Sorry, Wrong Number

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SORRY, WRONG NUMBER —-“In the tangled networks of a great city, the telephone is the unseen link between a million lives… it is the servant of our common needs ~~ the confidante of our inmost secrets… life and happiness wait upon its ring… and horror… and loneliness… and… death!”

Popular noir thriller from 1948 is an integral piece of the impressive Barbara Stanwyck canon, and her nervy performance as a bossy, selfish, ultimately isolated and terrified invalid earned the class-act 41-year-old dynamo the last of her four Oscar nominations for Best Actress (she deserved a 5th, for 1953s Titanic), losing the trophy this time to Jane Wyman’s beset mute in Johnny Belinda. Stanwyck’s better competition that year was another lady entrapped, Olivia de Havilland in The Snake Pit, which as it happens was also directed by Anatole Litvak, who piloted this 89-minute tension torque.

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Lucille Fletcher adapted the script from the 22-minute radio play she’d written five years earlier, which was smash hit one-woman show starring Agnes Moorehead.

Bedridden with psychosomatic heart problems and bouts of hysteria (not helped by basically being a manipulative bitch) ‘Leona Stevenson’ overhears a disturbing phone call indicating a murder is set to take place. Flashbacks put the puzzle together as we see how her browbeaten husband (Burt Lancaster) has involved himself with the wrong people, and a reckoning approaches from both the shady crowd and snooping law enforcement.

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Stanwyck puts her all into the part, and readily dominates the film, which is hampered by rushing exposition during the flashback material and a badly off-kilter supporting performance from Ann Richards, an Australian actress groomed for a stardom that never bloomed: supposed to be a hometown gal from the same rough end of the tracks as Lancaster, her mangled diction is ridiculous. Burt’s okay, already playing against type in his 7th film role, but still somewhat a work in progress with honing his craft. One key secondary role is aced by William Conrad, 28, also in his 7th film appearance, employing that marvelously resonant voice as one of the unsympathetic bad guys. *

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With Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea, Ed Begley, Leif Erickson and Jimmy Hunt. Melodramatic music score is by Franz Waxman, effective camera work comes from Sol Polito. Barb’s predicament pulled the film to 25th place for the year, grossing $7,500,000.

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* William Conrad: WW2 fighter pilot, brutal film noir villain, a voice behind 7,500 radio shows, narrator of Rocky & His Friends, The Bullwinkle Show and The Fugitive, an unlikely lead detective in 120 episodes as Cannon. He passed away in 1994, at the age of 73.

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