review for Black Widow on AllMovie

Black Widow (1954)
by Craig Butler review

Black Widow is an entertaining near miss of a murder mystery. It fiddles with a lot of film noir characteristics, but doesn't fully commit to them, and while its cinematography is frequently stunning (with plenty of gorgeous panoramas of the New York skyline), its lush Technicolor feels out of place in the circumstances -- it's pretty when what is called for is a bit of grittiness. Widow also doesn't play fair; pieces of information are withheld from the audience for too long, and the mystery plot itself comes across a trifle forced at times. That said, Nunnally Johnson has provided some marvelous dialogue, the film moves along at a nice, steady clip, and it's enough fun that most viewers will overlook these flaws. Most of the cast is very solid, with the exception of George Raft, who is sadly miscast. Gene Tierney is underutilized, but looks sensational, and Van Heflin plays the patsy role to perfection. Peggy Ann Garner is surprisingly good -- and frequently just plain surprising. But the standout performance belongs to Ginger Rogers. Not necessarily a natural for the part (her screen persona tends to be a bit more working class than the role calls for), she overcomes that seeming handicap by sheer force of will. Rogers' steely determination and selfish strength make the character vivid and memorable, and her bitchiness is a delight. It's a scene-stealing role, and Rogers turns out to be the perfect thief for it. Widow's elements don't congeal into a classic noir, but it's a very worthy minor effort.