February 22, 2017


Fortune Is a Woman – 1957 | 95 mins | Crime, Drama | B&W

Plot Synopsis

Fortune Is a Woman

Fortune Is a Woman is Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder’s nourish subversion of an English icon – Jack Hawkins archetypal upright English protagonist. The convoluted thriller adapted from Winston Graham’s 1952 novel contains dreamy and atmospheric vignettes that test the morality of Hawkins in the face of his desire for possible fraudster and murderess Arlene Dahl. The supporting cast boasts considerable strength in depth, with room for memorable performances from Dennis Price, Greta Gynt, Geoffrey Keen, Michael Goodliffe, Bernard Miles and a pleasant comic interlude from Christopher Lee. The film was proposed to Columbia Vice-President Leo Jaffe by Jack Hawkins who in turn suggested it would be an ideal project for Gilliat and Launder. The film did not achieve the critical and commercial success it deserved maybe in part due to the fundamental plot simplicity underlying the polished whodunit. The title also troubled Gilliat and Launder, they were unhappy with the title, and more so with the US title of She Played with Fire, and it was too late when co-writer Val Valentine came up with what they felt was an excellent one, Red Sky at Night.

Fortune is a Woman opens with a magnificent nightmare sequence in which a car is driven through a stormy night from an unknown subjective viewpoint, till it reaches a country house, whereupon the unseen protagonist walks up to a landscape painting of a country house through the door of which he uncannily enters, to find, in a sinister mise-en-scene, a dead body. This sequence is revealed as the nightmare of Oliver Bramwell (Jack Hawkins), a London insurance investigator for Abercrombie and Son who then relates in flashback the events of the film. Bramwell is sent to investigate a small fire at Lowes Manor, the decaying home aristocratic yet impoverished Tracey Moreton (Dennis Price). Events become complicated by the fact that Bramwell’s enigmatic ex-girlfriend, Sarah (Arlene Dahl), is now married to Moreton.

After Tracey’s death during a second fire, Bramwell suspects Sarah of having tricked him, murdered Tracey, and completed an art fraud involving some of the paintings in Lowes Manor. His suspicions are aroused when investigations into the health of ‘Singing Miner’ Charles Highbury (Christopher Lee) lead him to the hyper-promiscuous Vera Litchen (Greta Gynt), a blonde with a generic likeness to Sarah. Bramwell resists her seductions but observes a Bonington landscape painting supposedly destroyed in the Lowes Manor fire hanging on the wall of her home. After confronting Sarah with his suspicions of insurance fraud she convinces him of her innocence and they subsequently marry. Whilst on honeymoon in France they are sent Tracey’s ring in the post and blackmailed in such a way as to suggest that Tracey is still alive and behind it all.

After a false resolution where the blackmailer, Mr. Jerome (Bernard Miles), proves to be only a courier, Sarah suddenly leaves to visit Lowes Manor. Bramwell, following her, finds her talking to someone who is obscured from view. As Sarah moves aside, Tracey’s mother is uncovered, and then further revealed as the tormenter of the newly married couple. While the mother’s confession of having punished Sarah for her disloyalty to Tracey in marrying Bramwell shows her son to be the real criminal.

Production Team

Sidney Gilliat: Director
Wilfred Shingleton: Art Direction
Gerald Gibbs: Cinematography
Anthony Mendleson: Costume Design
Geoffrey Foot: Editing
William Alwyn: Original Music
Frank Launder: Producer
Sidney Gilliat: Producer
Frank Launder: Script
Sidney Gilliat: Script
Val Valentine: Script


Jack Hawkins: Oliver Branwell
Arlene Dahl: Sarah Moreton
Dennis Price: Tracey Moreton
Greta Gynt: Vere Litchen
Ian Hunter: Clive Fisher
Violet Farebrother: Mrs Moreton
Malcolm Keen: Old Abercrombie
Geoffrey Keen: Young Abercrombie
John Robinson: Berkeley Reckitt
Michael Goodliffe: Sgt Barnes
Martin Lane: Det Watson
Bernard Miles: Mr Jerome
Christopher Lee: Charles Highbury

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