The Velvet Touch, a murder-mystery melodrama set in the world of New York stage folk, stars Rosalind Russell as a star of light comedies desperate to break into serious roles. It plays on Turner Classic Movies on July 22. Here’s the feature I wrote on the film for the TCM website:
At the beginning of The Velvet Touch (1948), a murder mystery with psychological edges starring Rosalind Russell as Valerie Stanton, a Broadway leading lady of light comedies, Stanton contemplates a change: to star in a “serious” play, Hedda Gabler. Her long-time producer/director Gordon Dunning (Leon Ames) is caustic as he tries to talk her out of leaving him to act for a rival: “He thinks an audience will pay to sit and watch a smart, sophisticated comedienne like you play a tortured, neurotic woman who kills herself because true love has passed her up.” While it’s not exactly analogous to the career of leading lady Rosalind Russell, the comment does reverberate. A serious actress with solid stage and screen bonafides, Russell had found her greatest success in comic performances in such films as The Women (1939), Take a Letter, Darling (1942) and especially, His Girl Friday (1940).
The Velvet Touch brings her back to her Broadway roots, in a way, and to the kind of career-woman roles in which she excelled before hitting it big as a snappy, street-smart comedienne. Valerie Stanton is a confidant sophisticate in the elegant world of New York celebrity, a woman who moves through society with the deft aplomb of someone used to playing the part offstage as well as on. (The film’s title may refer to the gloves she always wears in public, part of the costume of the star persona.) But behind the façade of poised contentment is a frustrated career actress anxious to challenge herself with a demanding role, and a woman who is, perhaps for the first time, in love.
Read the entire piece here.