Barbara Stanwyck in No Man of Her Own (1950)

Comfort Food: food that is associated with a sense of home or contentment or that is prepared in a traditional style usually having a nostalgic or sentimental appeal.

I’m not sure what it is about Barbara Stanwyck movies, and this might sound a little odd, but whenever I watch one of them I’m reminded of comfort food in a way. For instance, if I’m in a restless mood and I’m not sure what kind of movie I feel like watching, it’s a pretty safe bet I’ll be content watching one of hers. When I finish one, I usually come away from it feeling nostalgic for the time period in which the movie was set. This is both due to my admiration for Barbara as an actress and the types of movies that she has starred in.

Whatever the reason, that was definitely the case with her movie No Man of Her Own (1950), which I watched last night. I was in one of those restless moods, and when I noticed that the movie was available through Netflix Instant I immediately gravitated to it hoping it would be a satisfying choice. I was not disappointed. I really enjoyed the movie and Barbara Stanwyck’s performance.

‘I Married a Dead Man’

Based on the Cornell Woolrich novel “I Married a Dead Man,” No Man of Her Own is a drama/film noir about an unmarried pregnant woman named Helen Ferguson, played by Barbara Stanwyck, who desperately seeks help from her seedy ex-boyfriend and the father of her baby, Stephen Morley (played by Lyle Bettger). She is devastated when he turns her away with nothing but a train ticket to San Francisco. While on the train, she meets a young man and his pregnant wife who are heading home to visit his family.

When the train is involved in an accident and the couple is killed, Helen assumes the wife’s identity since the husband’s family has never met her or seen a picture of her. After giving birth to a son, she is accepted into the home of her wealthy “in-laws” and settles comfortably into her new life. However, when Stephen discovers the new life she is leading, he tracks her down and begins to blackmail her. The rest of the movie, well, let’s just say it leads to a bit of an implausible ending, but I won’t get into more specifics so as not to give it away.

Much like another Barbara Stanwyck movie, Crime of Passion, which I reviewed on my blog last year, No Man of Her Own was filled with the kinds of visual images that I love to see in an old movie. First of all, I LOVE movies that are set on trains. I’m not sure what it is, maybe a desire to go back to that time period and ride a passenger train myself, but seeing the various styles of passenger and dining cars always seems to fascinate me. Then there was the warm, cozy house owned by Helen’s in-laws that came complete with a wrap around porch and crackling fireplaces, two things I hope to have in a house of my own some day.

A scene where Helen and her new “brother-in-law” Bill (played by John Lund) are window shopping at Christmas time gave a glimpse into the stores of the day, another thing I love to see in old movies. There is also a scene where Helen and Stephen are standing outside a restaurant in the winter, and it was so idyllic looking that it almost made me miss snow. I said *almost*. :-) I’m quite content with the summer weather we’re having now, thank you very much.

Again, as with Crime of Passion, I was able to overlook some of the implausible turns in the storyline and the somewhat less than satisfying ending and really enjoyed the movie. I would definitely recommend it to all fans of film noir and of course, Barbara Stanwyck.

P.S. I also really enjoyed the performance of Jane Cowl, who played the part of Helen Ferguson’s caring and sympathetic mother-in-law, Mrs. Harkness. She added a real warmth to the film that added to my enjoyment of it.

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  1. […] her in some of her movies. I even once compared her to comfort food in a review I did of her movie No Man of Her Own to convey the feeling of warmth and familiarity I got when watching her movies. Ah, the silly […]

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. Thanks!