Sorry, Wrong Number. 1948
Cast: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards
Writer: Lucille Fletcher
Director: Anatole Litvak
Barbara Stanwyck plays Leona Stevenson an ailing woman who is confined to a bed because of problems with her heart. One night while trying to get a hold of her husband Henry J Stevenson(Burt Lancaster) she overhears two gentlemen on the other line plot the murder of a woman after 11 PM. Feeling a tad bit upset(as I imagined one would be) she investigates further and finds out that the victim is her and to make a bad night even worse. The culprit is her husband. If you call spoilers on me after I revealed that much about the plot. It’s a good indication that you don’t watch a lot of movies. Besides they give away that plot detail on the back of the DVD.
What makes this movie stand out is that character of Leona is not as innocent as you might think. There are moments with this woman that made me want to plot her death. She steals Henry away from her best friend Sally(Ann Richards) and then proceeds to treat the guy like shit after they are married. Miss Stanwyck was nominated for an Oscar for her work in this(She lost to Jayne Wyman in “Johnny Belinda“)and in the scenes where she is being a bitch. She is really good and her character would fit perfectly in an early Neil LaBute flick. But when she is frightened or confused about something, those moments end up becoming more comical than their intentions. If she would have just pulled back on the hysteria just enough it would have been a memorable performance. But instead it’s only OK. The supporting cast led by Burt Lancaster are good but no one really stands out. The character of Sally could have been better written to show that she too might be a little devious but they pass on that development and concentrate more on Miss Stanwyck’s.
“Sorry, Wrong Number” was based on the radio play by Lucille Fletcher and I could understand how this would have freaked people out back in those days. The whole thing would have been done with just telephone calls and audiences would feel like they are eavesdropping into these conversations. The play took advantage of the radio format and it made listeners think they are hearing real phone calls. When this gets adapted to the big screen, that element is lost because we can now see the actors making these calls. It’s still a very interesting story and I was able to get through it, but I wish I would have heard the radio version first. I feel I would have loved this more if I had.