The Locket (1946)

(Image: jumpingfrog.com)
(Image: jumpingfrog.com)

John Willis (Gene Raymond) is happily engaged to a woman named Nancy (Laraine Day), who seems like she’ll make the perfect wife.

But just before the wedding ceremony is set to take place, John is visited by a man named Dr. Harry Blair (Brian Aherne) who claims to be Nancy’s ex-husband.

Harry tells John a twisted tale that paints Nancy as a liar and life-ruiner who has taken down many a man before (including Robert Mitchum, in the character of Norman Clyde).

But as the clock ticks toward the wedding ceremony, John questions whether Harry is telling the truth – and wonders what lies in store for him if Harry isn’t lying.

“Her mysterious secret wrecked three men’s lives! Not love, not money… but a haunting hunger drove her to lie, cheat, steal. Why? It’s the strangest secret ever told!” in 1946’s The Locket, directed by John Brahm.

Sheridan Gibney penned the script for this twisty film noir, which appeared last month on TCM as one of the Movie Morlocks guest programmer picks.

The Locket features a very unique structure of flashbacks upon flashbacks as Harry reveals the secrets of Nancy’s past. This technique is highly effective, constantly keeping the viewer guessing but never becoming confusing because the narration always keeps the plot on track. It’s an extremely clever way to structure the action.

(Image: cinemotions.com)
(Image: cinemotions.com)

But before the flashbacks begin, Nancy is thrown under the bus by Harry (figuratively, anyway), successfully drawing the viewer into the film. Immediately the big questions of the story are raised: Who are the men who have been ruined by Nancy? How did she ruin their lives? Is she really such a terrible person? The element of mystery is very successful in this film from the get-go.

The entire cast of this film does a great job of pulling off their roles and keeping the viewer drawn into the complicated structure. Laraine Day and Robert Mitchum stand out in phenomenal portrayals. (Then again, I kinda love Mitchum in anything.)

Day doesn’t ever give too much of her character away. She makes it easy to see why all of these men would fall for Nancy completely unsuspectingly, while at the same time giving Nancy (and the film as a whole) an undercurrent of sinister unease.

The Locket is high on drama, and everything is tied together by traveling back to the present and showcasing John’s reaction to the “truth” about his soon-to-be bride.

The ending of the film is absolutely fantastic, though I won’t say too much about it for fear of giving anything away.

This is a film worth watching for more than just its often-heralded, unique narrative structure. It has great performances, a great script and beautiful black and white cinematography.

All of the elements really come together here to make The Locket an unexpected, underrated and completely amazing noir. It is masterful in all respects. The score: 5/5!

Buy this fantastic film on DVD and a small donation will be made to TMP!

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