Dana Andrews, an advance man for a touring spiritualist, decides to stay on in a small California town when he gets a look at the sex bomb jerking sodas at the local diner (Linda Darnell); his plan is to marry the town spinster (Alice Faye), steal her inheritance, and take off with the waitress. But when Darnell is found murdered, the retired New York detective in charge of the case (Charles Bickford) begins to suspect Andrews. Otto Preminger's 1945 noir is a masterpiece of the postwar long-take style: each scene is mounted with a minimum number of edits, as Preminger sends his actors through elaborately choreographed blocking and his camera moves in and out among them, framing and reframing to highlight emotions without breaking the unity of the performance. The portrait of small-town loneliness and desperation is sharply drawn, while Faye—generally cast as a pure-hearted foil to Betty Grable in Fox's musicals—creates a character of impressive maturity and wrenching vulnerability.
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