What did you watch? murder mystery No Man’s Woman from 1955
The film’s attitudes toward women? Pretty attrocious.
Is it much of a mystery? It’s not much of anything.
No Man’s Woman stars Marie Windsor as a murder victim who spends the film’s first act alive and pretty much setting up that she’s deserving of what she’s about what she’s going to get. She’s an art dealer estranged from her wealthy husband Harlow but they’re not divorced, which makes his plans to get remarried to his new girlfriend on indefinite hold. Harlow invites her over to beg for her to accept a divorce and she won’t so he slaps her. I’m not sure what her demands are but I got the sense that Harlow’s wealthy dad is willing to pay for it but then you wouldn’t have much of a motive for what is forshadowed.
There’s also Betty, Marie’s plucky assistant whose heart hasn’t been broken into a million pieces by life or love just yet, but don’t worry because Marie’s on that. Marie meets Dick, to whom Betty is engaged. Dick’s love in life is a fishing boat he bought and wants to use as his middle class yacht, and also Betty, who is young enough to be his daughter I think but whatever, it’s 1955. Marie tells Betty to fill in for something art-sale related, and then heads to the dock to invite herself on Dick’s boat and try to seduce him. Dick is accommodating but only up to a point when Marie pretty much spells it out that they should go out and probably have sex afterward that evening, and Dick tells her off and Marie slaps him. (There’s a lot of slapping in this movie.) Betty has already been informed after leaving the art store that Dick & Marie had hopped on his boat earlier, and when she sees Dick next she breaks it off.
Finally there’s Wayne, a writer and Marie’s boyfriend, who has promoted Marie to the point where he has crossed various journalistic ethics and if found out it would ruin his standing and he’d never be able to work in the newspaper business or art world again. He states this to her rather grimly when they have an argument but she’s like “meh, I’ve got my exhusband to float me and my assistant’s ex boyfriend to toy with, so whatevs.”
Anyway, after a full day of ruining people’s lives, she heads to bed. She hears something, heads to the staircase, and recognizes her visitor (unseen to us) who shoots and kills her.
What next? The police investigate and find a mini tornado leading right to Harlow, who had drank himself into an immobile stupor that evening. Not good enough, but Harlow’s dad confesses, even though it’s obvious he didn’t do it. But it frees up Harlow and his girlfriend to investigate his ex-wife’s murder, because his dad has already given him so much, yet in Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree I don’t think the stump covered for the old man’s murder spree at the end of the book and he doesn’t want his dad to rot in prison (and the cops don’t believe it either). Their investigation zeroes pretty much on Betty & Dick, whom both felt miserable about how Marie pushed them apart (for a day). When questioned by the cops, Betty claimed she was still engaged to Dick, but lied about not having her engagement ring because she had thrown it back at Dick. So Harlow corners & grills them about it, Dick tries to start a fight but Harlow knocks him down.
Somewhat having the young couple on notice, and the movie down to its last reel, Harlow & his girlfriend go to Marie’s where they try to piece the crime together, even breaking a window to see if Marie could have heard it from her bedroom, and if so why didn’t she call the cops? Also why the hell does Harlow, whom I’m sure is still a suspect because the cops probably know his dad confessed to buy Harlow time, have access to the crime scene? Well, just then Wayne walks in, gun drawn. He killed Marie, because duh, and he threatens to kill Harlow’s girlfriend. Harlow and Wayne fight. Wayne is arrested (I think), everything works out for everyone else, all because Marie is out of their lives in however violent fashion.
It was not noir, before you ask. I’m a little disappointed because the movie doesn’t take a dark turn where Betty nor Dick goes that extra mile out of passion for each other, and then their love and future is doomed anyway because one of them was the killer. Nope, they have to overcome their pride and listen to each other and get back together because they’re so adorable. Harlow goes full detective to clear his dad. So that just leaves Wayne, with whom the movie barely spends any time. So, duh. That said, there’s a line when Betty is introduced when she walks into the art store (gallery?), where Marie is gloating over a painting she sold for hundreds that Betty had bought for maybe 70 bucks. (I mean, that’s business, if you’re a retailer you get things cheap and sell it more – or, maybe the writers weren’t aware of consignment sales through galleries?). Was this going to be a surprise killer? An art student who felt ripped off by Marie? Like, some guy walks in and the movie never introduced him until now and he’s like “I coulda made a few more bucks!” Nah. Wayne pretty much stated that Marie had ruined his life. So, there you go. Columbo wouldn’t have even bothered with this one.
It’s not terrible but it’s not great – sadly, Marie’s character is the most interesting, and even if she’s toying with these men, you’re kinda rooting for her. I spoiled it but it’s not an unwatchable “mystery.”
Marie Windsor was in a ton of stuff, but I remember her from The Killing as Elisha Cook’s scheming wife. She appeared in Two Dollar Bettor, The Narrow Margin, and City That Never Sleeps, which I’ve covered on this site in the past. I don’t recognize Richard Crane who plays Dick, but it appears he was in a serial that ended up being on MST3K. I don’t have much to say on the rest of the cast.