Andrea King and Helmut Dantine starring in “Shadow of a Woman.” Warner Bros., 1946
“Shadow of a Woman” (Warner Bros., 1946) presented Andrea King in her second leading role at the studio, following her success the previous year as Lisa Dorn, the ill-fated German actress in “Hotel Berlin.” And based upon that widespread critical praise and fan reaction, the decision was made to pair her again with her costar from that film, Austrian heartthrob Helmut Dantine, who had gained a huge Bobbysoxer following after his appearances in two back-to-back Best Pictures: In 1942′s “Mrs. Miniver,” he had made a startling impression as a wounded Nazi soldier terrorizing Greer Garson, and in 1943′s “Casablanca,” he had been memorable as a young newlywed trying to win his passport to freedom at Humphrey Bogart’s roulette table.
The premise of “Shadow of a Woman” was a good one, but according to Andrea the dialogue was clumsy at times and lacked a real punch. Alexis Smith had refused the role initially and was suspended for doing so. And when the part of Brooke Ryder was offered to Andrea by Jack Warner himself, she knew better than to turn him down. Mr. Warner was convinced it would make a true star out of her, as he had told Hedda Hopper in her syndicated newspaper column that same day.
The plot is actually a good one — worthy of Hitchcock. A young attractive couple meet while on vacation, fall in love, and spontaneously marry after a whirlwind romance of only a few short weeks. But all is not what it appears to be. Our heroine soon learns that her fine new husband, the doctor, is in truth a complete fraud. She also discovers that he is intentionally and systematically murdering his patients with his radical, unorthodox medical treatments. And his next victim appears to be his own child, a young son from a hidden previous marriage, who stands to inherit a fortune from his mother’s side of the family.
Unfortunately, Andrea and Alexis Smith were correct in their initial assessments of the project. In the end, “Shadow of a Woman” was a disappointment to both the critics and the public. Perhaps the studio would have done better to cast our lovely Andrea opposite a less obviously dark and brooding leading man, such as the likeable Dennis Morgan. It should have been as important to fool the audience as it was to fool the leading lady. But sadly, it is all too clear to everyone except our unsuspecting heroine that her husband is an evil man, making both her and the plot seem a bit foolish, with a less-than-suspenseful outcome.
Still, it marks one of Andrea’s most glamorous of all her film appearances, at the height of her rare screen beauty. For its release, Andrea’s name was raised above the film’s title, but she would be given official “star” status by Jack Warner for her work in “The Man I Love.”
Without a doubt, all things considered, both Andrea and “Shadow of a Woman” have their moments of pure movie magic.