This film is being reviewed for the Barbara Stanwyck Filmography Project and is the 44th review of the project. For more reviews of Stanwyck films, or to see the project’s progress, check out my Listography page!
Stanwyck and Bogie in one film — does a cast get any better than that? It was this combination that initially attracted me to The Two Mrs. Carrolls the first time I watched it. But for some reason, all of that star power wasn’t enough for me to add the film to my re-watch rotation: my recent screening of the film was only my second ever!
The film follows Bogie as Geoffrey Carroll, an artist with a tendency to marry the women he paints. He is married with one daughter (Ann Carter) when he meets Sally Morton (Stanwyck) and falls for her.
What does one do when a woman other than his wife becomes his main source of inspiration? Naturally, he decides to poison his wife and get hitched to his new gal. But what will he do when his second wife stops being his muse, and he instead finds inspiration from a flirty neighbor (Alexis Smith)?
The Two Mrs. Carrolls was directed by Peter Godfrey and is based on a play by Martin Vale. Though filmed in 1945, the picture was shelved for release until 1947.
I would consider this film a middle-of-the-road entry in Stanwyck’s filmography. It’s a film with quite a bit going for it, but it also has a lot of problems. Let’s begin with the positives.
Bogart’s performance, of course, is very good. His face says it all when his words don’t, such as in an early conversation with his daughter just before giving the poisoned milk to Mrs. Carroll #1. He’s very effectively sinister throughout the film.
Ann Carter also does very well in her role of Geoffrey’s too-poised-for-her-age daughter, Bea. The character is a nice addition to the film, and Carter fills the role convincingly.
A quite-suspenseful climax and wealth of catty dialogue in the script also work in favor of The Two Mrs. Carrolls. Even Bogart’s got jokes — “I have the strangest feeling that this is the beginning of a beautiful hatred,” he says after meeting Sally’s friend Pennington (Pat O’Moore), in a callback to one of the most famous lines of his film Casablanca.
Unfortunately, despite some very nicely-executed scenes (such as the climax, and the scene where Geoffrey stares at the painting of his first wife while church bells ring loudly) there were a couple of things I didn’t like about this film. The story is almost painfully predictable, with not one moment of surprise. There is a decent level of suspense built on occasion, but there’s no payoff. Since each turn of the story can be seen from a mile away, the suspense builds to nothing, fizzling out rather than reaching great heights.
A larger problem for me, as a Stanwyck fan, is the fact that she’s not given very much to do. She does very well with what she is given, and there’s some improvement as her character’s perspective becomes the focus near the end, but her talents could have been utilized so much better.
Having given The Two Mrs. Carrolls a second look, I can see why I never added it to my rotation of re-watching, or ran to Amazon to pick up a copy after watching it the first time. It’s worth watching to see Bogie and Stanwyck share the screen, but it’s nowhere near a career-best for either star.