One Man’s Paranoia: The Movie, “Cause For Alarm!”

Don’t forget the exclamation point.

Loretta Young‘s Ellen, in Cause for Alarm! (1951), finds out just how much harm another person’s paranoid insanity can bring to her. Her invalid husband, George (Barry Sullivan), thinks she and George’s doctor, Ranney, are plotting to kill him and he has Ellen mail a letter about it (little does she know) to the district attorney. After informing her of this, George unexpectedly dies of his ailment. Now the D.A. will think Ellen and Ranney are murderers! From that point on, the movie deals with panic and striving, with Ellen’s frenzied certainty she can’t rely on the D.A. for justice. (She can’t.) She must retrieve the false letter.

Most of the films of Tay Garnett I have yet to see, but he directed Alarm! as finely as he did The Stand-In and Love is News. He insists on clarity and works well with Young to make it her picture, because it’s Ellen picture. In my review of Love is News, I wrote that the comely Loretta “is not a natural for farce but, happily, is never false.” Here, she is a natural for suspenseful drama AND never false, so it’s a grand performance. Irving Bacon does nicely as a whiny postman, and the scenes with him and Young are very sturdy.

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