Noirvember 2021, Episode 18: I Wouldn't Be in Your Shoes (1948)
I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes (Monogram, 1948) directed by William Nigh, based on a novella by Cornell Woolrich
Despite their love for each other, married couple Tom (Don Castle) and Ann (Elyse Knox) have hit on hard times. They believe their dance duo act is good, but can’t get bookings. Don spends his days looking for work while Ann teaches at a dance academy, sometimes fighting off lecherous guys.
Kept awake from howling cats one night, Tom foolishly throws his good pair of tap shoes out the window hoping to quiet them down. (Far-fetched? This is, after all, based on a Cornell Woolrich story.) The yowling stops, but Tom’s too tired to get up out of bed, go outside, and retrieve his shoes.
No worries. Someone’s done it for him. The next morning he finds the shoes on the doorstep of his apartment. He also finds the cops knocking on his door. A man was found murdered in a shack across from Tom and Ann’s apartment, and the killer left footprints.
Matching up tap shoes to the only dancer in the neighborhood doesn’t exactly require the skills of a Sherlock Holmes, so Tom soon finds himself arrested, convicted, and sitting on death row.
Ann, meanwhile, sets out to find the real killer. She begs a police inspector named Clint Judd (Regis Toomey) to help exonerate her husband, and things get more than a little creepy. I’ll leave it at that.
There’s a nice jail scene in which the prisoners refer to themselves as numbers while they’re all passing the time. I’m not talking numbers as in, “Hey, 42764, sing us a tune,” but rather, “Hey Two, play something on your phonograph. Five’s gonna take this final walk in just a few minutes.” (Not the actual lines, but you get the idea.) The scene is totally contrived and ultra low-budget, but it’s still fun.
If you think the plot sounds a little like Phantom Lady (1944), you’re right. That film contains the same basic story. I don’t know when he wrote them, but Cornell Woolrich published Phantom Lady in 1942 and I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes in 1943, so I can’t tell you which came first, either in the act of writing or in Woolrich’s mind. But the film version of I Wouldn’t Be in Your Shoes is a nice little gem.
Many thanks to Warner Archive for rescuing this picture from oblivion, although I wish they could’ve included an audio commentary, particularly focusing on Woolrich’s work and the creep factor of the movie. Consider picking this one up.