Murder mysteries are all the same, and the only way to judge them is to evaluate their treatment. There is nothing in the format of a who-dunit which will make a good film or be anything other than a common-place. But the producers of Sleep My Love have taken such a common-place tale and by skillful directing, acting, and photography turned it into a neat suspenseful package.
The plot can hardly be called revolutionary. A man is trying to murder his fabulously rich wife, and using a combination of hypnosis, poison, and George Couloris to turn the trick. Naturally he is conducting a Secret Amour with an earthy young damsel, and naturally the here, who would ordinarily be on his way to China, saves th Unsuspecting wife Three times from Certain Death. That a respectable film can be made with such a framework is a personal triumph for producer Mary Pickford, America's erstwhile sweetheart.
Probably some of the best camera work of the past year is displayed in Sleep My Love, ranging from a harrowing shot of a body hurtling down a stair well to a uniformly brilliant group of backgrounds. Even the scene changes are executed with finesse. Attention to such camera detail is what brings Sleep My Love out of the mediocre class. Augmenting the lens work are a half dozen or more non-essential but suspense building scenes, some of them cinematic gems in themselves. A Chinese wedding an airplane ride, and a chance meeting at Logan International Airport all bring welcome relief from the somber tone of the film.
Topflight performances are given by Claudette Colbert as the wife and Robert Cummings as the passing here. Though Miss Colbert is no longer the bathing beauty she was in Sign of the Cross, she does her best to convey an air of youthful innocence and terror. Her best is good enough. Cummings is reminiscent of the debonair pre-war Robert Montgomery, and a far cry from the usual neurotic hard-drinking males who presently haunt the screen. Don Amcche is adequate as the husband though he makes an unexpected "heavy." In fact the only weak spot is debut of Hazel Brooks. Fortunately her costumes make up for her cultural failures.