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With: Claudette Colbert, Robert Cummings, Don Ameche, Rita Johnson, George Coulouris, Queenie Smith, Ralph Morgan, Keye Luke, Fred Nurney, Raymond Burr, Marya Marco, Lillian Bronson, Hazel Brooks
Written by: St. Clair McKelway, Leo Rosten, based on a novel by Leo Rosten
Directed by: Douglas Sirk
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 97
Date: 02/18/1948

Sleep, My Love (1948)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Dark Chocolate

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Before he became a master of the color melodrama, Douglas Sirk had a run at some black-and-white crime films, such as Lured (1947), Shockproof (1949), and this one, which was based on a novel by Leo Rosten but copies the old Gaslight plot.

Claudette Colbert stars as Alison Courtland, a happily married, well-to-do housewife who begins the film by waking up on a train, not knowing how she got there. To make matters worse, she has a gun in her handbag. After causing a ruckus and after speaking to her concerned husband Richard (Don Ameche) on the phone, arrangements are made for her to fly back home. On the way, she runs into an old friend, jabbermouth Barby (Rita Johnson), and Barby's handsome pal Bruce Elcott (Robert Cummings), who makes the return trip with Alison. Bruce makes a pass at Alison, but when he finds out she's married, he sheepishly agrees to be a gentleman.

When she returns, her husband has hired a psychiatrist to speak to her. Later, a creepy gent (George Coulouris) shows up and begins staring at her through thick spectacles in a very strange way. She freaks out and orders him to leave, but she keeps seeing him lurking around corners and under the stairs, even though no one else seems to spot him. Sirk's handling of these moments is the stuff of classic horror.

Could Alison be crazy? Or could the fact that Richard insists on serving her hot chocolate before bed every night have something to do with it? Not to mention the presence of the smoldering, smoking-hot Daphne (Hazel Brooks), who spends the film lounging in sexy lingerie and could tempt any man into doing just about anything.

The movie's most interesting sequence occurs when Bruce attends the wedding of an old war buddy, Jimmie Lin (Keye Luke), who considers Bruce as a brother. Bruce takes Alison to the ceremony in Chinatown, and we're treated to a fairly long celebratory sequence. Alison unwinds, drinking freely and reveling in the foreign aspects of the wedding. Essentially it's bonding time for Bruce and Alison, to give her a soft place to land after the villain is uncovered, but it's also an early Hollywood attempt at some cross-cultural representation. (Luke was a veteran of the Charlie Chan and Mr. Wong series, and was no stranger to a mystery plot.)

Sirk was not entirely home at developing suspense, but he does his best in Sleep, My Love to inject some potent, ripe emotions into at least sections of the film. Most cinema buffs agree that it's a minor effort for the great director, but still worth seeing. Olive Films released it on DVD and Blu-ray for 2014.

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