I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941)
Article 3701 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 9-17-2011
Posting Date: 10-2-2011
Directed by H. Bruce Humberstone
Featuring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis
What it is: Film noir
When a fashion model is murdered, the prime suspect is a sports promoter who helped lead her to fame. However, the police don’t have the evidence to convict him, although one aggressive policeman who is known never to be wrong is on the case and is convinced of his guilt. Will the promoter be able to clear himself?
One of the interesting things that happens when I add new books to my sources from which I derive my hunt lists is sometimes they will list a movie that all of the others overlook. Still, that’s a double-edged thing; often it’s just another movie that the book misclassified. I found this movie listed in “The A-Z of Horror Films”, but despite the evocative title, this is not a horror movie but a film noir (the title is inaccurate as well; no one wakes up screaming). Though film noir has a few stylistic similarities to horror, rarely do the genres intersect, and the only aspects of this movie that lend it any horror genre credentials are a) the deceptive title, b) the presence of Laird Cregar (who, though not a horror actor, has memorably brushed up against the genre), and c) a plot point in which someone pretends to be a voice from a deceased person. The latter is a momentary touch, although it does play a pivotal role in the denouement of the movie. As for the movie itself, it is a very good film noir, though the central mystery at hand turns out not be who the murderer is, but why a man is being framed for it. Laird Cregar steals the movie as the policeman intent on convicting the promoter, but there are a few other familiar faces on top of the above-named stars, such as Alan Mowbray, Elisha Cook Jr., Charles Lane and Morris Ankrum. It’s pretty entertaining, but, as I said before, it’s not a horror movie.
Whenever I see this title I always think of MY WORLD DIES SCREAMING, which was the original theatrical title for 1958’s TERROR IN THE HAUNTED HOUSE, that at least better qualifies as horror.