Archives for February 2014

The Film Noir File: Nine glorious Garfield movies

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

John Garfield and Patricia Neal star in "The Breaking Point."

John Garfield and Patricia Neal star in “The Breaking Point.”

Pick of the Week: John Garfield Day is Tuesday, March 4

A film noir feast: Nine movies with one of the great film noir stars, John Garfield – a quintessential New York City actor and Warner Brothers tough guy, whose movies and roles were full of nerve, chutzpah and street smarts, and who was born in the city, a.k.a. Jacob Julius Garfinkle. The Garfield noirs or semi-noirs shown that day are “Dust be my Destiny” (1939), “They Made Me a Criminal” (1939), “East of the River” (1940), “Out of the Fog” (1941), “The Sea Wolf” (1941), “Dangerously They Live” (1942) and (the best of the bunch) “The Breaking Point” (1950). Also showing that day: two interesting Garfield non-noirs “Four Wives” (1939) and “Flowing Gold” (1940).

Mark your calendar for this special day for film noir fans, and for all cinema-lovers – a day devoted to a classic movie hero and anti-hero in black-and-white, to the guy they called “Julie,” who lived passionately on screen and who died at 39, one of the tragic victims, many feel, of the ’50s Black List.

Friday, Feb. 28

Casablanca poster8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz). With Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 25, 2012. Also, TCM is bringing “Casablanca” to theaters for free screenings in 20 select cities on Tuesday, March 4.

Saturday, March 1

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan). With Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden and Rod Steiger. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 20, 2013.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “In the Heat of the Night” (1967, Norman Jewison). With Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger and Lee Grant. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967, Arthur Penn). With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 4, 2013.

Monday, March 3

6:45 a.m. (3:45 a.m.): “The Informer” (1935, John Ford). With Victor McLaglen, Preston Foster and Heather Angel. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2012.

Tuesday, March 4

John Garfield Day: See above. Also: “Casablanca” might be showing for free at your local theater (see above).

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The first film noir: ‘Stranger on the Third Floor’ stakes a claim

Stranger on the Third Floor/1940/RKO Radio Pictures/64 min.

“Stranger,” with its dramatic look, broke new cinematic ground.

“Stranger on the Third Floor,” with its dramatic Expressionistic look, broke new cinematic ground.

There’s no definitive answer to the question of which movie is the first film noir but some experts make a case for “Stranger on the Third Floor” (1940, Boris Ingster) and it’s a pretty good argument. Others cite 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon” by John Huston and some film historians maintain that “Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) holds the title.

Of the three directors, Ingster, who had worked with Sergei Eisenstein in Russia, is the least distinguished and “Stranger” lacks the makings of a great film. Now, 74 years after it was made, “Stranger” feels somewhat dated and contrived, but it’s indisputable that Ingster’s B movie – with its dramatic look and disturbing psychological theme – broke new cinematic ground.

John McGuire plays Michael Ward, an energetic and ambitious reporter for a New York City paper. Mike needs a raise so he can marry his girlfriend, Jane (Margaret Tallichet), an office worker with no last name. She’s beautiful, sweet, loyal and resourceful, i.e. the perfect wife and essentially an extension of John’s personality.

“Stranger” uses compelling visuals to convey its disturbing psychological theme.

“Stranger” uses compelling visuals to convey its disturbing psychological theme.

Mike snares a $12/week raise not for breaking a story but for testifying in a murder trial. He tells the court that he saw a weasely-looking kid named Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook, Jr.) standing over the slain body of a lunchroom proprietor. Mike’s statement brings a conviction and the death sentence for Briggs, who already has a record.

But slowly, anxiety and fear start to eat away at Mike: What if he’s wrong and Briggs is innocent?  Back in his room at Mrs. Kane’s boarding house, the usually cocksure Mike is startled when he sees a shifty-eyed Stranger (Peter Lorre, whose small but crucial part got him top billing) with a long white scarf. Just as quickly as he appears, the Stranger vanishes.

