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With: Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty, George Macready, Roland Varno, Anita Sharp-Bolster, Doris Lloyd
Written by: Muriel Roy Bolton, based on a novel by Anthony Gilbert
Directed by: Joseph H. Lewis
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 65
Date: 11/27/1945

My Name Is Julia Ross (1945)

4 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This amazing, 65-minute "B" noir by director Joseph H. Lewis begins as the rain pours down on a woman. The camera follows her as she walks into a building, soaking wet, her face hidden for some time. A snarky cleaning woman snipes at her for being late with the rent. Then she discovers an ad for an employment agency, and the camera reveals her face, hair fallen, but hope shining in her eyes. She's, of course, Julia Ross (Nina Foch, An American in Paris). Lewis holds this shot for a while, running through the gamut of hopelessness and hope, and then pure evil lurking around the edges of all of it.

Unfortunately, the employment agency is a fake, set up by a wealthy family that needs a decoy. Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty, The Lady Vanishes) is in charge of the ruse; her son, Ralph (George Macready) lost his temper and killed his fiancee, and Julia will take her place, for just a little while, if you get the drift. She's knocked out, wakes up, and is told that she's now "Marion Hughes." It's a bizarre plan, a rich person's plan, and the snobs continue to re-assert themselves as if they are right, as if Julia were too ridiculous (and too poor) for insisting that the truth actually matters, that her name actually is Julia Ross.

Julia spends a large part of the movie in bed, locked in a room, unsure of whether she can eat the food she's being given, and trying anything she can to get out. She leaves notes outside the gate, tries to mail a letter, etc. Fortunately, this is the kind of house that has secret passageways. My Name Is Julia Ross is similar to the previous year's Gaslight, although the goal here is murder; madness is just a by-product. But Julia is clever and scrappy, as perhaps only a woman in a "B" film could be. Lewis's direction is clean and tight without ever looking shoddy. It feels leisurely and opulent, rather than a quickie from poverty row. Also known for Gun Crazy and The Big Combo, this is a director that definitely needs further exploration.

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