Back to All Events

Sorry, Wrong Number (free)

  • Chazen Museum of Art 750 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Anatole Litvak's 1948 thriller-noir Sorry, Wrong Number holds up once you get over the extreme coincidence that moves its plot. Leona Stevenson (Barbara Stanwyck), an invalid Manhattan-bourgeois, happens to overhear a murder plot over crossed telephone lines, and proceeds to slowly discover the gruesome details from a series of phone calls without ever leaving her room. Soon after the first call, she learns her formerly poor yet stunningly chiseled husband (Burt Lancaster) is somehow involved in a federal criminal investigation, driving her into hysterics.

The plot, told through flashbacks within flashbacks, is driven by the spread of information through a world then only recently linked by telecommunications, and couples this technological theme with the inability of powerful men to listen to women. Even if Leona can shoot her voice all around the five boroughs, it doesn't matter if nobody's listening. The movie was written by Lucille Fletcher, based on her super-successful radio-play of the same name, which Orson Welles called "the greatest single radio script ever written." The convoluted story would admittedly make more sense in the intended radio format, where the spread of one's voice would be further highlighted. But if you can look past the plot-holes, the movie version has the bonuses of letting you gaze longingly at Mr. Lancaster alongside a dramatically limited performance from Stanwyck. In the end, the final scene is more than worth it. —Reid Kurkerewicz