It occurs to Mike that he usually hears the snoring of his fellow boarder Mr. Meng (Charles Halton), a meddling busybody, whom Mike dislikes. The silence makes Mike wonder if Meng met with foul play and he begins to fixate on what might have happened.

More than once Mike has been steamed enough to talk of killing Meng. Of course, he didn’t mean it, but his landlady (Ethel Griffies) and Jane both heard him say it. And if Briggs can be convicted on flimsy evidence, what’s to save Mike from a similar fate? Ingster then introduces a kaleidoscopic nightmare sequence, both stunning and scary, as Mike tosses and turns with his conscience. When he wakes, he barges into Meng’s room and, sure enough, his neighbor is dead. Mike goes to the police and, playing out the paranoia of his dream, finds himself under suspicion for both murders. After all, he found both bodies.

Jane (Margaret Talichet) functions as the moral compass for Mike (John McGuire)

Jane (Margaret Tallichet), an office worker with no last name, functions as the moral compass for Mike (John McGuire).

A call to the always-enterprising Jane spurs her to comb the streets looking for the real killer and eventually she evens out those finicky scales of justice. Now can she get that Bloomingdale’s bridal registry filled out? Sigh.

“Stranger,” though hokey and pat, is a landmark in the history of film noir.

Budapest-born Frank Partos conceived the story and wrote the screenplay. His other writing credits include the ’40s thrillers “The Uninvited,” “The Snake Pit,” and “The House on Telegraph Hill.”

Partos and Ingster bring an unmistakable stamp of German Expressionism to their work as they explore the workings of fundamental human emotions such as guilt, remorse and fear. There is a palpable sense of alienation and doom.

Like many directors of B-movies, Ingster made the most of what he had, which was a low-budget, low-profile flick. Most notably, he deserves high marks for creative, compelling visuals. The shadow of the Venetian blinds at the courthouse, thin horizontal bars stretching over the accused (Briggs) and symbolizing his imminent incarceration, became an essential element of film noir’s look and style. Similarly, trippy nightmare sequences became a hallmark of the genre.

Peter Lorre played in "Stranger," "The Maltese Falcon" and "M."

Peter Lorre played in “Stranger,” “The Maltese Falcon” and “M.”

The sets of “Stranger on the Third Floor” could be re-creations of famous theater stages in Dresden or Berlin at the height of the Expressionist movement – sparely furnished, carefully composed, with bold, geometric black and white patterns signifying indifference, helplessness and frustration. The courtroom resembles an auditorium and the newspaper with the huge headline “Murder” draws on Beaux Arts theater posters.  The stylized, sleeping jury members seem like dancers in repose.

Most memorable of all is the masterful acting of Peter Lorre, who ratchets up the tension level as he effortlessly conveys the warped frisson his villain derives from random killings. Lorre and Cook, another stalwart film-noir player, would reunite the next year in “The Maltese Falcon.” The contributions of the much-parodied Lorre are sometimes undervalued, perhaps because we forget how much he shaped the portrayal of a man with a sick mind, lending depth and flamboyance in equal measure. He started that foray nearly 10 years before – introducing one of the most memorable psychopaths in cinema, a child murderer, in Fritz Lang’s “M” from 1931.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: Capote’s true-crime shocker still chills

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

In Cold Blood bookIn Cold Blood” (1967, Richard Brooks). Tuesday, Feb. 25; 10:15 a.m. (7:15 a.m.). It was one of the literary sensations of the mid-‘60s: Truman Capote’s “non-fiction novel,” “In Cold Blood” – a beautifully written study of two drifter ex-con killers, Dick Hickok and Perry Smith, who murder an ordinary, nice Kansas family, the Clutters, while robbing their home. After the crime, the murderers are pursued through bleak Midwestern landscapes by the tenacious F.B.I. detective Alvin Dewey.

