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The Woman on the Beach

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Woman on the Beach
The Woman on the Beach (1947 film) poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJean Renoir
Produced byJack J. Gross
Will Price
Screenplay byFrank Davis
Jean Renoir
Michael Hogan
Based onNone So Blind
1945 novel
by Mitchell Wilson
StarringJoan Bennett
Robert Ryan
Charles Bickford
Music byHanns Eisler
CinematographyLeo Tover
Harry J. Wild
Edited byLyle Boyer
Roland Gross
Distributed byRKO Pictures
Release date
  • June 7, 1947 (1947-06-07) (U.S.)[1]
Running time
71 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Woman on the Beach is a 1947 film noir[2] directed by Jean Renoir and starring Joan Bennett, Robert Ryan and Charles Bickford. It was released by RKO Radio Pictures. The film is a love triangle drama about Scott, a conflicted U.S. Coast Guard officer (Ryan), and his pursuit of Peggy, a married woman (Bennett). Peggy is married to Tod, a blind former artist (Bickford).[3]


Scott (Robert Ryan), a mounted Coast Guard officer, suffers from recurring nightmares involving a maritime tragedy. He sees himself immersed in an eerie landscape surrounded by a shipwreck and walking over skeletons at the bottom of the sea while a ghostly blonde woman beckons him from afar. He thinks he is going mad. However, at the same time, he decides to propose to Eve (Nan Leslie), a young woman working at Geddes, a local shipyard catering to the Coast Guard. She accepts. Eve has a strong resemblance to the ghostly blonde of his nightmares.

While riding by the seaside on his horse, Scott meets Peggy (Joan Bennett), a brunette, the mysterious wife of Tod (Charles Bickford), who was a painter before going blind. At first, though, he rides by her as she stands near a shipwreck protruding from the sand; she seems like an eerie echo from his nightmares. After a conversation, they discover that they share similar metaphysical anxieties. A bond develops between the two but the situation gets more tangled when Tod tries to befriend Scott. Tod's attitude toward Scott, apart from his friendship, is also ambivalent. The retired artist tries to test Peggy and Scott to gauge how far they could go in their relationship. Outwardly Tod seems confident; he even tells Peggy that he knows she could never leave him and that he finds Scott, a much younger man, virile but banal.

However, behind this façade lies a deeply wounded man who cannot come to terms with the fact that because of his blindness, he cannot paint any longer. In one exchange with Scott he tells him that dead painters' works always appreciate in value. Indeed, he expects the value of his paintings to increase, considering he is now 'dead' as a painter.

Initially, Scott is suspicious of Tod's motives; he also suspects that Tod is not blind. Scott is also increasingly interested in Peggy, who returns his attentions. During an outing that Scott sets up to test the painter, he moves Tod near the edge of a cliff, but then inadvertently lets him fall, thinking that he will be forced to see and therefore avoid the fall at the last minute. After this mishap, Tod eventually recovers. He at first thinks that Scott would now become his friend since the fall would remove any doubts about his true blindness. But soon after Tod exhibits abusive behavior toward Peggy when he realizes that she has hidden his masterpiece, his portrait of her. Seeing this, Scott tries to protect her.

As Scott grows more attracted to Peggy, he becomes ambivalent toward his earlier relationship with Eve Geddes. Eve in turn, sensing Scott's infatuation with Peggy, becomes distant and asks Scott to delay their marriage plans. The narrative reaches one climax when Scott attempts to drown both Tod and himself during a boat outing with him that started as a fishing trip. By trying to pierce the bottom of the boat, it's apparent that Scott has put himself in danger as well, since he would be swimming helplessly in the stormy seas had he been successful at this attempt. This scene illustrates the degree of his desperation, if not madness.

This attempt by Scott to drown Tod reveals the depth of his emotional attachment to Peggy. Scott's plan fails, however, because Peggy, who seemingly went along with his plan, has a change of heart and alerts the authorities. Both Tod and Scott are eventually rescued by the Coast Guard. Eve, part of the rescue team, echoes the metaphysical connection to the blonde of his undersea nightmare who beckoned Scott in his dreams.

In the film's finale, Tod burns all his paintings along with the house he and Peggy lived in. Peggy frantically tries to stop Tod and save the paintings because they are worth a fortune. She fails, as Scott forces her out of the collapsing house. After they have moved safely away, Scott asks Tod why he did it. Tod says the paintings were a symbol of the obsession he had with his previous, sighted life. Now that Tod's obsession with his past has been purged, he is free to go on with his life. He asks Peggy to take him to New York City, where they have happy memories of their earlier life together. Afterwards she may "do as she pleases". Peggy embraces Tod and observing this, Scott leaves them.



Box office

The film recorded a loss of $610,000.[4]

Critical response

The staff at Variety liked the film and wrote, "Thesping is uniformly excellent with the cast from top to bottom responding to Renoir's controlling need for a surcharged atmosphere. In subtle counterpoint to the film's surface vagueness, the settings are notably realistic in their size and quality. Choice camerawork sustains the film's overall impact while sweeping through the entire production is a magnificent score by Hanns Eisler which heightens all of the film's pictorial values."[5] Leonard Maltin was less complimentary, calling the film an "overheated melodrama" and noting it was "easy to see why this was Renoir's American swan song."[6]


  1. ^ "The Woman on the Beach: Detail View". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 30, 2014.
  2. ^ Selby, Spencer. Dark City: The Film Noir, film listed as film noir #485 on page 196, 1984. Jefferson, N.C. & London: McFarland Publishing. ISBN 0-89950-103-6.
  3. ^ The Woman on the Beach on IMDb
  4. ^ Richard B. Jewell, Slow Fade to Black: The Decline of RKO Radio Pictures, Uni of California, 2016
  5. ^ Variety. Film review, June 2, 1947.
  6. ^ Maltin, Leonard, ed. (1992). Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide 1993. New York: Penguin Books. p. 1407. ISBN 0-452-26857-5.

External links

This page was last edited on 16 December 2020, at 21:22
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