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Sorry, Wrong Number
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Movie Details

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Directed By
Anatole Litvak

Written By:
Lucille Fletcher

Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Ed Begley Sr., Harold Vermilyea

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Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
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Movie Review by Eric Somer
July 23rd, 2006

Film Noir 101

This 1948 interpretation of Sorry, Wrong Number, directed by Anatole Litvak and written by Lucille Fletcher (based on her radio play), encompasses many of the themes and motifs central to the American film noir cycle: women who are something other than what they seem, men who are tempted by the allure of money to commit crimes, a decadent urban setting, flashbacks within flashbacks, and above all else, a hopeless sense of doom, as fate closes in on the central characters.

From the opening moments, time is running out on the female protagonist. Bedridden and pathetic rather than sympathetic, heiress Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck in an OscarŪ nominated performance) is dependant on her telephone to send and receive information. Due to a crossed wire connection, she becomes aware of a murder plot for that evening. As things develop, Leona comes to realize whom the victim is intended to be: her! Trapped in her home alone, can the invalid escape?

What fills most of the film's 88 minute runtime is a series of flashbacks that explain why Leona is in such an unfortunate position. The web of corruption is more complex than it at first appears, with Leona's controlling father (Ed Begley), disenchanted husband Henry (Burt Lancaster), old college friend Sally (Ann Richards), a seedy criminal (William Conrad), and mysteriously quirky pharmaceutical chemist Waldo Evans (Harold Vermilyea) all in the mix. Per usual for films in the noir vein, there is a lot going on in Sorry, Wrong Number, yet the plot is never confusing.

In the film noir universe, people rarely are granted a second chance. Somewhere in your life, you screwed up and now you have to pay. What makes this story so distinctly film noir is the prevailing theme that the traditional family is a fraud. There is no happiness to be found in Leona's family, only discontent, deception, disappointment, and death. For fans of film noir or anyone curious about the genre, Sorry, Wrong Number is essential viewing.
--Eric Somer, 7/23/2006

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David Hurlbert
Jul 24, 2006 3:46 AM
Great Review! And oh how I enjoy noir films - you may want to watch Blood Simple (1984) sometimes when your schedule allows. I recently review that movie a few weeks ago. Take care,


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