Capote researched the book with his childhood friend, novelist Harper Lee (“To Kill a Mockingbird“), digging deeply and raptly into both the blameless family who were killed and the misfit outlaws who killed them, in cold blood. It’s a perfectly shaped but deeply disturbing book, and more than a few critics have suggested that Capote was a bit in love with one of the murderers, Perry Smith, and a bit over-fascinated with Perry’s and Dick’s under-the radar, maybe covertly homo-erotic criminal life.

Maybe. Maybe not. In the film, which was written and directed by Richard Brooks (”The Blackboard Jungle,“ “Elmer Gantry”), actor John Forsythe, an Alfred Hitchcock favorite, plays detective Dewey, and two young on-the-rise actors play (superbly) Dick and Perry. Scott Wilson absolutely nails crew-cut conman Dick’s jock veneer and sharpie amorality and Robert Blake catches Perry’s deadly sadness and wounded grace – like a bird trembling in a hand.

Brooks is a more self-consciously tough writer than Capote and the movie is different, and harder, in tone and mood, than its source – though Capote said he loved it, and Conrad Hall’s stunning black and white cinematography of roads and small towns and the icy faces of the two killers, is a good equivalent for Capote’s lyrical prose.

The film by Richard Brooks is harder in tone than Truman Capote’s novel.

The film by Richard Brooks is harder in tone than Truman Capote’s novel.

Hall’s photography, along with Wilson‘s and Blake‘s performances, make “In Cold Blood” a major neo-noir. It‘s also a fine adaptation of an unforgettable book, and one of the great true-crime movies – even though it’s hard to accept the deep-voiced, cynical-sounding Paul Stewart, one of the old Orson Welles Mercury stock company, as the movie‘s writer-figure, its equivalent for Capote. Perhaps they should have cast Truman himself in the role. Ham that he was, he probably would have taken it. The back-story of how Capote and Harper Lee researched the book, provides the subject matter for two more good neo-noirs: the biopics “Infamous“ (2006), in which Toby Jones plays Capote, and “Capote” (2005), in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays him.

Somewhat eerily, “In Cold Blood” has a number of bizarre links to the great, dark gold-hunting saga, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” (See below.) It was Perry Smith’s favorite movie, and he watched it repeatedly. Perry also thought that Walter Huston, in his “Treasure” role of grizzled old prospector Howard, was the dead image of Perry’s own father.

Additionally, actor Robert Blake (Perry in the 1967 film) as a child played the little Mexican boy who sells Bogart the winning lottery ticket in “Treasure.”

Friday, Feb. 21                                                               

Gaslight poster1 a.m. (10 p.m.); “Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor). With Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten and Angela Lansbury. Reviewed in FNB on August 25, 2012.

Saturday, Feb. 22

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston and Tim Holt. Reviewed in FNB on November 3, 2012.

Monday, Feb. 24

1:15 a.m. (10:15 p.m.): “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold,” (1965, Martin Ritt). Richard Burton is sodden and defeated Alec Leamas, a seedy, sad British intelligence man trapped in a world of cruelty, deception and betrayal. This is international intrigue as the game is really played. In the ‘60s, this was the anti-Bond spy movie, based on author (and ex-intelligence man) John le Carre’s first big critical-commercial success. It’s a meticulous portrait of unheroic men and women in an unheroic profession, amid a Cold War that may kill them, and almost certainly will debase them. Shot in monochrome in a sea of grays, with a tremendous cast: Burton (at his best), Oskar Werner, Claire Bloom, Cyril Cusack, Michael Hordern, Sam Wanamaker and Bernard Lee (James Bond’s “M,” trading with the enemy).

Tuesday, Feb. 23

8:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m.) “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). With Tallulah Bankhead, Walter Slezak and John Hodiak. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 10, 2014.

10: 15 a.m. (7:15 a.m.): “In Cold BloodSee Pick of the Week.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

On Valentine’s Day: 14 reasons we love ‘Double Indemnity’

Double Indemnity poster

Yes, we’re still gushing about “Double Indemnity,” the film noir classic from 1944. Deal with it. Oh, and happy Valentine‘s weekend, btw!

