Two Mrs. Carrolls, The (1947): Peter Godfrey’s Mystery Thriller, Starring Bogart, Stanwyck, and Alexis Smith

At the height of his popularity, after Casablanca and To Have and Have Not, Humphrey Bogart made The Two Mrs. Carrolls, a passably entertaining mystery-thriller, produced by Mark Hellinger and directed by Peter Godfrey.

The Two Mrs. Carrolls
The Two Mrs. Carrolls - Poster.jpg

Theatrical release poster

Though Bogart and Barbara Stanwyck get star billing, the film belongs to Bogart in terms of screen time; Stanwyck plays what’s essentially a secondary part.

The scenario is penned by Thomas Job, based on the 1935 play by Martin Vale, the pseudonym of Marguerite Vale Veiller, the wife of writer Bayard Veiller.

Her play, The Two Mrs. Carrolls, opened in London in 1935, and then moved to Broadway in 1943, where it enjoyed a moderate success.  Warner made the film in 1945 but kept it on the shelves for two years.

This is the only teaming of Bogart and Stanwyck, who communicate well but don’t show the kind of strong erotic tension that prevailed in the similarly themed “Gaslight,” starring Charles Boyer as the husband who plots to murder his wife, played by Ingrid Bergman.

While vacationing in Scotland, Sally Morton (Stanwyck) learns that her lover, the painter Geoffrey Carroll (Bogart), is already married.

Before returning home to his daughter, Beatrice (Ann Carter), and his ill wife, Geoffrey buys a package from chemist Horace Blagdon (Barry Bernard). Geoffrey is engaged in painting his wife’s portrait, inexplicably depicting her as an “angel of death.”

Two years pass and Geoffrey’s first wife has died, leaving him free to marry Sally. Although Geoffrey’s career is doing well, he has been unable to do major painting.

Sally, the new Mrs. Carroll, entertains her old boyfriend, Charles “Penny” Pennington (Patrick O’Moore), and some wealthy American guests—which includes the icy but beautiful Cecily Latham (Alexis Smith).

Geoffrey begins painting Cecily’s portrait, and becomes romantically involved with her, of which Sally is aware. Then rather mysteriously Sally goes through a series of illnesses and recoveries. The local physician, Dr. Tuttle (Nigel Bruce), who’s both bumbling and alcoholic, holds that she is recovering.

In an idle conversation with Beatrice, Sally discovers that the “first Mrs. Carroll” suffered from a series of illnesses similar to those of her own. She also learns that Geoffrey has lied about his first wife.

Sally suspects that Geoffrey is poisoning her via her nightly glasses of milk, an idea that recalls Hitchcock’s superior thriller, “Suspicion,” of 1941.

Geoffrey murder Blagdon the chemist to end the blackmail. Sally enters Geoffrey’s studio, and sees that he is painting her as an “angel of death” as well.

That night, during a storm, Sally disposes of her glass of milk. But Geoffrey learns of her deception, and inspired by newspaper articles about a local strangler, goes outside into the rain and then breaks into his own wife’s bedroom to strangle her.

In their confrontation, Geoffrey makes some confessions about his art and past, and begins to strangle her with a rope.  Penny and the police arrive just in time to save Sally from Geoffrey.  “I had to do this,” he tells the police, “so that I could go on with my work.”

Before they all leave the house, he kindly offers them a glass of milk.

Made on a budget of about $1.5 million, the movie was moderately successful at the box-office.


Humphrey Bogart as Geoffrey Carroll

Barbara Stanwyck as Sally Morton Carroll

Alexis Smith as Cecily Latham

Nigel Bruce as Dr. Tuttle

Isobel Elsom as Mrs. Latham

Patrick O’Moore as Charles Pennington (Penny)

Ann Carter as Beatrice Carroll

Anita Sharp-Bolster as Christine

Barry Bernard as Horace Blagdon

Colin Campbell as MacGregor

Peter Godfrey as Racetrack Tout


Directed by Peter Godfrey
Produced by Mark Hellinger
Screenplay by Thomas Job, based on the 1935 play “Two Mrs. Carrolls” by Martin Vale
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography J. Peverell Marley
Edited by Frederick Richards
Distributed by Warner Bros.

Release date: March 4, 1947

Running time: 99 minutes