Must-See Movie: My Name is Julia Ross (1945)

Nina Foch gives a first-rate performance in the title role.

My Name is Julia Ross came THISCLOSE to being my TCM film noir pick of the month – it was edged out by a hair by that ever-so-awesome Burt Lancaster starrer, The Sweet Smell of Success. But while you’re making your movie-watching choices for the month of November, I highly recommend that you include this one on your list!

A minor thriller made for the B-movie unit at Columbia Studios, Julia Ross is unusual for noir, as its setting is not a gritty urban locale in the U.S., but in England. This backdrop doesn’t make the film any less noirish, though, which you’ll discover in the first few minutes.

The film centers on Julia Ross (Nina Foch), an out-of-work secretary who is hired through an agency to provide live-in services to a Mrs. Williamson Hughes (Dame May Whitty) and her son, Ralph (George Macready). Although Julia is oblivious to the red flags, we are instantly suspicious of the fact that the owner of the employment agency pointedly confirms the fact that Julia has no family ties and “no young man.” We’re also privy to the creepy man eavesdropping from a nearby room while Julia is being interviewed, and we know something is amiss after Julia leaves and Mrs. Hughes declares, “Well, we better hurry and close up the agency now – we shan’t need it any longer.” (Dun dun DUNN!!)

All is not as it seems.

All is not as it seems.

We soon find that our suspicions are well-founded, when Julia goes to sleep in Mrs. Hughes’s home in London and awakens in a mansion on the Cornwall coast. I won’t say anything more about the plot – this is one you’ve got to enjoy discovering on your own! – but I will say that one of the things that I like the most about this film is that almost no one is what they appear to be. Mrs. Hughes comes across as a very sweet, generous old lady, who doles out cash to Julia on their first meeting so that she can go shopping before starting her new job and vows to “do our best to make you happy with us.” And her son, Ralph, seems to be a normal, polite, thoroughly pleasant young man – that is, until you see him playing with knives. There’s even more than meets the eye to Mrs. Allison (Anita Sharpes-Bolster) from the employment agency and the doctor (Leonard Mudie) who visits Julia at the Hughes mansion.

The film was helmed by Joseph H. Lewis – it was his breakthrough effort, after directing pictures for nearly 10 years. He went on to direct such noir gems as The Undercover Man (1949), Gun Crazy (1950), and The Big Combo (1955). The screenplay, by Muriel Roy Bolton, was based on the 1941 novel The Woman in Red, by Anthony Gilbert; Gilbert was one of five pseudonyms used by London native Lucy Beatrice Malleson. (Malleson published her first mystery as Anthony Gilbert in 1927, and for many years, her true identity was kept secret.)

Although Nina Foch later joked that the film was “shot in about three and a half minutes,” she acknowledged that it provided her with “the first [role] that I really liked.”

You’ll like it, too – I guarantee it. Tune in to TCM on Thursday, November 14th and see!

(You only owe it to yourself.)

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 12, 2013.

9 Responses to “Must-See Movie: My Name is Julia Ross (1945)”

  1. Great movie! The cast is perfect in this film, all working together to tell an interesting and noirish tale.

  2. Nice take on a fine flick. Foch should have had a bigger career

    • She definitely should have — although she did make a nice mark in noir, and she became a highly respected acting teacher, but she’s hardly as well known as her talent merited.

  3. Very entertaining movie. Great cast. i always enjoy George MacReady, one of the best movie bad guys.

  4. A couple of weeks ago I saw Nina Foch in another Columbia cheapie called Cry of the Werewolf where she played a gypsy queen/werewolf woman, Her co star was Lana Turner’s second husband Stephen Crane, who was horrible. The movie was laughably bad. Foch had nowhere to go but up at Columbia and My Name is Julia Ross was a huge step up. Very well done B with lots of atmosphere. And Macready’s performance in this must have given Columbia confidence to cast him the next year in his greatest film role as Ballin in Gilda.

    • Cry of the Werewolf sounds like a positive scream — I’d love to see it. And I didn’t even realize that Stephen Crane was an actor! I would really like to see him in something. And you’re so right about Macready’s performance — his portrayal of Ralph was enough to convince any cynic that he was a perfect bad guy.

      • Stephen Crane wasn’t an actor, lol, just see his performance in Cry of the Werewolf. Columbia signed him to a contract due to his marriage to Lana and he tried to give it a shot. He also did a Whistler movie and had a bit part in the Rita Hayworth musical Tonight and Every Night and that was that. He went on to become a successful business man owning the quintessential Hollywood Tiki restaurant The Luau.

  5. Oh, Karen, of all the times for our TV to be on the fritz — I was looking forward to seeing MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS on TCM today, but we won’t have our cable and such back until tomorrow. Until then, I’ll keep an eye out for JULIA… else where! The remake DEAD OF WINTER has its moments, too, though JULIA is still the champ!

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