review for Portrait in Black on AllMovie

Portrait in Black (1960)
by Craig Butler review

Revelations concerning Lana Turner's sordid personal life propelled Portrait in Black to respectable box office returns. Seen decades later, without the immediacy of the Turner scandal, there's little to recommend this glossy murder/soap opera. Sure, the production has all the glitz and glamour that one expects of a Ross Hunter production of the period. Turner is outfitted in some stunning Jean Louis creations, and she drapes herself in jewels that take the breath away. The star is also looking smashing, perhaps thanks in part to some careful soft focus lensing from Russell Metty, but also due to the fact that Turner simply had one of the most camera-friendly faces in films. But take away these surface assets, and there's really nothing to recommend Portrait. Turner's acting is by the numbers; it gets the job done and pushes the right buttons, but it's all mechanical. Anthony Quinn seems ill at ease, unable to make sense of a character whose motivations are hard to justify and even harder to play. Sandra Dee does perhaps better than one might expect, but her performance is not good enough to elevate the rest of the film. And Michael Gordon directs in a play-down-to-the-audience manner that helps not one whit. Those in the mood for some decent trashy fun will enjoy #Portrait -- but truth to tell, even they will find it a bit boring after a while.