The Blue Gardenia [DVD] [1953]

For many years, The Blue Gardenia was virtually a lost Fritz Lang film. Financed independently, the movie wasn't widely seen at the time of its release, despite being distributed by Warner Bros., and as it subsequently bounced between distributors, the picture managed to slip through the cracks of most television schedules, forgotten amid higher profile Lang movies such as While the City Sleeps. The similarity of its title to that of The Blue Dahlia, made by Paramount seven years earlier, didn't help matters much -- even mystery buffs muddled the Lang movie in their memories. They never knew what they were missing until now. The Blue Gardenia is a sinister thriller with a pretty fair mystery at its heart, framed by a nasty vision of American popular culture and life during the Korean War. There are a lot of sacred cows that get savaged in the course of telling the story, including the public's growing taste for violent diversions (even Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer, then a new pop culture phenomenon, is targeted). The basics of the plot are as follows: Working girl Anne Baxter gets a "Dear Jane" letter from Korea; in her disillusionment and depression, she goes out to dinner with artist Raymond Burr, a notorious womanizer who ends up dead, while Baxter ends up hunted by the police and crime reporter Richard Conte. Lang's sense of irony and humor -- all of it dark-hued -- are unerring in this odd little movie, which also includes a song performed on screen by Nat "King" Cole. The picture transfer is gorgeous and the sound is clean, which is a big help in presenting a movie in which the music is essential to the plot, but one wishes that there were some extras, like a trailer and perhaps an analysis of the film; then again, not a lot of time was spent on the packaging and presentation of this disc, which is broken down into only a dozen chapters in a not-too-impressive onscreen menu.
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The Blue Gardenia
After learning that her boyfriend, a GI in Korea, has found someone else, Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter) impulsively agrees to meet womanizer Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr) for dinner. Norah allows herself to get drunk and accept Prebble's invitation to his apartment. When he tries to force himself on her, she hits him with a poker. Unfortunately, Prebble is found dead the next morning, and Norah, not even remembering how she got home, thinks that she killed him. Meanwhile, newspaperman Casey Mayo (Richard Conte), looking for an angle, invites the "Blue Gardenia Murderess" to turn herself in to him. The high point of the film is the interplay between the vulnerable Baxter and Burr at his smarmiest. ~ Steve Press, Rovi

Cast & Crew

  • Anne Baxter
    Anne Baxter - Norah Larkin
  • Richard Conte
    Richard Conte - Casey Mayo
  • Ann Sothern
    Ann Sothern - Crystal Carpenter
  • Raymond Burr
    Raymond Burr - Harry Prebble
  • Jeff Donnell
    Jeff Donnell - Sally Ellis
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