The Spiral Staircase (1945)

the spiral staircase 1945

Gothic murder mystery complete with an ailing old woman, a creepy mansion, a drunken housekeeper, a stepbrother who is a total jerk, his brother who oozes care out of every pore, a sexy secretary, a young doctor who romances a sweet young thing that lost her voice and a heavy thunderstorm with lots of wind and lightning that never goes away the entire movie.

Ethel Barrymore was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The winner was Anne Baxter for “The Razor’s Edge.”

New England, 1906: Helen (Dorothy McGuire) works for the bedridden Mrs.Warren (Ethel Barrymore). Helen lost her voice after a childhood trauma. She’s in town watching a movie when a girl upstairs is murdered. Dr.Parry (Kent Smith) drives her back to the Warren mansion. He’s trying to encourage her to see a doctor in Boston that may be able to help her get her voice back.

He has to drop her off because a man is very sick and he has to see him. A storm breaks out before she can get in the door. She doesn’t know she’s being watched. Finally inside she goes to see Mrs.Warren. She tells Helen she’s in danger and to get out of the house that night.

The constable stops by and tells Professor Warren (George Brent) about the murder. Warren tells Helen he’ll protect her. His step brother Steven is back from Europe and doesn’t waste any time romancing his mother’s secretary Blanche (Rhonda Fleming). Mrs.Warren says he’s nothing but trouble.

Dr.Parry shows up at the request of Mrs.Warren. She confides in him that her late husband couldn’t stand the two boys because they’re weaklings. She asks him to get Helen out of the house. She has a relapse and the ether to bring her around is missing. As a substitute the professor takes housekeeper Mrs.Oates (Elsa Lancaster) to the cellar for some brandy. That’s fine with her since it’s her chance to make off with a bottle of her own.

Parry tries to shock Helen by going over what happened when she lost her voice. As a child returning home from school she saw her parents burn to death in a house fire. The shock treatment doesn’t work. He’s called away to take care of a sick boy and he gives Helen a piece of paper with his phone number. After he leaves Helen fantasizes about a wedding with Parry as her groom.

Blanche tells Steven how unhappy she is and he just laughs at her and makes fun of her. Upset she runs to the basement to get a suitcase. She plans to leave with Helen. Plans are cancelled when she’s murdered. The last fifteen minutes make total use of the woman in peril theme and it is suspenseful.

The movie is very predictable but still worth seeing with its good cast.




About vintage45

I'm a big fan of vintage books,movies,TV shows and music. I encourage everyone to patronize your local used book/record store and pick up some of the good stuff. My posts are capsule reviews of some favorites that you may want to investigate. The albums posted aren't really reviews but items from my collection that are still available. I try and point out highlights of each one and let the music speak for itself. Thanks to all for checking out the blog.
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