Fritz Lang and Joan Bennett aren’t the first director/actor duo one thinks of when the subject comes up. In an era that gave us John Ford/John Wayne, George Cukor/Kate Hepburn and Alfred Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant, it’s perhaps not surprising that Lang and Bennett have unfairly been forgotten as a duo, unless you’re talking to really massive fans. However, theirs is one partnership that you shouldn’t overlook.
They made five (underrated) films together. Of those five, two of them are inseparable in the classic fandom’s collective mind: Woman in the Window (1944) and Scarlet Street (1945). This is mostly due to the fact that Eddie G. Robinson and Dan Duryea are also in them, thus making this a… I don’t know, quartet, or something. The four of them got together to make two very similar, yet very different films. They both have the same kind of strange and far-fetched plot, but there’s a sense of unending doom to Scarlet Street that you don’t find in Woman in the Window. To put it bluntly, there’s nothing comforting about Scarlet Street. Absolutely nothing. I mean, even for a noir. I think I read somewhere that it was the ‘bleakest noir ever made’. I think that’s about right. It’s still great, though. But not as good as Woman in the Window, which, if we’re going for labels here, I personally consider to be the quietest noir ever, and I mean that literally.
Now, I love both films, but Woman in the Window takes the cake for me. The reason for that is because the twist at the end makes you take a huge sigh of relief. Scarlet Street, great as it is, drags you down with it and beats you over the head with a wooden spoon.
But even with all of that going for them, they are still, to this day, hidden gems of 1940s noir. You will never see them alongside Double Indemnity (1944) or Out of the Past (1947) in a ‘Noir top 10 list’ or something, but that’s kind of what makes them special. In a weird, slightly frustrating way, Bennett and Lang’s partnership and those two films in particular will always be underrated, and that’s okay.