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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers


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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

 

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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a very strange movie but exceptionally well done.

 

Barbara Stanwyck .... Martha Ivers

Van Heflin .... Sam Masterson

Lizabeth Scott .... Antonia 'Toni' Marachek

Kirk Douglas .... Walter O'Neil

 

Barbara Stanwyck two years earlier proved she could be the ultimate Femme Fatale in the film Double Indemnity and here once again she does a superb job as the vixen.

 

The movie starts out in 1928 when Martha Ivers was just a young teen running away from her cruel Grandmother. A young Sam Masterson is helping her but they are caught. Martha is returned to her home and a confrontation ensues that shows just how cruel her Grandmother can be. Walter O'Neil and his father show up trying to manipulate their way into gaining favors from the wealthy Mrs. Ivers. Martha goes upstairs with Walter bringing her cat and a storm causes the lights to go out. Mrs. Ivers hates cats and the cat was working it's way downstairs and Martha is trying to get Walter to fetch the cat but Mrs. Ivers hears and comes to investigate. When she sees the cat she Starts striking the cat with her cane and killing it and Martha in her rage grabs Mrs. Ivers cane from her and knocks her over the head and kills her. Martha lies about what happened and how she killed her claiming she had fallen when some man had entered the house and attacked her and left out the open front door (This proves significant to the plot later in the story).

 

Jumping 17 years forward we now find Martha all grown up and Walter is now her husband. We also find Sam Masterson passing through his old hometown when he has a car wreck that delays him in the town for several days. During the time he meets Toni Maracheck who has just been released from a five year jail term. She manipulates herself into his care and help.

 

During the last 17 years the Ivers family has continued to have a lot of power but Martha has been locked into a marriage to a man she didn't love because he knew the truth of what had happened 17 years earlier.

 

The script is really well written and directed. The acting is top notch for this genre. Kirk Douglas makes his screen debut and what a debut it is!

 

The above cannot begin to do justice to this fine film but if you enjoy Film Noir than this is a must see. 3 1/2 out of 4 stars

 

Kevin

If you love classic films then why not come and join the Golden Age of Hollywood Message Board?

http://www.goldenageofhollywood.com

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I agree with you, Kevin. on the 3 1/2 star rating. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is one of my favorite noirs. Funny thing, though. The more I've seen it, the more I prefer the Lizabeth Scott-Van Heflin subplot to the main story. Once I knew the secret of the plot, I became less interested in the Martha and Walter story, impatiently waiting for Sam to meet Toni, and losing interest when their scenes are over.

 

This is not to denigrate Stanwyck's or Douglas's performances in any way. They were both brilliant. It's just that while the script is generally excellent, it does veer a bit toward soap opera in the scenes where Martha and Walter are a bickering, unhappily-married couple. It is interesting to see Douglas cast against type as a villain even if he does chew the scenery a bit in his debut. Stanwyck plays her patented villainess persona to the hilt, and that's always a treat. No one does a bad girl better than Stanwyck.

 

Still, I prefer the more realistic-seeming characters of Sam and Toni, played in low-key, natural style by Heflin and Scott, to the high-voltage melodramatics of Martha and Walter. My favorite scene is the one in the hotel, in which Toni borrows a cigarette from Sam in return for a book, "as long as you don't care what kind of book it is." Toni's character reveals the vulnerability underneath the tough girl veneer, and this tender scene never fails to move me.

 

Oh, by the way, I believe that the Mrs. Ivers character, played by Judith Anderson in grand "Mrs. Danvers" style, was actually Martha's aunt.

 

Midge

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Hi Kevin & Midge,

 

I recall seeing this movie on TV years ago, but I have a question for either of you....

 

Is Judith Anderson in this picture? And, does Barbara Stanwyck throw a nailfile through her eye in it?

I seem to recall such a scene with these two, but is this the movie it occurs in??

 

Thanks.

 

Larry

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Larry,

 

Sorry I didn't realize that there was a response to this thread until Midge emailed me saying she tried to respond to you but the board would not let her post. Instead of giving a response I will post what she wrote:

 

"The answer is that Martha strikes Mrs. Ivers with a cane, which causes her to fall down a staircase to her death. And yes, Judith Anderson is in the film. She plays

Mrs. Ivers."

 

Hope this helps you!

 

Kevin

http://www.goldenageofhollywood.com

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Hey Mongo,

 

Thanks for the info. I should have known to ask you; you really should be given a job with TCM as Information Officer Emeritus......

 

So it was scissors that Barbara threw at Judith. I remember that my mother told me years ago that when she was in grade one, a girl threw a nailfile at another girl in the school yard and put the child's eye out. So, I got all my stories mixed up!!

My brain is mush......

 

Thanks again.

 

Larry

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