Caught (1949)

(Image: moovidadb.com)

(Image: moovidadb.com)

Young model Leonora Eames  (Barbara Bel Geddes) thinks she’s found the perfect life when she marries Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan), who is terribly rich.

But Leonora finds that she’s getting more than she bargained for when Smith reveals himself as a harsh and power-hungry man after they’ve wed.

Leonora won’t stay with him, but he won’t divorce her, so she leaves her plush life and takes a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office on the lower east side, where she finds comfort in the friendship of Dr. Larry Quinada (James Mason).

But Leonora’s new life is barely beginning to settle when her estranged husband begins to take control of her again.

Max Ophuls directs 1949’s Caught, a noir-drama of marriage gone wrong. The film is based on the novel Wild Calendar by Libbie Block. The characterization of Smith Ohlrig is reportedly based on Howard Hughes. Ophuls held a grudge against Hughes after being fired from 1950’s Vendetta.

The performances that are drawn from the actors in this film are very natural. (In other words, Ophuls: 1, Hughes: 0.) Believable delivery, particularly from the three leads, allows the viewer to get wrapped up in the story quite easily.

Barbara Bel Geddes gives me Joan Fontaine vibes during quite a few scenes in her performance as Leonora Eames, and James Mason is impressive, not overshadowing his leading lady but playing very well opposite her.

Also a positive is the beautiful cinematography. Wonderful shadows, deep contrast and interestingly diverse shots/shot sequences make the film worth watching for its visual merit alone. It’s a very nice-looking noir.

Though the performances are solid and there is quite a bit of drama going on, the film isn’t as engrossing as it could have been, particularly in the first half. The storyline has potential for high emotion from beginning to end, but it takes the film a while to build up to that potential.

Luckily, it picks up a bit when Mason enters the picture and picks up even more as it progresses from there. It could be higher on drama throughout, but electing to go a bit understated rather than over-the-top generally works well for the film.

A tale of jealousy, romantic complication and the troubles of life in general is effectively portrayed in this film, and there are many elements of the story that would be relatable to nearly any viewer, though of course most of us don’t go through such extreme struggles as Leonora does in her marriage (thankfully!).

Caught delivers quite an unexpected shock near the end. The film doesn’t wind up how I expected it to for all of the characters, which gives it a boost, making the score: 3.5/5.

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