The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)
  • 1882
  • Passed
  • Genre: Crime
  • Release year: 1950 ()
  • Running time: 100 min
  • Original Title: The File on Thelma Jordon
  • Voted: 1882

Assistant District Attorney Cleve Marshall, depressed about marital troubles, is drowning his sorrows in a bottle of whiskey when the mysterious and alluring Thelma Jordon walks in to report an attempted burglary. The two become romantically involved and not long afterwards there is a burglary and murder at Thelma's aunt's house. Cleve is drawn further and further into defending and covering up for Thelma. It soon becomes clear that this road will only lead to disaster.

1Barbara StanwyckThelma Jordon
2Wendell CoreyCleve Marshall
3Paul KellyMiles Scott
4Joan TetzelPamela Blackwell Marshall
  • Stanwyck and Siodmak conspire to create a dark highlight of the noir cycle by 9

    One of the noir cycle's best titles ushers in one of its better offerings. Barbara Stanwyck's assumption of the title role, of course, gives the picture a running start. She had worked with Billy Wilder ? and helped to shape the cycle ? in Double Indemnity, and was to work with Fritz Lang in Clash by Night and even Anthony Mann in The Furies (a western, yes, but a dark one), all key noir craftsmen. Here her director is the no less central Robert Siodmak, and her performances in this and the other titles cited (plus The Strange Love of Martha Ivers and at least five other suspense films of the 1940s and 1950s) cement her sobriquet as the First Lady of Film Noir.

    Like her Martha Ivers, Stanwyck's Thelma Jordon has a wealthy old aunt (Gertrude Hoffman, who the next year in Caged would steal that movie from some very tough competition). One evening the niece strolls into the District Attorney's office with a story about prowlers and burglars (explaining that she bypassed the police because `My aunt is eccentric, and uniforms upset her'). She tells her tale to an inebriated assistant D.A., Wendell Corey, who's drinking to escape his embittered marriage. Stanwyck lends a sympathetic ear, and they start seeing one another on the sly.

    When the aunt, inevitably, is found shot, Stanwyck calls not the police but Corey, and in a tense and extended scene of panic, he helps her cover up evidence that may incriminate her. When she emerges as the prime suspect, he also arranges for his boss to be disqualified, so he can sabotage the prosecution. Stanwyck (after a beautifully orchestrated processional from jail to courthouse) is acquitted. But her past has begun to catch up with her, complete with a shady lover who keeps turning up ? and who shoves the compromised Corey out of the picture. But never trust a duplicitous woman, particularly if she's within easy reach of a dashboard cigarette lighter....

    Siodmak (with Ketti Frings, who wrote the screenplay) starts the movie so slowly that it looks like it's going to shape up into a routine, adulterous triangle. But he's just laying his groundwork. He keeps Stanwyck behind ambiguous veils, too, stripping them off one by one. Corey proves just right as the dupe, the fall guy (as Fred MacMurray proved right in Double Indemnity); a skillful character actor who always submerged his own personality in the roles he played, he tended to look a little pallid in leading-man roles he took next to the female stars against whom he was pitted.

    Siodmak may be the most ruminative of the great noir auteurs ? he eschews flash for solid, patient construction. But when it's time for the big set-pieces (the nocturnal panic in the dark old mansion, the perp walk, the shocking flourish of violence at the end courtesy of Stanwyck and that cigarette lighter), he does them full justice. The File on Thelma Jordon falls just short of the summa-cum-laude distinction of his The Killers, and maybe of Criss Cross and even Christmas Holiday, too. But with Stanwyck's drawing upon the full fetch of her talents, it's an indispensable moment in the noir cycle.

  • I don't think of him anymore because of you. by 8

    Wendell Corey had a long career in film and television. In this film he plays Cleve Marshall, an assistant DA who is staying late at the office to avoid going home on his anniversary because his father-in-law (Minor Watson) is there.

    While he knocking back shots as fast as he can pour them, in walks Thelma Jordan (Barbara Stanwyck) looking for help. Now, one would certainly be suspicious if a beauty like that immediately began a relationship, but our intrepid hero is too drunk to notice, and, after all, he wants to go out and find a dame.

