Cause for Alarm!

Director: Tay Garnett

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Cause for Alarm!A "girl's film noir" of wrongful accusation, in Cause for Alarm! (1951) Ellen Jones (Loretta Young) selflessly cares for her invalid husband George (Barry Sullivan).

But George has become so paranoid that he accuses her of having an affair with his physician (Bruce Cowling) & of the two of them trying to kill him. He secretly writes a letter to the District Attorney & tricks his wife into putting it in mailbox.

George with his failing mind & delusions is surprisingly scary & this could've been a frightening tale, if it had been more about his misplaced certainty that Helen was out to kill him, perhaps so convinced that he tries to kill her first. But it becomes much too much about that letter to the District Attorney & how Helen can get it back.

Instead of a tale with George's psychological weirdness informing his wife's actions, we're supposed to find it suspenseful that a madman's baseless charges might successfully get her sent up for murder.

Cause for Alarm!This was simply never made plausible. At the same time, nothing in the story acknowledges the greater probability that having the person one loves lose his mind as well as his health just might be the greater tragedy.

When George raves that his wife will never be able to prove her innocence, then dies, all Helen can think about is she'll be accused of murder. She expresses not even one moment of grief.

Yet Loretta Young is playing a cookie-bakin' Betty Crocker, or the equivalent of a 1950s house-wife in flouncy dress never so happy as when pushing her vacuum cleaner about in the house. Her relationship with the little boy next door (Brad Morrow), who is always pretending to be Hopalong Cassidy, makes June Cleaver look like a neglectful mother to Wally & the Beav.

Cause for Alarm!This caricature from a floor polish ad in a vintage issue of Lady's Home Circle is completely void of irony, & yet the only reason to be upset that her husband just died is that someone might think she killed him.

What passes for "suspense" are scenes like Helen trying to talk the mailman (Irving Bacon) into giving her back the letter. His obstinance & her increasingly panicky excuses for why she needs the letter back came off more comical than edge-of-your-seat.

That she's hiding the fact that there's a corpse upstairs makes her look far more culpable than any baseless letter could have made her seem. And then there's an O. Henry style "twist" ending which makes Cause for Alarm! nothing but a shaggy dog story with a ridiculous punchline, yet someone somewhere must've thought it was really clever.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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