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The Jean Simmons Blogathon: Footsteps In The Fog(1955)

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Virginie over at The Wonderful World Of Cinema and Phyllis over at Phyllis Loves Classic Movies are co-hosting this blogathon celebrating Jean Simmons. Be sure to visit their blogs to read all of the entries, I can’t wait to read them all myself. 

I’m writing about Footsteps In the Fog. This is quite an underrated film and contains one of my favourite Jean Simmons performances. This is the film that actually ended up making me a fan of Jean Simmons. I love the film very much. I hope that this post will encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it yet to check it out.

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Jean Simmons as Lily. Screenshot by me.

The film is based upon the short story The Interruption by William Wymark Jacobs, which was published in 1925. The story focuses on a cook, who blackmails her master after she discovers that he has killed his wife. 

The film was directed by Arthur Lubin(best known as an Abbott and Costello director and as director of the Francis The Talking Mule films).

The film initially had a screenplay by Arthur Pierson, which was then rewritten by Lenore Coffee (a noted screenwriter who was twice nominated for an Academy Award) and Dorothy Reid(screenwriter,director and actress. Dorothy had also been the wife of the actor Wallace Reid, who had died in 1923 after becoming addicted to the morphine prescribed to him when he was injured in a train accident).

The final film script stays quite close to Jacobs story. New storylines added for the film include a second murder, the romantic element between Lily and Stephen, a second love triangle which involves Stephen, Elizabeth and David, and much more emphasis on Lily’s character. Originally titled Deadlock and then later on Rebound, the film would finally receive the title of Footsteps In The Fog.  

Footsteps In the Fog is an absolutely fascinating film for so many different reasons. For starters it was one of the last of the Gothic drama films to be made, and it was released at at time when these sorts of films were no longer really in fashion. The film is also notable for having been shot in Technicolor, rather than in Black and White, as was usually the case with films of this genre.I personally think that Black and White photography works best for Gothic films. I think that Black and White photography heightens the atmosphere more,and that it somehow makes you feel the eerie and oppressive atmosphere present in so many of these Gothic films. I have to say though that the colour photography works very well for this film. I for one love being able to actually see the colours of the period furnishings and clothes featured in the film.

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Lily loves danger. Screenshot by me.

The film is also notable and unusual due to the behaviour of Lily, who is played superbly by Jean Simmons. In other Gothic films the female characters are often the ones in peril and they either become victims, or they become emotionally manipulated and tricked by men.

In this film the female lead is no victim. It is actually Lily who manipulates and controls her situation. Lily is a very strong and determined character, and she also seems to get a weird thrill in staying with the man who she knows wants her dead. 

The film is also interesting because of the complicated characters played by Jean and Stewart Granger. Stephen and Lily are both extremely complex and intriguing people. Both characters have two very different sides to their respective personalities, and both do some very surprising things as the film goes on. Many scenes between Stephen and Lily are quite sexually charged, the pair hate each other with a passion, but they also greatly desire one another too. Lily in particular seems to thrive on this twisted relationship, as well as on the risk that comes along with it. 

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Stewart Granger as Stephen. Screenshot by me.

We see that Stephen is a cold and callous killer, and yet he also has our pity at certain moments of the film. Stephen can also be tender,warm,devoted and he is capable of great remorse. Our impressions and opinions of this man change several times throughout the film.  

At the start of the film we see that Lily is a shy, innocent, vulnerable and bullied young woman. Lily dreams of becoming more than just a maid and kitchen assistant. When Lily discovers Stephen’s dark secret she chooses not to run to the Police and report it, but instead to use that secret to her advantage. Lily blackmails Stephen and in return for her silence gets something she wants from him.

As the film goes on Lily becomes strong and dominant, she gains a position of authority, and she also gains power over Stephen. Lily is a tragic figure though because she starts to develop genuine romantic feelings for this killer. Jean does such a good job of conveying Lily’s changing emotional state and her feelings and desires. 

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Lily confesses what she knows to Stephen. Screenshot by me.

The film is set in Edwardian London. The story focuses on Lily(Jean Simmons)a young maid and kitchen assistant working in the home of Stephen Lowry(Stewart Granger).

Stephen’s wife tragically dies from Gastroenteritis, or at least that’s what the doctor believed when he gave a cause of death. Lily however knows that her mistress didn’t die of natural causes.Mrs. Lowry was actually poisoned by her husband. Lily saw Stephen do the deed and hide the bottle of poison he used. Lily goes to Stephen and tells him that she knows what he did.

In return for her silence, Lily tells Stephen to make her housekeeper and to allow her to keep Mrs Lowry’s jewels. Stephen agrees to her demands, but starts to form a plan of his own to kill Lily. 

Lily meanwhile is actually starting to fall in love with Stephen, in some scenes it seems to us as though he may be starting to care for her too, but the reality is that he wants her dead so that he can pursue Elizabeth(Belinda Lee)the daughter of his friend. Stephen’s plans to kill Lily go terribly wrong during a suspenseful sequence set outside in the thick, creeping fog that is drifting through the London streets. I’m afraid that I can’t say any more about the plot without spoiling the twists and turns that the plot takes from this scene on.

Jean and Stewart both deliver terrific performances and have a good chemistry. Their shared scenes are exciting and suspenseful. I like how some moments between them are played quite tenderly as the characters begin to develop some genuine affection for one another at times. 

                         Left to right: Belinda Lee and Bill Travers as Elizabeth and David. Belinda Lee as Eizabeth and Stewart Granger as Stephen. 

Both Jean and Stewart are lent solid support by Marjorie Rhodes as the bullying cook. William Hartnell as Lily’s brother in-law. Bill Travers as the solicitor, David, who is also in love with Elizabeth. Belinda Lee(an up and coming British actress, who would tragically be killed in a car crash in 1961, aged just 25 years old)as the beautiful and gentle Elizabeth, the lady who is the real object of Stephen’s affections.

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Lily is caught wearing Mrs. Lowry’s clothes and jewels. Screenshot by me.

The costumes and sets are all beautiful, the cinematography is stunning, and the atmosphere and tone of the film are suitably dark.

In a decade when Gothic drama wasn’t really the sort of film drawing in the big crowds, Footsteps In The Fog may well have seemed like something of an odd film to release. This film proved that such films had lost none of their power to shock and grip audiences. 

I think this film is one of the best films in the entire Gothic  film genre. It is atmospheric and very suspenseful. The sequence at night in the fog is very hard to forget because it is done so well, it makes you feel as though you are right there with Stephen on those dark, fog filled streets. The film brings to my mind the likes of The Man In The Attic, The Spiral Staircase, The Lodger and Gaslight(1940). 

I highly recommend this film to any fan of Jean Simmons, Stewart Granger and Gothic films. Have you seen this film? What did you think of the film and Jean’s performance?

 

 

 

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