Ulmer’s “Her Sister’s Secret” & Chris Fujiwara’s Lecture @ Athenee Francais


Her Sister’s Secret     1946 86min

Dir: Edgar G. Ulmer
Writers: Anne Green (writer) Gina Kaus (novel)
Cinematographer: Franz Planer

Nancy Coleman     …     Antoinette ‘Toni’ DuBois
Margaret Lindsay    …     Renee DuBois Gordon
Phillip Reed    …     Richard ‘Dick’ Connolly

以上のような筋書きであれば、ストレートなメロドラマ以外に想像できないだろう。しかし、Ulmer のこの作品には大いに狼狽えさせられた。映画の後半、準主役であるはずの姉(Margaret Lindsay)が、主役の妹(Nancy Coleman)を食ってしまい、どんどん魅力になり、画面は育ての親として子供との離縁に絶望する姉を中心に輝きを増してゆく。
この不可思議な現象について、Chris Fujiwara 氏が、姉妹の鏡像的関係と、incompatibility (両立不可能性)という切り口から批評。”Her Sister’s ~” は、Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloffというドラキュラ、フランケンシュタインの両巨頭が、娘を取り合うというUlmer の処女作The Black Cat の変奏であり、突き詰めると、過去への執着・愛情を切り捨てて再生を描くロマン主義的作家(その起源はムルナウ)の系譜に連なるという、指摘には感動した。

A WWII tale of romance that begins during New Orlean’s “Mardi Gras” celebration when a soldier (Phillip Reed) and a girl (Nancy Coleman) meet and fall in love. He asks her to marry him but she decides to wait until his next leave. He is sent overseas and she does not receive his letter and feels abandoned, but she does find out she is pregnant. She gives the child to her married sister (Margaret Lindsay)and does not see her child again for three years. She returns to her sister’s home to reclaim the child, and the soldier, who has been searching for her, also turns up. The sister is not interested in giving up the child.  Written by Les Adams (from IMDB)

From this storyline you would imagine it would be a straight-forward melodrama. Actually Ulmer showed his uniqueness in this film as Douglas Sirk always found his own voice and style in typical melodrama setups.  What bewildered me most was the older sister (Margaret Lindsay, supporting role) becomes more and more attractive than younger sister (Nancy Coleman, the principle) in second half of the film. She becomes the center of cinematic attention instead of Coleman. It was quite strange.
Chris Fujiwara, who’s continued this lecture series TIME AND PERFORMANCE IN AMERICAN CINEMA at Athenee Francais, analyzed the film in terms of the mirror-reflective relations of the sisters and the incompatibility. He also pointed out that “Her Sister’s~ ” could be a variation of  “The Black Cat”, Ulmer’s first film in which two father figures by Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff (Dracula and Frankenstein!) fight over a daughter. Quite interesting.


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