Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Woman in White

The Woman in White (1948) is a psychological thriller directed by Peter Godfrey and based on the novel by Wilkie Collins. The movie stars Gig Young, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet, Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead, John Emery and John Abbott.

In 1851, artist Walter Hartright (Gig Young) arrives in Limmeridge, England to teach drawing to wealthy Laura Fairlie (Eleanor Parker).

As he walks to the Fairlie estate, he encounters a strange young woman (Eleanor Parker) dressed in white, who disappears when a carriage drives up. The people in the carriage ask if Walter has seen the woman and explain that she has escaped from an asylum. Walter denies seeing the woman.

At the estate, Walter is greeted by Laura’s cousin, Marian Halcombe (Alexis Smith). The other members of the household are Frederick Fairlie (John Abbott), Laura (Eleanor Parker) and Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet).

Walter pays a visit to Fredrick Fairlie, an invalid with a nervous disposition who never leaves his room and is bothered by the slightest noise.

The next morning, Walter is introduced to Laura (Eleanor Parker) and mistakes her for the woman in white he met on the road. He soon realizes his mistake, and at breakfast, an amused Laura reveals the story to the rest of the house.

Later, Mrs. Vesey (Emma Dunn), Laura's old nurse, admits that many years earlier, there was a little girl at the house, who was about the same age and appearance as Laura. This information prompts Marian to investigate and read through old family letters, which confirms that there was a girl and her named was Ann Catherick who vowed to always wear all white.

Although Walter asks Marian not to mention the letter to Count Fosco (Sydney Greenstreet), the Count sees the letter and seizes it. Count Fosco had been in the carriage looking for the woman in white. Walter is suspicious of Count Fosco.

Walter and Laura begin to fall in love. But their romance is complicated by the return of Laura's fiance, Sir Percival Glyde (John Emery).

At Marian's insistance, Walter agrees to leave the estate. Before he does, he encounters Ann, who tells him she is being kept in the asylum to prevent her from warning Laura. Ann tells Walter her story and Walter tries to get her to confront Percival and Fosco but Ann is scared away at the sight of Fosco.

Walter accuses Percival and Fosco of forcing Fairlie to agree to Percival’s marriage to Laura for her money. Count Fosco dismisses Walter's claims and says that Ann is a mentally disturbed woman. Walter leaves the estate unable to get anyone to believe him.

Laura and Percivial marry. While they are on their honeymoon, Marian visits family. When Marian returns to the estate, she learns that the old family staff has been replaced. She is also shocked by Laura's strange behavior. Also living at the estate is Count Fosco and his wife (Agnes Moorehead).

Later, Laura tells Marian secretly that she is frightened of her husband. She tells Marian that Percival wants her money and she fears he might kill her. We learn that Count Fosco has been drugging Laura to gain control of her mind.

Laura falls ill and is having delusions. Ann visits Laura to warn her against Fosco and Percival. Ann escapes just as Fosco and Percival arrive in Laura's room. Fosco knows she has been there but is unable to figure out where she went.

We learn that Ann is hiding in a secret room off of Laura's bedroom and she is being helped by Countness Fosco (Agnes Moorehead).

Ann visits Laura again but is interrupted by Percival and Fosco and is frightened to death. Count Fosco has a wonderful plan. He substitutes Ann's body for Laura's. Laura is sent back to the asylum as Ann. Ann is buried as Laura.

At the funeral for Laura, Walter returns and realizes that it is Ann not Laura in the coffin. He tells Marian everything he knows and Marian believes him and agrees to help.

In the meantime, Fosco tries to convince Laura that she is Ann. He is not completely successful. In a moment when Laura realizes who she really is, she tells Percival she is pregnant.

Walter and Marian, have fallen in love, and Walter goes to the asylum to free Laura from her captors. However, he is too late, Laura has escaped on her own. He finds her and returns her to the hotel where he and Marian are staying. But Marian has left, she has returned to the estate to confront Count Fosco and make a deal with him. Laura and Walter rush to the estate to find Marian.

This is a wonderful and gripping psychological thriller with so many questions.

Who really is Ann and why was she sent away from the estate as a young girl?

Why is Countess Fosco helping Ann and what is her connection to Ann?

What is Count Fosco and Percival's true plan?

Will Walter and Laura arrive in time to save Marian from Count Fosco?

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