The File on Thelma Jordon

Might as well tear through the rest of Robert Siodmak’s noirs, huh? The File on Thelma Jordon is a crime melodrama featuring a couple of Siodmak’s favorite recurring motifs: the double cross and dual personalities. Starring Babraba Stanwyck as the titular character, the film also features Wendell Corey as one of the most sympathetic male leads I’ve seen in a noir yet.

Thelma Jordon (Stanwyck) arrives at a police station late one night to report an attempted burglary. She’s met by assistant district attorney Cleve Marshall (Corey). His name is pronounced “cleave,” which I find impossibly badass. He’s not so much of a badass though. He’s a drunk who’s unhappily married to a woman whose domineering father insists on visiting them and buying her expensive things much too frequently for Cleve’s tastes. Quickly, Cleve and Thelma strike up an affair. So while I called Cleve “one of the most sympathetic male leads I’ve seen in noir yet,” I still think he’s a piece of shit for cheating on his wife.

Cleve discovers too late that he is a pawn in a lethal game between Thelma and her husband Tony Laredo (Richard Rober). Soon her wealthy aunt is found dead in mysterious circumstances, robbed of her rare jewels. Noir frequently explores how the wheels of justice work from a satirical point of view. Take the deal cutting in Kiss of Death or the police communication switchboards of Crime Wave, for example. The subsequent trial following the aunt’s murder is an effective commentary on ol’ Lady Justice, as the prosecutor impairs his own case so that Thelma is acquitted.

The File on Thelma Jordon has a fairly intricate plot. I found myself rewinding small bits here and there because I felt like I missed something. The photography is very nice and due to the more grounded subject matter than in some of his other films, the compositions lack the German expressionism influences that can typically be found in a Siodmak film. Corey’s perennial sad sap character is highly sympathetic and it’s Cleve that kinda sets the tone for the film more than Stanwyck. Anyone looking for some engaging courtroom melodrama with some murder thrown in should definitely check this bad boy out.

And that ending…goddamn.
Robert Siodmak Power Rankings:

rsiodmak_post 1. The Killers
2. Criss Cross
3. The Spiral Staircase
4. Phantom Lady
5. Cry of the City
6. The Dark Mirror
7. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
8. The File on Thelma Jordon
9. The Suspect
10. Christmas Holiday

Patrick Cooper


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