Robert Ryan, Stalker: “Beware, My Lovely”

Robert Ryan Menaces Ida Lupino in "Beware My Lovely"

Sure, I admit it’s only 77 short minutes long, and maybe feels more like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but in terms of sheer creepy atmosphere played for all it’s worth by two outstanding performers, RKO’s 1952 low-budget thriller Beware, My Lovely delivers.  The intelligent and talented Ida Lupino stars as Helen Gordon, a widow with a boardinghouse who hires the wrong guy as her handyman.  The complex and gifted Robert Ryan plays Howard Wilton, rejected for service in WWI because of emotional issues, a poor soul who is more severely disturbed than even the military docs could have imagined.  Beware, My Lovely most definitely is your parents’ stalker movie, and if things seem a little familiar along the way, it’s because movies for the last nearly sixty years have been following the same template, but hardly to better effect.

"Beware My Lovely" Title CardI won’t recount the whole plot now; TCM has a really detailed synopsis here (spoilers, naturally!), and there’s also a nice article on the production of the movie here.  Beware, My Lovely wasn’t the first time that Lupino and Ryan had appeared together onscreen; earlier that same year RKO released On Dangerous Ground featuring the pair, and to more critical acclaim.  While there may not have been much hoopla coming from the studio for Beware, My Lovely, and granted, it lays it on pretty thick sometimes, the movie still is a quick and exciting character study that genuinely has the goods to get your pulse going. 

If Robert Ryan weren’t such an Robert Ryan Spiffs Up in "Beware My Lovely"effective actor, you wouldn’t have even an iota of empathy for Wilton, but you do, even as he’s totally creeping you out and doing things like trying on Ida Lupino’s dead husband’s military coat, for instance, or having murderous flashbacks, or hiding door keys, or ripping telephone cords out of the wall.  Things like that.  You know, the normal bag of tricks the typical unhinged drifter-type usually pulls from, only seldom as well as Ryan or with such a skill that you almost can’t blame Mrs. Gordon for falling for it. 

Pictures definitely tell the story here.  Beware, My Lovely airs tomorrow, Tuesday November 10th, at 4:30pm, and I highly recommend you carve out an hour and a few minutes to immerse yourself in its neat atmosphere.  Also interesting is the 1918 time period of the movie, a time when things like phones were a high-tech wonder and yet it feels almost more like the 19th century.  Fascinating.

Robert Ryan in "Beware My Lovely" Trailer

The Haunted Handyman Robert Ryan

Mrs. Gordon Tries to Understand Howard

He's Almost Kind of Charming Here, Isn't He?

Uh Oh...Something's Not Quite Right with Howard

I Think His Head Hurts Now

Beware of the Face in the Christmas Ornament!

Howard's Messing With Helen's Personal Space In a Big Way

I Don't Think She's Buying Any Of It, Do You?

Give Me a Little Sugar, Baby...

If This is a Telemarketer, They're Toast...

Yikes!

Whew!  Wrestling with Scissors, Even!

"Beware My Lovely

0 Response Robert Ryan, Stalker: “Beware, My Lovely”
Posted By Suzi Doll : November 10, 2009 12:35 am

I have a tendency to confuse this with FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (with Robert Mitchum) and MURDER MY SWEET (with Dick Powell), not because the films have anything in common but because of the similarities in the titles. But, now I have them straight. 77 minutes or not, this one sounds good.

Posted By Suzi Doll : November 10, 2009 12:35 am

I have a tendency to confuse this with FAREWELL, MY LOVELY (with Robert Mitchum) and MURDER MY SWEET (with Dick Powell), not because the films have anything in common but because of the similarities in the titles. But, now I have them straight. 77 minutes or not, this one sounds good.

Posted By Al Lowe : November 10, 2009 8:08 am

I first saw this movie when I served in Viet Nam 40 years ago. I was there for most of 1969 and we had Armed Forces Television. I haven’t seen it since but I remember how good Ryan and Lupino were.

It is interesting that Ryan worked with the same actors over and over and over. Lupino, Lancaster, Borgnine, Wayne, Marvin, Mitchum, Aldo Ray, Stanwyck, Gloria Grahame, Tina Louise. I wonder how many times these people requested him for projects.

