Sleep, My Love (1948) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Sleep, My Love (1948)

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It's hard to beat a good setup: a woman wakes up on a train with no idea how she got there. She'd fallen asleep at home and now she's on a train to Boston... with a gun in her purse.

And that is the highpoint of Sleep, My Love, a thriller that carefully undercuts itself at every opportunity. Is she going crazy? No, she's okay. Is her husband honest? No, he's cheating on her. Does he have a reason? Yes, here's our vampish femme fatale to lurk among the shadows. Will Claudette Colbert end up alone because her husband's a cheating bastard? No, we've got a new romantic fling for Colbert to fall back on.

If that sounds cheesy, it gets worse. Her romantic fling is Robert Cummings, an actor who pretty much relies on a level of smarmy charm that is rarely an asset. I've reviewed a couple of his films before-- his turn What a Way to Go! was painful while The Accused actually made good use of his chauvinistic aura-- and his presence here is dreadful.

He's the friend of a friend of Colbert's, a pair she recognizes as she gets off the train at Boston. He flies back with her to New York, a trip that shows that Colbert's amused by his antics, though its hard for the audience to sympathize. Worse, despite Colbert's name over the title, guess who worms his way into becoming the film's protagonist?

"Wormy worm!" "Oh really?"

Colbert returns home to find her husband, played with grimness by Don Ameche, who asserts that she shot him shortly before taking off. She's been sleepwalking a lot lately, and the danger of something bad happening-- and her massive fortune being left to Ameche-- are growing by the day.

Cummings is a trader in Chinese antiquities and we get to watch him attend his friend's wedding which is surprisingly free of pidgin English. Colbert gets drunk at the reception, and Cummings takes her home and begins to find holes in her sleepwalking stories. As he unravels the mystery, Ameche gets closer to unraveling Colbert's rationality.

Directed by Douglas Sirk, a director more famous for his melodramas like Written on the Wind and All That Heaven Allows, his take on the the thriller genre has some good looking visuals and nice moments, but is wholly undercut by a script filled with scenes of long exposition and characters carefully explaining every motivation lest the audience be even momentarily confused.

The women of Sleep, My Love are wholly and shamefully stereotyped throughout the picture. Colbert is a bubble of nothing, and she's flanked by a pair of ditzes who routinely receive eye-rolls through the movie, and a femme fatale who grabs onto Ameche with her fangs showing.

Though Claudette Colbert's name may be the one above the title, Robert Cummings gets to save the day through and through. She bounces between them without a thought in her pretty little head; as much as I love her, a trained poodle could have taken on the role without much loss.

But, hey, not a terrible portrayal of the Chinese for once. We take our victories where we can.

Outside of Colbert, the women are ditzy bores and cartoonish vamps. The men at least escape typecasting for the most part, as they at least have passions, and ideas, and dreams and whatnot. But, hell, those are damned useless when they're played by the likes of Robert Cummings.

Why would someone of Colbert's stature star in this? Did she lose a bet? Wasn't there anything better for her to do?

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Posted by Danny

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