Really nice crime drama. Early ’50s, black & white, murder mystery, lots of rainy nights, plumes of cigarette smoke, creepy Raymond Burr…what else is needed to make great entertainment?. The Blue Gardenia motif gives this a haunting, romantic background. Anne Baxter, as the vulnerable Norah, plays Burr’s (Harry’s) victim and antagonist. Interestingly, though she’s apparently killed him in self-defense, she doesn’t know it–at least not right away. Even though there’s a lot of doubt that this is film noir, Norah certainly seems to fit that genre’s type of heroine. She’s stuck in psychological turmoil, trying to cover her tracks, spiraling downward until she’s ultimately cleared.
What makes The Blue Gardenia more than just snappy crime melodrama are the performances. The tone’s consistent; but operates on two levels. We see how Norah’s out of touch with the nonchalant everyday world of her roommates and coworkers. Richard Conte as the journalist Casey Mayo, and George Reeves as Capt. Haynes hold up their ends of the plot–though Reeves is a bit smug. The fact that Reeve’s character betrays Conte’s deal with Norah shows how much the odds are stacked against her. It’s good that Harry’s ex gets cornered and confesses; by the end we’re completely in Norah’s corner. Nonetheless, why doesn’t the real killer try to bug out?–I fully expected her to escape via the restroom. I suppose that, unlike Norah, her character’s not developed enough to work in any complications. Might’ve been worth another few scenes though; as it is the ending seems abrupt.
Other than a few missteps, this is well-worth checking out for the ambience, acting, and fast-paced plotting. 8/10.