My Name Is Julia Ross (1945): Joseph H. Lewis’ Film Noir, Starring Nina Foch

Joseph H. Lewis directed My Name Is Julia Ross, a psychological gothic film noir, based on the novel The Woman in Red by Anthony Gilbert.

This drama features Nina Foch, Dame May Whitty and George Macready.

In London, Julia Ross (Nina Foch) goes to a new employment agency, desperate for work. When Mrs. Sparkes (Anita Sharp-Bolster) learns she has no relatives, she recommends Julia for a job as a live-in personal secretary to the wealthy widow Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty).

Mrs. Hughes approves and insists that she move that very night into her house. Two days later, Julia awakes as a prisoner at an isolated seaside estate in Cornwall. All her possessions have disappeared and she is told she is Marion, the wife of Ralph Hughes (George Macready), Mrs. Hughes’s son. Told she has suffered nervous breakdown, the staff ignore her claims, and prevent attempts to escape.

Julia writes a letter to Dennis Bruce (Roland Varno), her only friend, and leaves it to be found. The Hugheses substitute a blank sheet of paper and allow her to post it, unaware that Julia has written a second letter.

Julia’s captors have to make it appear that she has committed suicide before the doctor can take her away. Julia throws her gown out the window, making it look like she threw herself to death, then hides in the passage.

When the doctor drives up, Mrs. Hughes delays him so that her son can get to the body first. Ralph picks up a rock to ensure Julia is really dead, but is stopped by Dennis and a policeman alerted by the letter.

In the end, when Ralph tries to flee, he is shot down. Julia and Dennis then drive away and talk about getting married.

Lewis creates an effectively ominous atmosphere for his mystery melodrama with a psychological twist

The movie runs only 64 minutes, but it’s fast and packed with tense action throughout.

The film was loosely remade in 1987 as Dead of Winter by director Arthur Penn.

Cast
Nina Foch as Julia Ross
Dame May Whitty as Mrs. Hughes
George Macready as Ralph Hughes
Roland Varno as Dennis Bruce
Anita Sharp-Bolster as Sparkes
Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Mackie