The Woman on the Beach

The Woman on the Beach

name = The Woman on the Beach

caption = Film promotional poster
director = Jean Renoir
writer = Frank Davis, Jean Renoir
starring = Joan Bennett
Robert Ryan
Charles Bickford
Nan Leslie
Walter Sande
Irene Ryan
Glen Vernon
producer = RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
music =
cinematography =
editing =
distributor = RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.
released = flagicon|USA 2 June 1947
flagicon|Finland 9 January 1948
flagicon|France 23 June 1948
flagicon|Finland 10 September 1971 (re-release)
flagicon|West Germany 7 June 1979 (TV premiere)
runtime = 71 min.
language = English
budget =
imdb_id = 0040000
The Woman on the Beach is a 1947 film noir directed by Jean Renoir. The movie is a love triangle drama about Scott, a conflicted U.S. Coast Guard officer, played by Robert Ryan, and his pursuit of Peggy, a married woman, played by Joan Bennett. Peggy is married to Tod, a blind artist, played by Charles Bickford. Some overtones of a love rectangle are also present.


Robert Ryan plays Scott, a mounted Coast Guard officer who suffers from recurring nightmares involving a maritime tragedy. He sees himself immersed in an eerie landscape surrounded by a shipwreck and walking over skeletons at the bottom of the sea while a ghostly blond woman beckons him from afar. He thinks he is going mad but at the same time he decides to propose to a girl working at Geddes, a local shipyard catering to Coast Guard needs; she accepts. It seems that the girl has a strong resemblance to the ghostly blond of his nightmares.

While riding by the seaside on his horse, he meets Joan Bennett playing Peggy, a brunette, the mysterious wife of Tod, a blind painter, played by Charles Bickford. She was standing near a washed out shipwreck protruding from the sand. After a conversation they discover that they share similar metaphysical anxieties. A bond develops between the two but the situation gets more tangled when Tod tries to befriend Scott. Tod's attitude toward Scott, apart from his friendship, is also ambivalent as he tries to use Peggy and Scott to gauge how far they could go in their relationship. Outwardly he seems confident and he even tells Peggy that he knows she could never leave him and that he finds Scott, a much younger man, virile but stupid. In another instance, after a kiss, he tells her that she was cold only to praise her after she tries again a few moments later.

However behind this facade lies a deeply wounded man who cannot come to terms with the fact that he cannot paint any longer because he is blind. In one exchange with Scott he tells him that dead painters' works always appreciate in value and that he expects the value of his paintings to increase, considering he is now dead as a painter.

Scott is suspicious of Tod's motives and he also suspects that Tod is not blind to the point where during an outing, with Tod walking by the edge of a cliff and Scot riding his horse by his side, he lets him fall from the cliff, thinking that Tod could actually see and therefore avoid the fall at the last minute. After this serious mishap Tod eventually recovers from the fall and he naively thinks that Scott would now become his friend since the fall removed any doubts about his blindness. At the same time Tod exhibits abusive behavior toward Peggy when he suspects that she hid his portrait of her and this leads to Scott trying to protect her.

From then on matters get even more complicated as Scott becomes ambivalent toward his relationship with Eve Geddes as he is drawing ever closer to Peggy. Eve Geedes in turn, sensing Scott's infatuation with Peggy, becomes distant and tells Scott to delay their marriage plans. Things reach a climax when Scott attempts to drown Tod after a boat outing with him that started as a fishing trip and ended with both men fighting on the boat in stormy weather with Scott trying to pierce the bottom of their boat in order to drown Tod and make it look like an accident. By trying to pierce the bottom of the boat Scott puts himself in danger as well, since he would be swimming helpless in the stormy seas had he been successful at this attempt. This scene illustrates the degree of his desperation.

This attempt by Scott to drown Tod reveals the depth of his emotional attachment to Peggy and is especially poignant given that Tod is blind and therefore vulnerable and Scott's mission as a Coast Guard officer is to help people at sea, not drown them. Scott's plan eventually fails because Peggy has a change of heart and alerts the authorities without revealing Scott's real intentions. Both Tod and Scott are eventually rescued by the Coast Guard. Ironically Scott's blond wife-to-be, Eve Geddes, is part of the rescue team indicating some metaphysical connection to the blonde of his undersea nightmare who beckoned Scott in his dreams as if trying to rescue him.

In the end Peggy chooses to stay with her husband after unsuccessfully trying to save his paintings from a fire that Tod started as soon as he realised he was obsessing too much over them at the expense of their relationship. After being restrained by Scott from entering the burning home she is resigned to the fact of the loss and she leaves with her husband for yet another attempt at reviving their relationship free of any material concerns.

Principal cast

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