Day 23 of Noirvember: Cleve Marshall in The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on Cleve Marshall in The File on Thelma Jordon (1950).

“I’m fed up.”


Thelma Jordon (Barbara Stanwyck) reports to the district attorney’s office that there have been a series of attempted burglaries at the home of her wealthy aunt. A short time later, she becomes romantically involved with assistant district attorney Cleve Marshall (Wendell Corey) – when her aunt is shot to death and Thelma is accused of the murder, Cleve helps her cover up incriminating evidence and arranges to be the prosecutor on the case. Will he do his best to bungle the case? Will Thelma be found guilty? And how does Thelma’s estranged lover figure in the scheme of things? It’s a tangled web.


The end of the evening.

Cleve is in the first scene of the film – he enters his office to find his boss, Miles Scott (Paul Kelly), talking to Cleve’s wife, Pam, on the phone. She’s upset because it’s their anniversary, her parents are dining at the Marshall home, and Cleve is nowhere to be found – she even called that “nasty” bar across the street from Cleve’s office. Miles covers for Cleve, telling Pam he hasn’t seen her husband and adding, “You know Cleve doesn’t drink” – just as Cleve is reaching into Miles’s desk drawer to retrieve a bottle of booze. When Pam finally hangs up the telephone, Cleve tells Miles that he’s “fed up.” It turns out that, primarily, Cleve has a problem with Pam’s overbearing, overinvolved-in-their-marriage father, a retired judge. Over numerous shots of whiskey, he tells Miles that his wife wanted an antique “whatnot” for her anniversary present. When he visited the antique shop earlier that day to purchase it, he learned that her father had already bought it. “Does it all the time. If I can’t get something for her, her father will,” Cleve grouses. Shortly after Miles heads for home – leaving Cleve and the bottle in his office – Thelma Jordon shows up, and before the evening is over, they’re kissing in the front seat of her car.


He has an upstanding position in the community, one where he’s responsible for upholding the law, but he’s so flawed. Frustrated in his marriage, unfaithful to his wife, a little too fond of whiskey, blinded by passion and willing to do anything to save the neck of his inamorata. To look at him, with his Wally Cleaver haircut and bowtie, you’d think he was the most honorable, trustworthy dude in the room. Looks can be deceiving.


“I’m fed up. Ever heard that phrase? No, you wouldn’t. You’re not married.”


Wendell Corey was born on March 20, 1914, in Dracut, Massachusetts, one of four children of a Congregational minister. Although his father hoped he’d follow in his footsteps, Corey balked at the idea, taking on a variety of odd jobs before fate stepped in. Taking a break one day from his job as a washing machine salesman, Corey dropped by a rehearsal of the Springfield Repertory Players, where a friend was performing in Street Scene. When he learned that the cast was in need of an actor to play a Swedish janitor, Corey auditioned and landed the part. He spent the next year with the Springfield company, then toured in several productions throughout New England with the Federal Theater Project and a variety of stock companies before making his way to Broadway. He got his long-awaited big break in 1946 when he was cast opposite Betty Field in Dream Girl; while he was performing in this production, Hollywood beckoned, and Corey signed a contract with producer Hal Wallis. His big screen debut was also his entry into film noir – the technicolor feature Desert Fury (1947).

Join me in the shadows tomorrow for Day 24 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 23, 2021.

6 Responses to “Day 23 of Noirvember: Cleve Marshall in The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)”

  1. I love those tidy little coincidences in actor’s careers. Corey started out on stage in Street Scene by Elmer Rice and got on Broadway in Dream Girl by Elmer Rice.

  2. Wendell Corey’s eyes looked so pale in black and white cinematography. They are icy and spooky, and I can’t think of anyone else with eyes that looked like that. They are distracting in a leading man, but disturbingly effective in antisocial or sociopathic roles, like his roles in ‘Desert Fury’ and ‘The Killer is Loose’.

  3. I like the movie, but my problem with Wendell Corey is that though he’s a very good actor, he’s not at all leading man material. I have a hard time seeing him in romantic roles.

    He played opposite Stanwyck in Fury also, where I just couldn’t see him as a romantic partner for her.

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