Shadow on the Wall (film)

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Shadow on the Wall
Shadow on the wall poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byPat Jackson
Produced byRobert Sisk
Screenplay byWilliam Ludwig
Based onthe story "Death in the Doll's House"
by Lawrence P. Bachmann
Hannah Lees
StarringAnn Sothern
Zachary Scott
Gigi Perreau
Nancy Davis
Music byAndré Previn
CinematographyRay June
Edited byCotton Warburton
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 19, 1950 (1950-05-19) (United States)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$769,000[1]

Shadow on the Wall is a 1950 American psychological thriller film directed by Pat Jackson and starring Ann Sothern, Zachary Scott, Gigi Perreau and Nancy Davis. It is based on the novel Death in the Doll's House by Lawrence P. Bachmann and Hannah Lees.[2]

After a couple of small roles in MGM films, this was the first substantial featured role in a movie for Davis, who later became First Lady of the United States Nancy Reagan.


Child Susan Starrling (Gigi Perreau) is the sole witness to a killing, but the shock causes her to suffer amnesia about the event. Her father David (Zachary Scott) is convicted of first degree murder of his wife. However, psychiatrist Caroline Cranford (Nancy Davis) is convinced she can cure the young girl and begins to suspect that another person is guilty.

That person is Dell Faring (Ann Sothern), who became incensed after brother-in-law David discovered that while he was away serving his country, wife Celia (Kristine Miller) was having an affair with Dell's fiance, Crane Weymouth. A resentment already existed between the sisters because Dell felt this was not the first time Celia had selfishly taken something from her. Celia knocked David unconscious during a quarrel over her infidelity. Dell then arrived, picked up a gun David brought home from the war and killed her sister with it. With no memory of what happened, David can only assume he was the one who shot Celia, so he accepts the jury's verdict and the judge's sentence that he be put to death.

Susan, who saw the murder from the door but repressed the memory, is haunted by the image of a shadow on the wall. A distraught Dell, realizing that Dr. Cranford is trying to restore the girl's memory, attempts to murder the child. When she fails, she adopts Susan instead. Dell casts a shadow on the wall that triggers Susan's memory.



According to MGM records, the film earned $433,000 in the US and Canada and $192,000 elsewhere, resulting in a loss of $330,000.[1]

Critical response[edit]

When first released The New York Times praised the acting, writing, "Nancy Davis is beautiful and convincing as the serious psychiatrist who uses affection and play therapy to delve into the youngster's mind for the evidence needed for both a cure and the eventual exposure of the criminal. Gigi Perreau is excellent as the mentally tortured moppet, and Zachary Scott does a realistic job as her architect father and wrongly convicted murderer. Kristine Miller is competent in the brief role of the victim, but Ann Sothern, who turns in a polished portrayal, seems out of character as the worried villainess of the piece. List Shadow on the Wall as obvious but interesting fare."[3]

Film critic Dennis Schwartz liked the film and wrote, "A taut suspense yarn in B&W, that plays like film noir...This villain role is out of character for the always sweet Ann Sothern, but she shows great agility in handling the difficult role. The melodramatic script was often not believable and the action part of the story looked like pretend acting, just like the therapy Nancy Davis was applying to Gigi. But the stars pulled this one together and made the tense story, revolving around the little girl, seem plausible. Gigi Perreau was marvelous, giving a convincing performance as a little girl who could be both adorable and then almost frightened out of her mind."[4]


  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study.
  2. ^ Shadow on the Wall at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. ^ The New York Times. Staff film review, May 19, 1950. Accessed: August 5, 2013.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, August 3, 2000. Last accessed: November 27, 2009.

External links[edit]