Dishonored Lady (1947)


Original plot
Hedy Lamarr goes on the lam from fashion and gets framed for murder.

Big changes
Hedy can’t win – she doesn’t even get to be the heroine of her own story, a dude solves the mystery for her.

The Random Remake
Madeleine Damien (Rooney Mara) is slumped in her car, staring off into the distance. She then starts her car, seems disoriented, and drives right into the front of a house.

Next we see Madeleine she’s at the high-powered Wall Street firm started by her wealthy, powerful family (of whom she’s the last one). The over-eager, brownnosing employees of the firm are wishing her well after her “accident” and that they’re glad she was able to walk away from the unfortunateness. Madeleine dead-eyes them, staring right through them with the same look she had in the car. Her boss Felix (Iain Glen) soon enters her office and begins a long diatribe about her carry on the family business (she’s the only Damien left, etc. He’s not consolidating power and buying off politicians for himself – he’s doing it for the legacy of his old friends and their only child). Felix is adamant she’s on his side and working with him – his other partners are moving the firm to ethically dangerous ground and without Madeleine, Felix is scared his firm will veer toward ruin. “There’s a way out of that, but I need you with me,” he pleads with her. Her expression never changes.

During lunch with work associates, including pseudo-friend Ellen (Jenna Malone) and rival Jack (Anton Yelchin), Madeleine confesses she wants out of her world. Cut-throat finance, high-frequency trading, currency exchanges, futures commodities, acquisitions – she’s tired of it all. “What are gonna do, just disappear? Invent a new life? You got it pretty good, poor little rich girl,” the associates counter. That night Madeleine is obsessed with the idea. She dumps the contents of her bag (computer, phone, folders, etc.) into her apartment’s safe and walks to the train.

The film color scheme changes from blue to red and we see Madeleine in a small, ocean-side town. She’s retreated to the coast of Maine, assumed a new name (Madeleine Dixon), and is overseeing the town’s tiny budget. She’s being courted by the local non-profit hospital chain to do their budget and fundraising (since she’s done a bang-up job on the town’s finances) but she demurs, saying she might not be cut out for “that kind of work.” But when she meets the hospital chain’s new intern David (David Oyelowo), whom the higher-ups want to feature in an ad campaign, she is smitten and agrees to help.

Madeleine and David begin spending more time together and grow close. But Madeleine’s work for the hospital keeps ratcheting up – and it draws the attention of town newcomer, Jack Garet (Madeleine’s former coworker). He’s needling her about her past in front of her new friends, and Madeleine is not happy about it. Jack says that her former life misses her – and he promises to leave her alone if she just returns to the city and explains why she left everything behind. When David says he is going to present at a conference in Chicago, Madeleine agrees to Jack’s offer. She returns to New York and tells Felix that she never wanted the life he laid out for her after her parents’ death. Felix is disappointed but begrudgingly consents.

Madeleine returns to Atlantic Harbor and reunites with David only to discover police at her cottage. Felix’s been murdered, she was the last to see him. Jack has told the police they had an affair and Madeleine confessed to wanting to be rid of Felix, who was pressuring her to go back into finance. David hears this and storms off, ignoring Madeleine’s pleas to the contrary. Madeleine is taken back to the city and is put under house confinement. She is catatonic and does not defend herself while the authorities build a case around her.

At the trial Jack continues his story, and even Ellen backs up the lies. Madeleine, withdrawn, does nothing to exonerate herself. Then the prosecution calls a surprise witness – David! – to try to paint her as a liar and manipulator. David is hurt and tells the story of her deceiving him. Against her wishes Madeleine’s attorney cross examines David, ending in asking if he still has feelings for the woman who betrayed him. “Actually, I do,” he says. Madeleine is rejuvenated and tells David that nothing that’s been said about her is true – and she can prove it. They go to Madeleine’s apartment, where she is confined, and she retrieves her belongings from the safe. In it are files Felix left with her to spin off part of the firm under her name, allowing her to invest and run it as she saw fit. The prosecution accepts the evidence and pores over it looking for another suspect. They find Jack’s name on the papers – meaning he knew all along Felix was going to set up Madeleine the way she wanted. They interrogate Ellen, who admits Jack killed Felix to prevent the split of the firm and made her go along with it.

Back at Madeleine’s home: “You could have told me about all this,” he says, pointing to her well-appointed high-rise apartment. “It would have our fundraising a lot easier.” “Money hasn’t really been my problem,” she answers. “It’s what it does to me.” “Perhaps you need a better moral compass,” David replies. “What about one that points north?” Fade to Atlantic Harbor and David and Madeleine in each other’s arms.

The pitch
Dishonored Lady: She’s growing a new soul. Please keep off the grass.

Next up: The Strange Woman (1946)


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