Billy Wilder‘s great prototype film noir turns 70 this year and yet it never gets old. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, the movie boasts a screenplay that Wilder co-wrote with Raymond Chandler, based on James M. Cain‘s novel, which was inspired by actual events.

Here’s why we hold the picture dear to our hearts, dearies.

14. As film noir historian and author Foster Hirsch put it, at a recent screening at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica, “It’s the quintessential film noir. This is the mother lode, primary source film noir. It’s the basis for every film noir you’ve ever loved.”

13. Someone with the name Walter Neff turns out to be a tough guy.

12. All Walter has to do to escape punishment is sit tight. Yet, his ego drives him toward a final confrontation with his lover/partner in crime. He’s so damn human.

11. Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson is a fashion victim. She’s so damn human.

10. The first time Phyllis shows up at Walter’s apartment, she says she is returning his hat (which he supposedly left at her house) but the previous scene clearly shows him taking his hat as he leaves. Still, there’s so much tension between them, who cares?!

9. The door to Walter’s apartment opens the wrong way (it shields Phyllis on one of her visits) but you’re so caught up in the story you hardly notice.

As Billy Wilder acknowledged, no door in the world would open this way.

As Billy Wilder acknowledged, no door in the world would open this way.

8. You could buy Phyllis Dietrichson’s house for $30,000.

7. You could have a beer at a drive-in restaurant, served by a car-hop, no less.

6. The look of supreme satisfaction on Phyllis’s face at the moment her husband is murdered.

5. Stanwyck and MacMurray both took a risk and played against type.

4. Edward G. Robinson almost steals the show and it’s really a bromance between his character and MacMurray’s Walter Neff.

3. Raymond Chandler makes a cameo appearance, about 16 minutes into the movie, at Walter’s office building.

2. It’s perfectly paced – you can watch it over and over and it moves along lickety split every time, leaving you wanting more.

1. It truly ranks as a classic flick – it’s as fresh, sexy and funny today as it was in 1944. The writing, acting, directing cinematography, lighting, art direction are matchless.

Do you love “Double Indemnity” as much as we do? Then let us know!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: The verdict on Otto Preminger and James Stewart’s classic trial drama? Great

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

"Anatomy" got seven Oscar noms, (including James Stewart, Arthur O'Connell and George C. Scott for acting) though Lee Remick was not one of the contenders. Hmmpf!

“Anatomy” garnered seven Oscar nominations (including James Stewart, Arthur O’Connell and George C. Scott for acting), though Lee Remick was not one of the contenders. Hmmpf! Remick took the controversial part after Lana Turner and Jayne Mansfield turned it down.

Anatomy of a Murder
(1959, Otto Preminger). Tuesday, Feb. 18: 2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.). With James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara and George C. Scott. Read the full review here.

Friday, Feb. 14

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955, 0tto Preminger). With Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak and Eleanor Parker. Reviewed in FNB on November 10, 2012.

5 a.m. (2 a.m.): “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955, John Sturges). With Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin and Walter Brennan. Reviewed in FNB on April 7, 2012.

James Stewart's father was so offended by the film that he reportedly took out an ad in his local newspaper telling people not to see it.

James Stewart’s father was so offended by “Anatomy” that he reportedly took out an ad in his local newspaper telling people not to see it.

Sunday, Feb. 16

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “The Thin Man” (1934, W. S. Van Dyke). With William Powell, Myrna Loy and Maureen O’Sullivan. Reviewed in FNB on July 28, 2012.

Tuesday, Feb. 19

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “North by Northwest” (1959, Alfred Hitchcock). With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint and James Mason. Reviewed in FNB on November 17, 2012.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Anatomy of a Murder” (See Pick of the Week.)

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

FNB to sit on panel for Social Media Breakfast Los Angeles

SMBLA logo[1]

I’m very excited to be on the panel for a discussion of Social Media and Entertainment, hosted by Social Media Breakfast Los Angeles (SMBLA).

