The Lady Refuses (1931)

john grant2Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

In London, Sir Gerald Courtney (Emery), desperate to get his son Russell (Darrow) out of the clutches of drink and unsubtle gold-digger Berthine Waller (Livingston), hires tyro prostitute June (Compson) to lure him away from Berthine and onto the path of virtue. The plan seems to work well: Russell dumps Berthine, sobers up, stops partying, and starts to do well in his profession of architect. But there are problems, too: although June thinks she and Russell are just good pals, he’s fallen in love with her; meanwhile, June and Sir Gerald have become enamored of each other. When June tells Russell the truth, he has a relapse, finally passing out from drink on her bed. Next morning, Berthine is discovered in Russell’s flat, murdered ‑‑ in fact by her jealous lover and partner-in-crime Nikolai Rabinoff (Lebedeff) ‑‑ and Russell is the cops’ Suspect #1. While Russell, Sir Gerald and the family lawyer Sir James (Hobbes) discuss strategy, June arrives and gives Russell the alibi he craves: he was in her apartment all night. Sir Gerald immediately assumes the worst . . . just the way he’d promised her he would never do.

The movie starts as a light romantic drama/comedy, lurches into more powerful drama and only in the final act ‑‑ with the murder and the exposure of upper-class social hypocrisy ‑‑ does it begin to seem a little more noirish. The ending is very noirish indeed: June, having ripped up the check Sir Gerald gave her for saving Russell, is back on the streets, just where she began; the nihilism is tempered, however, by the knowledge that a thoroughly repentant Sir Gerald has promised he’ll find her wherever she might be.

Keep reading this entry on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers. With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.



Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, the trade book division of Hal Leonard Corporations, publishes books on the performing arts under the imprints Hal Leonard Books, Backbeat Books, Amadeus Press, and Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.

Posted on September 13, 2013, in Film & TV and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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