Street Of Chance (1942)

Film Review

STREET OF CHANCE

Release Date: 3 October, 1942

Studio: Paramount

Director: Jack Hively

Starring: Burgess Meredith, Claire Trevor

Based on the novel The Black Curtain by Cornell Woolrich

Related Discussion Topic: Cornell Woolrich

Learn about mystery author Cornell Woolrich in our Topics section.

Synopsis

Debris falling off a building strikes Frank Thompson and knocks him out. When Frank regains consciousness, he does not know where he is, how he got there, or why his cigarette case and hat both have the letters D.N. on them. He goes home to his wife but discovers that she has moved. When he finds her, she greets him happily but informs him that he disappeared more than a year before. He remembers nothing about that year. The next day a strange man follows him and tries to break into his taxi. That night, the same man, Detective Joe Marruci, and two other policemen break into his apartment, but he escapes with his wife. Frank sends his wife to stay with her mother. He sets out to learn about his missing year.

Frank walks up and down the street where he recovered his memory. A pretty woman, looking out a window, sees him, comes out, and greets him as her beloved Danny. The woman, Ruth Dillon, hustles him into her apartment. She reminds him that the police want him for the murder of Harry Diedrich, his employer. Shocked, he insists that she accompany him to the Diedrich house to seek the murderer. At the house, Ruth, the maid, says that she was in another room during the murder. Deidrich's family, his wife, brother, and grandmother were home. As Frank searches the house, he finds grandma in her downstairs bedroom. The old lady is paralyzed and cannot move or speak. However, she can blink, and Frank communicates with her through her blinking responses to yes and no questions. She blinks out the name of the killer, Ruth. Grandma saw the murder by the reflection in a mirror. When Frank confronts Ruth, she tries produces a gun over which they wrestle. The gun goes off wounding Ruth who confesses the murder as she dies in Frank's arms. Fortunately for Frank, Detective Marruci, interested in the evidence Frank is gathering, has been hanging around and hears Ruth's confession.

Discussion

The main character suffering from amnesia makes a strong starting point for the plot of a novel or a film. The hero, and the audience, are held in suspense as he tries to determine what he did and why he did it in the unknown past. This film is an enjoyable example of the type. In an amnesia plot, the hero often thinks that his unknown persona may have been guilty of the crime, but Meredith's character is convinced of his own innocence. The suspense is well maintained as the hero hides from the residents of the house and the police while trying to collect evidence. As red herrings, the wife and brother are not terribly convincing murder suspects. The ending is rather contrived: the struggle over a gun causes it to go off and kill the ambivalent female murderer who confesses. Meredith and Trevor give good performances, as expected. Based on the novel, The Black Curtain (1941) by Cornell Woolrich.