The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas
Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas

'The Strange Love of Martha Ivers' is a dark and exciting film noir, giving a dramatic account of the lifelong love of two very strong characters against a background of murder, betrayal and corruption. The movie was based on the unpublished short story 'Love Lies Bleeding' by playwright and screenwriter John Patrick, and stars Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas in his first movie role. It was well received, both commercially and critically, and received one Academy Award nomination for Best Writing, Original Story.


The action begins in 1928 and tells the story of the strong, cruel Martha Ivers, played by Barbara Stanwyck, and her weak husband, played by Kirk Douglas, who share the knowledge that Martha, as a young girl, accidentally killed her domineering aunt. The two then allowed an innocent man to be hung for the crime. When their childhood friend, Sam Masterson, played by Van Heflin, arrives back in town after eighteen years, they fear that their dark secret will be revealed. Sam meets another beautiful femme fatale, Toni Marachek, played by Lizabeth Scott and the action leads to a gripping and dramatic climax.


The early part of the film, when the protagonists were young, was shot at the Southern Pacific Railroad yard in Los Angeles.

Van Heflin was under contract to MGM and this was his first movie after serving three years during the war as a combat cameraman in the Ninth U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe.

This was Kirk Douglas's first movie and his highly professional performance helped to make his name. He was suggested to Hal Wallis by his classmate from drama school, Lauren Bacall.

Barbara Stanwyck impressed the crew with her knowledge of lighting techniques and she had a major input about how her scenes were lit.

Director Lewis Milestone had a serious disagreement with Hal Wallis, the producer. Wallis wanted to reshoot several scenes to include more closeups of Lizabeth Scott. When Milestone refused, Wallis had them shot himself.

The bitter-sweet ending which ties up all the loose ends, was thought up by Milestone.

Main Cast

Barbara Stanwyck ... Martha Ivers
Van Heflin ... Sam Masterson
Lizabeth Scott ... Antonia "Toni" Marachek
Kirk Douglas ... Walter O'Neil
Roman Bohnen ... Mr. O'Neil
Judith Anderson ... Mrs. Ivers
Janis Wilson ... young Martha Ivers
Darryl Hickman ... young Sam Masterson
Mickey Kuhn ... young Walter O'Neil


Director … Lewis Milestone
Producer … Hal B. Wallis
Screenplay … John Patrick (story), Robert Rossen
Cinematography … Victor Milner
Music … Miklós Rózsa
Distribution Company ... Paramount Pictures
Format … B & W
Release date ... July 24, 1946
Running time ... 116 minutes

Academy Awards

No Wins:
One Unsuccessful Nomination:
Best Writing, Original Story ... John Patrick