Suspense (1946)

US WB Archive Collection DVD

Belita


YES!! A forgotten Film Noir crime drama from B studio Monogram with the British figure skater and dancer Belita in
the main role as a .... surprise .... figure skater. There were a lot of Hollywood films with the then famous Norwegian
figure skater Sonja Henie and here B studio Monogram and The King Brothers really, really put some effort in making
the less known skater Belita a movie star. This film looks truly great and like an A studio production with some great
looking photography from Cinematographer Genius Karl Struss (1886-1981) who worked with Cecil B. DeMille
on Ben Hur, with Charlie Chaplin and with F.W. Murnau on the visual Masterpiece Sunrise in 1927.

So, Monogram really gave this project an A treatment and the film, according to wiki, did indeed very well at the box
office which is nice to hear. There is justice. So, it really, really would've been nice to hear all about the filming of this
in a commentary track ..... but, no such luck as this is a Warner Brothers Archive Collection DVD release. Which means
that this film is burned on order and there are seldom any extras on these editions. It also means that this great film have
been forgotten today and is considered to obscure to get a regular release

Belita and Barry

Great eyes; Great on ice

Belita or Gladys Lyne Jepson Turner (1923-2005) was a British figure skater that took part in the 1936 Winter
Olympics when she was only 12 years old, and who left for a professional career in the US in 1938. She skated
in Ice Shows and in the trail of Sonja Henie she got a film contract from the King Brothers and Monogram.
Her greatest films where this one, crime-drama Suspense in 1946, and the follow-up in 1947, The Gangster.
She's perfectly OK, even though she clearly was no actress, in this film as the alluring ice-show star and i'm in
Love .... again. Yummy Belita. She was an attractive woman for sure. I wouldn't mind if there was a porno
version of this film also, but then that's me .... and i'm a sick puppy, sorry all deadly serious filmlovers.
As a skater she clearly had great artistic abilities and not surprisingly also became an accomplished dancer too
(and later was featured in dance movies) and her pirouettes on the ice look great.

Those were the times, when Hollywood had elaborate show numbers in their movies, dance, ice-skating ones as in
the Sonja Henie or Belita films or swimmingpool ones as in the Esther Williams films. I've never seen a Henie movie
as these have never been shown on Swedish TV but i strongly suspect her charms as an actress/woman can't compare
with ms. Belita's. There are some figure skating show numbers in this film and they all blend in nicely with the film and
Belita look GREAT on the ice, so smooth and agile and very artistical. I would love to see a figure skater like Belita
today, competing (yes, with modern technical skills naturally) as the athletes today look like jumping machines with
hysterical fast arm movements without much feeling. The figure skating sport has changed a lot for sure

The Loop through the jaws of Death

Lovely Belita and great Eugene Pallette

So, when there's no porno- or even softcore version of this film we will have to do with Belita with her clothes on in this
one, and that's a great A-studio looking B noir crime-drama with a drifter, a rich man with a gorgeous wife and an ex-girl-
friend making trouble for our "hero". Figure-skating Noir, that sounds strangely cool, doesn't it.

The Story:

The film starts in an eye-catching way when a blonde woman with 2 bored men at her side shoot a man to death, but NO
she's only shooting at some tivoli shooting gallery. A drifter, Joe Morgan (Barry Sullivan) asks the proprietor of the stand
where he can get a job, and he's pointed in the direction of the Ice Show on the other side of the street.
The Ice Parade, owned by rich man Frank Leonard (Albert Dekker) has it's big star in beautiful Roberta Elva (Belita) and
the show obviously desperately needs a peanut vendor and he immediately hires Joe for the job.
Joe wants to be somebody, and that fast, and also, as soon as he has set his eyes on Roberta, he wants the boss Hot wife

Rivals at the cabin

Joe soon becomes manager of the show and he brings in the audience with the new daring act, Roberta making a
jump through a ring of knives - The Leap through the jaws of Death, and with Roberta/Belita appearing on the ice
through a Salvador Dali-esque Death Skull painting. Well, this is some sort of Noir so handsome and younger (than
Frank) Joe and gorgeous Roberta immediately are sexually attracted to each other.

Frank doesn't like this very much and up at his luxurious cabin in the mountains he plans revenge ... or murder to be
exact. But, instead of killing Joe he himself disappears in a snow avalanche, and this scene are well made with back-
projection i presume and the scene in the high mountains when we see a skater practise at at a frozen pond at the
bottom of the picture and obviously with backdrops of mountain peaks higher up in the picture ..... how?
How did they do this? Some sort of great trick photography i guess and very impressive. As i already said, i would
have loved to hear about this and everything else about the film and Belita in a commentary track, but no.

She knows ....

Back in LA, Joe now runs the Ice Show and everything looks copacetic for our "hero" when bad things finally are coming
his way in the shape of his ex-girlfriend from Chicago, Ronnie (Bonita Granville). She wants to hook up with Joe again and
when she's snubbed she doesn't take it too well, and Joe's in for a fall.

Frank's assistant Harry is played by the great veteran actor Eugene Pallette, the man with the deep voice and who could be
seen in lots and lots of Hollywood movies in smaller parts. That sort of character actor that really could act but never was
given a big role as he was no pretty boy. Belita in this film is no femme fatale really as she's a good woman, and Joe at first
seems only to be a bit over-ambitious but not really bad, but at the end he shows his real self and this and the photography
makes this film to fit in with the Film Noir category.
4:3 original fullscreen ratio, black & white, english mono audio, no extras

 

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