The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)

Director:

Peter Godfrey

Plot

While on vacation in Scotland, Sally Morton (Barbara Stanwyck) learns that her lover, the painter Geoffrey Carroll (Humphrey Bogart), is already married. Before returning home to his pre-teen daughter, Beatrice (Ann Carter), and his ill wife, Geoffrey buys a package from chemist Horace Blagdon (Barry Bernard). Geoffrey is painting his wife’s portrait, depicting her as an “angel of death.”

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Two years pass and Geoffrey’s first wife has died, leaving him free to marry Sally. Although Geoffrey’s career is doing well, lately he has been unable to paint anything of quality. Sally, the new Mrs. Carroll, entertains her old boyfriend, Charles “Penny” Pennington (Patrick O’Moore), and some wealthy American guests—which includes the icy but beautiful Cecily Latham (Alexis Smith). Geoffrey begins painting Cecily’s portrait, and becomes romantically involved with her. Sally becomes aware of her husband’s illicit romance. Several weeks pass, and Sally has fallen ill, recovered, and fallen ill again several times. The bumbling, alcoholic local physician, Dr. Tuttle (Nigel Bruce), believes she is recovering.

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In an idle conversation with Beatrice, Sally discovers that the “first Mrs. Carroll” suffered from a series of illnesses very similar to her own. She also learns that Geoffrey has lied extensively about his first wife. Meanwhile, Geoffrey is being blackmailed by Blagdon, the chemist. Sally suspects that Geoffrey is gradually poisoning her via her nightly glasses of milk. Geoffrey murder Blagdon to end the blackmail. Sally enters Geoffrey’s studio, and sees that he is painting her as an “angel of death” as well. That night, during a terrific thunderstorm, Sally disposes of her nightly glass of milk rather than drinking it. But Geoffrey learns of her deception, and inspired by newspaper articles about a local strangler, goes outside into the rain and then breaks into his own wife’s bedroom to strangle her. At the last moment, Penny and the police arrive and save Sally from Geoffrey.

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Very enjoyable

I only saw this from half way through but it was easy to pick the storyline up. Also, this was the first movie I saw Barbara Stanwyck in and she’s an amazing actress. Humphrey Bogart gives an amazing performance as a bizarre killer. Bogart plays a artist who’s wife dies a mysterious death after he painted her as the Angel Of Death. He marries Sally (Barbara Stanwyck) and as the same strange urge to paint her the angel of death. As bizarre and strange as it may sound, it’s very entertaining and most definitely held my attention while I was watching. Even my mother, who doesn’t really like Mr. Bogart, sat down and watched it. Although at times you feel Barbara Stanwyck’s character is completely hopeless (she doesn’t put up any fight, quite weak), that doesn’t mean that you don’t care about what happens to her. You really do, and you feel a sense of triumph as she grabs the gun. I think the ending would have been much better if she actually put up a fight (how I would love to see Stanwyck kicking Bogart in the groin!! Then punching him before saying a witty line). Just my opinion. I would pay to see that!

Anyway, I think The Two Mrs. Carrolls is a very much underrated film. I liked it, it’s quite exciting at times. Nice to see Mr. Bogart playing a different role – the villain. I’m getting this on DVD!

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A Well-Mounted Mystery With Fine Performances

8/10
Author: (kryck@lvcm.com) from Las Vegas, Nevada
27 June 2001

The 1947 mystery-thriller,”The Two Mrs.Carrolls”is considered by many critics to be a tepid,unrealistic film and one of Humphrey Bogart’s lesser works. This couldn’t be more false. The film contains brilliant performances by Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck,a great deal of eerie suspense,and delicious bits of English humor. The plot of the film is similar to that of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Dial M for Murder” and “Suspicion”,but has a uniqueness all it’s own. It tells the story of Geoffrey Carroll(Bogart),a struggling artist who marries a wealthy woman,Sally(Stanwyck), after his supposed invalid wife dies. Life is normal for them,until Sally begins to feel ill and restless quite often.A doctor says she’s suffering from nothing more than a nerve condition,and she believes that’s all it is. She is, unfortunately, in for a big surprise.She learns from Geoffrey’s precocious,young daughter,Bea(Ann Carter),some things about his previous wife.For starters,she was not an invalid and only got sick the last few weeks of her life.Geoffrey gave her milk at night to make her feel relaxed.This is exactly what he does for Sally.She also learns that a painting of his former wife,called “The Angel of Death”,was done while she was sick. Hearing this,Sally comes to the realization that she is Geoffrey’s next victim of a well-planned crime.Stanwyck has never been better as a panic-stricken wife,trying to survive her husband’s evil doings.Bogart gives a highly underrated performance as a psychopath,who gets brutal when his murder plot doesn’t go according to plan.His presence on screen is often frightening.The ending is wonderfully witty and comical.While not in the same league as “The Maltese Falcon”or “Key Largo”,this is still a highly entertaining Bogart film,that will not disappoint. I give it a strong 8 1/2 out of 10.

