In Sorry, Wrong Number, the wealthy, bed-ridden Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck) is home alone and trying to find out what’s delaying her handsome, corrupt executive husband Henry (Burt Lancaster) when she gets a wrong connection and overhears two men plotting a murder. She begins making calls and discovers that her husband may have a secret or two.
As a film, Sorry, Wrong Number is a constantly entertaining viewing experience. Stanwyck received an Oscar nomination and Lancaster was in peak condition and perfectly cast as the charming, albeit weak, husband. The leads are supported by such talented stalwarts as Ann Richards, Ed Begley, Sr., and Wendell Corey. Harold Vermilyea’s role as Waldo Evans was riveting.
Like other noir-ish films of the era, such as The Killers, the Mask of Demetrios, and The Fat Man, much of Sorry, Wrong Number’s story is told through numerous flashbacks, which demand very versatile performances to quickly show character development. The cast delivers in every scene, showing believable character progression.
In addition, the film uses textbook noir storytelling techniques, with its brilliant use of light and shadow, as well as a superb musical score that really serves to drive the mood of the story right to its final climax.
The film is based on the breathtaking, and renowned, radio drama of the same name, and its failings come in the ways it strayed from the radio drama’s key premise. Mrs. Stevenson’s quest to stop the murderers, and find out who was endangered in the murder-for-hire call she overheard, gets waylaid by conversations with people wanting to share flashbacks of things that happened with her husband. Some moments seem silly and with little reflection, such as when Ann Richards’ civilian character, Sally Lord, is able to take her husband, an assistant district attorney, and a trained policeman escort through the heart of New York City without detection, and then also to a far more remote area, where she sticks out like a sore thumb.
However, the film’s flaws don’t stop it from being a solidly acted and directed piece that’s a must-see for any fan of noir films.
Rating: 4 out of 5
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