Edgar G. Ulmer – Her Sister’s Secret (1946)

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REVIEWS:
A well-crafted film, 24 February 2001
Author: jeffreynothing from Toronto, Canada

I saw this film at a screening several years ago at the Edinburgh Film Festival. The picture was actually introduced by Mr.Ulmer’s daughter. It’s a typical 1940’s melodrama that is well directed. It is apparent in viewing the film that Ulmer knew exactly what he was doing when he made a movie. It was only the second Ulmer film I had seen, the first being the superior Detour. I can’t remember the plot in too much detail because it was a while ago, but it involves an illegitimate child. It has a good social message in that it sheds light on how so-called “bastard” children are sometimes the subjects of social discrimination. I’m surprised it hasn’t received more votes. I guess I was lucky to catch that screening.

Sin during Mardi Gras leads to heartache, 27 November 2003
Author: jjodo32 from Cinnaminson, NJ, USA

I found this a very touching film, perhaps because I too spent leave in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. However, in my case my loneliness was not assuaged by a tryst with a lovely young woman who gave me access to all the best New Orleans had to offer during wartime. In keeping with conventions of the day the woman is punished for her sin when, not having heard from her lover who has returned to duty, she gives up her baby to her married sister. Although somewhat dated & melodramatic the film works on many levels. I particularly liked the evocation of the New Orleans social scene during Mardi Gras, something I missed when I was there.

Mr. Ulmer in the Douglas Sirk mode., 29 June 2009
Author: BrentCarleton

It is nothing if not puzzling, that despite all the attention Mr. Ulmer’s other work receives, “Her Sister’s Secret,” remains consigned to some no man’s land–ignored, ignored, ignored…

Very bewildering indeed, since, Mr. Ulmer is clearly working above his usual constraints, as is evidenced by the fact that it doesn’t look like a PRC film at all! By some feat or other, a bit more coin was dropped here and it shows.

Working this time without his usual collaborators, (or should we say culprits?) producer Leon Fromkess and art director Paul Palmentola) Ulmer achieves something completely unlike the pulp antics of “Monsoon” or “Delinguent Daughters,”–a posh women’s picture in the Douglas Sirk mode–all velvet and satin and ball masques.

Indeed, the film looks for all the world like one of Ross Hunter’s early black and white dramas for Universal–(before he ascended into Eastmancolor heaven)-such are the film’s physical and aural accoutrements, (among the latter note the use of a celestial choir in the fadeout just as in 1959’s “Imitation of Life”).

To avoid “spoilers” suffice it to say that the story hinges on a well born young miss who finds herself in trouble after an indiscretion with a furloughed soldier during Mardi Gras. Though Miss Coleman’s character mentions her extreme “shame,” the picture avoids the moral implications of her dilemma in favor of the unavoidable emotional attachment she feels toward her child.

To the picture’s credit it strongly emphasizes the permanent natural and ethical link that maternity imposes, (this would be an excellent film for pro-abortionists to see.)

That the principal players are Phillip Reed, soulfully beautiful Nancy Coleman, and tres chic Margaret Lindsay assures the audience of three very good looking leads. In addition it offers veteran player Henry Stephenson a good part preparatory to his trek to Albion in order to film David Lean’s “Oliver Twist,” (didn’t Ulmer rub shoulders with interesting people?)

Though bereft of Eugene Shufftan’s fabled expertise on this project, Mr. Ulmer was lucky to secure the services of Franz Planer, a superb cinematographer in his own right, who manages deftly smooth boom maneuvers amidst the moody settings (the work of art director Edward Jewell). This is most evident in the film’s superb opening, in which Mr. Planer rides his camera through the flying confetti and contorted, gyrating and swaying movement of the masqued revelries of the Mardi Gras, (this film anticipates, on a smaller scale, the carnival sequence in “Saraband for Dead Lovers”).

The settings include the terraced New Orleans restaurant where the film opens, Mr. Stephenson’s private library, an Arizona Sanitorium, Central Park and Miss Lindsay’s swank Manhatten duplex apartment, which seems to take some of its stylistic cues from Premingers “Laura,” (all white on white satin with the requisite terrace.)

And being a women’s picture a nod must go to “Donn” who provided the Misses Coleman and Lindsay with a mouth watering wardrobe, which serves as a reminder at what a dear sartorial cost the cultural meltdown of recent decades has wrought–one won’t find on screen elegance like this today. Why the milliner alone must have made a killing on this picture! And take a gander at that satin lined split sleeve number Miss Lindsay wears in her final scene.

All told, this is a smoothly turned and consistently interesting treatment of a perennial problem–and deserves a far higher place on the list of Mr. Ulmer’s credentials than “Jive Junction”.





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Language(s):English

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