“The Story of a desperate girl”
Director Max Ophüls ( Letter From An Unknown Woman 1948, The Reckless Moment 1949) offers a gritty and volatile film noir starring James Mason, Barbara Bel Geddes, and the imposing figure of Robert Ryan. With an uncredited assistant directorship by Robert Aldrich. Based on the book Wild Calendar by Libbie Block
Written by Arthur Laurents (The Snake Pit 1948, West Side Story 1961, The Way We Were 1973)
Interesting question: If Howard Hughes gained control of RKO in 1949, was Robert Ryan’s characterization of Smith Ohlrig truly based on Hughs?
Also stars Frank Ferguson (regular on Andy Griffith Show) as Quinada’s partner Dr. Hoffman, Art Smith as Ohlrig’s psychiatrist who knows Ohlrig is a walking powder keg, Natalie Schafer as Dorothy Dale and Curt Bois as Ohlrig’s personal assistant, and like many a good Film Noir delivers, the snarky gay cipher – Franzi Kartos, who’s incessantly calling Leonora DARLING… that if subtitled would read ‘you bourgeois cow…’
One of the staples of the Noir catalog, Caught is a brutish and self-contained story about an egomaniac, hungry for power and consumed by a nasty possessiveness that borders on the psychotic.
Robert Ryan is chilling as the Neanderthal bigwig worth millions of dollars, with an explosive rage that rests on simmer until something sets him off when it doesn’t go his way. Oh, and Ohlrig also suffers from panic attacks, which he believes is truly a heart condition and not a nervous disorder.
Barbara Bel Geddes is the naive Leonora Eames, who has childlike fancies of marrying a wealthy man and living a life of luxury. Invited to a party on a boat one night, she meets Smith Ohlrig outside on the pier, near his yacht. Although Ohlrig could have any woman he chooses, something about Leonora sparks on him. From the very first encounter, we can see that it’s not a romantic chemistry that stirs Ohlrig, but something more forbidding and sinister.
Once he sets his sights on her, taking her for a ride in his car, he decides there and then, to marry this plain girl, whom he doesn’t love but knows he can possess easily.
Leonora soon realizes that her dream has become a nightmare and that Smith is a menacing character who treats her like part of the furniture and is not quite right in the head.
Ohlrig refuses to give Leonora a divorce, so she decides to leave her opulent home on Long Island and take a job as a receptionist in the city working for a doctor who runs a free clinic in a very poor neighborhood.
Perhaps this is Leonora’s way of cleansing her soul for making the mistake of marrying for money and not for love.
James Mason is Dr. Larry Quinada the absolute antithesis of Smith Ohlrig. He’s genteel and compassionate, and soon the two fall in love, though Leonora is held captive by her dominating husband.
Complicating matters is the fact that Leonora becomes pregnant by the sadistic Ohlrig who would rather see her a prisoner in the sterile palace that is her home rather than let her go free… Is the threat of financial security and the welfare of their unborn child that which will chain her to him forever…?
Smith Ohlrig: Is she coming down?
Franzi Kartos: [Stands silent, knowing that Leonora is not coming down]
Smith Ohlrig: [Getting angrier] Why the devil do you think I sent you up there, you dirty little parasite? Get her down here!
Franzi Kartos: [Long pause] I think I prefer to be a headwaiter again, Mr. Ohlrig.
Franzi Kartos: [Heads for the door, then stops] You know, you’re a big man, but not big enough to destroy that girl. Goodbye.
There are thousands of fabulous films in my collection just as thrilling, this is one of them! Don’t you get caught-MonsterGirl