Teatro Auditorium Manzoni > 16:40


Lewis Milestone


Thursday 27/08/2020


Original version with subtitles


Film Notes

Birth of a ‘dark lady’, one stormy night. Little more than a child, Martha murders her rich and hateful aunt with a blow from a walking stick, the same stick the old lady was using to kill a kitten. Next to her is a trembling little boy. The end of childhood, a shared secret, an inheritance. Eighteen years later, Martha has become Barbara Stanywck, a proud captain of industry now 30 times richer than her aunt ever was. The place where everything happened is named Iverstown after her and, even if it not as vulgar and distressing as the Pottersville emerging from James Stewart’s nightmare in It’s a Wonderful Life (made the same year, 1946, when the war was over and someone had returned to an unrecognisable country), it is certainly not an agreeable place, with its smoky skyline of gasometers and tall furnaces. Martha, married to that trembling boy, now an alcoholic lawyer (the bravely miscast Kirk Douglas), is not a happy woman. Noir, melodrama and woman’s film, Martha Ivers is filled with the unease and menace that permeate so many American films of the period; with the suspicion that the pillars of society, capital and marriage, could be based on the suppression of a crime. Yet the narrative of Martha Ivers is unusual. Something does not add up. Martha’s adolescent love, her companion in so many failed getaways, reappears and we expect their old flame, promptly renewed, will climb some wuthering height. But Van Heflin, with his gambler on-a-losing-streak face, knows too much of the world by now and can’t pretend he’s a Heathcliff any more… so we quickly realise that everything is leading us to a different story, to a different couple, glimpsed as soon as Lizabeth Scott has revealed her luminous little face and long legs, seated next to her suitcase on the steps of a young women’s boarding house. According to Hollywood gossip it went this way because the powerful Hal B. Wallis was in love with Scott and wanted to give her role more relevance and more close-ups with every passing day; the fact remains that this sinuous narrative detour is what makes Martha Ivers a memorable film. Paramount deployed the best team that 1946 Hollywood could muster, above all Victor Milner and Hans Dreier, and even if he was in a permanent bad mood, Lewis Milestone coordinated everything with great elegance. So we welcome this restoration capable of giving us back those shafts of light on mahogany walls, those faces shrouded in darkness and desperation, that blonde hair swirling in the wind of a finally successful getaway.

Paola Cristalli

Cast and Credits

Sog.: da una storia originale di John Patrick. Scen.: Robert Rossen. F.: Victor Milner. M.: Archie Marshek. Scgf.: Hans Dreier, John Meehan. Mus.: Miklos Rozsa. Int.: Barbara Stanwyck (Martha Ivers), Van Heflin (Sam Masterson), Lizabeth Scott (Toni Maracek), Kirk Douglas (Walter O’Neill), Judith Anderson (Miss Ivers), Roman Bohnen (Mr. O’Neill), Darryl Hickman (Sam da ragazzo), Janis Wilson (Martha da ragazza), Ann Doran (Bobbi St. John), Frank Orth (impiegato dell’hotel). Prod.: Hal Wallis Productions. DCP. Bn.