The Woman in White (1948) – Movie Review

Hello again, everybody! Halloween is almost here and this is a movie you must see! Full of suspense and danger, this movie will definitely get your blood racing. Never have I seen Sydney Greenstreet in a more terrifying and demented role. Hardly the overbearing-but-jolly man I grew up seeing in Christmas in Connecticut (one which I reviewed last year if you’d like to read about it).

Eleanor Parker plays duel parts in this film and does a remarkable job at it. Many times we have raved at the diversity of roles she pulls off but her drama in this takes the cake. It’s funny, but in another movie she played called One For the Book, she was an actress who had a problem figuring out how to play a mad woman. I think she succeeded in figuring it out.

Other actors of note are Alexis Smith and Gig Young. The movie begins from Walter’s –Gig Young– point of view and then when the mystery really livens up, switches over to the more personal view of Marion played by Alexis Smith. Based on a book from the 1800’s by Wilkie Collins, here is the review for The Woman in White: 

Brief Synopsis

In Gothic England, a young painter travels to Limmeridge House to teach the master’s daughter, Laura, but as soon as he arrives he runs into a mysterious woman and even stranger members of the household. After discovering a terrible plot, he is forced from the house, but not before he makes known his beliefs to Marion, Laura’s cousin. At first she doesn’t believe him, but when things start changing, she realizes she should have listened to her friend’s advice and now it might be too late!

Full Synopsis

Walter Hartright is a young painter on his way to Limmeridge house where he is to teach the master’s daughter, Laura Fairlie. He arrives late and meets a strange woman all clad in white along the road who warns him not to go to the house but disappears when a coach drives up. The man in the coach asks about her but for some reason Walter is reluctant to divulge her whereabouts.

At the house, he is met by Laura’s cousin, Marion, who makes him right at home, and Count Fosco, a seemingly cheerful friend of the family. When he meets Laura, he is shocked at the resemblance between her and the woman on the road but Laura thinks it a good joke and tells the family. It’s not long before Walter has fallen in love with Laura and for some reason this causes Count Fosco to tell Marion that Walter should be dismissed. In light of Laura’s engagement to Sir Percival Glyde, Marion agrees that this is for the best and asks Walter to leave.

Leaving the house, he runs into the strange woman again and this time he finds out her name is Ann Catherick. She tells him that Count Fosco and Sir Percival are working together on a plot to gain Laura’s fortune. Walter confronts Count Fosco and Sir Percival only to be thrown out of the house. Having liked Walter very much, Marion finds it all very hard to digest but having known the Count for so long is reluctant to believe the worst.

Laura and Sir Percival marry and spend their honeymoon in Europe. The day they are to return to Limmeridge House, Marion returns from visiting with family. To her surprise everything is changed: all the beloved servants of her and Laura’s childhood have been replaced and Count Fosco and his wife have moved in. A bit distressed by all the change, Marion tries to be cheerful and welcome the newly-weds home. Things only get worse when she finds Laura strange and changed as well. Later Laura tells her that something is wrong and life is not as she thought it would be. Not long after she becomes sick and Marion begins to suspect that Walter may have been right all along.

That night she overhears the Count and Sir Percival discussing their plans but she is caught in the process and locked in her room. From then on the Count is very careful to keep her from being able to say or do anything.

While struggling with delirium, the affect of Count Fosco’s drugs that he uses on his patients at the asylum, Laura is visited by Ann Catherick. Ann, who has long been a victim of the Count’s tactics, tries to warn Laura against the two of them but when Count Fosco suddenly appears the half mad girl dies of shock. The Count sends Laura to his asylum in Ann’s place and tells everyone that Laura has died.

At the funeral Walter finds Laura’s death hard to believe. He knows something has to be going on and speaks to Marion. The two plan to go to London and see if Laura is at the Asylum.

Though heavily drugged, Laura manages to escape the asylum the same way she heard Ann do. Walter finds her but is met by Sir Percival, whom he fights and eventually sees get accidentally killed by one of his own men.

Marion, feeling hopeless, decides to return to Limmeridge House and beg the Count to release Laura. Count Fosco explains that Ann was the illegitimate daughter of his wife, the Countess, who happens to be the sister of Lord Fairlie, Laura’s father. He blackmailed Fairlie all these years and managed to get Sir Percival, a incorrigible gambler, in on his plan to steal Laura’s fortune.
Marion demands he write a confession and leave Limmeridge House forever. He agrees to… but only if she goes with him. Horrified but resolute, Marion promises to go with him. But while he is writing the confession and gloating his wife stabs him unexpectedly in the back. At that instant, Walter arrives with Laura and the police.

Years later Marion and Walter have married and live with their daughter at Limmeridge House with Laura and her son, no longer plagued by the horror of Count Fosco and his greedy, murderous schemes.

As I may have mentioned before, Eleanor Parker is the lady of many faces. She can be lighthearted and a bit ditzy, or forward and world-hardened, or as country as all get out. The emotion she displays in this film is extraordinary. Some of her other great films I would recommend are Scaramouche (1952), One for the Book (1947), and Many Rivers to Cross (1955).

If you want something tensing to watch this Halloween, this is the movie for you! Check it out and tell me what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

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0 thoughts on “The Woman in White (1948) – Movie Review”

  • Great review. Thanks for posting.
    An interesting movie; they have altered the plot a lot, I mean it is very different from the Wilkie Collins' book. I like the other versions better (BBC 1982), which are closer to the plot in the book.

  • Hi Swati,

    I'm glad you like my post. I want to read the book but I didn't know there was a BBC mini-series! I will have to find it and watch it. Thanks for sharing!


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