No Man of Her Own (1950)

Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Jane Cowl, Phyllis Thaxter,
A pregnant woman adopts the identity of a railroad-crash victim and starts a new life with the woman's wealthy in-laws, but is soon blackmailed by her devious ex.
  • 7.4 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2018-09-07 Added:
  • Sally Benson, Catherine Turney, Cornell Woolrich, Writer:
  • Mitchell Leisen, Director:
  • Richard Maibaum, Producer:

All subtitles:


8 / 10

Deadly deception

'No Man of Her Own' is not to be confused with the 1932 film of the same name with Clark Gable and Carole Lombard. Completely different films, as completely different as they could possibly come, in premise and tone. It is adapted from terrific though admittedly melodramatic source material ('I Married a Dead Man' by Cornell Woolrich), and any film that stars the great Barbara Stanwyck always has me sold. Not every film of hers is great but she always rose above her material and was always a bright spot in her lesser work.

Mitchell Lesisen was less consistent for me, but he was a more than competent director and did some good and more films. 'No Man of Her Own' is not one of Stanwyck's very best films, but it is one of her more interesting ones and has a typically wonderful performance from her. It is one of Leisen's more interesting films too and has some of his most inspired direction. Of all the versions of 'I Married a Dead Man', of the ones seen to me 'No Man of Her Own' is the best.

Even with the story being as often outlandish and sometimes in the latter stages confusing as it is.

For my tastes too the ending jarred a bit tonally and wraps things up too neatly. The twist is quite clever though and not predictable.

Still, 'No Man of Her Own' still managed to be very well executed with three particularly good assets that will be mentioned later. The cast are all good, with Jane Cowl moving in her role and Lyle Bettger (apparently in his film debut) is chillingly caddish. John Lund was fine in my view, it is not easy for a leading man to hold their own against such a great actress and Lund does pale in comparison. He still does a good job in his conflicted and not as interesting role. The script adapts the source material thoughtfully without being too wordy, melodrama doesn't get too excessive, and despite being outlandish and muddled the story has a lot of suspense when things start to unravel. The music is haunting.

The photography is beautifully composed and its shadowy look and doom laden shots provides a lot of atmosphere. Leisen's direction is some of his most inspired, because of the suspense and his use of camera work. Stanwyck gives a fearless firing on all cylinders kind of performance that completely grips and moves in equal measure.

In summary, the story has its issues but it is still a well done film and to be seen for the direction, atmosphere and Stanwyck. 7.5/10

8 / 10

Identity it's a crisis can't you see!

No Man of Her Own is directed by Mitchell Leisen and adapted to screenplay by Sally Benson and Catherine Turney from the novel "I Married a Dead Man" written by William Irish (Cornell Woolrich. It stars Barbara Stanwyck, John Lund, Jane Cowl, Henry O'Neill, Phyllis Thaxter, Richard Denning and Lyle Bettger.

Callously jilted by the man who has made her pregnant, Helen Ferguson (Stanwyck) survives a train crash and is mistaken for another woman, Patrice Harkness (Thaxter), who was killed in the crash. The woman, who she had befriended on the train, was also pregnant and recently married to a man who also died in the crash (Denning as Hugh Harkness). The rich Harkness in-laws, having never met Patrice, take who they think is Patrice into their home and even though Helen is tormented by her deceit, she spies an opportunity to give her child a grand life. But will she be found out? Will her past come to light with dire consequences?.

Film noir styles meets melodramatic verve in what is still a riveting picture, even if the implausibility of it all is hard to swallow. Stanwyck gives it the whole shebang, carrying the film on her shoulders as she hits all the right emotive beats of a double characterisation that brings guilt, shame and conflict of interests. Lund is sadly bland as the Harkness sibling love interest, but the rest of the cast do sterling work, notably Cowl as the Harkness matriarch. Cowl would pass away the year of the film's release.