It takes place Tuesday, Feb. 25, from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. (PST). You can find out more here.

See you there!

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

New York’s Ziegfeld Theater celebrates film collaboration of Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio

By Mike Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

Few actor-director collaborations have generated more cinematic excitement and sheer brilliance than the team of director Martin Scorsese and star actor Leonardo DiCaprio – two kings of neo-noir. In their five films together, they have left an indelible stamp on our movies and on our pop culture.

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio around the time of "Shutter Island." Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY Staff

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio publicize the release of “Shutter Island.” Photo by Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY

DiCaprio was first recommended to Scorsese by the director‘s other long-term actor-collaborator Robert De Niro, who was impressed by Leonardo after playing his father in the 1993 family drama “This Boy’s Life.” DiCaprio and Scorsese joined up in 2002 for the explosive period gangster saga “Gangs of New York” and the rest is neo-noir history.

DiCaprio and Scorsese and their chemistry will be celebrated this Thursday and Friday (Feb. 13 and 14) in New York City at Bowtie Cinema’s storied Ziegfeld Theater, with a five-film retrospective.

The retrospective begins on Thursday with afternoon screenings of “The Aviator” (2004) with DiCaprio as Howard Hughes and their Oscar-winning all-star gangster drama “The Departed“ (2006).

The program also includes a live panel discussion at 7 p.m. Thursday with DiCaprio and two other key Scorsese collaborators on “The Wolf of Wall Street“: screenwriter Terence Winter and longtime Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker. Their talk will be followed by a screening of “Wolf of Wall Street,” one of the most controversial of all 2013 American movies, and a multiple Oscar nominee. The discussion will be moderated by critic-filmmaker Kent Jones, a Scorsese collaborator as well.

On Friday, the retrospective continues with showings of the psychological thriller “Shutter Island” (2010) and “Gangs of New York” (2002).

DiCaprio is one actor who’s used his stardom well. And we can’t think of another director who has done more for film noir appreciation and history than Scorsese. The guy has been watching noirs since his Little Italy boyhood and making neo-noirs since 1973’s classic “Mean Streets” (and, arguably, since 1968’s “Who’s That Knocking at my Door”). He also shares his love for the genre with lectures, introductions for box sets and in his “Scorsese Screens” column for TCM’s Now Playing. All that and “Boardwalk Empire” too.

For showtimes and ticket information, visit www.bowtiecinemas.com. The Ziegfeld Theater is located at 141 W. 54th St. in Manhattan.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Stanwyck a fashion victim? Heck yeah, look at the wig

Very few actresses truly deserve accolades like stellar, peerless, magnificent and amazing. Barbara Stanwyck, who had a stage, film and TV career spanning more than 50 years, is surely one of that select group. She might have cringed at such lofty praise, however, referring to herself as “a tough old broad from Brooklyn.”

Adjectives aside, Stanwyck stands out for the range of parts she played, her discipline as an artist, and the subtlety and strength of her performances. Tonight, she is honored at the Aero Theatre with a screening of  Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen” (1933, Frank Capra). Before the movies, Victoria Wilson, author of a new Stanwyck biography, will discuss and sign her book, “A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940.

It is the 70th birthday of Double Indemnityand so I am rerunning this post on Phyllis Dietrichson’s tawdry blonde wig. The piece also includes some observations from master director Billy Wilder on working with Barbara – born Ruby Catherine Stevens on July 16, 1907, and later nicknamed Babs, Missy and The Queen. She still rules today.

Double Indemnity posterIf I ever need assurance that every femme fatale has a styling glitch from time to time, I look at Barbara Stanwyck’s awful wig in “Double Indemnity,” a quintessential noir from 1944, directed by Billy Wilder.

Paramount production head Buddy DeSylva said of the stiff blonde ’do, “We hired Barbara Stanwyck and here we get George Washington.”

It also reminded me that it had been ages since I’d looked at my copy of “Conversations with Wilder” by Cameron Crowe, published in 1999. Of course, I flipped right to Wilder’s answer to Crowe’s question about the direction given to Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” for the silent shot on her face while the murder is occurring.

