Woman in the Shadows (November 9, 1934)
Released on November 9, 1934: John Bradley served his time in prison for hitting a man in a brawl that later died. Now he just wants to be left alone, but a woman running from her wealthy husband will cause him more trouble than he can handle.
Directed by Phil Rosen
Written by Dashiell Hammett, Sada Cowan, Charles Williams and Marcy Klauber.
The Actors: Fay Wray (Louise Loring), Ralph Bellamy (John Bradley), Melvyn Douglas (Tony Robson), Nell O'Day (Helen Grant), Roscoe Ates (Tommy Logan), Ruth Gillette (Lil Logan), Joe King (detective), Frank Otto (Kraus), Reed Brown Jr. (Conroy), Granville Bates (Sheriff Grant), Charles Williams (clerk), Frank Shannon (prison warden), Cliff Dunstan (doctor).
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The Woman in the Shadows, also released as Woman in the Dark, is a Dashiell Hammett thriller that explores the personalities of the good, the bad, and the righteous. John Bradley (Ralph Bellamy) spent some time in prison when he hit a man who later died in a fight to protect the honor of the Sheriff's daughter, and his girlfriend, Helen. Once out of jail, he heads back to his home town Denton and just wants to live alone in a cabin at the edge of town with his dog. But Helen, the Sheriff's daughter, wants to help him make the cabin a home, and resume their friendship, but John just wants to be left alone. John has just convinced Helen to go home and leave him alone when there is a knock on the door. When the door opens, a pretty woman dressed in a beautiful gown enters (Louise Loring, played by Fay Wray), and says she is looking for the train station. She has been running in the dark and has a wounded leg and torn gown. As Helen is nursing her wounded knee, she exclaims that she is sorry to be such trouble, and John answers that 'trouble' is woman's middle name. She asks if that is how he really feels about women, and he says, "Exactly."
Next, there is another knock at the door, and it is local 'wolf' Tony Robson (Melvyn Douglas) and his sidekick Tommy. Tony asks Louise to come back to his place, but she tells him that she is leaving on the morning train and never wants to see him again. John's dog looks menacingly at Tony, and he leaves. When Tony gets back to his place, he calls the Sheriff and tells him that his daughter Helen is with the ex-con, because he knows that the Sheriff thinks John is a bad person that should not have gotten out of prison. We are discovering that Tony is a real skunk, his sidekick is feeling badly about Tony's behaviour, but Tony slaps him into submission.
Later that night Tony returns to John's cabin to get Louise, and when the dog barks at Tony as he grabs Louise, he tells his sidekick to 'get rid of that dog,' and the sidekick shoots the dog dead. When John comes into the room and sees that the sidekick killed his dog, John punches the sidekick, and Tony pulls out a gun to shoot John, but John struggles with him and the gun goes off wildly into the ceiling. After Tony and his sidekick leave, John and Louise chat and we flash back to the days when Tony and Louise were a happy couple that degraded to a bad realationship when Tony turned his affection into a play for power over Louise. Meanwhile, when Robson and his sidekick get home, Robson calls the Sheriff again and tells him that John started a fight with him and his sidekick and that Robson will swear out a warrant for John. Helen calls John and warns him that her father is coming after John to arrest him, so John goes on the run, and Louise goes with him so he can drop her off at the train station. Later, on the road, Louise says that she wants to stay with John instead of going to the station, and we see a budding love affair starting.
They go to the home of a fellow that served time with John in prison and became friends. John had told Helen where he was going, but told her not to let anyone else know where they were going. Unfortunately as Helen tries to call him, her father the Sheriff overhears her calling, and discovers the address that John is staying at, and informs the police of that town to pick him up. As they knock on the door, John escapes through the window, but as he is running away, gets shot and taken to the hospital. Louise stays behind because they think she has nothing to fear, but Robson has told the police that her jewelry was stolen, and she is arrested and put in jail, to wait for police from Denton to return her to the town. Robson gets a lawyer to get Louise out of jail on bail, and approaches her with a deal that if she will go back with him, he will clear her, but Bradley will go back to prison. Robson's power is complete - thanks to his manipulations, he has total life and death control over both Louise and John. Louise doesn't want to go back to Robson, but doesn't know what else to do.
It looks like bad news for John and also for Louise, with the wealthy and powerful controlling the lives of the less fortunate. How will the celebrated author Dashiell Hammett wind down this tale? As only the master of mystery could - in classic noir thriller fashion.