The Woman on the Beach (1947)

“Go ahead and say it … I’m no good!” Although definitely considered one of director Jean Renoir’s lesser efforts, The Woman on the Beach is a nice little atmospheric drama with film-noirish overtones about the intersection of three damaged lives that clocks in at just 71 minutes. The film opens with a well-done nightmare sequence involving U.S. Coast Guard officer “Scott Burnett” (a rather wooden Robert Ryan), who has obviously endured some kind of traumatic wartime ordeal. Although he has a girlfriend, “Eve Geddes” (Nan Leslie), Scott starts a relationship with the mysterious “Peggy Butler” (Joan Bennett), who he meets while horseback riding at the site of a ghostly abandoned shipwreck on the beach. Peggy is married to a crusty old blind painter named “Tod” (Charles Bickford) and the couple shares a volatile relationship to say the least. Just as Tod keeps a hold on Peggy (he once remarks to her, “So beautiful outside, so rotten inside”), he stores his valuable paintings in a locked closet of the couple’s beach cottage. Scott starts to get a strong feeling that Peggy feels trapped in the marriage and would prefer to see Tod out of the way so she can sell his valuable paintings and move on with her life. Tragedy ensues when Scott attempts to test if Tod is really blind (he believes that he may be faking the whole thing to maintain his suffocating grip on Peggy). Believe it or not, he invites Tod for a leisurely stroll along the edge of a cliff in order to test his theory! Renoir reportedly reedited the film after a disastrous test screening but it proved to be a box office failure anyway. Critic Leonard Maltin gave the film 1 ½ stars, referring to it as an “overheated melodrama.” I disagree strongly. You be the judge. Useless Trivia: Irene Ryan, who portrays “Mrs. Wernecke” in The Woman on the Beach, is best known as “Granny” from The Beverly Hillbillies TV show.

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