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Did she have a husband...or is she mad? Only the ship's doctor can help
on 2 January 2010
"I'll meet you in 15 minutes in the main deck bar. We'll drink a toast to us." When the young, wealthy and nervous Ruth Stanton (Jeanne Crain) hears this from her impetuously-wedded new husband just after boarding a transatlantic steamer for their honeymoon, be prepared for the disappearing spouse gambit (or disappearing brother or best friend). The disappearance may take place on a train, in a Paris hotel or on a cruise ship, but we know that the young woman will soon think she must be mad...yet, in this case, she knows she had a husband. Why does everyone she meets, from fellow passengers to the stewards and third officers, deny ever having seen the man. It looks like sedation and confinement is in the works for Ruth, but then kindly Paul Manning (Michael Rennie), the ship's doctor, thinks that...just maybe...Ruth Stanton might be telling the truth.
And off we go on a voyage filled with nighttime fog, dark passage ways, muffled struggles, disbelief and, as we early on surmise, an unscrupulous plot designed to bring a young woman to madness.
Dangerous Crossing benefits from the old warhorse of a plot, from the creepy look of the film and, if you like transatlantic ships, the pleasurable goings on of those who dress for dinner in the grand salon. Michael Rennie is tall, calm and reassuring. Jeanne Crain, however, is from Hollywood's Loretta Young School of Acting, which includes Gene Tierney, Donna Reed, Ann Blythe and, sometimes, Anne Baxter. That is, the actresses must always be well groomed, immaculately made up, dressed casually to the nines and, in general, be able to mix restrained hysteria with well-bred graciousness.
We know what's going on early in the movie, but still, getting to the last words is an easy way to spend 75 minutes.
"Everything he said and did was like a terrible nightmare. Only worse because it was real," Ruth says to Paul.
"Ruth, listen to me. You've got to put it out of your mind, the whole thing. It was a nightmare, but your eyes are open now. It's over, Ruth, all over. You've got tomorrow to think of...and lots of tomorrows after that..."
"I know you're right, Paul."
The movie looks just fine. For those who enjoy commentary tracks, there's one by Aubrey Solomon, identified as a film historian.