The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
Director: Lewis Milestone
Year Released: 1946
As a child, precarious Martha kills her despotic aunt Mrs. Ivers (Judith Anderson) with friends Sam and Walter nearby - years later, Sam (Van Heflin) returns to his hometown (ignoring Thomas Wolfe's advice) to find Martha (Barbara Stanwyck) and Walter (Kirk Douglas) are in a loveless (but prosperous) marriage and he also meets with mysterious Toni (Lizabeth Scott), who has more than one secret that she's hiding. Parts may be embellished and entirely over-the-top (especially the double suicide at the end!) but it's a mostly well-written noir (the screenplay's by Robert Rossen, who would go on to become a director) with Guilt and Regret floating over every frame: all four main characters are clearly haunted - they also drink a lot - and that childhood trauma has impacted every moment of their lives. As Douglas' debut, let's just say he'd go on to better things, but Scott is particularly fine: you know a dame is a 'catch' in these types of movies if she gets her love interest beaten badly (and lies about being married) and he still forgives her.