Jack Arnold’s The Tattered Dress (1957) “When I spill a drink on the carpet, my butler cleans up after me.” “When you spill blood, your lawyer is expected to do the same.” “Exactly”

Jack Arnold’s The Tattered Dress (1957)

A Woman and a Tattered Dress…that exposed a town’s hidden evil!

The Tattered Dress is a story actually utilizing the Noir canon of misdirection. The film appears like a melodramatic pulp fiction courtroom drama, yet its muted focus on the object as Charleen Reston and the ensuing crime is a ruse. The film wrings out the real underlying quality of its psychological thrust which winds up telling a very different story in the end.

This is a soft sleepy noir court drama that takes place in a wealthy Nevada desert town and might be considered quite the departure for Jack Arnold who is beloved for his memorable contributions to some of THE best 50s sci-fi cautionary tales. The imposing gigantism in Tarantula (1955) The vast shots of sand and open expanses left me wondering if the large ghastly spider would come creeping out yet again from behind a bolder in The Tattered Dress. Arnold is actually very well known for his contributions to the Western (No Name On The Bullet 1959) as well as several vintage television series such as Peter Gunn, Rawhide, Perry Mason, Mod Squad, and It Takes a Thief.

I particularly love Arnold’s transcendental masterpiece The Incredible Shrinking Man. (1957) And his colonial-inspired science fact/fiction, study of the savage jungle reaches with The Creature From The Black Lagoon (1954).

To his sympathetic alien castaways in It Came From Outer Space. (1953) But consider that Arnold is also responsible for High School Confidential, (1958) The Glass Web (1953), Girls In The Night (1953), Man In The Shadow (1957), and The Mouse That Roared (1959), you see that he is a very versatile filmmaker with a vision toward social commentary.


The story is written by George Zuckerman and faithful Hollywood makeup artist Bud Westmore is on the crew for the makeup. Produced by Albert Zugsmith.

The film’s music is sensational. The overall vibe that swings between pulp melodrama orchestra and burlesque jazz is invigorating to the script. The score utilizes a Blues style Burlesque/ Show Tune Jazz using bassoon, oboe, horns, clarinet, piano timpani bass and viola, and a brass section.

Frank Skinner does the music and it’s supervised by Joseph Gershenson. With an uncredited musical contribution by Henry Mancini. (Charade 1963) Mancini was a genius known for countless film scores and musical direction for television. He died in 1994

It stars Jeff Chandler (Broken Arrow 1950 Merrill’s Marauders 1960 and Return To Peyton Place 1961) as the egocentric top criminal attorney James Gordon Blane, Jeanne Crain (State Fair 1945, A Letter To Three Wives 1949, Leave Her To Heaven 1945 and Pinky 1949) as his wife Diane, Jack Carson (Arsenic and Old Lace 1944  Mildred Pierce 1945 & Cat On A Hot Tin Roof 1958) as Sheriff Nick Hoak, Elaine Stewart as Charleen Reston, Phillip Reed as Michael Reston, Gail Russell  (Night Has A Thousand Eyes 1948 and Angel and The Badman 1947) as Carol Morrow, Edward Platt (the Chief on Get Smart) as Journalist Ralph Adams, George Tobias (American theater, film, and television character actor well known for his role as Mr. Kravitz on Bewitched) as Billy Giles, Roger Corman regular Paul Birch as Prosecutor Frank Mitchell, and the familiar, omni present television and film character actor Edward Andrews as Lester Rawlings a seedy, pompous defense attorney.

Jeff Chandler is stone-like, in fact, his features are rather chiseled in a way that makes his looks unreal, more like a marble statue spouting lines. Yet there’s something in his face that is equally compelling at times. It’s hard for me to divine it. Having done plenty of war and western films, I’m not as familiar with his work such as Cochise in Broken Arrow 1950 or Away All Boats 1956. I’d like to acquaint myself with his work more as I don’t want to stop on The Tattered Dress and assume Chandler doesn’t possess a range to his acting. He was the leading man opposite Joan Crawford in the melodrama Female on the Beach in 1955.

From The Vault: Female on The Beach (1955)


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