Jean Gillie in DECOY (1946)


One of those wacky* film noirs that could only have happened because at the time no one knew film noir was a category, DECOY follows a guy who’s dying from a gunshot wound as he works his way toward the woman who done him wrong. The woman is Margot Shelby, one of the most fatal of femmes fatale. She’s the gal of Frankie, a bank robber sentenced to die for killing a guard during a robbery.

Hold on, here’s where it gets weird.

images (2)

Frankie gets the gas chamber, which would be the end of the line for someone less determined than Margot. She and her new squeeze steal the body and get a doctor to bring Frankie back to life. The resurrected Frankie has brought back a few brain cells from his near-death experience: he draws a map to the loot, but keeps half the map for himself. Alas, he needed more than just a few brain cells to outwit Margot, and his reprieve from the afterlife is brief. But Margot’s still got a few double-crosses up her sleeve.

DECOY is really Jean Gille’s vehicle. She’s beautiful, sure, but she’s smarter than these poor dopes who think they’re criminal masterminds. She even gets the cops sniffing after her. She’s a predecessor to Kathleen Turner’s Maddy in BODY HEAT, unflinchingly sending men to their doom, using her body when she has to, which generally means just showing up and watching the boys stumble over each other.

Whether she’s backing over one tossed-aside lover, or using her last breaths to mock another dope she manipulated so easily, Margot is one of the great bad girls in noir. DECOY flirts with a borderline SF idea in its resurrection of a dead villain, but this is just a wild plot turn, not something explored thematically. It’s all just a way to show how far Margot will go to get some cash. But you believe she’d go that far; the actress persuades you.

download (5)

Jean Gillie never made much of an impression because she died at 33. She deserves more attention, and at the same time I can’t help but wish she got to do more noir dames. You can see why men fall for her, and how she has the brains to twist them to her will.

download (3)

*I realize I use the term ‘wacky’ a lot. Just letting you know I’m aware of this, and have no intention of changing this habit, because wackiness, like strangeness, is a necessary component of great works of art.

download (4)


Published by

John Stephen Walsh

Writer of neo-noir (The Ruthless Son), end of the world/quasi-zombie horror (The Year of Silent Light), humor (Ebollionaire), and a short story collection (Love Has A Taste) on Kindle. Have worked in social services, retail, video, etc. etc. I love movies, film scores, and painting poorly.