They Won't Believe Me
|They Won't Believe Me|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Irving Pichel|
|Produced by||Joan Harrison|
|Screenplay by||Jonathan Latimer|
|Story by||Gordon McDonell|
|Music by||Roy Webb|
|Cinematography||Harry J. Wild|
|Edited by||Elmo Williams|
|Distributed by||RKO Radio Pictures|
|Running time||95 minutes|
They Won't Believe Me is a 1947 black-and-white film noir starring Robert Young, Susan Hayward and Jane Greer. It was directed by Irving Pichel and produced by Alfred Hitchcock's longtime assistant and collaborator, Joan Harrison.
After the prosecution rests its case in the murder trial of Larry Ballentine (Robert Young), the defense attorney puts his client on the stand to tell his story.
Larry had married Greta (Rita Johnson) for her money. In flashback, he recounts how he started seeing Janice Bell (Jane Greer) behind his wife's back, innocently enough in secluded New York City bars, but feelings had grown between them. Unwilling to break up a marriage, Janice gets a job transfer, and tells Larry their relationship is over. At the time, Larry agrees to run off with her. She tells him she is leaving for Montreal on the night train, and Larry agrees to meet her at the train station. Larry tells Janice that he and Greta have grown apart, and that he will leave her. Larry returns home and begins to pack a suitcase, when Greta comes in and starts to help him pack. He tells her he is leaving, and she said she knew since there had been a train ticket for him delivered that day. Greta tells Larry that she knows he has been unhappy with her, that New York City is not home for him, but she had thought that their marriage would change that. To accommodate him, and try to make him happy, she had purchased half-interest in a brokerage in LA so he could have a job, and also has rented a house for them. Greta is too deeply in love to give Larry up on her own, so she leaves the decision up to him. The temptation is too great and Larry leaves with Greta, never telling Janice goodbye.
At the brokerage, Larry once again begins womanizing. One day Larry is reprimanded by his business partner, Trenton (Tom Powers), for neglecting a rich client. Employee Verna Carlson (Susan Hayward) protects him by producing a copy of a letter supposedly mailed by Larry to the client the day before, but actually written by her and sent special delivery that day. Larry resists becoming romantically entangled again, but Verna blatantly seduces him. Soon the two are spending time together, in remote bars and restaurants, attending concerts, and at times in Verna's apartment. She brazenly admits she is a gold digger (having a prior relationship with Trenton). Larry lies to Greta, telling her he has late business meetings. One night, late, Larry comes home and finds Greta awake and waiting for him. She confronts him with the truth, and tells him that she is finished, but that she will not divorce him. She tells him she has sold the brokerage interest and bought an old Spanish ranch in the mountains. She tells him he has no job and no place to live, but that he can come with her. Which, of course, he does.
The ranch is beautiful, but remote from the city. It has no phone, and no mail delivery. The closest people are located down the road at a general store which also serves as post office. Larry endures months at the ranch, reading and being bored. Greta loves the area, rides horses and generally is very content. After many months, Greta says she wants company and tells Larry that she wants to build a guest house. Larry, enthusiastic about the possibility of escape, says that he knows an architect who could do the job, and runs off to call him at the general store. Larry instead calls Verna, and makes arrangements to meet her in LA.
Larry decides to clean out his joint checking account and run away with Verna. He writes a check for $25,000 for Verna to cash, and leaves a note for his wife advising her to get a divorce. At the rendezvous, Verna produces the uncashed check, showing that she genuinely loves him, not the money. Larry tears it up. Verna has also bought herself a cheap wedding ring to wear, so that they can say they are married. They picnic along the way, swimming together and enjoying the day. As they drive to Reno that night, however, an oncoming truck blows a tire and swerves into their path. Verna is killed and Larry seriously injured. Verna is burned beyond recognition. The police mistakenly identify her as Greta because of the wedding ring. Larry wakes up in the hospital where he is consoled for the death of his wife. He does not correct this, and lets people think that the dead woman was Greta.
Once he recovers, he returns to the ranch, planning to kill Greta and inherit her money. He finds his note at the top of a cliff and her lifeless body below in her favorite spot. He dumps the corpse in the nearby river.
Depressed by all that has happened, Larry takes a tour of South America and the Caribbean to try to cheer himself up, with little luck. In Jamaica, however, he runs into Janice. He persuades her to reconcile, and they return to Los Angeles together. Later, by accident, he sees Trenton go into her apartment. He eavesdrops through the open window and discovers that Janice has not forgiven him. She is working with Trenton, who has become concerned about Verna's disappearance.
When Trenton has enough information, he calls in the police. Lieutenant Carr obtains a search warrant for the ranch. They eventually find Greta's body in the river, but assume that it is Verna. Local storekeeper Thomason (Don Beddoe) is a witness to Larry and Verna driving away together, the last time she was seen. The police theorize that Larry killed her because she was blackmailing him over their affair.
While the jury deliberates, Larry receives a visit from Janice, whose love for him has revived. He informs her that listening to his own story has made him realize that he has destroyed four lives, and that he has passed judgment on himself. Back in court, just before the jury's verdict is delivered, Larry rushes to the window; a fatal shot saves him the trouble of committing suicide. The judge instructs that the verdict be read out anyway to make things official: not guilty.
- Susan Hayward as Verna Carlson
- Robert Young as Larry Ballentine
- Jane Greer as Janice Bell
- Rita Johnson as Greta Ballentine
- Tom Powers as Trenton
- George Tyne as Lieutenant Carr
- Don Beddoe as Thomason
- Frank Ferguson as Mr. Cahill, Defense Attorney
- Harry Harvey as Judge Charles Fletcher
Dennis Schwartz, in a 2003 review of the film, called the film, "An outstanding film noir melodrama whose adultery tale is much in the same nature as a Hitchcock mystery or James M. Cain's gritty Double Indemnity."
Ted Shen, reviewing the film for the Chicago Reader, also compares the film to Cain's writing and praises the acting, and wrote, "Cast against type, Young manages to be both creepy and sympathetic. Actor-turned-director Irving Pichel gets hard-boiled performances from a solid cast."
Critic Steve Press wrote, "The flashback structure of this suspenseful film noir effectively creates a foreboding tension that mounts to a powerful final scene."
- They Won't Believe Me at the Internet Movie Database
- They Won't Believe Me at AllMovie
- They Won't Believe Me at the TCM Movie Database
- They Won't Believe Me film clip on YouTube