Oh sure, Ann Sutton could pay for that pin - or for many other things - but there's something, probably, about the thrill of taking something, very non-chalant out of a store, especially as an unsuspecting adult white woman in the late 40's, and not getting caught. Is it Kleptomania? Perhaps. But the point is, at the start of Whirlpool, Ann gets caught at a department store stealing a pin, and she's in luck that David Korvo is there to help excuse her away - these are false charges after all, she has the money to buy a dozen of these pins, right - but there's a catch to her being let go: not so much for money, at least it seems at first. She tries to pay him, but for five thousand, p-shaw. No, he wants to get at her mind, to find what it is that made her do this thing... but it will lead to murder.
Gene Tierney and Jose Ferrer play Ann and Korvo, and they're both excellent here. Even a one and a half note character (not quite one, maybe, almost two dimensional, if it tried) like Ann's husband Bill gets a solid performance out of Richard Conte, to the point where we really feel for their marriage, and see the conflict very plain as soon as Ann 'turns' on to her 'nothing's the matter' tone of voice to her husband after she comes home and tells the maid that there's something very wrong and she must speak to her husband soon as he gets home. Is she crazy? Has she been driven mad? She's no femme fatale really - she is in what seems to be a fairly happy marriage (though at one critical point she'll say otherwise in a very tense confessional). But she is flawed and interesting, and that helps.
It's especially good that this character is so strong, as well as Korvo being an equally strong, conniving villain, and we know he's a villain from basically minute one but the fun is seeing how he does things like slip a glass with the lady's fingerprints into his jacket while she's away for a minute from the lunch table. But there's a couple of plot holes here that are jarring - one is more character-based and comes in the third act, it felt like a scene was missing that involved convincing a particular character to give Ann one more chance, and there was a connective tissue from the convincing to her not in prison - and I have to wonder how much they cut out of the book. It seems like a lot. Not to mention the notion of how completely tight the hypnosis can be, just how air-tight a plot can be (that we don't really see be suggested by the way) for Ann to go out in her car and get those records and then for that other thing to happen.
Whirlpool isn't weak tea by any means, but I have to think Preminger, despite some clever camera angles and the usual flair for hardcore film noir as a director (the tension in that final scene is really terrific, especially how a character hides just until a certain moment) would have had some trouble without this cast. Thankfully, Tierney gives this character credibility and she makes her fragile, torn and frayed, and when she's in her hypnotic trances it's like she's walking on air. I even liked the one/two scene turn by Barbara O'Neil (Constance Collier also has some good lines). Not something to rush to see, but it's a fair follow-up for the director and star from Laura - more of a B-side if one were to screen them back to back