Said Wilder: Sure, that was a highly intelligent actress, Miss Stanwyck. I questioned the wig, but it was proper, because it was a phony wig. It was an obviously phony wig. And the anklet – the equipment of a woman, you know, that is married to this kind of man. They scream for murder.

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in "Double Indemnity" from 1944. Both played against type.

Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray star in “Double Indemnity” from 1944. Both played against type.

Yeah, naturally we rehearsed this thing. But I rehearsed it with her once or twice, that’s the maximum, and it was not that much different from the way she would have done it. She was just an extraordinary woman. She took the script, loved it, right from the word go, didn’t have the agent come and say, “Look, she’s to play a murderess, she must get more money, because she’s never going to work again.”

With Stanwyck, I had absolutely no difficulties at all. And she knew the script, everybody‘s lines. You could wake her up in the middle of the night and she’d know the scene. Never a fault, never a mistake – just a wonderful brain she had.

Crowe asked if the part had been written for Stanwyck. Wilder said: Yeah. And then there there was an actor by the name of Fred MacMurray at Paramount, and he played comedies. Small dramatic parts, big parts in comedies. I let him read it, and he said, “I can’t do that.” And I said, “Why can’t you?” He said, “It requires acting!” [Laughs.] I said, “Look, you have now arrived in comedy, you’re at a certain point where you either have to stop, or you have to jump over the river and start something new.” He said, “Will you tell me when I’m no good?” [He nods: a partnership is born.] And he was wonderful because it’s odd casting.

Paramount image of “Double Indemnity”

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

The Film Noir File: ‘All the King’s Men’ a political powerhouse

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Pick of the Week

All the King’s Men” (1949, Robert Rossen). Saturday, Feb. 8, 10 p.m. (7 p.m.). Robert Rossen’s tough, iconoclastic adaptation of Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about Deep South politics, the gullible electorate and the smart rustic crook, Willie Stark, who exploits them, isn’t usually classed as a film noir. But it’s certainly as dark, hard-edged and stylish a drama of American political criminality and corruption as any movie has given us. It looks and feels like a noir, and it hits you in the gut like one. Willie Stark, who was modeled on the legendary Louisiana governor and demagogue Huey Long, remains one of the classic portraits of political gangsterism.

All the King's Men posterStark – played by movie tough guy Broderick Crawford in his Oscar-winning performance – starts out, like a few other Southern demagogues (including George Wallace) as a “man of the people” and a populist. But, along the way, on his road to near-dictatorial power, Stark begins cutting deals, bullying his enemies, and turning his state into a piggy-bank for himself and his cronies. Every step of that way is witnessed and recorded by intellectual newsman turned Stark supporter (and then foe) Jack Burden (John Ireland), who follows Willie from his back-country idealist origins to a dark, tragic climax.

Robert Rossen made “All the King’s Men” after writing many gangster and crime scripts for Warner Brothers. He directed two classic film noirs: “Johnny O’Clock,” with Dick Powell, and the classic “Body and Soul,” with John Garfield. Until Rossen directed another classic noir in 1961 (the gritty black-and-white pool-hall saga “The Hustler,” with Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason and George C. Scott) “All the King’s Men” remained his best film. Tough and stylish, hard as nails and idealistic underneath, it’s as dark as “Body and Soul” or “The Hustler.” The great cast includes Crawford, Ireland, Joanne Dru, John Derek, Shepperd Strudwick and, in another Oscar-winning performance, as Willie’s hard-bitten right-hand babe Sadie Burke, that great neglected actress, Mercedes McCambridge.

Wednesday, Feb. 5

The incomparable Edith Head dressed Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in "Notorious."

The incomparable costume designer Edith Head dressed Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant in “Notorious.”

1:30 a.m. (10:30 p.m.): “Notorious” (1946, Alfred Hitchcock). With Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant and Claude Rains. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 20, 2012.

