The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) is the perfect example of Golden Age American film noir. It is a compelling story of obsession and betrayal. The beginning of the movie presents us two of the leading characters: Sam Masterson (Van Helfin) and Martha Ivers (Barbara Stanwyck). They were both children seeking love and protection. Their innocence is taken away when a terrible accident happens that will change their lives. Kirk Douglas’ debut role here is a perfect prelude to his entire career. The scared little child will develop as a grownup having the same core. Hiding a secret all your life can change you in an unspeakable way.
In the development of characters the psychological factor is very important and we are introduced to clues and facts that are meant to provide insights of our characters. Take for example Martha Ivers, the prototype of the femme fatale. She will lie, conceal, cheat and murder to get her way. Lewis Milestone’s chosen way of characterization borrows techniques from such masters as Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock. Toni Marachek (Elizabeth Scott) is the character that gives the movie its balance. All four actors are amazing playing their parts in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers. Cinematographer Victor Milner’s work is breathtaking as it recreates such contrasts in the familiar chiaroscuro way to increase the tension level to a peak. The camera never spots a wrong item in its path.
photo: movie still / credit: Hal Wallis Productions