Very strong performances in this film noir. Lew Ayres, Ann Sheridan, and Eve Arden make a very watchable attorney, unfaithful wife/accused murderer, and gossipy cousin. In fact, Ayres has as much screen time as Sheridan; Zachary Scott, as Sheridan’s husband, is pretty much an on-looker until the very end.
The dialogue is crisp, Arden’s is so sharp it has barbs. The best aspect of The Unfaithful is Sheridan’s very nuanced character. She kills her lover, but was it in self-defense? That she (and Ayres as her counsel) convinces a jury of that is one thing; we know what happened, but not exactly how it happened. She incriminates herself by hiding her affair from everyone.
It’s questionable if she’s just trying to save her image/status, or whether, as she states, that she just doesn’t want her husband to know. That brings in the spooky widow of Sheridan’s lover, and the smarmy art dealer who has the tell-tale bust that proves the affair. The supporting characters add so much to the atmosphere.
I like how the pacing picks up once Sheridan’s Chris is accused of murder. The media feeding-frenzy is aptly thrown at us like a storm. Even the courtroom scene moves quickly. After Ayres’ Larry tells Chris that she’s acquitted, and she goes home to prepare to move out, the film should end.
But it doesn’t. We get a long marriage counseling session from Larry…nice, but the movie’s not just about infidelity. All the references to the difficulty of postwar readjustment work well, as that’s the background for all the issues here. The war helped fuel film noir.
Another scene that didn’t help was the party scene at the beginning: the out-of-control ex-husband makes us think he’s going to stir things up for Paula (Eve Arden). But, no, that’s just a prelude to the actual story. Thankfully, there’s no annoying flashbacks.
If you skip the beginning and the end, this is a much better movie. It’s pretty good as is. 7/10.