Thursday, Feb. 6

11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “Caged” (1950, John Cromwell). With Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead and Hope Emerson. Reviewed in FNB on July 13, 2012.

3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.). “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich). With Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Victor Buono. Reviewed in FNB on July 28, 2012).

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (1967, Terence Young). With Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin and Richard Crenna. Reviewed in FNB on 12/12/12 (Dec. 12, 2012)

Friday, Feb. 7

6:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.): “Night Must Fall” (1937, Richard Thorpe). With Robert Montgomery, Rosalind Russell and Dame May Whitty. Reviewed in FNB on May 15, 2013.

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “The Lavender Hill Mob” (1951, Charles Crichton), With Alec Guinness, Stanley Holloway and Sidney James.. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 27, 2013.

Saturday, Feb. 8

7 a.m. (4 a.m.): “The Long Voyage Home” (1940, John Ford). With Thomas Mitchell, Barry Fitzgerald and John Wayne. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 20, 2013.

9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk). With Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 10, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “All the King’s Men” (See Pick of the Week.)

Monday, Feb. 10

9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day and George Sanders. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 20, 2013.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter

Film noir greats ‘Shadow of a Doubt,’ In a Lonely Place,’ Double Indemnity’ and more on the big screen in LA

By Film Noir Blonde and Michael Wilmington

Shadow of a Doubt” (1943, Alfred Hitchcock) is the 1 p.m. matinee Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

A bright and beautiful small town girl named Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is bored. Bored with her well-ordered home in her Norman Rockwellish little city of Santa Rosa, Calif., – where trees line the sunlit streets, everyone goes to church on Sunday and lots of them read murder mysteries at night. Charlie has more exotic dreams. She adores her globe-trotting, urbane Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) – for whom she was nicknamed – and is deliriously happy when he shows up in Santa Rosa for a visit.

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

But Uncle Charlie has some secrets that no one in his circle would guess – not Uncle Charlie’s adoring sister (Patricia Collinge), nor his good-hearted brother-in-law (Henry Travers), nor their mystery-loving neighbor Herbie (Hume Cronyn), nor Charlie herself. Uncle Charlie, who conceals a darker personality and profession beneath his charming persona, is on the run, pursued by a dogged police detective (Macdonald Carey), who suspects him of being a notorious serial killer who seduces rich old widows and kills them for their money. As handsome, cold-blooded Uncle Charlie, Cotten, who also called “Shadow” his personal favorite film, is, with Robert Walker and Anthony Perkins, one of the three great Hitchcockian psychopaths.

“Shadow of a Doubt,” released in 1943, was Hitchcock’s sixth American movie and the one he often described as his favorite. As he explained to François Truffaut, this was because he felt that his critical enemies, the “plausibles,” could have nothing to quibble about with “Shadow.” It was written by two superb chroniclers of Americana, Thornton Wilder (“Our Town”) and Sally Benson (“Meet Me in St. Louis”), along with Hitch’s constant collaborator, wife Alma Reville. The result is one of the supreme examples of Hitchcockian counterpoint: with a sunny, tranquil background against which dark terror erupts.

Barbara Stanwyck book

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., the American Cinematheque presents a Nicholas Ray night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood: “Johnny Guitar,” starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden, and “In a Lonely Place,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. As Jean-Luc Godard said: “Nicholas Ray is the cinema.” And speaking of Godard, the AC’s Aero Theatre is hosting a Godard retrospective, starting Feb. 20.

Femmes fatales don’t particularly like birthdays, but here’s an exception:  “Double Indemnity” turns 70 this year! Did you know Raymond Chandler made a cameo in the film? Read the story here.

And be sure to attend on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica: Barbara Stanwyck biographer Victoria Wilson will sign her book and introduce a screening of “Double Indemnity” and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen.” The signing starts at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Wilson has two other signings coming up; for details, call Larry Edmunds Bookshop at 323-463-3273.

Share on FacebookShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on RedditEmail this to someoneTweet about this on Twitter