Caron arrives in New York from France to talk Calhern--a crippled, dying, and alcoholic former marshal under Napoleon--into restoring his estranged grandson, Caron's lover, into his will to boost the funds of the fledgling French Republic. However, she runs afoul of Stanwyck and De Santis,
who are Calhern's housekeeper and butler, respectively, and who are planning to murder the old man to secure the inheritance for themselves. Caron enlists the help of Cotten, a mysterious, drunken, poetry-reciting stranger who persuades Calhern to change his will in his grandson's favor.
Unfortunately, Calhern's lawyer is poisoned and a pet raven hides the new will. Calhern sees the hiding place but at that instant is paralyzed by a stroke. With his eyes, he guides Cotten to the spot and virtue triumphs. The finale reveals Cotten to be none other than Edgar Allan Poe, a fact that
most of the audience should have guessed long ago. This unconvincing melodrama never generates any tension or suspense, mostly due to slack direction and lackluster writing. Jim Backus, who had a minor role, once described the film as a "pretentious piece of merde." It was Stanwyck's first film
after her much-publicized breakup with Robert Taylor; her coworkers were amazed at her composure and professionalism in the face of heartbreak. Director Markle had previously gained attention with tight, low-budget efforts like JIGSAW (1949) and NIGHT INTO MORNING (1951), and on the strength of
those he was given a contract with MGM and bigger budgets. He tried to secure Marlene Dietrich for the Stanwyck role and Lionel Barrymore for the Calhern part. Neither was available, and although Stanwyck is more than adequate as the murderous housekeeper, the film lacks the spark that Dietrich
could have brought to it. A critical and popular failure, the film crippled Markle's budding career and he would not direct another feature for 12 years.
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