Day 28 of Noirvember: Connie Wallace in The Great Flamarion (1945)

Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on a treacherous wolf in innocent lamb’s clothing: Connie Wallace in The Great Flamarion (1945). Never heard of The Great Flamarion? Do yourself a favor and take a stroll on over to YouTube. You can thank me later.

Wolf in lamb’s clothing.

WHAT’S THE GREAT FLAMARION ABOUT?

The film opens with the murder of vaudeville performer Connie Wallace (Mary Beth Hughes). Her killer, The Great Flamarion (Erich von Stroheim), lays dying on the stage of a theater in Mexico City and confesses his guilt to the lone actor still on the premises, using his final minutes to explain why he killed Connie. In a flashback that lasts nearly the entire film, we learn that Flamarion, Connie, and Connie’s alcoholic husband Al (Dan Duryea) were part of a popular entertainment act; Flamarion was a sharpshooter and Connie and Al served as his assistants as he demonstrated his various skills. Although Flamarion is a forbidding and arrogant taskmaster, Connie is able to worm her way into his heart by confessing her love and telling him about the abuse that she suffers from her husband. Before long, Flamarion and Connie begin an affair, but something’s got to give – and this being noir, you might be able to guess what comes next.

INTRODUCING CONNIE WALLACE:

Connie always gets her man.

We hear about Connie long before we first meet her. As the film begins, she has just been strangled in her dressing room at the Mexico City theater. Police round up the performers for questioning; while the men all have favorable opinions of the dead girl, the lone female in the group has a different story to tell: “She was dynamite. When me and Sam played on the same bill with her, I never let him out of my sight,” the woman says. “If you want my opinion, she didn’t get no more than was coming to her.”

WHY DID I PICK CONNIE?

She’s one of the most fatal femmes ever to come down the noir pike – she ranks right up there with Phyllis Dietrichson, Kathie Moffat, and Kitty Collins. In fact, Connie is possibly even more dangerous, because those women oozed sex appeal and a hint of danger; Connie is nothing but sweetness and light, with a charming personality and an infectious smile – who could ever suspect her of anything nefarious? But early on, she demonstrates her duplicitous character, capacity for deception, and downright nasty nature. When Al admits to having a drink before a performance and Flamarion threatens to fire the couple, Connie follows Flamarion to his dressing room, placating him with her soft voice, a touch of her hand, and a seemingly reluctant admission of how much the act means to her: “It’s the only thing that makes my life bearable,” she says. “If I couldn’t look forward to the theater, and the lights . . . just to seeing you . . . I wouldn’t care if I never woke up again.” But when she returns to her dressing room, she’s like a different person – even her voice is now hard and contemptuous as she gives Al a verbal beatdown. And when Al pushes back, citing her past misdeeds that bind them together, Connie metamorphoses again, this time into a loving wife, luring Al into her embrace like a spider with a fly. She’s something else.

FROM THE MOUTH OF CONNIE:

”Why, you poor sucker. How could anyone love you? That fat, bull neck, those squinty eyes – you’re old. You’re ugly. Even the touch of you made me sick. I hated you and I’ve always hated you!”

PLAYED BY MARY BETH HUGHES:

Mary Elizabeth Hughes was born in Alton, Illinois, on November 13, 1919. Her parents divorced when she was a child and her mother moved with her to Washington, D.C. Influenced by her grandmother, who reportedly acted with Ethel Barrymore, Mary Beth started appearing in a variety of school plays, then joined the Clifford Brooks repertory company and starred in several productions. For one of the productions – Alice in Wonderland – she toured the United States and Europe; while in England, she was spotted by a talent scout from the Gaumont-British Studios and offered a contract, but she turned it down in order to finish high school. She later moved to Los Angeles with her mother to pursue a movie career. After six months of failing to make any headway, Mary Beth and her mother were preparing to return to Washington, D.C., but fate intervened, and she wound up meeting William Morris agent Johnny Hyde (who would be responsible for developing Marilyn Monroe’s career), who secured a contract for Mary Beth with MGM. She made her big screen debut in Broadway Serenade in 1939. She first stepped into the shadows with the noirish 1941 feature Dressed to Kill.

Join me in the shadows tomorrow for the penultimate day of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 28, 2021.

4 Responses to “Day 28 of Noirvember: Connie Wallace in The Great Flamarion (1945)”

  1. I do not understand why Mary Beth Hughes didn’t become a bigger star. Note: my late dad felt the same way about Lynn Bari.

    Connie is in command every step of the way and what fun to see von Stroheim play the sap.

  2. I more remember being sorry for von Stroheim and that’s something I thought I’d never say. Him, Mary Beth and Dan Duryea were superb. It hasn’t gotten enough play.

    • That scene where he’s waiting for her to come to the hotel, and finally realizes she’s not, is just devastating. You totally forget that he’s a murderer, and just feel so bad for him for getting played.

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