Ladies in Retirement (1941) was directed by Charles Vidor and stars Ida Lupino and Louis Hayward.
Ida Lupino plays Ellen Creed a housekeeper to retired actress Ms. Fisk (Isobel Elsom). Evelyn Keyes plays Lucy, the maid.
The film's setting is the late 1800s in a remote area of England. Ms. Fisk (Isobel Elsom) is a retired London stage actress. She lives with her personal assistant/ housekeeper, Ellen Creed (Ida Lupino) and her maid, Lucy (Evelyn Keyes). The remote mansion in the country only gets occasional vistors like the sisters from the near by church, Sister Agatha (Queenie Leonard) and Sister Theresa (Emma Dunn) or Ms. Fisk's driver, Bates (Clyde Cook).
The film opens with Ellen receiving a letter from her sister's landlord. The landlord states they must leave at once or she will call the police and have them committed to the appropriate institution. Ellen persuades her employer, Ms. Fisk to permit the sisters to visit for a few days, not telling her of their mental problems. Ellen goes to London to run a few errands for Ms. Fisk and pick up her sisters.
While Ellen is in London, her long lost nephew Albert (Louis Hayward) appears needing money. The generous Ms. Fisk loans him a few pounds. Albert also takes a fancy to the maid, Lucy. He leaves before Ellen returns and asks Ms. Fisk and Lucy not to say anything of his visit.
Ellen returns from London with her sisters Emily (Elsa Manchester) and Louisa (Edith Barrett). A few days visit turns into six weeks. The two sisters are batty and soon get on Ms. Fisk's nerves. Ms. Fisk has had about all she can take of the crazy sisters and their antics. Ms. Fisk demands Emily and Lousia leave her home at once.
Ellen fearing her sisters will be committed and having no avenue of escape, murders her employer Ms. Fisk and tells everyone Ms. Fisk is on an extended holiday.
Long lost nephew Albert returns to the mansion, and begins to suspect what Ellen has done with Ms. Fisk. He is also running from the law, after stealing money from the bank where he worked.
What begins is a suspenceful cat and mouse game between Ellen and Albert, with Lucy helping Albert. Will Ellen be exposed or will she retain the upper hand?
The acting is excellent and it is a very absorbing suspenseful film. The name of the film makes it sound like it would be a comedy and not the melodrama that it is. It is actually based on a true story that occurred in England in 1886.
If you have not seen this film, I highly recommend it, you will not be disappointed.