The Lady Vanishes – Rediscovering ‘My Name is Julia Ross’ (US 1945 – 65 mins)

Posted in Rediscover by - March 17, 2019
The Lady Vanishes – Rediscovering ‘My Name is Julia Ross’ (US 1945 – 65 mins)

An edge-of-your-seat suspenser, ‘My Name is Julia Ross’ is a fast moving melodrama that I’d never heard of until fairly recently, but it turned out to be a very entertaining discovery.

The standard plot is pretty simple. After taking a job in London as a live-in secretary for the elderly Mrs Hughes (Dame May Whitty), Julia Ross (Nina Foch) awakens a couple of days later to find herself holed-up in a mansion in Cornwall. It transpires that Whitty’s knife-wielding son Ralph (George Macready) has killed his wife and needs Julia (who resembles her) to be killed, but made to look like an accident, in order to get the inheritance. Julia learns of their diabolical plan, but has trouble convincing anyone to believe her. Alone and frightened, can she reach out to anybody in time to prevent her imminent demise?

At just over an hour, the movie runs at a fast pace and builds the tension nicely. In her first major role, Dutch born Nina Foch uses her eyes perfectly to convey the terror she feels. Foch later found success at MGM, co-starring with Gene Kelly in ‘An American in Paris’ (’51), and won plaudits for her role as a loyal secretary in the star-studded ‘Executive Suite’ (’54). As the cruel Mrs Hughes, Dame May Whitty was in rare villain mode here, and is best remembered for her Oscar-nominated role playing Lady Beldon in Mrs. Miniver (’42). George Macready is wonderfully sinister as the knife-wielding Ralph Hughes, though I’ll always remember him for his superb turn as a French General, in Stanley Kubrick’s superb anti-war movie ‘Paths of Glory’ (’57).

Cult director Joseph H. Lewis does a wonderful job here, and later made one of my favourite B-movies ‘Gun Crazy’ (’50). The expert photography was by Burnett Guffey, who later did fine (Oscar-nominated) work on ‘Birdman of Alcatraz’ (’62) and ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (’67).

The film’s conclusion is rather satisfying, but it’s the paranoia heavy plot that keeps you riveted throughout. The tense booby-trapped stairwell scene is particularly memorable, as is the sequence where Julia tries to post a letter of help to her ex boyfriend.

A must-see thriller that Hitchcock would have enjoyed making, ‘My Name is Julia Ross’ is a terrific sleeper that warrants repeat viewings. It crams a lot into it’s 65 minutes and, unlike the wicked Hughes family, does not outstay its welcome.

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