Hugo Haas’ The Other Woman (1954): Film Logic, Murderous Intent, Sex Drive, and Competing Storytellers

Other-Woman-Poster

What a surprise! An independent filmmaker from the noir 50’s. A story about filmmaking, women, and storytelling, made by an European director in a Hollywood b-movie style. A stylish personal statement, a cautionary tale about art making and the need for plot, tension, and success.

An European director working in Hollywood is having trouble satisfying his producers. What they call dull and lurid is meditative for him. The movie has flopped, but why?

In a display of bombast and condescension, Walter Darman, fires a young aspiring actress for failing to deliver her lines with “emotion”. This young seductress, visibly wounded, will go to great lengths to frame him in an infidelity scandal.   Confused, and acting on impulse, Walter Darman decides to silence her…forever.

What’s at work here: Sherry Stewart’s drive to create a plot to frame Mr. Darman–a direct critique of his inability to fairly direct her (“He confused me on purpose,” she cries.), against Mr. Darman’s own confusion about his all-encompassing libido–he’s unsure whether he truly slept with her (he didn’t), but he’s unable to dismiss the fact entirely, after all, as a director, sex and desire might be his ultimate weakness.

There is no doubt Mr. Darman is impressed by Sherry’s framing plot. Her act of revenge becomes the “better” movie he’s unable to make, surpassing even the small scene for which she got fired.

The most stressing elements weighing on the story: Darman’s behavior after the framing, his inability to clearly detect the plot, the lies he makes up to his wife to cover his involvement, and the “mind prison” he builds for himself through it all.

Movies about movies, stories about people being manipulated, always seem to lead to madness, and death. Artistic statements about the force of creativity are always entwined with sex, money, and murder. Could all this be about a secret initiation rite to enter a higher creative sphere? I think so…and all these films are hidden “confessions” from their respective directors. What we think is character development is self-revelation.

Coming soon: How Nuri Ceylan’s “Once Upon A Time in Anatolia (2011)”  is a counter argument for this twisted dark side of creativity…

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Categories: female leads, Notes

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