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Without Honor

Without Honor(1949)

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Without Honor (1949)

Without Honor is a taut post-war melodrama about a housewife, Jane Bandle (Laraine Day), who is engaged in an extra-marital affair with a married man, Dennis Williams (Franchot Tone). Jane's marriage to her husband, Fred (Bruce Bennett) is an unhappy one and she eagerly welcomes the affections of her lover Dennis. But when Dennis arrives at her home to end the affair, Jane becomes despondent and violently threatens to commit suicide. In a furious attempt to keep Jane from harming herself, Dennis is badly injured. Things quickly spiral out of control when Jane discovers that her abusive brother-in-law Bill (Dane Clark), who has a history of harassing and assaulting her, knows about her affair with Dennis. In an act of twisted revenge for her constant rebuffing of his advances, Bill reveals to Jane that he hired a private investigator to follow her and Dennis, and plans to inform Fred, as well as Dennis's wife Katherine (Agnes Moorehead), of the affair.

After getting her start at RKO in several Westerns alongside actor George O'Brien, Laraine Day (billed in those early films as Laraine Johnson, a subtle variant of her birth name "La Raine") signed a contract with MGM and was cast in the first installment of the studio's popular Dr. Kildare series, Calling Dr. Kildare (1939), starring Lew Ayres. Day appeared in five more Dr. Kildare films, departing the series after its penultimate sequel Dr. Kildare's Wedding Day (1941). While Day never had the same level of stardom as some of her leading lady contemporaries at MGM, she was quite popular with audiences throughout World War II. But Day's greatest roles were outside of her studio contract, with films such as Alfred Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent (1940) co-starring Joel McCrea, Mr. Lucky (1943) with Cary Grant and Bride by Mistake (1944) featuring a screenplay written by the legendary husband-and-wife duo of Henry and Phoebe Ephron.

Dane Clark was also a wartime staple at his home studio of Warner Brothers, making his credited debut alongside Humphrey Bogart in Action in the North Atlantic (1943), immediately followed by the immensely popular Destination Tokyo (1943), receiving third billing after veteran actors Cary Grant and John Garfield. Clark worked steadily throughout the 1940s and was given the chance to demonstrate his vast range as an actor in the rarely seen Moonrise (1948), directed by Frank Borzage. In the 1950s, Clark continued to make films, eventually making a successful transition to television and appearing in series such as The Twilight Zone, Ironside, Police Story, Fantasy Island and Murder, She Wrote, among many others.

Agnes Moorehead got her start in radio and was soon invited to join Orson Welles' Mercury Players, performing in several radio programs. In 1941, Welles cast Moorehead in Citizen Kane, which was her film debut and kicked off a long and successful Hollywood career, receiving four Best Supporting Actress Academy Award Nominations for performances in The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), Mrs. Parkington (1944), Johnny Belinda (1948) and Hush...Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964). In 1964, Moorehead turned to television, starring as Endora in the popular sitcom Bewitched until 1972.

Director Irving Pichel got his start in 1930 under contract at Paramount Studios as a character actor. But it was behind the camera that interested Pichel, and in 1932 he made his co-directorial debut for RKO with The Most Dangerous Game, starring Joel McCrea and Fay Wray. Pichel spent most of the 1930s juggling his acting and directing career, but after signing a contract with 20th Century-Fox in 1939, Pichel shifted his focus entirely to directing, although he would occasionally provide uncredited voicework. Pichel enjoyed a prolific output throughout the 1940s with films such as The Pied Piper (1942), Tomorrow Is Forever (1946), Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid (1948) and the George Pal-produced Destination Moon (1950), which is perhaps his most recognizable film. Unfortunately, like so many others working in Hollywood at the time, Pichel's career suffered as he was targeted for his political affiliations by the House on Un-American Activities Committee.

Despite having the mature themes that post-war audiences craved, Without Honor was not at all well received. And critics weren't too terribly impressed either, offering sharp criticism over the decidedly adult and "trashy" subject matter as well as the wasted talents of the cast on such a lackluster story. The film also received swift condemnation from censors, affecting its release in a number of states and almost resulted in a complete ban in certain cities, such as Boston. The film was re-released in the 1950s as Woman Accused, not to be confused with the 1933 Paramount film The Woman Accused starring Nancy Carroll and Cary Grant.

A low-budget B film noir/melodrama, of which there were many excellent films with this designation produced in post-WWII Hollywood, Without Honor is an interesting film and curious entry in filmographies of its cast.

Director: Irving Pichel
Producers: Raymond Hakim and Robert Hakim
Screenplay: James Poe
Cinematography: Lionel Lindon
Editing: Gregg C. Tallas
Art Direction: Perry Ferguson
Original Music: Max Steiner
Cast: Laraine Day (Jane Bandle), Dane Clark (Bill Bandle), Franchot Tone (Dennis Williams), Agnes Moorehead (Katherine Williams), Bruce Bennett (Fred Bandle). BW-69m.

By Jill Blake

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