"Leonora Eames, a young woman from Denver, and her roommate Maxine, a gold-digging model, share a modest Los Angeles apartment and the determination to move up in the world. To that end, Leonora, who works as a carhop, has enrolled in Dorothy Dale's charm school. After graduating from the school, Leonora gets a well-paying job modeling fur coats at a department store. One day, while modeling a coat, a man named Franzi Kartos introduces himself to Leonora and invites her to a party aboard millionaire Smith Ohlrig's yacht. Leonora rejects the invitation because she does not approve of rich men sending scouts to find pretty young women to attend their parties. Maxine, however, convinces Leonora to attend the party, calling it an "investment" in her future. On her way to the party, Leonora meets Smith at the marina, and he persuades her to join him on a late night drive. After sharing a romantic evening with her, Smith takes Leonora to his house and invites her in for a drink. Leonora, however, turns down the offer and asks to be taken home immediately. Smith complies with Leonora's request, but the rejection torments him for some time. Smith tells his psychiatrist about Leonora, and insists that she is like all other women, and that she is merely interested in his money. The psychiatrist disagrees, and tells Smith that he is obsessed about his money and is frustrated at his inability to attract and control Leonora. Angered by his doctor's diagnosis, Smith vows to prove him wrong by marrying Leonora."
This might not sound like the perfect set-up for a film noir, but neither would the first 20 minutes of SCARLET STREET or DESPERATE. This is the type of film that agonizingly shows what it takes to turn one person to criminal acts. What's interesting about this film is that 1) the protagonist is female, and 2) the ultimate crime is not only a crime of non-action, but ultimately unsuccessful. But the motivation and willingness were there. Leonora was at the edge and was ready to cross over, so much so that she admitted guilt without knowing the outcome. She had consented to the crime. Max Ophuls has a real eye for composition that works well within the noir milieu, and enhances the on-screen content.