The Unfaithful (1947)

Directed by Vincent Sherman
Cinematography Ernest Haller

The Unfaithful is a 1947 film noir directed by Vincent Sherman, starring Ann Sheridan, Lew Ayres and Zachary Scott. The movie is based on the W. Somerset Maugham-penned 1927 play and William Wyler-directed 1940 film, The Letter.

UNFAITHFUL, THE (1947)

Chris Hunter (Ann Sheridan) stabs a man in her home one night while her husband Bob is out of town. The dead man’s name is Tanner and she claims not to know him.

A blackmailer, Martin Barrow (Steven Geray), shows up with a bust of Chris Hunter’s head signed by Tanner, who was a sculptor. Larry Hannaford (Lew Ayres), her lawyer and a good friend, realizes that Chris is lying about not knowing the man she killed.

Barrow double-crosses her by taking the artwork to Tanner’s wife (Marta Mitrovich), who is now convinced Chris had an affair with her husband. She relays this information to Bob Hunter (Zachary Scott), who demands a divorce after Chris admits having an affair with Tanner while her husband was away during the war.

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Chris is charged with murder and tried. Hannaford persuades the jury that while Chris was indeed guilty of adultery, she stabbed Tanner in self-defense. Hannaford then convinces Bob and Chris at least consider trying to save their marriage rather than rush into a divorce.

The New York Times gave the film a mixed review: “The Warner Brothers have turned out a better than average murder mystery in The Unfaithful, but they have badly over-weighted with melodramatics the things they obviously wanted to say about a pressing social problem. The new picture at the Strand stabs and jabs like a hit-and-run prizefighter at the subject of hasty divorces and the dangerous consequences to society of this ill conceived cure all for marital difficulties, but it never gets across a telling dramatic punch. However, through some uncommonly persuasive acting and skillful direction the patently artificial plot stands up surprisingly well.”

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An A Picture With The Look Of A B

18 March 2005 | by David (Handlinghandel) (NY, NY) – See all my reviews

And that is a compliment for a film noir.

This is a strange movie, both daring in its subject matter and shackled by the censors. So a sculptor did a head of Ann Sheridan while hubby Zachary Scott was away in the war. Surely this ought to have been a full nude.

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Still, it captures the frustration of someone left alone for a long period (Sheridan), the anger of the person who expected her to be a dutiful Penelope, and most especially the nature of gossip when such things occur: Eve Arden is splendid as the leader of a fancy gang of cats, who regularly shuck their own husbands (courtesy of protagonist Ayres, a lawyer) and click their tongues at Sheridan.

The strange thing is that, though the sets are attractive, the crowd scenes plausible and well shot on Southern California streets, two of the stars and maybe more look worn out and bedraggled: Sheridan, though a sympathetic character, wears unflattering makeup that gives her a harsh look and Ayres looks puffy and tired.

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This is a variation on the far better known “The Letter,” a movie I respect for its craft but that I have never cared for. “The Unfaithful” is a more fully realized entertainment, though perhaps less elegant and stylized than its predecessor “The Letter.”

Fine remake of William Wyler’s ‘The Letter.’

6/10
Author: haroldg-2 from Philadelphia
13 July 2001

THE UNFAITHFUL (1947), is director Vincent Sherman’s 1947 loose remake of the 1940 William Wyler/Bette Davis classic, THE LETTER.

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Glamorous Ann Sheridan stars as a woman who kills an intruder in her home, and then tries to hide the fact that the man had once been her lover from her husband and the police. There’s one problem; the dead man had been a sculptor, and his widow has possession of a bust he had sculpted which Sheridan had obviously modeled for.

Sheridan is excellent as the loving wife who, out of loneliness during her husbands tour of duty in WWII, gave into temptation and an adulterous affair, then with her attorney (Lew Ayers) makes a desperate effort to retrieve the incriminating object before her husband (Zachary Scott) finds out the truth.

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Neither Ayers or Scott have ever set the screen on fire for me, and that holds true here as well. But they’re both always competent actors, and they give fine support to Miss Sheridan’s gutsy performance in one of her better Warner Brothers star vehicles.

Eve Arden also has several memorable scenes as a gossiping relative.

It’s not the classic film that THE LETTER is, but still a well made and highly entertaining Hollywood drama worth seeing.

Another Fine Performance By Ann Sheridan

10/10
Author: Randy_D from Michigan
7 December 2000

Ann Sheridan is in fine form here as a woman whose past not only catches up with her, it threatens to ruin her life.

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Sheridan portrays Chris Hunter, a woman who, while her husband was serving in World War II, gives in to her loneliness with a meaningless one night stand, hence the title of the film. While she tries desperately to keep this from her husband you get the sense that she knows it is only a matter of time before he finds out.

Ann Sheridan manages to evoke sympathy even though her character she did something that even she admits is unforgivable. You can’t condone what she did but at least you can understand why she did it.

Lew Ayres and Zachary Scott turn in solid supporting roles in a film worth catching.

What happened to Roger?

7/10
Author: krorie from Van Buren, Arkansas
19 March 2006

This is not a remake of “The Letter,” rather this film and “The Letter” are based on the same source, a novel by W. Somerset Maugham. Strangely, Maugham is not given credit. Since he was still alive at the time, one wonders why he didn’t object. Since “The Letter,” there have been other films using the same theme but not quite as obviously as “The Unfaithful,” though the setting and other parts have been changed to update the story.

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The delightful Ann Sheridan, who never received her due recognition as an actress, plays the bored housewife who has a fling while her new husband is away at war. Like so many other beauties, Marilyn Monroe comes to mind, Sheridan was promoted as a sex kitten, The “Oomph” Girl, and her true talents were never appreciated by the Hollywood establishment.

Though Sheridan is fine, three supporting players steal the show. The magnificent Lew Ayres shines as the attorney friend who tries to put the pieces together hoping to exonerate Chris Hunter (Sheridan) from suspected murder. The more he searches the less the puzzle pieces fit. Ayres received a bum rap by Hollywood big wigs when he exercised his First Amendment rights during World War II to express his pacifist views. This movie represents his efforts to be re-accepted.

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Zachary Scott plays against type as the husband who is caught in a murder investigation he doesn’t understand. As the story unwinds, he learns more about his wife than he wants to know or to accept. When Bob Hunter (Scott) appears on the scene having been away on business, the viewer automatically thinks he is in someway involved in the killing since Scott usually played the bad guy. This film shows that Scott was a more versatile actor when given an opportunity.

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Then there’s the elegant Eve Arden as family friend and relative, Paula. Arden has some of the best lines in the movie and does she know how to deliver them! She is catty, coy, and funny when delivering just one well-written line of dialog. When her role turns more serious toward the end of the flick, she knows how to handle that too with élan.

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The film is worthwhile but there are a few weaknesses. One is the introduction of characters that just wander in and then disappear without rhyme or reason. For example, at a drunken party, Paula’s ex, Roger, played by Douglas Kennedy, disrupts the proceedings and has to be led away by Chris and Larry Hannaford (Lew Ayres). After such a grand spectacle, Roger is never seen or mentioned again in the movie. The viewer keeps waiting for his return thinking that just maybe he had something to do with the murder.

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Another weakness is running time. This film is way too long. It would have played much better in a 60+ time slot. As is, there is too much dialog. So there are long boring talky parts included to stretch the film to an almost two hour format. “The Unfaithful” is more of an effective programmer than the flashy main feature it tries to be.

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