Sign of the Ram, The (1948): John Sturges’ Somber Melodrama, Starring Oscar Nominee Susan Peters in her Last (Wheelchaired) Role

John Sturges directed the relentlessly grim drama, The Sign of the Ram, written by Charles Bennett, based on Margaret Ferguson’s 1945 novel.

The Sign of the Ram
The Sign of the Ram FilmPoster.jpeg

Theatrical release poster

The chilly novel, about a poet in  wheelchair, was considered a good comeback vehicle for Susan Peters.  Then under contract to MGM, she had been injured in hunting accident near San Diego on January 1. 1945, which permanently paralyzed her.  Her last completed film was Keep Your Power Dry. She had begun shooting The Outward Room which MGM wanted to reshoot to incorporate Peters’ accident but she refused.

The film marked Peters’ return to the screen after a three-year absence after an accident that paralyzed her. Sadly, it was her final film.

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

Leah St. Aubyn (Peters), an invalid wife and mother, uses dictatorial control over all those around her. Leah’s family forgive her temperament due to her medical condition, yet she exploits that fact. Eventually her behavior leaves her alone and without friends, but even in her dark moments she insists upon “controlling,” ultimately causing her to engineer her own death.

No wonder the picture was a box office flop.  One of the weakest movies by the gifted John Sturges, who otherwise made many good pictures. the pacing is slow, the texture somber and ponderous, and none of the women, including Peters, render an effective performance.

Cast
Susan Peters as Leah St. Aubyn
Alexander Knox as Mallory St. Aubyn
Phyllis Thaxter as Sherida Binyon
Peggy Ann Garner as Christine St. Aubyn
Ron Randell as Dr. Simon Crowdy
Dame May Whitty as Clara Brastock
Allene Roberts as Jane St. Aubyn
Ross Ford as Logan St. Aubyn
Diana Douglas as Catherine Woolton

Credits:

Directed by John Sturges
Produced by Irving Cummings Jr.
Screenplay by Charles Bennett, based on the novel The Sign of the Ram by Margaret Ferguson
Music by Hans J. Salter
Cinematography Burnett Guffey
Edited by Aaron Stell
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date: March 3, 1948
Running time” 84 minutes