My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)

One of the best times you can have if you crave a sixty-five minute paranoid woman film noir, is My Name Is Julia Ross (1945), starring Nina Foch.

Should there be madness in your script and the stretching of credibility, and should your script also be offering some subtle social comment, then there will be film noir.

The theme of there being a woman-in-danger  or as the producers might prefer it  to call it exactly what it is in their minds   the paranoid woman  is a firm film noir fave.

Nina Foch is one of many who had a bash at this  note: you can tell she is a paranoid woman, because she is shot in bed. The paranoid woman is always filmed in bed, often clutching the covers. It's one of the more obvious signs of the trope. Bed is where these paranoid women often are!

Nina Foch however keeps the suspense on high throughout. The script never strays from her dilemma, which is just as well, because as with other films in this style, once examined, the set-up will be revealed as preposterous. It's one of the other better genre tropes and why it makes this psychological mayhem the fun time it is.

This is all happening in your marriage! 

Nina Foch, playing the eponymous Julia Ross, is held prisoner in an old gothic house on the edge of a raging sea. The owners of the house are going to kill her, but don't know why. For reasons of suspense, her predicament makes no sense, and the tension mounts as she attempts one escape ploy after another.

The Marriage Bed

Married Life

The Marital Home

Nina Foch gives her all in this role, and the movie itself gives its all to a sub-genre that turned out to be huge. A peak pre-1970 example of the form might be Marnie (1964), although the ideas and tropes can be found as relatively well-formed as they were ever going to be in the 19th Century, in for example the 1847 novel Jane Eyre.

The challenge for the hero is keeping her own sanity. The process she undergoes, most perfectly exemplified in My Name Is Julia Ross, is gaslighting  when others work hard to persuade you that you are something or someone you are not. Having cliffs next to the marital home is an essential feature, so suicide is always screaming as an option.

Gaslighting is when a person or group causes someone to question their own sanity, memories, or perception of reality. People who experience gaslighting may feel confused, anxious, or as though they cannot trust themselves ― the perfect subject-victim for noir ― most especially when we want to discuss the undiscussable aspects that are certainly a part and parcel of a marriage. 

If you are a woman trapped in a spooky, creakingly weird gothic mansion, a mansion populated by strange servants, secret passages and gaslighting relatives  you are a film noir paranoid woman.

For all purposes, and in all instances, the house and its strange residents are synonymous with marriage, and psychologically speaking, the paranoid woman film  as a bona fide sub-style within film noir  speaks to the young wives and want-to-brides in the cinema, of all the oddest fears that marriage might entail.

The paranoid woman film is the most consistent of all sub-genres within the film noir style. Stemming from the massive success of Alfred Hitchcock's Oscar-winning Rebecca (1940) it is remarkable how many times the formula was repeated, twisted, adjusted, re-affirmed, refilmed, tarted up, dressed down, retold and re-presented to the fascinated 40s filmgoers.

In these films you'll always find a young bride  in My Name Is Julia Ross, Julia is an unwilling bride, insofar as she wakes up after her kidnapping to find that she has a new identity as a married woman. Next up, we will always find a husband who has secrets  probably the most consistent and focal themes in the paranoid woman picture.

Because of course, as a young woman, with little worldly knowledge, and likely having to rely on the man in the relationship to find out what the secrets of sex amounted to, the representative elements of the secrets that are manifest and weird, are found in these strange male leads.

My Name Is Julia Ross has one of the stranger misogynist leads in this style, and this is in the form of the husband   played by George Macready  who is something of a full on psycho, found on occasions quietly shredding women's underclothes. He is supported not just by his mother but by the family structure, even the professional world of course do the bidding of this murderous cadre, who belong in a slasher movie as much as in this fun film noir.

What is truly indicative of the social horrors that underpin a woman's unspoken fears, is the fact that everybody in the paranoid woman film, backs up the male. This makes for stark scenery in My Name Is Julia Ross, where an entire coterie of family and servants, and even locals like the doctor, take part in the murder, attempted murder, cover-up, kidnapping and gaslighting that make up the fast-rolling horror.

And, there's the house itself and the Cornish mansion in My Name Is Julia Ross is as perfectly mad and spooky as any of the other gothic piles that haunt the style. Suicide? Check out its handy cliffs. A short checklist in fact reveals  deadly cliffs (preferably as here, below the heroine's window)  secret passages  and collapsing stairs which create a death trap.

Home, fatal home.

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