    He is no better the next day when his wife (Joan Tetzel) takes the kids to the beach house, and leaves him alone during the week.

    As one would expect in film noir, everything is not as it seems. Cleve gets himself into hot water and uses all his wits to get out.

    I have to admit the ending was a big surprise.

  • Turns out she was a Dame with a conscience by 7

    From her first entrance, Stanwyck kept me captivated by her performance in this film. There is something about her that draws you in and holds you. You know there is more to her than meets the eye - but you're not sure what exactly.

    I have always admired Stanwyck. She was born Ruby Stevens, a Brooklyn girl that worked for a phone company and then became a chorus girl, before finally going to Hollywood to chase her dreams. She was nominated 4 times for an Oscar for Best Actress ("Stella Davis", "Ball of Fire", "Double Indemnity", "Sorry ,Wrong Number") but never won - except for an Honorary Oscar near the end of her life. She was considered a gem to work with for her serious but easy going attitude on the set (unlike many of her contemporary peers). This makes me like her even more!

    I thought the cinematography in this film was outstanding. I loved the elaborate sets and and set decorating.

    The plot kept me intrigued as well. Corey plays the perfect fall guy for Stanwyck. His average looks and dull exterior tend to make you feel sympathetic for this guy. Some have commented that they didn't have much chemistry together. I agree that they are an unlikely couple, but it helps you see how he could get so caught up in her and be willing to sacrifice so much. She was obviously outside his league.

    There are some nice twists and turns in the plot that will keep you interested - especially at the end. It's worth a watch.

  • Another classic film from the film noir era by 8

    So much has already been said about this film, so I don't have to elaborate. All I can say about this movie is "oh my!". The reason being is that during the late 40's and early 50's a film about infidelity, even though popular at the time (Nora Prentiss, The Postman Always Rings Twice) was viewed by many as taboo, but that didn't stop them from flocking to the local theater to see it!

    What puzzles me is that this film has been ignored. It is a well crafted movie with all the elements of a good film noir. It has crime, it has sex, it has deception and it has corruption throughout and it has great cinematography; what a perfect noir! If you have a chance to see this film on TCM, do yourself a favor and make a copy. You will not be disappointed.

  • Hooked And Begging For More by 7

    The File On Thelma Jordon turns out to be an extensive one indeed. Had Wendell Corey examined it more fully he might never have gotten into the jackpot he did.

    A lot of critics compare this film with that other Stanwyck classic, Double Indemnity. There are certainly elements of that story in The File On Thelma Jordon. But I also see a lot of resemblance as well to the Dick Powell-Lizabeth Scott-Jane Wyatt noir film, Pitfall. If you've seen that one it involves a married, but bored Dick Powell casually drifting into an affair with Lizabeth Scott and getting sucked into some criminal enterprise. Joan Tetzel steps into the role of the wronged wife and was every bit as good as Jane Wyatt was in Pitfall.

    One desultory night as Wendell Corey is working late and getting helped along with a little libation, in pops Barbara Stanwyck to the District Attorney's office to complain about the lack of action the police have been giving to her complaints about someone trying to break into her house where she and her elderly aunt live. Corey's state of inebriation seems to be loosening any moral restraints and Barbara leaves him hooked and begging for more.

    So when the elderly aunt is in fact murdered, Corey doesn't think like an officer of the court, but instead he's using the gray cells in his male member to make decisions. He winds up prosecuting Stanwyck and paying for high priced defense attorney Stanley Ridges on the side. By the way Ridges is one shrewd article and suspects what's up, but keeps his mouth shut.

    Paul Kelly is in the Edward G. Robinson role as another member of the District Attorney's office who realizes this case has far more layers to this than originally thought.

    The film is definitely one that should satisfy Barbara's legion of fans.

1George Barnescinematographer
2Victor Youngcomposer
3Robert Siodmakdirector
4Hal B. Wallisproducer
5Marty Hollandwriter
6Ketti Fringswriter