Posted By Al Lowe : November 10, 2009 8:08 am

I first saw this movie when I served in Viet Nam 40 years ago. I was there for most of 1969 and we had Armed Forces Television. I haven’t seen it since but I remember how good Ryan and Lupino were.

It is interesting that Ryan worked with the same actors over and over and over. Lupino, Lancaster, Borgnine, Wayne, Marvin, Mitchum, Aldo Ray, Stanwyck, Gloria Grahame, Tina Louise. I wonder how many times these people requested him for projects.

Posted By morlockjeff : November 10, 2009 5:55 pm

You got some great images on this one like the fifth one down after your final paragraph when he is looking down and his eyebrows are accented making him look like Satan. Plus that last poster image looks like the quintessential pulp fiction paperback cover.

Posted By morlockjeff : November 10, 2009 5:55 pm

You got some great images on this one like the fifth one down after your final paragraph when he is looking down and his eyebrows are accented making him look like Satan. Plus that last poster image looks like the quintessential pulp fiction paperback cover.

Posted By moirafinnie : November 10, 2009 8:17 pm

I hadn’t seen this one in some time, but enjoyed this movie more than I expected due to Ryan and Lupino‘s expert jockeying in this story, and George Diskant‘s very imaginative cinematography in the claustrophobic set, (love that image of the looming Ryan reflected through the Christmas ornament). Robert Ryan‘s disturbing and touchingly fragmented mental case is quite a realistic and yet highly theatrical creation, making his plight and his threatening presence much more moving, and seems to be a creation separate and beyond the mechanical quasi-gothic trappings of this film. Your account of this film was–as usual–delightful, Medusa, but I have a few oddball questions:

1.) WHAT the heck was with that striped tie that Robert Ryan wore throughout the film? Did he steal it from a passing five year old? Or was that simply one more visual clue that this guy was a bit short in other ways, too?

2.) There are two photos of Ida‘s dead hubby in his WWI uniform seen in the house, one alone and one with Ida. Is it possible that the guy in the photo might be Ms. Lupino‘s erstwhile creative collaborator, actor William Talman (best remembered by most of us as Hamilton Burger, the spectacularly unsuccessful DA in history when facing television’s Perry Mason, but also the star of Lupino’s 1953 directorial effort, The Hitch-Hiker)?

Posted By moirafinnie : November 10, 2009 8:17 pm

I hadn’t seen this one in some time, but enjoyed this movie more than I expected due to Ryan and Lupino‘s expert jockeying in this story, and George Diskant‘s very imaginative cinematography in the claustrophobic set, (love that image of the looming Ryan reflected through the Christmas ornament). Robert Ryan‘s disturbing and touchingly fragmented mental case is quite a realistic and yet highly theatrical creation, making his plight and his threatening presence much more moving, and seems to be a creation separate and beyond the mechanical quasi-gothic trappings of this film. Your account of this film was–as usual–delightful, Medusa, but I have a few oddball questions:

1.) WHAT the heck was with that striped tie that Robert Ryan wore throughout the film? Did he steal it from a passing five year old? Or was that simply one more visual clue that this guy was a bit short in other ways, too?

2.) There are two photos of Ida‘s dead hubby in his WWI uniform seen in the house, one alone and one with Ida. Is it possible that the guy in the photo might be Ms. Lupino‘s erstwhile creative collaborator, actor William Talman (best remembered by most of us as Hamilton Burger, the spectacularly unsuccessful DA in history when facing television’s Perry Mason, but also the star of Lupino’s 1953 directorial effort, The Hitch-Hiker)?

Posted By medusamorlock : November 12, 2009 9:44 am

Hi Moira!

You know, perhaps sometimes a tie is only a tie, as the saying doesn’t quite go! lol But yeah…it’s pretty goofy, isn’t it? In the early parts he’s also wearing a sweater vest that kind of covers the shortfall..once that went, the secret was out! :-)

And I looked around a bit, and evidently it IS William Talman standing in for Ida’s husband: http://www.answers.com/topic/william-talman-actor

Pretty neat! Somebody needs to do a post on Talman — he’s also fascinating!

There is something about even a crazed homicidal handyman that becomes sublime when played by Ryan.

It’s a fun movie! Thanks for commenting!!

Posted By medusamorlock : November 12, 2009 9:44 am

Hi Moira!

