Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Spiral Staircase (1945).

The Spiral Staircase (1945). Director: Robert Siodmak. Cast: Ethel Barrymore, Rhonda Fleming, Elsa Lanchester.

The story begins when, mute Helen McCord, goes to see a silent movie. Just as the film is ending, a crash is heard and the projectionist goes to see what had happened. When he gets up stairs he finds the body of a lame girl, the latest victim in a series of murders whose victims are all women with a disability. Dr. Brian Parry, examines the body.

Later while, Parry drives Helen to the house of Mrs. Warren, her invalid employer. Along the way, a young boy stops them in the road and asks the doctor to come help his mother. As the weather becomes stormy, Parry leaves Helen to walk home alone while he drives off with the boy. As Helen reaches the house, she drops her keys while a man watches her from behind some bushes.

After unlocking the door, Helen climbs the stairs to Mrs. Warren's bedroom. From the shadows the man watches her from the stairway. When she reaches Mrs. Warren's room, she warns her that she is not safe and wants her to leave immediately.  She asks her physician, Dr. Parry, to take Helen away for her own safety. When another murder occurs inside the Warren mansion, it becomes obvious that Helen is in danger.

Fun Fact:
Joan Crawford, after her performance in the film, A Woman's Face (1941), wanted the role of the deaf-mute girl played by Dorothy McGuire. Crawford also owned the rights, but MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer vehemently opposed the idea, telling her "No more cripples or maimed women".

This is a wonderful thriller, atmospheric setting, and plenty of mysterious characters that you don't know who can be trusted. Anyone, who loves classic thrillers will want to see "The Spiral Staircase".

Rhonda Fleming (born August 10, 1923), acted in more than 40 films, mostly in the 1940s and 1950s, and became renowned as one of the most beautiful and glamorous actresses of her day. She was nicknamed the "Queen of Technicolor" because her fair complexion and flaming red hair photographed exceptionally well in Technicolor.

Fleming began working as a film actor while attending Beverly Hills High School, from which she was graduated in 1941. After performing uncredited in a several films, she landed her first substantial role in the thriller, Spellbound (1945), produced by David O. Selznick and directed by Alfred Hitchcock. She followed this with supporting roles in another thriller, The Spiral Staircase (1946), directed by Robert Siodmak, the Randolph Scott western, Abilene Town (1946), and the film noir classic, Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum. Her first leading role came in Adventure Island (1947).

The actress then co-starred with Bing Crosby in, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949), a musical loosely based on the story by Mark Twain. Fleming exhibited her singing ability, dueting with Crosby on “Once and For Always” and soloing with “When Is Sometime.”

In 1953, Fleming portrayed Cleopatra in, Serpent of the Nile. That same year she performed in films, Inferno with Robert Ryan and the musical Those Redheads From Seattle. The following year she performed with Fernando Lamas in, Jivaro.

Some of Fleming’s other films: While the City Sleeps (1956), Slightly Scarlet, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), The Big Circus (1959)and Waiting for the Wind (1990).

During the 1950s and into the 1960s, Fleming performed on many television guest-starring roles: The Red Skelton Show, The Best of Broadway, The Investigators, Shower of Stars, The Dick Powell Show, Death Valley Days, Wagon Train, Burke's Law, The Virginian, McMillan and Wife, Police Woman, Kung Fu, Ellery Queen, and The Love Boat.


  1. I saw this one about a year ago and really enjoyed it. However, it was a bit difficult seeing the killer in that role. I kept hoping it wasn't that person, because I really don't like seeing stars that I like playing evil roles. (how's that for being discreet and not letting the cat out of the bag about who the killer is! I didn't even indicated which sex it is.)

  2. Dawn,
    What a fantastic review~
    I love Rhonda Fleming too. She reminds me of a cross between Greer Garson and Hedy LaMarr for some reason.

    I have to agree with Patti regarding the killer and my disappointment.

    Another great film with interesting info on the stars.

  3. Patti, You did a fantastic job keeping the murderer a secret. I also wanted to add.. McGuire's, performance was very heartbreaking during the final scene.

    Page, Thank you. I loved the twist and turns of this wonderful film.. yes.. I even loved finding out who the killer was..

    I can see how you might think
    Rhonda Fleming, has similarities to Greer Garson and Hedy LaMarr.


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