Lightning Strikes Twice (1951 film)

Lightning Strikes Twice is a 1951 American drama film starring Ruth Roman and Richard Todd.[2]

Lightning Strikes Twice
Theatrical release poster
Directed byKing Vidor
Produced byHenry Blanke
Screenplay byLenore J. Coffee
Based onA Man Without Friends
1940 novel
by Margaret Echard
StarringRichard Todd
Ruth Roman
Mercedes McCambridge
Music byMax Steiner
CinematographySidney Hickox
Edited byThomas Reilly
Release date
  • March 10, 1951 (1951-03-10) (United States)
Running time
91 min.
CountryUnited States
Box office$1,144,000[1]


Once a rancher, Richard Trevelyan (Richard Todd) is now on a Texas prison's death row. But he wins a new trial, then a complete acquittal when a lone juror holds out.

Actress Shelley Carnes (Ruth Roman) is on her way to a Texas dude ranch for a rest. Along the way, she meets ranchers J.D. (Frank Conroy) and Myra Nolan (Kathryn Givney) and ends up borrowing their car. Lost in a storm, she encounters Trevelyan by chance. It turns out he knows J.D. and Myra.

The dude ranch is closed when Shelley gets there. Liza McStringer (Mercedes McCambridge), who runs it with a younger brother nicknamed String (Darryl Hickman), explains that she was the juror who let Trevelyan go free. And now she's being shunned by neighbors and friends.

Shelley bonds with the troubled String, so she is invited to stay a while. She learns that Loraine, the late wife of Trevelyan and murder victim, was a rather wicked woman, loathed by many. There is reason to believe Loraine once had an affair with J.D.

Returning the car, Shelley spends a night with the Nolans and is introduced to Harvey Turner (Zachary Scott), a neighbor who is immediately attracted to her. Harvey, too, speaks ill of the late Loraine and describes himself as lucky to have escaped her clutches.

Shelley again meets Trevelyan and the two cannot resist each other. A jealous and spiteful Liza turns out to be the one who murdered Loraine, and now she nearly does likewise to Shelley before a last-minute rescue. Liza and String flee in their car, but don't get very far.



Warner Bros had owned the rights to the book since 1945.[3]

Virginia Mayo was originally cast in the female lead.[4]

The music score repeatedly echoes a passage from La valse by Maurice Ravel.


Box Office

According to Warner Bros records, the film earned $785,000 domestically and $359,000 internationally, meaning it earned $1,144,000 all up[1]

Critical response

Film critic Glenn Erickson discussed the director's film style in his review:

As the 1950s rolled in director King Vidor's brilliant but eccentric pictures became much more eccentric than brilliant. The Fountainhead and Ruby Gentry break down into interesting patterns of dynamic visuals, even as their overheated dramatics are impossible to take seriously. 1951's Lightning Strikes Twice forms a link between King Vidor and Douglas Sirk's delirious women's pictures. Faced with a gimmicky, far-fetched storyline and inconsistent characters, Vidor still manages to make the movie highly watchable, even enjoyable ... But get ready to smile at the overcooked, sometimes hysterical acting and the big fuss made over a fairly simple mystery ... the picture is a camp hoot from one end to the other.[5]


  1. Warner Bros financial information in The William Shaefer Ledger. See Appendix 1, Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, (1995) 15:sup1, 1-31 p 31 DOI: 10.1080/01439689508604551
  2. Lightning Strikes Twice at the American Film Institute Catalog.
  3. By THOMAS F BRADY Special to The New York Times. (1949, Dec 19). RICHARD TODD SET FOR WARNERS LEAD. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from
  4. "Film Facts and Fanfare". The Mirror. Perth: National Library of Australia. 11 February 1950. p. 14. Retrieved August 10, 2013.
  5. Erickson, Glenn. DVD Savant, film/DVD review, October 9, 2009. Accessed: August 10, 2013.
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