Birthday Blitz: Whirlpool (dir. Otto Preminger, 1949)

Day 6, Movie 6 – Whirlpool – Women Are Silly Creatures!

Whirlpool is the kind of film noir that makes you roll your eyes. Just a little. The script and direction are funny and sharp. But when it comes to the plot and characters, the two aspects that really keep you engaged with a film noir, Whirlpool is completely laughable.

Ann Sutton, played by Gene Tierney, is a bored housewife. She gets caught shoplifting and saved from ruin when David Korvo (José Ferrer) intervenes. Korvo is a hypnotist; he quickly recognizes that Ann is fairly week and uses her in a blackmail/murder scheme. Ann’s husband, William (Richard Conte), a doctor, is emotionally distant from his wife but steps in to defend Ann when she charged with various crimes.

Here. I’ll let the trailer explain more about Whirlpool to you.


Basically, Ann is a silly, weak woman who lets the men project onto her. Korvo immediately senses her weakness and uses her as a pawn. Ann and her husband are in an uncommunicative, loveless marriage until he finds purpose. That is, he realizes it is his duty to save her from a wrongful conviction. And the police detective only investigates Ann’s alleged crime because her husband asserts himself into the case. At the film’s conclusion, Ann and her husband have recommitted to one another, but only after a drastic situation. William only realized the value in his marriage when Ann became completely dependent on his help.

This characterization of a woman is not uncommon, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating to watch. Tierney brings her best to the role, seen especially  when she goes from a conscious state into a trance.

But Tierney’s performance, Ben Hecht and Andrew Solt’s screenplay, and Otto Preminger’s direction don’t make up for a character I couldn’t move past.

If you have seen Whirlpool, did you have a similar reaction to Gene Tierney’s character and the film?

This post is part of my Birthday Blitz Marathon.

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