From a film noir perspective it's disappointing that the filmic finale is different to that of Woolrich's novel. However, the story of a destitute unmarried woman thrown a bone by the vagaries of fate is in true noir fashions - as is the turn of events when things go dark in the last third as the past comes knocking at the door of settled bliss in the form of Bettger's oily Stephen Morley. A love story, a survivalist story, one of blackmail, deceit and murder, lots going on in a hugely enjoyable entertainment. 8/10

9 / 10

Top-Notch Film-Noir

In a mansion in Caulfield, Illinois, Patrice Harkness (Barbara Stanwyck) and Bill Harkness (John Lund) are waiting for the police. Meanwhile, she recalls her life in San Francisco.

The eight-month pregnant Helen Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) is dumped by her boyfriend, the crook Stephen 'Steve' Morley (Lyle Bettger), who gives a train ticket to her to New York to stay with his new girlfriend. In the train, Helen befriends the also pregnant Patrice Harkness (Phyllis Thaxter) and her husband Hugh Harkness (Richard Denning) that are returning from Europe. When they go to the toilet, Patrice asks Helen to hold her wedding ring to avoid losing it, but there is an accident and only Helen survives. She is mistaken by the Hatkness family as being Patrice and welcomed by Mrs. Harkness (Jane Cowl), Mr. Harkness (Henry O'Neill) and Bill at home. Helen decides to pose of Patrice thinking in the future of her baby Hugh and the family treats her like a daughter. Out of the blue, Steve meets Helen in a club and blackmails her, promising to destroy the lives to Mr. and Mrs. Harkness. Now Helen realizes that she must kill Steve to protect her son and the old couple. What will she do?

"No Man of Her Own" is a top-notch film-noir, with magnificent direction and screenplay. Barbara Stanwyck is fantastic as usual; John Lund is also great; and Lyle Bettger is perfect in the role of a scum. The surprising melodramatic conclusion is to make the audience happy, with all the problems easily resolved. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Casei-me com um Morto" ("I Married a Dead Man")

7 / 10

Into this Idyllic Life

Although Barbara Stanwyck delivers a fine performance in No Man Of Her Own, a rather convenient and cheesy ending mars this film from becoming a real classic for her.

Unlike so many of her films where she is a role model for feminism Stanwyck in No Man Of Her Own is a troubled and weak woman who has been made pregnant and dumped by her two timing no good rat of a boyfriend Lyle Bettger. He gives her a one way ticket to the West Coast as a farewell.

Despondent Stanwyck takes the train and is befriended by a young married couple Richard Denning and Phyllis Thaxter who is also pregnant. Both are killed in a train wreck and Stanwyck badly injured. Her baby is delivered by Caesarian section and Stanwyck decides that she would take Thaxter's identity and go to Denning's home town which is where they were heading and where no one had met Thaxter before.

It works even though Denning's brother John Lund is suspicious. He likes Barbara Stanwyck well enough though. His parents Henry O'Neill and Jane Cowl are accepting and of her and their 'grandson'.

Into this idyllic life comes Bettger looking for a little blackmail. At Paramount in the early Fifties Lyle Bettger played a lovely variety of edgy psychopaths. Note his work in Union Station and The Greatest Show On Earth. Now we can add No Man Of Her Own to his career list of despicable villains.

I won't say more, but if it were done today without the Code, a more realistic ending would have been found. That does not take away from fine performances by Barbara Stanwyck and the rest of the cast, most especially Lyle Bettger.

8 / 10

No Man of Her Own (1950)

A case of mistake identity turns into a grand deception as a new mother tries to secure a better life for her child. The premise is similar to THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (minus the concentration camp angle, of course). A bit predictable and a bit far-fetched, but Stanwyck's performance sells it completely, and Leisen shows a dedication to the material, bringing what might have been a rather hokey women's weepie to life. The drama is compelling from start to finish, with measured pacing and excellent camera-work. The situation keeps ratcheting up to a tense climax. Lyle Bettger is pretty great as the slimy antagonist, as is Jane Cowl as the benevolent grand dame of the household (John Lund once again comes off rather bland). If the ending seems a bit too convenient, at least it provides for a really satisfying callback.