The File on Thelma Jordon

The File on Thelma Jordon is a 1950 American film noir drama directed by Robert Siodmak from a screenplay by Ketti Frings. It stars Barbara Stanwyck and Wendell Corey.[1]

The File on Thelma Jordon
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRobert Siodmak
Produced byHal B. Wallis
Screenplay byKetti Frings
Story byMarty Holland
StarringBarbara Stanwyck
Wendell Corey
Paul Kelly
Music byVictor Young
CinematographyGeorge Barnes
Edited byWarren Low
Hal Wallis Productions
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 18, 1950 (1950-01-18) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States


Thelma Jordon shows up late one night in the office of Assistant District Attorney Cleve Marshall, a married man, who would rather get drunk than go home. She tells him a story about prowlers and burglars. He asks her to join him for a drink and she agrees. Before Cleve can stop himself, he and Thelma are involved in a love affair. But Thelma is a mysterious woman, and Cleve can't help wondering if she is hiding something.

When her rich Aunt Vera is found shot, Thelma calls Cleve rather than the police, and he helps her cover up evidence that may incriminate her, but he believes her story that an intruder killed the aunt. When she emerges as the prime suspect, and is arrested for murder, Marshall is in a unique position to help her due to his job. He therefore persuades the prosecution that a "reasonable doubt" exists due to evidence of an elusive "Mr X" (which he believes is Thelma's estranged husband). Thelma Jordon is acquitted. Her past, however, has begun to catch up with her.

Tony, her husband, rematerialises. She tells him she has successfully manipulated Cleve. She does not love him but he loves her.

Cleve appears and Thelma acknowledges that there is a relationship with Tony Laredo, who conceived the scheme for her to commit murder and inherit Vera's jewels and money. Unable to deal with her guilty conscience, Jordon causes a car accident that results in her accomplice's death and her own fatal injury. As she lies dying, Jordon confesses the truth to the district attorney. However, she does not incriminate Cleve, saying she cannot reveal his name because she loves him. Cleve nevertheless tenders his resignation.



Critical response

When the film was released, the staff at Variety magazine praised the film, and wrote, "Thelma Jordon unfolds as an interesting, femme-slanted melodrama, told with a lot of restrained excitement. Scripting from a story by Marty Holland is very forthright, up to the contrived conclusion, and even that is carried off successfully because of the sympathy developed for the misguided and misused character played by Wendell Corey ... Robert Siodmak's direction pinpoints many scenes of extreme tension."[2]

Time Out film guide notes, "A fine film noir which works an ingenious, intricate variation on the situation in Double Indemnity, but which takes its tone, unlike Wilder's film, not from Stanwyck's glittering siren who courts her own comeuppance ("Judgement day, Jordon!"), but from the nondescript assistant DA she drives to the brink of destruction."[3]

The New York Times, in a 1950 review, gave a mixed review and noted "Thelma Jordon is, for all of its production polish, adult dialogue and intelligent acting, a strangely halting and sometimes confusing work."[4]


  1. The File on Thelma Jordon on IMDb.
  2. Variety, film review, 1950. Last accessed: April 16, 2008.
  3. Time Out Film Guide, film review, 2008.
  4. The New York Times, film review, 1950.

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