You know, perhaps sometimes a tie is only a tie, as the saying doesn’t quite go! lol But yeah…it’s pretty goofy, isn’t it? In the early parts he’s also wearing a sweater vest that kind of covers the shortfall..once that went, the secret was out! :-)

And I looked around a bit, and evidently it IS William Talman standing in for Ida’s husband: http://www.answers.com/topic/william-talman-actor

Pretty neat! Somebody needs to do a post on Talman — he’s also fascinating!

There is something about even a crazed homicidal handyman that becomes sublime when played by Ryan.

It’s a fun movie! Thanks for commenting!!

Posted By mhr_kara : November 12, 2009 11:23 pm

I just wanted to say thanks to TCM for playing this movie. Robert Ryan was excellently creepy. Eeek.

Posted By mhr_kara : November 12, 2009 11:23 pm

I just wanted to say thanks to TCM for playing this movie. Robert Ryan was excellently creepy. Eeek.

Posted By Robert Kawasaki : November 24, 2009 8:50 am

Like Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan was one of the valuable stars for RKO which was a semi-major studio in Hollywood. RKO had a reputation for producing relatively small budgeted, and somewhat minor yet quite meaningful films with some brave experiments. Today, we are so happy to enjoy the films like KING KONG, CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENY AMBERSONS, GUNGA DIN, I REMEMBER MAMA, CROSSFIRE, OUT OF THE PAST, THE SET-UP, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, or ON DANGEROUS GROUND. Maybe, Ryan suffered being confined in the small studio with limited opportunities, now, his position can be described as blessings, because he could enlist his names in the quite interesting and experimental films.

I would nominate BERLIN EXPRESS and BEWARE, MY LOVELY as two of Robert Ryan’s most minor, yet experimental RKO films. In the former, he is the good guy, and in the latter, he is the trouble maker. The former is very experimental because it was the first film capturing the devastated post-war Germany. The latter is very interesting because it was done within very modest structure, only two people in one house. These two films were quite often neglected, but by screening them today, I am convinced that they are quite lovely cinematic art. BERLIN EXPRESS tried to say importance of the world unity, and BEWARE, MY LOVELY tried to express tragedy of a damaged person. Both films were simple, well done, and they have succeeded to convey their messages rather convincingly.

Ryan was truely superb actor, because his characters, Robert Lindley in BERLIN EXPRESS and Howard Wilton in BEWARE, MY LOVELY, are completely different person and it was quite difficult for an actor to establish such a solid difference. Nevertheless, Ryan managed to make each characters quite believable and even admirable.

Posted By Robert Kawasaki : November 24, 2009 8:50 am

Like Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan was one of the valuable stars for RKO which was a semi-major studio in Hollywood. RKO had a reputation for producing relatively small budgeted, and somewhat minor yet quite meaningful films with some brave experiments. Today, we are so happy to enjoy the films like KING KONG, CITIZEN KANE, THE MAGNIFICENY AMBERSONS, GUNGA DIN, I REMEMBER MAMA, CROSSFIRE, OUT OF THE PAST, THE SET-UP, THEY LIVE BY NIGHT, or ON DANGEROUS GROUND. Maybe, Ryan suffered being confined in the small studio with limited opportunities, now, his position can be described as blessings, because he could enlist his names in the quite interesting and experimental films.

I would nominate BERLIN EXPRESS and BEWARE, MY LOVELY as two of Robert Ryan’s most minor, yet experimental RKO films. In the former, he is the good guy, and in the latter, he is the trouble maker. The former is very experimental because it was the first film capturing the devastated post-war Germany. The latter is very interesting because it was done within very modest structure, only two people in one house. These two films were quite often neglected, but by screening them today, I am convinced that they are quite lovely cinematic art. BERLIN EXPRESS tried to say importance of the world unity, and BEWARE, MY LOVELY tried to express tragedy of a damaged person. Both films were simple, well done, and they have succeeded to convey their messages rather convincingly.

Ryan was truely superb actor, because his characters, Robert Lindley in BERLIN EXPRESS and Howard Wilton in BEWARE, MY LOVELY, are completely different person and it was quite difficult for an actor to establish such a solid difference. Nevertheless, Ryan managed to make each characters quite believable and even admirable.

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