Based on The Woman in Red by Anthony Gilbert, an out of print vintage mystery I have not read, it tells the story of Julia Ross, a down on her luck and unemployed secretary played with conviction and glamour by Nina Foch. In the opening scene Julia deals with Bertha, a bitter charwoman (Joy Harrington in nifty but unbilled minor role) who taunts her for being behind on the rent and out of work. "Secretary? Sittin' an' writin' all day. Call that work?" she sneeringly throws in Julia's face when the desperate young woman sees an ad that seems perfect for her. Julia rushes out of the boarding house to the Allison Employment Agency to apply.
With Julia gone we now learn that the trio are up to no good. Mrs. Hughes drops her charming facade and cries out a bit sinisterly, "She's perfect!" Ralph adds cryptically, "There's even a small resemblance." Mrs. Hughes calls for Peters, a man who spied upon them from a closet. "Did she see you?" "No, madam," he says. "I made sure of that," confirms Miss Allison who we now know is really Sparks. "See that you keep it that way, especially at the house," Mrs. Hughes orders in a stern voice. They close up the agency and head on home. What have they in store for Julia? This doesn't seem like it's going to be your average everyday sittin' an' writin' job.
|Nina Foch, gorgeous and frightened and later one feisty woman|
|George MacReady - he loves his knives|
|Dame May Whitty - Mother knows best|
|Anita Bolster starts the plot spinning with a phone call|
|Roland Varno - our hero|
|Joy Harrington - Bertha is nobody's friend|
But it is largely due to director Joseph H. Lewis that My Name Is Julia Ross is a movie repeatedly mentioned as a something of a mini-masterpiece in suspense films. Lewis was a master at taking potboilers and turning them into entrancing movies that you can't turn away from. Each shot is a work of art. It also helps that in ...Julia Ross he had a top notch cast of talented actors. My Name is Julia Ross was supposed to be filmed in only ten days but studio executives were so impressed with what Lewis was doing they allowed eight extra days so he could produce the best movie possible. Lewis would go on to direct other thrillers like So Dark the Night, Gun Crazy (now something of a cult movie), and the melodramatic and brutally sadistic police drama The Big Combo. Each one shows his attention to detail, performance subtleties, and atmospheric lighting and framing.