Archives for May 2015

Robert Ryan author J.R. Jones to appear at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in conversation with Film Noir Blonde

Robert Ryan exuded masculinity and mystery in equal parts and he’s always been one of my favorite film noir actors. He could easily play a good guy but his forte was for those tormented, enigmatic characters, who were dark and volatile, moody and quick-tempered.

Robert Ryan book coverRemember him as an embittered vet in “Act of Violence,” (1948, Fred Zinnemann), where he co-starred with Van Heflin, Janet Leigh and Mary Astor? He made his mark the previous year as a vicious bigot in “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk) with Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Gloria Grahame.

He was unforgettable as the over-the-hill boxer fighting his last fight in “The Set-Up” (1949, Robert Wise) with Audrey Totter, and as the tormented cop in “On Dangerous Ground” (1952, Nicholas Ray) with Ida Lupino. In 1959, playing another bigot, Ryan again worked with Wise in the classic heist movie “Odds Against Tomorrow” which also starred Harry Belafonte, Gloria Grahame and Shelley Winters.

Not to mention “The Naked Spur,” “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “God’s Little Acre,” “Billy Budd,” “The Dirty Dozen,” The Wild Bunch” and “The Iceman Cometh.”

So, I am very excited to announce that I will be talking with Chicago-based author J.R. Jones about his new book, “The Lives of Robert Ryan,” at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood.

“Crossfire” was the film that put Robert Ryan on the map.

“Crossfire” was the film that put Robert Ryan on the map.

According to Amazon: “The Lives of Robert Ryan” provides an inside look at the gifted, complex, intensely private man whom Martin Scorsese called “one of the greatest actors in the history of American film.”

The son of a Chicago construction executive with strong ties to the Democratic machine, Ryan became a star after World War II. … His riveting performances expose the darkest impulses of the American psyche during the Cold War.

At the same time, Ryan’s marriage to a liberal Quaker and his own sense of conscience launched him into a tireless career of peace and civil rights activism that stood in direct contrast to his screen persona. Drawing on unpublished writings and revealing interviews, film critic J.R. Jones deftly explores the many contradictory facets of Robert Ryan’s public and private lives, and how these lives intertwined in one of the most compelling actors of a generation.

Larry Edmunds Bookshop is at 6644 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90028, 323-463-3273.

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Los Angeles celebrates Orson Welles centennial

Orson Welles was born May 6, 1915.

Orson Welles was born May 6, 1915.

He hailed from the small Midwestern town of Kenosha, Wisc.

Chubby cheeked and heavy-set, he was not classically good looking. He frequently ran afoul of the Hollywood studio execs. He was considered a genius of theater, radio and film, but many of his movies were not financially successful. He had a hard time staying faithful to one woman.

His appetite was prodigious. Younger viewers might remember him as a TV spokesman for Gallo wine.

Orson Welles, who was born 100 years ago today, experienced unparalleled ups and downs over the course of his impressive career. And he is arguably the single most important influence in 20th century cinema. It’s clear that, 30 years after his death on October 10, 1985, his impact is still felt and still refracted in what we watch on the big screen. There’s been no one quite like Welles, and it’s hard to imagine someone besting him any time soon.

Touch of Evil posterIn honor of his centennial, the Crest Theater in Westwood is showing “Touch of Evil” tonight (May 6) at 7:30 p.m.

The American Cinematheque is running a series, starting Thursday, May 7, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica called Touch of Genius: Orson Welles at 100.

Films to be shown are: “The Lady from Shanghai,” “The Stranger,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “Chimes of Midnight,” “Othello,” “Touch of Evil” and a new documentary, “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.” Reviews for most of these titles are on FNB — just hit the search bar on the right.

Film historian F.X. Feeney will sign copies of his new book Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul and introduce each night in the series.

Feeney will also appear at a free screening of “Chimes of Midnight” at 5 p.m. Monday, May 11, at the Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library in Hollywood, 323-876-2741.

Touch of Evil” also screens at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, at Lacma’s Bing Theater.


