One, Two, Princes Kneel Before You: Telling Fairytales by Gaslight in 'Caught' and 'Phantom Thread'
Early on in Max Ophüls’s 1949 film noir Caught, young department store model Leonora Eames (Barbara Bel Geddes) finds herself going for a fast-paced ride at night with millionaire Smith Ohlrig (Robert Ryan). Smith doesn’t bother telling his new acquaintance where they are going. He found Leonora as she was waiting for a taxi to the boat party he organised, and was running away from. Smith drives fast, and he likes it – “I’m a good driver,” he declares coolly. With the same confidence, he informs Leonora that he intends to remain a bachelor forever. Soon, the car stops. When Leonora asks where they are with a little fear in her voice, Smith replies, cigarette hanging from his smug mouth, “At the house, my house.” When Smith adds, “Don’t be so ignorant, you knew you weren’t just taking a drive”, Leonora can’t help but smile – the wealthy, handsome, dark and deep (he hates Los Angeles parties, just like she does!) man knows exactly what he’s doing. She’s grateful for his attention, and his mastery over the situation. He knows she wants a man like him, even if she had, in the moment, forgotten it.