Joan Bennett Essay

Secret Beyond the Door was émigré Fritz Lang's unique contribution to this melodramatic cycle that reached its peak in Hollywood in that tumultuous decade. Working in a genre that might be dismissed as a "weepie" or a "woman's picture" by some of Lang's contemporaries, this movie was adapted from mystery writer Rufus King's magazine story by the director and Silvia Richards, a journeyman radio writer who had gained recognition for the script for Joan Crawford's psychologically insightful Possessed (1947). Not surprisingly for a director who blended psychology credibly into many of his best films, such as M (1931) and Ministry of Fear (1944), the mental state of his stressed characters often took center stage. Richards, whose emphasis on narration may have reflected her radio-writing roots, may have been too intimidated by her distinguished mentor's determination to craft an intellectually challenging movie that was also an unusual and sinister romance--a kind of "boy meets girl" story, Lang-style.

Excerpt from TCM located HERE


Joan Bennett is the woman who falls for an architect and promptly marries him, not asking as many questions about his past as she should have done. She soon discovers that he has a few skeletons in his cupboard, maybe even literally. Determined to find out the secret beyond the door of his mansion, she soon believes herself to be in mortal danger.

Another of the Freudian thrillers that were so in fashion in the 1940s, director Lang manages to turn on the suspense but is more interested in the art of film-making than what makes his protagonist tick.

Excerpt from Channel 4 located HERE

Joan Bennett (1896–1986), also known as Joan Frankau and born Aline Frankau, was a Cambridge literary scholar and critic. She was among the "constellation of critics" called by the defence in the Lady Chatterley Trial of D. H. Lawrence.

Life and career[edit]

Bennett was the daughter of London cigar importer Arthur Frankau (1849-1904) and writer Julia Frankau (1859-1916).[1] Though she was known as Joan throughout her life, she was christened Aline.[2] She married the Cambridge literary historian Henry Stanley Bennett (1889-1972) in 1920.[3]

As a don at Girton College, Cambridge, Bennett wrote one of the first critical studies of Virginia Woolf.[4]

As one of the expert witnesses in the Lady Chatterley Trial, she helped counter the arguments of the prosecution by confirming Lawrence's reputation as a novelist, that the work was more than a description of sexual encounters, and that Lawrence's repeated use of ‘four-letter words’ were justified by literary intent.[5][6] Bennett's mother had earlier been credited by Mrs Belloc Lowndes with having been "one of the very few to recognise the genius of D. H. Lawrence".[7]


Publications by Joan Bennett include—

  • Four Metaphysical Poets – Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw, Cambridge University Press 1934
  • Virginia Woolf – Her Art as a Novelist, Cambridge University Press 1945
  • George Eliot – Her Mind and her Art, Cambridge University Press 1948
  • Sir Thomas Browne – "A Man of Achievement in Literature", Cambridge University Press 1962
  • Five Metaphysical Poets – Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Crashaw, Marvell, Cambridge University Press 1964

Further reading[edit]

  • C. H. Rolph (ed.), The Trial of Lady Chatterley: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited, Penguin Books 1961
  • Aryeh Newman, "From exile to exit: the Frankau Jewish connection", The Jewish Quarterly Vol. 34 No. 4 (128), 1987
  • Todd M. Endelman, "The Frankaus of London: A Study in Radical Assimilation, 1837-1967", Jewish History Vol. 8 Nos 1-2, 1994
  • Derek Brewer, A list of his writings presented to H. S. Bennett on his eightieth birthday, 15th January 1969, Cambridge University Press 1969

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^Rubenstein, William D. (2011). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 9780230304666. 
  2. ^Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 p82
  3. ^Gilbert Frankau, Self-Portrait, Hutchinson 1940 p234
  4. ^Roden, Frederick S. Jewish/Christian/Queer: Crossroads and Identities Queer Interventions, Ashgate Publishing, 2009 ISBN 0754673758, p. 183
  5. ^Squires, Michael (ed.) (1993). Lady Chatterley's Lover and "À Propos of Lady Chatterley's Lover". Cambridge University Press. pp. xxxviii–xxxix. 
  6. ^Carter, Phillip. "Lady Chatterley's Lover trial (act. 1960)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  7. ^Mrs Belloc Lowndes, The Merry Wives of Westminster, Macmillan 1946 p62


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