Written by: Lucille Fletcher, based on her radio play
Directed by: Anatole Litvak
Starring: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards, Wendell Corey, Harold Vermilyea
- Theatrical Trailer
Released by: Paramount
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format
My Advice: Rent it.
Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) is not a happy woman. Confided to her bed by a heart condition, she sent her nurse home to spend some time with her husband, Henry (Lancaster). The problem is it’s been hours, he hasn’t shown up yet and his phone is constantly busy. When the operator tries to break through, Leona inadvertently hears two thugs planning how to kill a woman that night. Horrified, she tries to get the police to do something, but without any clues, they are helpless. Trying to find her husband so he can help her, information trickles to Leona through the telephone and she discovers that her world is built on lies and deception and she is the focus of a murderous plot.
[ad#longpost]Shown in real time, Sorry, Wrong Number depicts how someone who is so certain of life can have all her illusions destroyed in the blink of an eye. Leona’s life has become limited to her room, her telephone, and her own self-delusions. The telephone is shown as an imperfect mode of communication that limits what Leona can know. She can’t see the cop dealing with a lost child while responding to her report or her doctor romancing a young lady at a swanky club. Leona also can’t see how her control and manipulation of her husband is driving him to crime and worse. The flashbacks are like the layers of an onion, each raising questions while providing answers. Even Stanwyck’s performance, going from aristocratic cool to uncontrolled panic, is another sign of deconstruction. Her acting can be a little over the top, but if I knew someone was coming to kill me and I could barely move, I think I’d be a little out of it too. Lancaster plays the brooding husband who sacrificed his pride for the material wealth Leona could offer. His inept schemes to regain that pride show him to be just as flawed as his wife. There are no heroes in this picture.
The only feature on the disc is the trailer for the movie. It does show that Hollywood could, at one point in its history, make a trailer that doesn’t reveal everything about the plot. It’s a shame that there’s no commentary but perfectly understandable since the principle actors, the director, and the screenwriter have passed on. One feature that they could have added was the original broadcast version of Sorry, Wrong Number. It would have been interesting to compare the two or have had a featurette about said comparison–this is a story that’s been done for the small screen twice as well, so it bears some study, one would think. Still, even without bonus stuff, this movie is a fine example of noir suspense that Hollywood seems incapable of making these days. Worth a rental.