They Won't Believe Me

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They Won't Believe Me
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Irving Pichel
Produced by Joan Harrison
Screenplay by Jonathan Latimer
Story by Gordon McDonell
Starring Robert Young
Susan Hayward
Jane Greer
Music by Roy Webb
Cinematography Harry J. Wild
Editing by Elmo Williams
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release dates
  • July 16, 1947 (1947-07-16) (United States)
Running time 95 minutes
Country United States
Language English

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.[1]


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, but Larry lies, saying that he and Greta have grown apart and that he will leave her. However, when Greta learns by chance that Janice is moving to Montreal, and that Larry is going on a business trip there, she figures it out. Greta is too deeply in love to give Larry up on her own, so she leaves the decision up to him, telling him that she has bought him an isolated ranch and a partnership in brokerage firm in Los Angeles. The temptation is too great for him.

At the brokerage, 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 she soon has him taking her to remote bars and restaurants. She brazenly admits she is a gold digger (having a prior relationship with Trenton).

It becomes so serious that Larry decides to clean out his joint checking account and run away with her. 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. 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. The police mistakenly identify her unrecognizable body as that of Greta, giving Larry an idea.

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.



Critical response[edit]

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."[2]

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."[3]

Critic Steve Press wrote, "The flashback structure of this suspenseful film noir effectively creates a foreboding tension that mounts to a powerful final scene."[4]


  1. ^ They Won't Believe Me at the Internet Movie Database.
  2. ^ Schwartz, Dennis. Ozus' World Movie Reviews, film review, June 12, 2003. Last accessed: February 21, 2003.
  3. ^ Shen, Ted. The Reader, film review, 2007.
  4. ^ Press, Steve. They Won't Believe Me at AllMovie.

External links[edit]