Isobel Elsom plays Mrs Leonora Fiske, a wealthy ex-actress, who lives at an isolated house in the East Anglia marshlands in the 1880s with just her younger housekeeper Ellen Creed (Ida Lupino). When Ellen’s two older, committably disturbed sisters Louisa and Emily (Edith Barrett and Elsa Lanchester) arrive supposedly for a short visit, Mrs Fiske finds them to be actually deranged.
Director Charles Vidor’s edgy 1941 film noir suspense thriller finds Lupino on fine form as the homicidal home help bent on protecting her sisters at all costs. Louis Hayward plays Albert Feather, the family member who arrives to snoop round when Mrs Fiske cannot be found. Evelyn Keyes plays Lucy, Emma Dunn plays Sister Theresa, Queenie Leonard plays Sister Agatha and Clyde Cook plays Bates.
The screenplay by Garrett Fort and Reginald Denham is based on a play by Denham and Edward Percy, which in its turn was inspired by a real-life story. Ladies in Retirement is deliciously dark, intensely involving and persuasively acted. It was remade as The Mad Room in 1969.
The production gained two Oscar nominations – for Best Art Direction-Interior Decoration, Black-and-White (Lionel Banks, George Montgomery) and Best Scoring of a Dramatic Picture (Morris Stoloff, Ernst Toch).
© Derek Winnert 2016 Classic Movie Review 4718
Check out more reviews on http://derekwinnert.com