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My Name Is Julia Ross (free)

  • Chazen Museum of Art 750 University Ave Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)
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Another Cinematheque selection from the 1940s with the gaslighting of women at its core. One wonders if these old movies were trying to say something progressive, or if manipulating women to get them to question reality was just a plot device the masses understood implicitly. Either way, this 1945 noir thriller by director Joseph H. Lewis is a nice and neat take on the reverse-identity-theft plot. A clever, young Julia Ross, played by Nina Foch (with no family, and no young man?!) answers a want ad for a mysterious live-in secretary job. She then finds herself waking up days later to strangers calling her Marion.

Details of a murderous plot are discovered rapidly, as Julia realizes she's trapped as the replacement wife of a randomly destructive young man who rips clothes apart for fun. His mother, played by the seriously scary Dame May Witty, is the rich ringleader who doesn't understand why she has to clean up her son's messes. (The answer: because her son is a misogynist and a sociopath.) Julia's attempts to break out of the mansion become simultaneously smarter and more desperate, leading up to a finale that includes genuinely impressive low-budget movie magic.

My Name Is Julia Ross also has a lot to say about class, from the thieving maid who looks down on secretary work as idle, to the ability of a rich family to manipulate an entire village. At little over an hour, this movie will have you wishing more features could so efficiently deliver simple, solid suspense. Bugs Bunny opens the night, with the classic, and also gaslight-y, "Little Red Riding Rabbit". —Reid Kurkerewicz

Earlier Event: March 3
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Later Event: March 6
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