“By now you must be frightened out of your wits. You don’t know which way to turn, there’s no place to hide, nowhere to run… except to me. So take my advice, Blue Gardenia. Go to the nearest phone booth and invest a dime on the rest of your life.”
So I watched this movie years ago on TCM. I remember loving it and trying to find it again to watch, but every time they played it again they never showed it at a time I could watch it.
The other day I was shelving at the library and found it, I immediately had to check it out and watch it again to see if it is as good as I remember.
The film starts off with a jaunty tune as we follow reporter Casey Mayo (Richard Conte) as he heads to a phone company for a story. There he runs into Harry Prebble (Raymond Burr), artist and player.
Yes, Harry is always coming by and using the phone operators as “models”, starting with sketching, then taking them out to a fancy dinner and plying them with drinks, later taking them home.
Harry has his eye on Crystal Carpenter (Ann Sothern), but she’s not buying it. She let him draw her but refuses anything else as she is dating her ex-husband.
Harry turns to Crystal’s roommate, Norah Larkin (Anne Baxter), but she has eyes only for her long-term boyfriend who is a soldier in the Korean War.
That night Crystal, Norah, and their other roommate Sally Ellis, continue their plans for the night. Crystal is going out with her ex-husband, Sally is getting the newest Mickey Mallet novel and going to read it.
For Norah, she has something very special planned. It’s her birthday and she has a letter from her boyfriend. She can’t have him here for the celebration she really wants-so she does the next best thing. She bought a new dress, made a roast, and bought champagne to go with it.
After her roommates leave, Nora gets everything ready and then opens the letter.
Dear Norah, You’ve probably learned by now that I’m not so hot as a letter writer. I remember when we were kids in Bakersfield and I worked vacations in San Joaquin Valley. You used to bawl me out for not writing. Well, I guess I’ve gotten worse. But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about you… a lot. And also thinking about someone else, Norah. A nurse I met in Tokyo when I took a load of Commie shrapnel with me. Angela, that’s her name, supplied the strength and the courage and everything else to pull me through. I didn’t want it to happen but… there’s nothing a guy can do about the real McCoy, and that’s what this is. We’re in love. And when I get out we’re going to be married. That’s the story, Norah. And, I guess there’s nothing else to say except I hope you’ll understand. With affection, always… and best wishes for your future. “Best wishes for your future”. Yours very sincerely. Yours very… truly.
Oh MY GOSH…seriously????? This is the real McCoy? So all those times you said I love you it was a lie!!!??? What a major jerk!!! And ON HER BIRTHDAY!!!!
Norah is upset and doesn’t know what to do. The phone rings and she answers it. It is Harry calling to ask Crystal out. Norah tries to tell him that she’s not Crystal, but he doesn’t listen to her. Norah decides to take Harry up on his offer and goes down to The Blue Gardenia restaurant. There Harry is waiting with Polynesian Pearl Divers, which has like three different kinds of rum in it and Harry asks for extra rum.
Casey Mayo sees Harry there and they say a quick hello as Casey goes on the prowl for his own dame.
Harry is surprised to see Nora, but in his mind one beautiful girl is just as good as another. Norah enjoys the drinking as she wants to forget the beginning of the night ever happened. Harry supplies lots and lots of drinks and Norah keeps on drinking. She is extremely wasted.
Its just what Harry wants, and he asks her to come to his place for a party with friends.
Yes his friends rum, rohypnol, and rape.
They get to his place and he shows her his pictures. It actually reminds me of Blackmail. While there Norah is starting to nod off, Harry puts on the song The Blue Gardenia and gives her coffee. Coffee that tastes odd to Norah.
Harry starts to put the moves on Norah as she starts to question where the friends are. When he goes on her she attacks him, pulls away, breaks the mirror, and…fade to black.
The next morning all the girls are up and early, except Norah. She has a headache and a hangover. The girls think she went out drinking as they both read her letter. Norah can’t remember anything.
The police start investigating Harry’s death. The maid has already started cleaning up before she fund the body and washed two sets of dishes-no dice on DNA. All they have to go on is black suede heels size 5. And that she was a beautiful blonde-Harry’s type.
Casey directs the police to the phone company, knowing that where Harry found his ladies. He heads to the newspaper office, hit with the fantastic idea of calling her “The Blue Gardenia” after the song and the restaurant.
They question girl after girl, Norah becoming more and more upset with each one, more afraid as bits of the previous night come back to her piece by piece.
She can remember being there and if she was there that night she must have murdered him. Se continues to grow restless and snappish, having her friends and roommates questioning her.
Then Casey gets told he will have to be sent elsewhere to report on something, but he wants to see the Blue Gardenia play out. He gets the idea from a joke of a coworker to write a letter and see if she will speak to him.
A Letter to an Unknown Murderess. Dear Blue Gardenia, Any day now, any hour… any minute, the police are going to catch up with you… But, all they want is a quick confession… I want to help you. When I say “I”, that means my newspaper and me. To us you’re a story… a big story! If we get it first we will go all out for you. You can trust me. And, I promise not to print a line without your permission. By now you must be frightened out of your wits. You don’t know which way to turn, there’s no place to hide, nowhere to run… except to me. So take my advice, Blue Gardenia. Go to the nearest phone booth and invest a dime on the rest of your life. Dial Madison 60025. And ask for, yours very earnestly, Casey Mayo.
Norah decides to answer. But will she end up in prison? Could a nice girl who has never done wrong have to spend a lifetime paying for a mistake?
Didn’t realize that the film was so close to Blackmail. It had similarities with the painting scene and walking at night in the fog, regretful.
A great movie, just as good as I remember and well worth watching.
To start Horrorfest VII from the beginning, go to It’s the End of the World: The Birds (1963)
For the previous post, go to What Happened to Ally Palmer?: The Good Student (2006)
For more film-noir, go to Go Ahead and Shoot…As Far As Killing Me, Well, I Don’t Think You’re That Good a Shot: Possessed (1947)
For more Anne Baxter, go to Oh, Moses, Moses: Happy 60th Anniversary to The Ten Commandments
For more on Ann Southern, go to Which Husband Ran Off With Addie Ross?: A Letter to Three Wives (1949)