The film Dark Waters is a mystery drama starring Favorite of the Month Merle Oberon alongside Franchot Tone, another of our featured stars at Classic Movie Favorites. Dark Waters was released by United Artists and was directed by Andre DeToth. This film noir sees Merle Oberon starring as Leslie Calvin who after managing to escape from drowning whilst on board a ship goes to stay with her Aunt and Uncle, but all is not as it seems.
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Lux Radio Theatre broadcast a radio version of the film in November 1944 which Merle Oberon also starred in. You can listen to this broadcast in the videos tab of my review.
Leslie Calvin (Merle Oberon) finds herself in hospital after the ship she was sailing on from Batavia to America is hit by a German u-boat. She is only one of a small number of survivors and so has to deal with the loss of her parents who were also on board the ship. The doctor asks Leslie if there is anyone she can go to who might look after her, and Leslie mentions an Aunt and Uncle. The doctor encourages her to make contact with them and Leslie is delighted when she receives a reply saying they are only too glad to have her live with them.
Leslie travels by train to Belleville, Louisiana, and is surprised to find no-one waiting for her when she arrives. Whilst waiting for her Aunt and Uncle at the station she passes out from too much sun, and when she comes round finds Dr. George Grover (Franchot Tone) stood over her.
George drives Leslie to the grand house where her Aunt Emily (Fay Bainter) and Uncle Norbert (John Qualen) live. Leslie is surprised to find that the telegram she sent to the house regarding her arrival never arrived. Leslie also meets Mr. Sydney (Thomas Mitchell) who is staying as a guest at the house, as well as Cleeve (Elisha Cook Jr.), who oversees the work on the plantation.
At first it seems as if Leslie is in good company, but when she is asked to talk about her past she becomes very unsettled, and there seems to be something rather sinister about the attitude of both Sydney and Cleeve.
Leslie strikes up a friendship with George, and it looks as if romance is on the cards. However, Leslie has been hearing and experiencing strange happenings around the house and believes that she is going mad. Aunt Emily tries to console her. When George proposes to Leslie she turns him down, believing that she is crazy and therefore shouldn’t marry anyone.
Matters take a very frightening turn when Leslie is talking to Aunt Emily about her late mother and is shocked when her Aunt starts to talk about how her mother used to love to dance. Leslie knows this cannot be true as her mother has always been unable to walk, and as a result doesn’t believe her Aunt and Uncle to be the people they claim to be.
Now Leslie believes she is a prisoner at the plantation, but doesn’t know why and desperately needs George’s help. When Leslie discovers the dead body of Pearson Jackson (Rex Ingram) an ex-worker at the plantation she knows that she is in real trouble.
I had never heard of Dark Waters until researching which films to watch for Merle Oberon as our Favorite of the Month, and I found it to be a very engrossing film noir. The film is unpredictable which is what makes it even more interesting, especially when Aunt Emily slips up about Leslie’s late mother’s past.
Elisha Cook Jr.’s character Cleeve was without a doubt the creepiest character in the film, he lusts after Leslie who is obviously not interested and so it is rather a relief when George arrives on the scene.