Sunday, October 26, 2014


Columbia Pictures, 64m 58s

An adaptation of the Anthony Gilbert novel THE WOMAN IN RED, written for the screen by Muriel Roy Bolton, this rousing B-picture was directed by Joseph H. Lewis, who would go on to direct two of the most deservedly famous film noirsGUN CRAZY (1950) and THE BIG COMBO (1955).

Fire destroys an image of Julia Ross (Nina Foch)
Interestingly, the restoration of Ross involves water

Shot in 18 days on Columbia's backlots, MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS begins properly enough for a noir film, with our protagonist introduced upon rain-soaked streets. Londoner Julia Ross (Nina Foch) is looking for work with a certain sense of desperation. She learns of a secretarial position available with a Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty), who seeks an applicant of unwavering commitment. Ross pledges she has no personal life to speak of that may interfere with her job performance, and agrees to move in with Hughes. Soon after that, the Hughes family leaves London behind for an isolated seaside estate in Cornwall. Ross awakens from a lengthy drug-induced slumber to be greeted as Marion Hughes. Her "husband" Ralph Hughes (George Macready) does not seem to be all there, as he makes a habit of destroying household fixtures with obsessive knifework in repeated displays of symbolic impotence. Sort of makes you wonder what happened to the original Marion Hughes.

The unlucky Ross falls into an extremely dark place through no fault of her own—all she wanted was a job! Her disorientation begins with being drugged, then she must endure being treated as someone she knows very well she is not. MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS anticipates the better-known noir films SORRY, WRONG NUMBER (1948) and SUDDEN FEAR (1952), both of which feature women being targeted by their own husbands. There is also a connection to "walking dead" noir permutations like DETOUR (1945) and DECOY (1946). In terms of setting, MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS involves a woman being menaced within the confines of a gated gothic environment, similar to the same year's THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1945). Ross even encounters a treacherous staircase in a particularly suspenseful sequence (staircase danger is an overused but stylistically bankable noir trope).

A Nosferatu-like presence torments Ross (Nina Foch)

Some traditional elements of the horror narrative come into play in MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, especially in regard to visuals. Cinematographer Burnett Guffey's compositions recurrently emphasize the presence of closed doors, barred windows, elaborate fences, and imprisoning shadows. Guffey would work on a large number of high quality noir productions, including JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947), IN A LONELY PLACE (1950), and THE SNIPER (1952), to name just a few. He teamed with Lewis again on SO DARK THE NIGHT (1946) and THE UNDERCOVER MAN (1949).

A personality oppressed via imagery

A commercial success, MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS likely influenced future noir films with horrific sequences like NIGHTMARE ALLEY (1947) and THE WINDOW (1949), as well as color thrillers that emerged in the '60s, i.e. DIE! DIE! MY DARLING! (1965) and THE COLLECTOR (1965). MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS would be remade as DEAD OF WINTER in 1987.

The noir psychopath usually comes to a bad end, as he does in MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS

Part of the Turner Classic Movies Vault Collection from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, the Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics III 5-disc DVD set contains a 1.33:1 presentation of MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, along with some worthwhile supplemental material.

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