Day Ten of Noirvember: Laraine Day and The Locket

The Locket (1946) is a fascinating film noir that tells the story of Nancy, a beautiful and accomplished young woman who, at the start of the picture, is about to marry the love of her life, John Willis. Shortly before the start of the ceremony, however, John is visited by Dr. Harry Blair, who claims to be Nancy’s former husband and reveals to her fiancé a disturbing tale of kleptomania, murder, and madness. This film is one of my favorite noirs (making my Top 10 List of Lesser-Known Noir Gems), not only because of its unique flashback within a flashback within a flashback structure, but also because of the way it was first introduced to me.

It was back in the mid-1980s and I was hosting the first of my now-annual Christmas parties. At one point in the evening, one of my guests, Regina, began talking about a movie she’d recently seen on TV – she described it in great detail, and I was riveted by the story. It was the best retelling of a movie that I’ve ever heard, and it left me wanting to see it. But after the party, I forgot all about the movie – until years later, when I had the chance to see The Locket. It didn’t take long for me to realize, to my astonishment and sheer delight, that it was the movie that Regina had described at my party. I fell in love with it then, and over time and through countless subsequent viewings, my fondness for this film hasn’t diminished a bit.

Day appeared in seven of the nine Dr. Kildare films — until her character was hit by a truck.

The film’s star, Laraine Day, obviously shared my feeling for The Locket – she called it her favorite movie. Day was born LaRaine Johnson in Roosevelt, Utah, on October 13, 1920; she was a twin, one of eight children in a well-to-do Mormon family. When the future actress was nine years old, her family moved to California, and she later honed her budding interest in acting as a member of the Long Beach Players Guild (where she performed with future Locket co-star Robert Mitchum). She signed a contact with the Goldwyn Studio after a talent scout spotted one of her performances with the Long Beach Players, and she made her screen debut in 1937, in a small, uncredited role in Stella Dallas. (She’s reportedly in a scene in malt shop, but I haven’t been able to spot her among the group of teens seated at the counter. If you can, let me know!) Two years later, she left Goldwyn for MGM, where her most prominent role was as Nurse Mary Lamont in the Dr. Kildare series. Day fared better on loanouts – she starred opposite Joel McCrea in Alfred Hitchcock’s Foreign Correspondent (1940), with Cary Grant in RKO’s Mr. Lucky (1942), and played another nurse in Paramount’s The Story of Dr. Wassell (1944), with Gary Cooper. Then, in 1946, she starred in The Locket for RKO.

The Locket was Day’s favorite film.

“My character [in The Locket] was the greatest challenge I ever had,” Day told author Doug McClelland. “The form of the film . . . was criticized by some reviewers of the time as too confusing. In those days, people used to walk into a theater in the middle of a picture and then stay to see what they had missed. You couldn’t do that with The Locket – you’d be totally at sea. Today, though I’m told its style is highly regarded by film historians.”

Its style certainly highly regarded by me, along with the first-rate performances of the stars, the unusual plot, and the effective cinematography. If you’ve never seen The Locket, you’re in for a treat. Check it out when you can.

And check out a few more trivia tidbits about Laraine Day:

A devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Day never cursed or smoked, or drank alcohol, coffee, or tea throughout her life.

In her first few films under her Goldwyn contract, Day was credited as Laraine Johnson. When she signed with MGM, she changed her last name as a nod to the stage manager with the Long Beach Players, Elias Day.

Day’s second husband was famed baseball player and manager Leo Durocher. During their marriage, she was known as The First Lady of Baseball. She wrote a book in 1952 called Day With the Giants. (After divorce from Durocher eight years later, Day told an interviewer that she’d never liked baseball.)

Join me tomorrow for Day Eleven of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 11, 2018.

7 Responses to “Day Ten of Noirvember: Laraine Day and The Locket”

  1. One of my faves.THE BEST flashback movie.

  2. I saw this film based on your recommendation, and it is as marvellous as you say. I can’t believe it’s not more well known!

  3. […] Day Ten: Laraine Day and The Locket […]

  4. […] think I loved this movie before I ever saw it. As I mentioned in a Noirvember post last year, it was meticulously described to me by a friend, years before I got a chance to view it, and when […]

  5. […] This is another one of my personal favorites; it’s the only noir I know of that has a flashback within a flashback within a flashback, and I am there for all of them. As the film opens, it’s the wedding day of the beautiful, poised, and sophisticated Nancy Blair (Laraine Day), and her husband-to-be (Gene Raymond), John Willis, receives a visit from one Dr. Henry Blair (Brian Aherne). Blair insists that he is married to Nancy and that he has some important (and damning) information about Nancy that John must know. This sets up the heretofore mentioned flashback sequences, where we get to know Nancy and learn that there’s more to her than just a pretty face. More on the film and its star can be found here. […]

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