Ladies in Retirement

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Ladies in Retirement
Ladies in Retirement VideoCover.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Charles Vidor
Produced by Lester Cowan
Screenplay by Garrett Fort
Reginald Denham
Based on the play Ladies in Retirement 
by Reginald Denham
Edward Percy
Starring Ida Lupino
Louis Hayward
Music by Ernst Toch
Morris Stoloff
Cinematography George Barnes
Edited by Al Clark
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s)
  • September 18, 1941 (1941-09-18) (United States)
Running time 91 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Ladies in Retirement is an American 1941 film noir directed by Charles Vidor, and starring Ida Lupino and Louis Hayward. It is based on a 1940 Broadway play of the same title by Reginald Denham and Edward Percy which starred Flora Robson in the lead role.[1]


Ellen Creed has been Leonora Fiske's housekeeper for a long time. Ellen's two sisters, both a bit peculiar, are evicted from their flat, so Miss Fiske grants Emily's request to have the sisters move in with them.

One day when Ellen's away, a stranger called Albert Feather turns up, claiming to be Ellen's nephew. He is in need of money so Miss Fiske goes to her hiding place and lends him some.

Ellen's sisters wear out their welcome quickly. Miss Fiske orders them out, ignoring the pleas of Ellen, who dreads them being sent to an institution. Ellen snaps. She strangles Miss Fiske to death.

First telling visitors Miss Fiske is traveling, then that she sold the house to her, Ellen hires a new maid, Lucy, who finds Albert hiding in a shed. Together they find Miss Fiske's wigs, wondering why she didn't travel with them.

A thief wanted by the law, Albert seduces Lucy, then deduces what Ellen must have done. Lucy sits at a piano, playing Miss Fiske's favorite song, wearing a wig with her back to Ellen, who screams at the sight of her and faints. Albert tries to steal the hidden money, but the police turn up and place him under arrest. Ellen can take no more and leaves the house forever for the local police station to confess to Mrs. Fiske's murder.



Critical response[edit]

The New York Times reviewed the film favorably, "For the film that opened yesterday at the Capitol is an exercise in slowly accumulating terror with all the psychological trappings of a Victorian thriller. It has been painstakingly done, beautifully photographed and tautly played, especially in its central role, and for the most part it catches all the script's nuances of horror quite as effectively as did the original play version ... Despite all its excellence, however, it must be added that Ladies in Retirement is a film for a proper and patient mood. It doesn't race through its story; it builds its terror step by step.[2]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote, "Charles Vidor (Gilda/Blind Alley/The Mask of Fu Manchu) directs this delightfully creepy Grand Guignol crime drama that's based on the play by Reginald Denham and Edward Percy--which in turn was based upon the true story from 1886. It's smartly and tautly co-written by Denham and Garrett Fort, while the ensemble cast all give striking performances ... The 23-year-old Lupino played the 40-year-old sinister Ellen to ice cold perfection, with no small help from her make-up. Though stage-bound, this gothic melodrama is well-crafted and involving". It was remade in 1969 as The Mad Room."[3]




  1. ^ Ladies in Retirement at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  2. ^ The New York Times. Film review, November 7, 1941. Accessed: August 21, 2013.
  3. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, January 20, 2011. Accessed: July 10, 2013.

External links[edit]

Streaming audio[edit]