I hadn’t heard of Deep Valley before I recently caught the movie on Turner Classic Movies! But it was a pleasant surprise – a romantic crime drama full of romance, suspense, and unabashed Romanticism. The film stars Ida Lupino, Dane Clark, and Wayne Morris, and is worth your time.
Now, if you’re unfamiliar with film history, Ida Lupino was a pioneer! A woman who deserves more of our attention. In fact, she was the first woman to direct a film noir (in 1953) and the only woman producing and directing movies in the 1950s. In all, she was a well-rounded and impressive talent. She wrote, she directed, she produced, and yes, she acted. Here, in Deep Valley, she gives one of her best performances as a naive woman with a stuttering problem who falls in love with an escaped convict.
Libby Saul, a poor woman mistreated by her feuding parents, still lives at home in this isolated, lonely setting, where her only true companion is a dog. That soon changes when men arrive in the nearby town to build a new road near their house. She soon becomes intrigued with one of the convicts building the road through forced labor. When a natural disaster occurs killing most of the men, this convict named Barry (Dane Clark) escapes. He soon discovers Libby’s secret hideout in the woods. And quickly, the two fall in love despite his violent history. But can they find happiness when his life’s in danger and they could be caught at any moment?
DEEP VALLEY (1947) – THE REVIEW
Deep Valley is a strange tale. Part crime drama. Part romance. And part melodrama. The film also has a reverent view of nature with an optimistic perspective toward redemption.
With cynical eyes, one will watch this film deeply suspicious of Barry. Does he love Libby? Or is he manipulating this innocent young woman who has no real experience in the world? On the other hand, this woman has never experienced happiness so when she falls in love with Barry, she’s consumed by feelings of love and joy – previously unfamiliar experiences due to her mentally abusive parents. Libby also overcomes her stutter and stands up for herself.
However, Barry is without a doubt a violent, dangerous man. So, as a viewer, you find yourself torn between rooting for them or hoping she recognizes that he’s not the best choice in the long run. Still, I don’t recommend watching this film through a modern lens.
Yet, despite the questionable behavior of the leading man, the “unhealthy” romance has some similarities to the wild romanticism found in Wuthering Heights which gives it a hypnotic, enjoyable quality. You may not agree with the romance but as part of a story, it’s interesting to watch. The two actors also have incredible chemistry on screen.
Ida Lupino and Dane Clark also shine in their roles – each giving fabulous performances. Without their acting talent, the film may have come across as too melodramatic. But they give the characters believability with their gravitas and chemistry.
Besides the memorable (albeit questionable) romance and believable performances, the film also includes first-rate talent behind the scenes. The director is Jean Negulesco (Oscar-nominated for Johnny Belinda) with talented screenwriters at the helm – including the phenomenal Salka Viertel, Stephen Morehouse Avery, and even some uncredited help from the famed author, William Faulkner.
The cinematography is lovely and perfectly captures the isolation Libby feels. The setting and production design also excellent.
Now, some may find the film slow at times. Especially at first. But it builds to a suspenseful climax that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
Overall, if you enjoy the sweeping Romanticism found in stories like Wuthering Heights, you’ll likely appreciate this little-known classic romance. Not to mention, Ida Lupino is an underrated acting talent, and this is one of her best performances. Plus, it has an excellent script with wonderful direction. So, if you enjoy deep emotion, nature, isolation, loneliness, and soul connections, you’ll likely enjoy Deep Valley. Just don’t use it as an example of an ideal, healthy love story.
Where to Watch: DVD. You can also watch for showings on TCM.
Content Note: NR but PG-like for mild violence and suspense.
Have you seen Deep Valley? Are you interested in seeing it? What are your thoughts on this classic romance? Let me know in the comments!
“You had me at hello.”
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My
feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me
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