The Greatest Early Douglas Sirk: Lured (1947)

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Writer and director Douglas Sirk is mainly known today for his exquisite technicolor melodramas, such as Magnificent Obsession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956) and Imitation of Life (1959), his last feature-length film. His work throughout the 1950s, and specifically these four films, are not only seminal entries in the melodrama genre, but they also helped define a generation—or at least the “idea” of a generation. While the stories depicted in these films are certainly outrageous, often requiring audiences to suspend a bit of disbelief, there are running themes in Sirk’s films that are familiar to all of us: unrequited love, personal tragedy, social and racial inequality, guilt and unfair scrutiny from one’s peers. These themes resonated with post-World War II audiences struggling with a new way of life. But before he established himself as the preeminent director of the American melodrama, and subsequently known for his distinctive filmmaking style, Douglas Sirk made a handful of film noirs, romantic thrillers and comedies in the late 1940s and early 1950s, demonstrating his incredible range as one of our great cinematic storytellers. Four of these films are currently available on Filmstruck as part of their “Early Sirk” theme: A Scandal in Paris (1946); Shockproof (1949); Slightly French (1949); and 1947’s Lured, which is arguably the best of the four, and my personal favorite.

An aspiring stage performer, Sandra Carpenter, played by Lucille Ball, moves to London in hopes of a successful start to her career. In her struggles to find a respectable stage show, Sandra works several side gigs as a dancer. One of her fellow performers, a young woman, goes missing and is feared dead, possibly the victim of a serial killer who has been terrorizing London. The murderer, nicknamed the “Poet Killer” by Scotland Yard because of his penchant for sending in poems written about his latest killing, uses personal ads in the newspaper to find his next victim. Concerned about her missing friend, Sandra goes to Scotland Yard for help. Because she fits the profile of many of the Poet Killer’s victims, Sandra is enlisted as an undercover agent for Scotland Yard, answering any and all personal ads in an attempt to draw out the killer so he can be brought to justice. Complicating matters is Sandra’s romance with Robert Fleming (George Sanders), a producer with a caddish, but sexy personality. (As one might expect from the irresistible George Sanders.) In a very tense series of events, Sandra encounters several less-than-reputable individuals, but none of them prove to be the Poet Killer; the identity of whom is not revealed until an incredibly intense scene at the very end of the film.

LURED, from left, Lucille Ball, Sam Harris, George Sanders, 1947

While many would consider this performance against type for the legendary comedienne, Lucille Ball more than proves that when given the right role and under the right direction, that she can be an effective and talented dramatic actress. Ball masterfully calls upon her comedic skills for some lighter moments in the film, but is careful to never detract from the tense nature of the “killer on the loose” theme. Ball is also absolutely stunning, even with William H. Daniels’s black and white cinematography. Upon my recent revisit of Lured, I briefly lamented the fact that we can’t see Ball’s fiery red hair and gorgeous gowns to full effect. But Ball’s presence is as glorious as ever, and she somehow makes the black and white sparkle when she’s on the screen, as if the film had been shot in the most beautiful technicolor. And Ball and George Sanders make for a believable, if unusual, romantic pairing. Speaking of George Sanders, I’ve often remarked about my love of him and how he is an incredibly romantic leading man when given the chance. Unfortunately, we don’t see him in this kind of role very often, so when presented with a romantic Sanders, even one who might be a dangerous, psychopathic serial killer, one must jump at the opportunity. Well, at least I do. I’m not quite sure what that says about me. Bottom line: if you’ve never seen any of Douglas Sirk’s films outside of his melodramas, or even if you’re turned off by him because of his melodramas (and I know there are many of you), give Lured a chance.

Jill Blake

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3 Responses The Greatest Early Douglas Sirk: Lured (1947)
Posted By swac44 : September 23, 2017 8:04 am

For some reason, whenever TCM shows this, it’s preempted in Canada by something else, probably due to rights issues. Hopefully it slips through the cracks one of three days.

Posted By Susan Doll : September 23, 2017 3:14 pm

I love this movie, largely because of Lucy and George Sanders. Though director Sirk is revered by most cinephiles, I don’t care for his famous melodramas of the mid to late 1950s. I prefer his earlier films, like this one. I highly recommend it.

Posted By kingrat : September 24, 2017 12:02 am

Sirk does wonders with a tiny budget for the historical picture A SCANDAL IN PARIS, also with George Sanders. LURED is an odd film which shows that suspense isn’t Sirk’s best genre, but LURED is very much worth watching anyway.

THE FIRST LEGION is also worth tracking down, though it needed to be a bit longer.

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