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Ella Raines, Alan Curtis, Phantom Lady (1944)

One of the most interesting and complex film noirs I’ve ever seen, “Phantom Lady” brought to my attention a relatively unknown, but trully lovely actress: Ella Raines. She did a magnificent job here, as she played with great skill a very sophisticated role. Within 83 minutes, Ella Raines transforms herself, from a dignified and rigid secretary, into a femme fatale, a model and finally into a real woman, the future wife of the man she loves. To me, “Phantom Lady” is more like a Bildungsroman, because the leading lady changes both her looks and her behaviour on her multiple trips throughout the entire film. The heroine is obliged by circumstances to risk her life and to take some drastic decisions in order to save the life of her attractive boss, who is accused of murdering his wife, despite being innocent. Carol (Ella Raines) can’t accept the fact that he was sentenced to death and will be executed in a short time without even being guilty, and so she makes an investigation in her own way, supported by a police inspector. “Phantom Lady” is a fascinating story, which, as the titles says, involves an apparently phantomatic lady, who appears and suddenly disappears (only to be found by the end of the film), and whose testimony could save the life of the unfortunate accused. “Phantom Lady” has all the ingredients of a film noir: mysterious murders, femmes fatales, jazz songs, dark and damp streets, and a climax that will keep your attention alive. There is also a resemblance between this film noir and the expressionist silent film “The Hands of Orlac” in depicting the real criminal, whose hands appear to be ghostly white, as if they were a different entity that controls the man’s psyche. Renowned actor Franchot Tone does a masterful performance in the role of the murderer, but the real star is by far Ella Raines. The film was directed by Robert Siodmak, an expert of the noir style (see also, among others, “The Killers”). I highly recommend you to watch “Phantom Lady” because it is one of those good old films that will make you think about after seeing it for the first time.

You could find the film here