Directed by Fritz Lang, who also directed the classic 1927 sci fi flick Metropolis, The Blue Gardenia is a weird flick. Its tone keeps changing back and forth between suspense and comedy. Anne Baxter (whom I adore, she was Eve in All About Eve, you know) plays a blonde telephone operator named Norah who's betrothed to an armed services member serving in Korea, which keeps her safely out of the dating cesspool. Raymond Burr is Harry Prebble, the sleazy womanizer who unsuccessfully asks her out. Well, Norah gets dumped by her beau, and right after she's read the news that he's met and fallen in love with someone else, she gets a telephone call from slick Harry and on an impulse, she agrees to meet him at the Blue Gardenia, a hip, happening Tiki-themed nightspot. She gets there and proceeds to get drunk on rum cocktails. She then goes back to Harry's apartement with him, where he tells her he's going to have a "party." Well, before you can say "date rape," he's forcing himself on her and she's fighting him off with a fireplace poker, then she passes out on the floor. She wakes up in her own bed the next day with no memory of what transpired the night before. Unfortunately for her, Harry is found murdered that morning. Did Norah snap and kill him? Will she be charged with murder? What's a girl to do?
This film isn't great, but it's got a lot to hold your interest if you're into any of the actors or the era. It's early 1950s, so the set design and the fashion is straddling the 40s and 50s quite well. There's also some great footage of downtown L.A., including City Hall and the Federal courthouse. The main problem is tone: the director seems to be going back and forth between playing it straight and playing it for laughs. Baxter's drunk scenes are over the top and seem to be played for laughs, which doesn't quite fit in with the story unfolding. She was a much better drunk in The Razor's Edge. Anne Southern is really good as Norah's sassy roommate and has the best line in the movie. Describing her ex-husband, whom she is again dating, she says "Homer always had a husband's faults. But now he has a boyfriend's virtues." You can also view this film from a feminist angle, and if you do you'll notice the cautionary message of a what a nice girl is not supposed to do, even if she did just get dumped by her boyfriend who's serving in Korea. I enjoyed the movie, not so much for being a successful mystery, but for being an entertaining time capsule filled with interesting artifacts.