Jean Negulesco (born in Romania in 1900) became a painter in Paris and moved to
Los Angeles in the 1920s.
His first films were forgettable.
He turned to film noir in earnest during World War II.
The Mask Of Dimitrios (1944) is organized as a sequence of independent
tales that are linked only superficially.
In 1939, Turkish girls playing on the beach find a corpse washed ashore.
The police identify him as Dimitrios, a notorious international scoundrel. They
don't even want to know who killed him: they are just happy he is dead.
The chief of police meets a foreign writer at a party and tells him about the
mysterious murder. The two get together, and the chief of police reminisces
about Dimitrious' life.
Another foreigner learns of the murder from the newspapers, and asks to see
the corpse, but the corpse has already been disposed of. Once he realizes that
the writer is on Dimitrios' case, that same man follows him on a night train to
Bulgaria. A journalist helps him contact a woman who runs a night club.
She hardly believes that Dimitrios is really dead. She tells her part of the
story. She helped him when he was penniless. Then he got rich. Then he got
in trouble with the authorities. He was saved by a powerful man, who asked
him to assassinate the premier. The attempt failed, but Dimitrios needed her
help to escape.
Back to the hotel, the writer catches his travel companion searching his room
and armed with a gun. The mysterious man asks a few questions, but then
concludes that the writer has little information on Dimitrios.
Only when the writer tells him that he actually saw Dimitrios' body, does the
mysterious man propose an alliance and reveals that their joint knowledge
may be worth a huge amount of money.
The writer goes on to visit an old spy who worked with Dimitrios on behalf
of the Italians. They duped a naive official and forced him to hand them
some national secrets.
Following the mysterious man's invitation, the writer travels to Paris, where
they meet again, and the mysterious man (who spent time in jail as a smuggler
and hates Dimitrios as much as everybody else)
shows him a picture of the man who was
buried as Dimitrios: it is not Dimitrios, but a victim of Dimitrios.
Dimitrios is still alive, and in Paris himself.
Now his plan is clear: the writer is the only person who can prove that
Dimitrios is not the man buried in Istanbul, and the smuggler is the only
one who knows where to find Dimitrios. Together they can blackmail Dimitrios.
They meet Dimitrios, who is now a manager of a corporation.
Dimitrios accepts to pay, but Dimitrios shoots the smuggler. The writer
fights for his life. The smuggler grabs the gun. The writer runs away and
the smuggler kills Dimitrios. Now the writer can write his book.
He then directed more film noirs:
The Conspirators (1944),
Three Strangers (1946) and
Nobody Lives Forever (1946).
A con artist falls for the rich widow he's trying to fleece.
Humoresque (1946), scripted by
Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold and based on Fannie Hurst's short story "Humoresque" (1919), is about the love between an older woman and a younger man.
Johnny Belinda (1948) was an adaptation of
Elmer Blaney Harris's play of 1940.
Road House (1948), scripted and produced by playwright Edward Chodorov and photographed by cinematographer Joseph LaShelle, is a sexually charged film noir whose protagonist is a roadhouse singer (the rare independent woman in Hollywood movies of the time) who gets entangled in a deadly love triangle.
Three Came Home (1950) A woman fights to survive as a prisoner of the Japanese
How to Marry a Millionaire (1953) was his best screwball comedy.
Three Coins in the Fountain (1954)