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Film / Dishonored Lady

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Dishonored Lady is a 1947 Film Noir directed by Robert Stevenson and starring Hedy Lamarr, Dennis O'Keefe, and John Loder, based on a 1930 play of the same name.

Madeleine Damien (Lamarr) is the fashion editor at the high-profile Manhattan fashion magazine Boulevard. Men are attracted to the beautiful Madeleine, in particular wealthy advertiser and jeweler Felix Courtland (Loder), who takes advantage of the fact that she becomes a lively party girl at night. However, her empty life of pleasure drives her to a breakdown, and she makes a suicide attempt by crashing her car near the home of Dr. Richard Caleb, a psychiatrist, who recommends that she leave her job and her lifestyle behind. She does so, and moves into a smaller flat under a new identity, where she meets David Cousins (O'Keefe), a handsome neighbor.


Madeleine seems to have finally found happiness; she gets proposed marriage by David, who knows nothing of her past. But Madeleine is found by Courtland, who is still interested in her, and after a brief stay at his home, Courtland is found bludgeoned to death with a table lighter. Madeleine is charged with the murder and, with David realizing the truth and becoming very disappointed of her, is too depressed to defend herself. Can David believe in Madeleine again? Can he find the truth about the murder? And can he save Madeleine just in time?


This film features examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Freddie, who in his one scene of note is clearly sloshed and openly states that he "always drinks".
    Freddie: I always drink, particularly when I'm with you.
    Madeleine: Am I that hard to take sober?
    Freddie: You're a voluptuous pain in the neck.
  • All Psychology Is Freudian: Madeleine's treatment with Dr. Caleb involves lying on a couch and talking about her father.
  • Bungled Suicide: Madeleine attempts suicide by crashing her car, but survives unharmed.
  • Clear Their Name: David eventually is responsible with clearing Madeleine's name from the murder accusation.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Madeleine can be quite quippy, such as her reaction to David's mice.
    • Dr. Caleb also packs some sass, as shown when Courtland comes asking for Madeleine:
      Dr. Caleb: She's been living in an area of infection and she's removed herself from it.
      Courtland: I take it you consider me part of the contamination.
      Dr. Caleb: You've come here for information, not diagnosis. I usually charge people for insulting them.
  • Dude Magnet: Madeleine. Pretty much every man with a significant role in the story (with the exception of Dr. Caleb and the District Attorney) states, with varying levels of subtlety, how much they would like to get into her pants.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Averted. Madeleine finds a rat at the apartment she moves into, but she just grabs it without any care in the world. This is how she meets David; as it turns out, it's one of David's inoculated lab mice. Lampshaded by David:
    David: Say, women are supposed to scream, are you afraid of mice?
    Madeleine: No, but next time I'll scream.
  • Fictional Document: Boulevard, the fashion magazine Madeleine works as an editor for.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • The movie basically uses every euphemism available for the time to imply that Madeleine Really Gets Around.
    • Most of the time, the movie uses the phrase "making love" by the definition it had at the time (having an intimate conversation, such as flirtatious or seductive talk, with no physical contact involved), but when David confronts Madeleine about her past, the way he uses it really sounds like he's using the modern definition and is asking her in polite terms if she really slept around with various men.
  • Greed: There's barely any scene when Garet doesn't complain about his economic situation, even saying that "it's awfully hard" courting a woman "who makes more money than me." It's not surprising then when he ends up stealing Courtland's jewels and, when accused of burglary by Courtland, bludgeons him with a table lighter.
  • Have a Gay Old Time:
    • Lots of uses of the word "gay" as "lighthearted/carefree", such as Victor's "Mr. Garet believes that the world owes him a gay life, no matter who pays for it." and David's "Your life hasn't been gay and glamorous at all!"
    • There's also the use of the phrase "making love", but as mentioned in Getting Crap Past the Radar, besides using it by the definition it had at the time, they also seem to use it in the modern sense.
  • The Hedonist: Madeleine is at first a lively party girl at night. Played for Drama when her empty life of pleasure drives her to a breakdown and she attempts suicide.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens twice with Madeleine; first when she suffers the breakdown that leads to her attempting suicide, and later when charged with Courtland's murder and, with David and becoming very disappointed of her after realizing the truth of her past life, is too depressed to defend herself.
  • Hot Scientist: Well, Hot Pathologist in David's case, for whom Madeleine falls for almost immediately.
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: How David realizes that Garet was the actual culprit; after Madeleine reveals that Courtland had a safe, Garet at one point lets it slip that it was locked with a key, even though Madeleine never mentioned how it was locked and, as David notes, the most common assumption regarding how a safe is locked is that it is through a combination rather than a key.
  • Love Triangle: Madeleine loves David, but barely resists (if at all) Courtland's passes at her. It gets resolved in the harshest of manners when Garet kills Courtland.
  • Meet Cute: How Madeleine meets David, involving mice (It Makes Sense in Context).
  • Race for Your Love: After Madeleine is cleared from the murder, David finds a letter from her saying that she's leaving for a time while everything settles up. Dr. Caleb is then shown bidding her farewell at the airport before she walks towards the plane. Cue David dashing past Dr. Caleb, Dr. Caleb smiling, and David and Madeleine having a triumphal kiss as the film ends.
  • Really Gets Around: Madeleine, pre-meeting with the psychiatrist. Apparently the secretaries at her magazine made bets about which guys she would be with.
  • Right Behind Me: A secretary talks to another about making a bet about which guy Madeleine would be going out next, so of course Madeleine arrives right there and then to tell her off. Cue Madeleine firing the secretary and her being heard clearly crying as Madeleine enters her office.
  • The Shrink: Dr. Richard Caleb, of the Awesome variety. He's smart, understanding of Madeleine's problem, and gives her a solution to it, even if Tough Love is needed.
    Madeleine: You're not helping me, you're insulting me.
    Dr. Richard Caleb: You've been insulting yourself Miss Damian, insulting your body and insulting your soul.
  • Spinning Paper: Used in the montage of Madeleine's acquittal being reported.
  • Sue Donym: The name Madeleine Damien uses when making a new life? Madeleine Dickson.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: While Madeleine getting exonerated having such coverage that a montage is made out of it might have some justification in her case becoming some sort of O. J. Simpson case-like scenario, the initial report of Courtland's murder hardly seems to have any justification for it to being on the front page of a newspaper, no matter how affluent he was.


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