiors that often have a crumbling decadence about them.
    I’d forgotten what a great actress Julie Harris was-her social worker
    role is like a rose in a sewer in this movie.
    The shattering climax of the film is like a freak show in every sense of the word.
    I cannot recall an uglier version of America since Joseph Losey’s version of M
    (which I’m a huge admirer of-and when are we going to get a fully restored
    version of that I may ask)
    THE HARDER THEY FALL is an equally powerful film and despite having seen it
    on the big screen several times I’m delighted to now have it in my
    collection thanks to Umbrella in this spiffing double bill.

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    • Great to hear from you, John, and I hope you’re doing well. I must get back to featuring some Sci-Fi now that you’ve mentioned some.

      Those double bills sound interesting, especially The Tingler/The Mad Magician, and depending on price might be an alternative to some of the very costly Indicator releases. Thos Bogart titles you mention may be on the way from Indicator too, I think the Ray movie has been mentioned a few times. It’s not one of the director’s better efforts though nd Im generally not a fan of Bogart’s later Columbia work. In a Lonely Place is the cream, Dead Reckoning is diverting enough and The Harder They Fall is a pretty good exit. I’m not a fan of the rest of his output at the studio though.

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  13. Films for this weekend include…
    Marlene Dietrich, ma- La main du diable 1943 A man, Pierre Fresnay, buys devil’s hand talisman with his soul. Needless to say this ,might not have been a great idea. A pal told me this is worth a watch so I will be giving it a first time viewing,,

    2- Witness for the Prosecution 1957 Tyrone Power, Charles Laughton Marlene Dietrich and Elsa Lancaster star in this Billy Wilder courtroom drama. Seen it a half dozen times and it never fails to entertain.

    3- Tall Man Riding 1955 Randolph Scott, Peggy Castle, Dorothy Malone, John Dehner and Paul Richards. Directed by Lesley Sealander. Seen it before but figure a re-watch never hurts.

    Have a great weekend all.
    Gord.

    Like

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