Cast a Dark Shadow (1955): Lewis Gilbert’s British Film Noir, Starring Dirk Bogarde, Margaret Lockwood, Kay Walsh

From Our Vaults:

Lewis Gilbert. directed Cast a Dark Shadow, a well-made British suspense film noir, starring Dirk Bogarde in a villainous role, Margaret Lockwood, and Kay Walsh.

Grade: B (***1/2* out of *****)

Cast a Dark Shadow
Cast a dark shadow poster 1955.jpg

Theatrical release poster

The film was based on Janet Green’s play, “Murder Mistaken.” Green wanted Bogarde to play the lead, but he turned it down and the role went to Derek Farr.

When Lewis Gilbert was making The Sea Shall Not Have Them, he saw the play and he persuaded Bogarde to play the lead.

A year of marriage persuades Edward “Teddy” Bare (Dirk Bogarde) to kill his wealthy older wife Monica (Mona Washbourne), after she asks her lawyer, Phillip Mortimer (Robert Flemyng), to change her will.

He stages it to look as if she was accidentally asphyxiated while drunkenly trying to light a gas heater.

To his chagrin, he discovers she had actually intended to leave him all her money; instead, he only inherits the mansion from a prior will, while her money is left in trust to her only relative, her sister Dora. Edward will get the money if Dora dies.

An inquest rules the death an accident, but Phillip still suspects that Edward is the killer. When Edward asks where Dora lives, Phillip tells him she is in Jamaica.

Later on, Edward marries lower-class but well-off widow Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood), who is closer to him in age, and much less trusting than her predecessor, keeping tight control over her fortune.

Edward becomes acquainted with Charlotte Young (Kay Walsh), who is looking to purchase a place for equestrian school. An estate agent before marrying Monica, he shows her around, which makes Freda jealous.

Edward lures Charlotte to his mansion one night while Freda and the servant are out. He then reveals that he knows that Charlotte is actually Dora. He brazenly admits of killing her sister before trying to make her leave.

Edward tells Freda that he killed Monica, feeling sure that a wife cannot be compelled to testify against her husband, and that he expects to inherit Charlotte’s money shortly.

He is shocked when Phillip hears his confession. While fleeing Edward switches to another vehicle, only to realize he has taken Charlotte’s. Losing control, he drives off a cliff.

Bogarde persuaded Margaret Lockwood to co-star. “I was dubious about being able to play such a character, though I liked her honesty,” said Lockwood.

Gilbert later said “”I think it was a very interesting plot, very claustrophobic,” said Gilbert. “It was reasonably successful, but by then Margaret Lockwood had been in several really bad films and her name on a picture was rather counter-productive.”

For Bogarde, it was “the unwholesomeness of the hero was what was fun about it.”

Looking back, he stated: “It was the first time I had come under another star’s name – Margaret Lockwood – and it just died, which was a pity because it was a very good movie and I had persuaded Maggie to do it. I remember being on tour in Cardiff with a play and I saw a poster for Cast a Dark Shadow and it had ‘Dirk Bogarde in Cast a Dark Shadow’ and, at the very bottom, ‘with Margaret Lockwood.’

They altered the billing order because they saw it was dying and that, astoundingly, her name had killed it, though it was probably her best performance ever.”

“I’m glad I did it, but am still wondering exactly where it got me,” Lockwood said in 1973. After making the movie she did not appear in a feature for another 21 years.


Dirk Bogarde as Edward “Teddy” Bare
Margaret Lockwood as Freda Jeffries
Kay Walsh as Charlotte Young
Kathleen Harrison as Emmie, the Bares’ servant
Robert Flemyng as Phillip Mortimer
Mona Washbourne as Monica Bare
Philip Stainton as Charlie Mann, business associate
Walter Hudd as Coroner
Lita Roza as Singer


Directed by Lewis Gilbert
Written by John Cresswell, based on Murder Mistaken 1952 play by Janet Green
Produced by Herbert Mason
Cinematography Jack Asher
Edited by Gordon Pilkington
Music by Antony Hopkins
Distributed by Eros Films Ltd. (UK); Distributors Corporation of America (US)

Release date: September 20, 1955 (UK)

Running time: 82 minutes