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Film noir takes center stage as Summer of Darkness returns

We are super excited that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is going dark on Fridays in June and July with the return of Summer of Darkness, film noir screenings hosted by Eddie Muller, also known as “The Czar of Noir.”

TCM Summer of Darkness 2015The Summer of Darkness programming slate will feature more than 100 noir titles making it the most extensive catalog of noirs ever presented by the network.

Summer of Darkness titles include:

Nightmare Alley poster 150·      “Nora Prentiss” (1947, Vincent Sherman), starring Ann Sheridan and Kent Smith.

·      “Born to Kill” (1947, Robert Wise), starring Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor.

·      “Nightmare Alley” (1947, Edmund Goulding), starring Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray and Helen Walker.

·      “Gun Crazy”(1950, Joseph H. Lewis), starring John Dall and Peggy Cummins.

·      “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed), starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard.

·      “L.A. Confidential” (1997, Curtis Hanson) starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger.

Double Indemnity posterTCM first featured Summer of Darkness programming in the summer of 1999.

In addition to the 24-hour on-air programming, fans will also have the opportunity to experience film noir on the big screen when TCM, Fathom Events and Universal Pictures bring Billy Wilder’s 1944 noir classic “Double Indemnity,” starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, to theaters across the country on July 19 and 20.

Count us in! Reviews for most of these titles are on FNB — just hit the search bar on the right.


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French neo-noir takes the cake at this year’s COLCOA

The next time I visit Paris, I might not wander on the Left Bank. I might skip the visits to the Musée Rodin and the Petit Palais, and say no to making a little journey to Giverny. I could easily be talked into holing up at the Plaza Athénée (I am overdue for a visit), ordering room service and binge-watching superb French neo-noir and police-procedural gems. I found out at this year’s tremendous COLCOA film festival that French filmmakers can now claim the title of the hottest, most cutting-edge noiristas in the world.

“SK1” won the fest’s First Feature Award.

“SK1” won the fest’s First Feature Award.

How so? Well, “L’Affaire SK1,” a riveting depiction of an eight-year hunt for a serial killer nicknamed the Beast of the Bastille (based on real events), snared the fest’s First Feature Award. “SK1” was directed by Frédéric Tellier (who co-wrote the film with David Oelhoffen), and features Nathalie Baye as a public defender. “SPIRAL” Season 5 (think “The Wire”) received the TV Series Award.

Joining “SK1” in the Film Noir Series, now in its 10th year, was Oscar-winning actor Jean Dujardin’s new film (from director Cédric Jimenez) “The Connection,” which picks up where William Friedkin’s landmark thriller “The French Connection” left off. The final film in the noir series was “Next Time, I’ll Aim For the Heart,” a tense and haunting story, based on the real-life Oise Killer, a cold-blooded psycho on the loose in 1978 Paris, flawlessly portrayed by Guillaume Canet. The film was written and directed by Cédric Anger.

Anger was one of several writers on yet another gritty and twisted tale taken from real life, “In the Name of My Daughter,” which stars the one and only Catherine Deneuve, and was directed by the great André Téchiné. “Daughter” was somewhat disappointing, however, seeming to lose its way about midway through.

The COLCOA festival opened with “A Perfect Man.”

The COLCOA festival opened with “A Perfect Man.”

Perhaps my favorite part of the fest (other than hearing French accents and enjoying lovely receptions) were the revival screenings of “La Chienne” (1931, Jean Renoir) and “Two Men in Town” (1973, José Giovanni). Seriously, does it get much better than watching Alain Delon as a divinely handsome ex-con struggling to go straight and Jean Gabin as a world-weary but somehow regal cop, not to mention a brief appearance by Gérard Depardieu? No. It does not, especially when you know there is a chilly St-Germain cocktail waiting for you after the show.

The COLCOA festival opened with the North American premiere of “A Perfect Man,” a thoroughly enjoyable Hitchcockian thriller co-written and directed by Yann Gozlant. I heard some post-screening crabbing about the flick’s plausibility but I think the naysayers missed the point.

American neo-noir storytellers would do well to study these sleek, sharp, psychologically complex cinematic offerings.

Now, to make that reservation at Plaza Athénée …

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