It took a B movie to finally get the always excellent Nina Foch a starring role, and she takes the part and runs with it. She gives Julia a strength of character that is admirable. Julia Ross is no demure damsel in distress. Despite her circumstances, she keeps trying to escape. Sure, she makes mistakes, but that doesn't stop her from trying again. Julia is fighting for her life, and she knows it. Ms. Foch makes you believe that Julia is clever enough to best these rather nasty villains.
And nasty they are indeed. We'll start with George Macready who is truly scary as Ralph. If you've seen him in Gilda (1946), you are then familiar with his stare and the nasty scar on his cheek, which could terrorize the strongest of hearts (the scar was real - the result of an automobile accident). He uses it well here, tied to a nasty habit of playing with knives. George Macready started his career on Broadway, appearing in 17 plays including a 1927 Much Ado About Nothing (as Benedict) and Victoria Regina (1935), with Helen Hayes and Vincent Price (as Victoria and Albert). That play would result in a life-long friendship between him and Mr. Price. They shared a love of art, and would eventually open a successful gallery together (though they had to close it after two years - their film careers got in the way. For more on the The Little Gallery, see Victoria Price's biography of her father). Mr. Macready had a respectable film career, but really made his mark in television, appearing in a vast number of shows, including Perry Mason, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Night Gallery, Peyton Place, and Bonanza. Married once (the marriage ended in 1943), Mr. Macready died of emphysema in 1973. Speaking of himself, he owned to his affection for playing maniacal killers, but admitted that "at heart, I'm really a harmless and calm person."
If you've seen Gaslight (1944) or I Met My Love Again (1938), they you've seen the OTHER side of Dame May Whitty. Be advised, she is NOT the same character here. She's an evil piece of work - this excellent article from the Film Noir Foundation compares Mrs. Hughes to such paragons of motherly virtue as Ma Jarrett in White Heat (1949) and Eleanor Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate (1962). Dame May presents a careful performance - all sweetness and light to the outside world, but actually nerves of steel and a willingness to kill if the situation call for it. It's an excellent performance, in the kind of part she was not usually called on to perform.
This is considered a breakthrough film for director Joseph H. Lewis (TCM article). He would go on to direct the penultimate film noir, Gun Crazy (1950). My Name is Julia Ross is especially notable its tightness - there is a lot packed into that 65 minute running time - and wonderful lighting that really expresses the mood of the piece from cinematographer Burnett Guffey.
Nina Foch continued her career, primarily as a second lead in A films, like An American in Paris (1951) and Executive Suite (1954) (for which she was nominated for an Academy Award). Julia is an extremely attractive character mainly because of the tenacity Ms. Foch brings to the role. She is no namby-pamby waiting to be rescued - as plans are foiled, she begins to devise new ones. Sure, she's trying to get help from Dennis Bruce (Roland Varno), but in the end, it is Julia who is her own savior.
We wanted to also acknowledge the work of Doris Lloyd as Mrs. Mackie, Julia's landlady. It would have been so easy to make her the traditional evil landlady, but the script and Ms. Lloyd rise above that, making her an integral part of the solution to Julia's problems. We found it delightful.
The story was included as part of a Lux Video Theatre television broadcast in March of 1955, with Fay Bainter and Beverly Garland as the female leads (AFI Catalog). Some aspects of the story were included in Dead of Winter (1989). Take a look at the cast of characters to this film - our heroine is now Julia Rose, and another character is named Dr. Joseph Lewis!
Bosley Crowther's New York Times review is not all that great - but he was very wrong. We cordially invite you to enters the nightmare with Julia (as did Robert Osborne in his remarks). We'll leave you with a scene from the film: