Help me remember: Classic Hitchcock-type film where woman learns to write with non-dominant hand

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I watched this in-color movie when I was younger… A woman’s hand is bandaged (assuming it was from being hurt) so she painstakingly learns how to write (sign her name?) with her non-dominant hand. I can envision her doing this in front of a fireplace. It’s similar to a Hitchcock-type mystery film (or could actually be a Hitchcock film). I’m assuming she does this to save herself or she might be pretending to be someone else and must write with other hand.

Tim Answered question Aug 29, 2021

Could it be the 1987 gothic thriller Dead of Winter that starred Mary Steenburgen, Roddy McDowall, and Jane Rubes? I could be steering you wrong on this. It has been decades since I saw the movie. I can’t specifically remember the scene you remember most vividly, that of her teaching herself to write with her non-dominant hand. But everything else fits my memory of Dead of Winter. It is a color film, Hitchcock-like, about a woman forced to pretend to be someone else. She has a bandaged, injured hand throughout much of the film, and there are a lot of fireplaces in this wintery thriller.

In Dead of Winter, Mary Steenburgen plays three roles. When we first see her, she plays a struggling actress who has been lured to a large estate in the country in the dead of winter to audition for a film role. Roddy McDowall, the director, says he needs to replace the lead actress for his film quickly. She had a nervous breakdown and can’t continue, and Steenburgen bears an uncanny resemblance to her. Steenburgen is given a script and McDowell works with her to get her performance just perfect as he records the rehearsals on video.

But something is clearly off about this gig. She was rushed from the casting call to the country estate of a wheel-chair-bound doctor (played by Jan Rubes) before she could contact her husband to let him know about the out-of-town interview. She can’t reach her husband when she gets to Rubes’ estate because the phones are down due to a winter storm. The next morning McDowall’s car conveniently breaks down, so he can’t drive her into town, so again she can’t contact her husband. She comes to discover she is a pawn in larger conspiracy. The exact nature of the conspiracy shifts throughout the film. The film has a complicated, twisting plot that I am struggling to remember. But to sum it up, hopefully without giving away too much, McDowall is not a director (he is Rubes’ butler), and there is no film. Rubes (who really is a doctor) is blackmailing someone, and the “rehearsal tapes” are being provided as proof that a dead woman is not really dead. The doctor eventually removes one of Steenburgen’s fingers, I think to provide additional proof that Steenburgen’s doppelganger is still alive. Steenburgen’s hand is bandaged after the amputation.

I won’t give away any more of the plot, but there are several other twists and revelations. The film was directed by the gifted Arthur Penn, most famous for the landmark film Bonnie and Clyde. Dead of Winter was a remake of a 1940’s thriller, My Name is Julia Ross, directed by another gifted film maker, Joseph H. Lewis. I saw the Lewis film on TCM a few years ago. Robert Osborne showcased it one night as one of his personal favorites.

Tim Edited answer Aug 29, 2021