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Warning, don’t drink this milk

8/10
Author: Chris Gaskin from Derby, England
13 June 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Of all the Humphery Bogart movies I have seen, The Two Mrs Carrolls proved he could make a good, creepy villain.

After the death of his first wife by poisoning her with milk he had spiked, Bogie, who plays a psychopathic artist meets another woman and marries her and he intends to do the same with her as he is having an affair with someone else. The second Mrs Carroll gradually gets suspicious of his behaviour and eventually finds out what he did to his first wife and manages to call the police. She refuses to drink a glass of milk he gives her and the police then arrive and he is arrested at the end, keeping calm despite this.

Although Bogie only appeared in one horror movie, The Return of Doctor X, The Two Mrs Carrolls certainly has horror elements.

Joining Bogie in the cast are Barbara Stanwyck, Dr Watson himself Nigel Bruce (appropiantly as a doctor and a very similar role to Watson too) and Alexis Smith. Excellent parts from all.

The Two Mrs Carrolls is a must for all Bogie fans and is certainly worth the £1.50 I paid for it. Excellent stuff.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5.

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Critical reception

Some reviewers say The Two Mrs. Carrolls is similar to Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman

The Two Mrs. Carrolls did very poorly at the box office. The film also received generally poor reviews in the United States upon its release. Reviewers in the British press found the movie’s “quaint old English” atmosphere over the top and amusing.

Modern reviewers tend to be highly critical of the film, although some find redeeming elements in it. Stanwyck biographer Dan Callahan, writing in 2012, called the film a “dreadful adaptation of a derivative stage thriller” and far too similar to Alfred Hitchcock‘s Suspicion (1941). He found that Peter Godfrey’s direction exhibited “a whole new level of miscalculation and incompetence”, and had a very low opinion of the acting. Stanwyck, he concluded, was incongruously chipper early in the film, while giving a stilted, distracted performance in the second half. Bogart was “embarrassing” with his over-acted insanity, Nigel Bruce turned in a similarly hammy performance, and Ann Carter’s adult-sounding dialogue was delivered with “lugubrious” slowness.Stanwyck biographer Axel Madsen’s 2001 assessment of the film was similarly poor. He believed that Godfrey indulged Bogart as a director, “letting [him] mug outrageously”He though both Bogart and Stanwyck were miscast, and felt the script undermined any suspense in the plot by repeatedly alluding to Bogart’s madness. Film reviewer Barry Monush felt the script gave Alexis Smith so little to do that casting her hardly seemed worth it. Film biographer David Quinlan, writing in 1983, concluded that the film’s fundamental flaws extended from Godfrey’s shortcomings as a director and the miscasting of Bogart as an insane wife-killer.

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Some reviews of the film are more mixed. Madsen, for example, says the one well-written and well-acted scene in the film occurs when Stanwyck breaks into Bogart’s studio and sees his demonic painting of her.  Film historian Daniel Bubbeo, while unhappy with the film’s similarities to Gaslight and Suspicion, praises the scene in which Bogart, in terrifying makeup, crashes through a window to attack Stanwyck.Similarities to other, better films are noticeable in The Two Mrs. Carrolls. At least one observer has pointed out that the scene in which Bogart climbs a set of stairs to bring Stanwyck a glass of poisoned milk is almost identical to a scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s 1940 thriller Rebecca  Sociologist Steve Zimmerman also notes the film’s many shortcomings, but also says the picture “manages to hold one’s attention”. Turner Classic Movies reviewer Jeremy Arnold was much more positive about the film, noting that its visuals were quite effective in creating an “impressive Gothic atmosphere. Godfrey uses mysterious lighting, images of blowing curtains and haunting paintings, and sounds of creaking boards, closing doors, and church bells to build suspense and a creepy atmosphere.”  Film historian Edmund Bansak, while acknowledging that Bogart and Stanwyck were miscast, found that Stanwyck stole the show with her performance. He also thought the film well produced, the musical score by Franz Waxman highly effective, and Stanwyck’s discovery of the “angel of death” painting scene very good.

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