Saturday 19 May 2007

Lady Scarface (1941) Frank Woodruff

I hadn't heard of this little number and it obviously wasn't a major release of 1941 as there are no, count 'em, no names on the title card at all. We have to wait to see Dennis O'Keefe's name first on the cast list. In other words, not only is this not a major release but the lady playing the Lady Scarface of the title isn't deemed important enough to be given the lead! Anyway, she's Judith Anderson, not yet Dame Judith Anderson but fresh from her 1940 Oscar nomination for Hitchcock's Rebecca.

Anyway, she's called Scarface because of a scar on her face, not any perceived similarity in career progression to that of Paul Muni's Scarface in the film of the same name. As the film opens she's disguised as a cleaning lady to break into a safe belonging to Pierce, Abel and Pierce in the Chicago Security Building. She's known as Slade and she and her gang get away with $10,000. However the cops are on the trail of the money as it follows them to New York City and they get caught up in confusion over mixed identities trying to spring the trap. They also, naturally for 1941, don't have a clue that they're really looking for a woman.

Judith Anderson is only part of the switcharound in expectations here, though she's the most important part. As a gang leader, she's firm and tough, and enough of an actress as against a star to appear with a nasty scar on her face for the entire film. The reporter who does the best investigation and who ends up winning the day is also female, though the cops who aren't stupid but are lacking enough in ability to flounder around trying to do their job are all male. In fact if you count up all the women in the film, important or not, they all rank above the men in brain matter. The men should all be seriously embarrassed!

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