Man with a Cloak, The (1951): Historical Film Noir, Starring Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, Louis Calhern, and Leslie Caron

Directed by Fletcher Markle, The Man with a Cloak, starring Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, Louis Calhern, and Leslie Caron, is based on John Dickson Carr’s story, “The Gentleman from Paris.”

The young Fench woman Madeline Minot arrives in New York in 1848, looking for expatriate Charles Thevenet. Though initially turned away by his mistress and housekeeper, Lorna Bounty, she persists, presenting Charles with a letter of introduction from his grandson Paul, a romantic revolutionary.

Charles, an old, wealthy, dissipated rake, guesses Madeline’s purpose of visit–she was sent by Paul to ask for money to support the revolution in France. Assisted by hulking butler, Martin, and cook Mrs. Flynn, who are also after Charles’ fortune, Lorna lets Charles drink as much as he wants, contrary to his doctor’s instructions.

Madeline’s one ally, a chance acquaintance named Dupin, is a heavy-drinking impecunious poet, to whom she turns when suspecting that Charles has been poisoned.  Dupin becomes acquainted with Lorna, and recognizes her as a former actress who achieved fame with Charles’ backing.

During her stay, Madeline softens the old reprobate, who changes his will, before secretly putting arsenic in his drink, ready to end his life. However, he suffers a stroke that paralyzes him. He watches helplessly as Durand drinks the fatal brandy. The will is then snatched up by Charles’ pet raven and hidden in the fireplace.

After the funeral, Lorna and accomplices search desperately for the letter. Dupin, based on the clues, finds and retrieves the document. When the will is read, it reveals that Paul does inherit the money, and Lorna, Martin and Mrs. Flynn are given only the house.

When Madeline looks for Dupin, his bartender Flaherty tells her that he had left only a worthless IOU. On one side is a verse about a woman, and on the other, the IOU’s signature, which reveals Dupin’s real name is Edgar Allan Poe.

Joseph Cotten as Dupin
Barbara Stanwyck as Lorna Bounty
Louis Calhern as Thevenet
Leslie Caron as Madeline Minot
Joe De Santis as Martin
Jim Backus as Flaherty
Margaret Wycherly as Mrs. Flynn
Richard Hale as Durand
Nicholas Joy as Dr. Roland
Roy Roberts as Policeman
Mitchell Lewis as Waiter