Strange Love Of Martha Ivers 1946 | Vintage Mystery Movies | Film Noir | Crime Noir

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a 1946 American film noir drama directed by Lewis Milestone from a screenplay written by Robert Rossen (and an uncredited Robert Riskin), based on the short story “Love Lies Bleeding” by playwright John Patrick. Produced by Hal B. Wallis, the film stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott and features Kirk Douglas in his film debut.
The film was entered into the 1947 Cannes Film Festival.In 1974, the film entered the public domain in the United States because the claimants did not renew its copyright registration in the 28th year after publication.
On a rainy night in 1928 in a Pennsylvania factory town called Iverstown, thirteen-year-old Martha Ivers tries to run away from the guardianship of her wealthy, domineering aunt, Mrs. Ivers, with her friend, the street-smart, poor Sam Masterson. She is caught and brought home where Martha’s tutor, Walter O’Neil Sr., presents his timid son, Walter Jr., as the one responsible for Martha’s recovery. Scolded by her aunt, Martha defiantly states her name is not Ivers, but Smith, her father’s name.
During a power failure, Sam comes for her, but Martha’s aunt hears her calling to him from downstairs. While Sam slips out unnoticed, Mrs. Ivers starts beating Martha’s kitten with her cane. Martha wrestles it away from her and strikes her across the head with the cane, causing her to die. When the power comes back on, Martha lies about the incident to Walter Sr. Even though Walter Jr. saw everything, he backs her up. The greedy Walter Sr. makes it clear to both Walter Jr. and Martha that he knows what happened, but that as long as he and his son stand to benefit, he will play along. Sam leaves town.
Seventeen years later, in 1946, Walter Sr. is now dead and Walter Jr. is now Iverstown’s district attorney and is married to Martha, who has used her inheritance to expand the Ivers milling empire. Their marriage is one-sided; he loves her, but Walter knows that she does not love him.
Sam, a former soldier and itinerant gambler, drives into the small town by chance and, after an accident, leaves his car to be repaired. While waiting, he goes to look at his old home, now a boarding house. He meets Antonia “Toni” Marachek, who has just been released from jail. She misses her bus and they spend the night in adjoining rooms in a hotel. She is later picked up for violating her probation by not returning to her hometown. Sam asks Walter to use his influence to get Toni released.
Walter is convinced Sam has blackmail in mind. Sam then learns that Walter Sr. had presented Martha’s version of the 1928 accidental murder to the police: that an intruder murdered Martha’s aunt. With his leverage, Walter Sr. had made Martha marry his son. When the police identified a former employee of the aunt as the murderer, the two Walters and Martha had helped convict him, and he was hanged.
When Martha reacts with joy at seeing Sam, a jealous Walter forces Toni to set him up. Sam is beaten up and driven out of town, but he is too tough to be intimidated. When all else fails, Walter makes a halfhearted attempt to kill Sam himself, but is easily disarmed. Walter then inadvertently blurts out his fears of blackmail, only to learn that Sam did not witness the death. Martha breaks down and laments that he left without her all those years ago, taking with him her only chance for love and freedom.
Sam is torn between his old love and his new one with Toni. Although he eventually forgives Toni for betraying him, he and Martha spend an idyllic day together, rekindling his feelings for her.
Walter arranges to meet Sam to finally settle matters. Before Sam arrives, Walter gets drunk and Martha finds out about the meeting. When Walter falls down the stairs, Martha urges Sam to kill her unconscious husband. Sam instead brings Walter around. Martha pulls out a gun and threatens to shoot Sam in “self defense” as an intruder. Sam tells her it would work if she can get Walter to corroborate her story. Sam turns his back on her and leaves.
Walter embraces and kisses Martha, then points the gun at her midriff. Oddly relieved, she puts her thumb over his finger on the trigger and presses. As she is dying, she defiantly states her name is not Martha Ivers, but Martha Smith. Outside, Sam hears the shot. He runs back toward the mansion, but sees Walter, holding Martha’s body, shoot himself. Sam and Toni drive away together.
Source – Wikipedia
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