The Fabulous Forties #36: Dishonored Lady (dir by Robert Stevenson)


15 to go!

That’s what I find myself thinking as I begin this review of the 35th film in Mill Creek’s Fabulous Forties box set.  I’ve only got 15 more of these reviews to go and then I will be finished with the Fabulous Forties.

Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Over the past two months, I’ve seen some very good movies from the 1940s — The Black Book, The Last Chance, Trapped, and a few others.  However, I have also had to sit through things like Jungle Man, Freckles Comes Home, and Lil Abner.  The Fabulous Forties has been an uneven collection, even by the standards of Mill Creek.  However, the important thing is that I’m getting to discover films that I probably would otherwise have never known about.  I love watching movies, even ones that don’t quite work.

Fortunately, the 35th film in the Fabulous Forties does work.


The 1947 film Dishonored Lady stars the beautiful Hedy Lamarr as Madeline Damien.  Madeline would appear to have it all.  She’s wealthy, she’s socially well-connected, she lives in Manhattan, and she has a glamorous job as the fashion editor of a slick magazine called Boulevard.

So, if Madeline’s life is so perfect, why does she end up crashing her car outside of the house of psychiatrist Richard Caleb (Morris Carnovsky)?  Madeline says it was just an accident but Dr. Caleb immediately understands that she wrecked her car as part of a suicide attempt.  He takes Madeline as a patient and we quickly learn that Madeline is actually on the verge of a nervous breakdown.  When she’s not working, she’s usually drinking.  When she’s not drinking or working, she’s having sex with almost every man she meets.

(Or, as the film primly insists, “making love” to every man she meets.)

And what’s remarkable is that, for a 1947 film, Dishonored Lady is rather sympathetic to Madeline.  While it portrays her lifestyle as being self-destructive, it doesn’t condemn her.  It doesn’t attempt to argue that her problems are a fitting punishment for her decisions, as opposed to so many other 1940s films.  Even when Dr. Caleb’s counseling leads to Madeline quitting her job, the film refrains from criticizing Madeline for wanting to have a career.  Instead, it simply suggests that Boulevard is a toxic environment, almost entirely because of the sleazy men that Madeline has to deal with on a daily basis.

Madeline ends up renting a small apartment and rediscovering her love for painting.  Speaking of love, she also falls in love with her neighbor, Dr. David Cousins (Dennis O’Keefe).  At first, she doesn’t tell David anything about her past but, when she’s falsely accused of murder, she has no choice but to tell him everything.  Will David stand by her or will he prove to be yet another disappointment?  And will Madeline be able to prove her innocence even while her past in put on trial?

I really liked Dishonored Lady.  It’s a surprisingly intelligent film and Hedy Lamarr gives a great performance in the role of Madeline.  Dishonored Lady proved to be a pleasant surprise and you can watch it below!