The Woman in Red (1935)

Rising polo star Shelby Barret (Barbara Stanwyck) is employed to ride show horses by Nicko (Genevieve Tobin), a very rich widow. Also employed by Nicko is a handsome man from what was once a very wealthy family, Johnny Wyatt (Gene Raymond).

Nicko and Gene Fairchild (John Eldredge) try to stop Shelby and Johnny from getting together, because Gene is in love with Shelby and Nicko has a terrible jealous streak.

Swedish poster for The Woman in Red
Swedish poster for The Woman in Red

Despite the efforts of these two schemers, Johnny and Shelby marry. But struggles continue to pop up for the couple as they struggle to become financially stable, and Nicko isn’t quite ready to quit terrorizing them either.

Robert Florey directs The Woman in Red, based on the novel “North Shore” by Wallace Irwin.

Unfortunately, this film’s story isn’t half as engrossing as the premise of sabotage would suggest. Gene Raymond is a bit dull, and not much happens during the bulk of the film, though it does have its moments.

The film’s cattiest moments are its best, and boy is there a lot of cattiness going on here. Genevieve Tobin makes a good foe for Stanwyck, and some of the banter between the two is deliciously snide. Tobin’s performance is the best of the supports.

Stanwyck gives a strong performance as usual, and the film is worth watching for another solid effort from her.

Visually, the film is very nice. The set design is cool and well-constructed, Stanwyck’s wardrobe is great. The contrast and use of shadow is average throughout most of the film, so it doesn’t have as much “pop” as some of its fellow black and whites, but overall it is very pleasing to the eye and there are a few striking shots mixed in.

And in the final quarter the story finally does pick up, shifting into a surprising accident that leads to a courtroom drama. If only this accident would have happened much earlier, and the film would have focused on the aftermath instead!

This portion of the film is higher on drama and tension, more engrossing and entertaining than what came before it. It makes the film seem a bit disjointed, from mellow “drama” to potentially murderous intrigue.

In short, The Woman in Red is a flawed film that doesn’t completely grip the viewer until the final act. Still, Stanwyck and the film’s visual appeal make it worthy of a watch.

The score: 2.5/5

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