Jules Dassin dazzles with double bill in Hollywood Exiles series

Jules Dassin’s ‘Rififi,’ a heist film set in Paris, is a cinematic masterpiece.

Jules Dassin’s ‘Rififi,’ a heist film set in Paris, is a cinematic masterpiece.

Paranoia marks many a film noir masterpiece. One reason in particular is that in the late 1940s, Hollywood directors, writers and actors faced political persecution as a result of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his harrowing witch hunt to uncover Communists. One of his most damning tools was a blacklist of people thought to be active in the Communist party, which, in his mind, was tantamount to threatening democracy and the American way.

Many of those under fire became voluntary exiles, hoping to rebuild their lives and careers abroad. While some left for Mexico, others, including Jules Dassin, Joseph Losey, Cy Endfield, Ben and Norma Barzman, and Donald Ogden Stewart, relocated in London, Paris and Rome. Drawing on film noir, neo-realism and modernist art cinema influences, Dassin and Losey were standout success stories. But, still hounded by the U.S. government and exploited by European producers looking for Hollywood talent on the cheap, the exiles found it was not an easy road.

To explore this unique era of filmmaking, UCLA is hosting the series Hollywood Exiles in Europe, which opens Friday, July 25, and runs to Sunday, Aug. 17. This series was co-curated by Rebecca Prime, author of the book “Hollywood Exiles in Europe: The Blacklist and Cold War Film Culture.” Prime and Norma Barzman will attend Friday’s opening feature: Christ in Concrete (1950, UK/US, Edward Dmytryk), a depiction of hardships endured by Italian-American construction workers.

On Saturday, July 26, there’s a top-notch film noir offering from Dassin: “Rififi” (France, 1955) and “Night and the City” (UK/US, 1950). In shadow-drenched, dangerous London, crooked fight promoter Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) double-crosses everyone he encounters as he tries to outrace the night. The night is faster. This is a top film noir, a stunning achievement of style and suspense. From Gerald Kersh’s novel; with Gene Tierney, Herbert Lom, Francis L. Sullivan and Googie Withers.

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The Film Noir File: ‘Out of the Past,’ newly out on Blu-ray, hits TCM on Thursday

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Pick of the Week:

 Robert Mitchum falls hard for Jane Greer and, baby, he doesn’t care.


Robert Mitchum falls hard for Jane Greer and, baby, he doesn’t care.

Out of the Past” (1947, Jacques Tourneur). 2 a.m. (11 p.m.). Thursday, July 24. With Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer and Kirk Douglas. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 12, 2010. (See Tourneur‘s “Cat People” below, on Sunday.)

Wednesday July 23

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Bullitt” (1968, Peter Yates). With Steve McQueen, Jacqueline Bisset, Robert Vaughn and Robert Duvall. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 27, 2012.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (1948, John Huston). With Humphrey Bogart, Walter Huston, Tim Holt, Alfonso Bedoya and Bruce Bennett. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 31, 2012.

12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.): “Belle de Jour” (1967, Luis Bunuel). With Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Jean Sorel and Genevieve Page. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 8, 2013.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Blowup” (1966: Michelangelo Antonioni). With David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and The Yardbirds. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.


Thursday, July 24

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Out of the Past” See Pick of the Week.

Metropolis posterSaturday, July 26

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Metropolis” (1927, Fritz Lang). With Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Alfred Abel. Reviewed in FNB on May 29, 2014.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Spider Baby” (1964, Jack Hill). An insane, incestuous, greed-crazed Southern family runs amok in a dilapidated, decaying mansion. One of the wildest and campiest of all the ’60s low-budget horror quickie noirs, with a plot that makes “Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?” look like “The Song of Bernadette.” Lon Chaney Jr., Sid Haig and Quinn K. Redeker costar.

Sunday, July 27

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “The Ladykillers” (1955, Alexander Mackendrick) With Alec Guinness, Katie Johnson, Peter Sellers and Herbert Lom. Reviewed in FNB on July 31, 2013.

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Blackboard Jungle” (1955, Richard Brooks.) With Glenn Ford, Sidney Poitier, Anne Francis, and Vic Morrow. Reviewed in FNB on Apr. 18, 2013. In Memoriam: Paul Mazursky.

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955, Nicholas Ray). With James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Jim Backus. Reviewed in FNB on Apr. 18, 2013.

Cat People poster8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Cat People” (1942, Jacques Tourneur). Subtle, moody, gently chilling, this low-budget RKO supernatural noir, about a foreign émigré (Simone Simon) – whose soul is coveted by a coven of cat people – is a poetic suspense movie in which the horrors are suggested rather than shown. It was the first of the legendary Val Lewton-produced literate fright classics. Scripted by DeWitt Bodeen; with Kent Smith and Tom Conway.

9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.): “The Curse of the Cat People” (1944, Robert Wise & Gunther von Fritsch). Producer Val Lewton’s sequel to the classic “Cat People,” with the spirit of the first film’s beautiful feline victim Simone Simon returning to bedazzle the child of her bereaved ex-husband (Kent Smith). Robert Wise’s directorial debut, and a good one. (Followed at 10:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m.), by the documentary “Martin Scorsese presents Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows.”)

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “Pandora’s Box” (1928, G. W. Pabst). With Louise Brooks, Fritz Rasp and Francis (Franz) Lederer. (Silent German Movie with music score.) Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 3, 2012.

2:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m.): “La Haine” (1995, Mathieu Kassovitz). Stylish, stark and violent black-and white drama of French juvenile delinquency in Paris and its suburban banlieues. With Vincent Cassel, Hubert Kounde and Said Taghmaoui. (In French with subtitles.)

Wednesday, July 30

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Detective Story” (1951, William Wyler). With Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix and Lee Grant. Reviewed in FNB on June 20, 2013.

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On the radar: James Garner remembered; Grace Kelly set released; ‘Gun Crazy’ and ‘The Lineup’ on the big screen

RIP James Garner: April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014.

RIP James Garner: April 7, 1928 – July 19, 2014.

Who didn’t love hunky James Garner? The plain-talking, straight-shooting Oklahoma boy was best known for his roles as TV’s wry Western gambler Bret Maverick and as private eye Jim Rockford on the 1970s show “The Rockford Files.” Garner died in Los Angeles on Saturday, July 19. He was 86. TCM remembers Garner on July 28 with an all-day marathon, including 1969’s “Marlowe.” Click here to see TCM’s tribute video.

The Grace Kelly Collection box setWarner Bros. has released a divine Grace Kelly box set.  The collection includes six of  Kelly’s most popular films brought together for the first time on DVD: “Mogambo” (1953, John Ford), “Dial M for Murder” (1954, Alfred Hitchcock), “The Country Girl” (1954, George Seaton), for which she won the Best Actress Oscar, “The Bridges at Toko-Ri” (1954, Mark Robson), “To Catch a Thief” (1955, Alfred Hitchcock) and “High Society” (1956, Charles Walters).

Essential viewing for any sultry blonde or princess-type. It’s easy to dismiss Kelly as a pretty, privileged face but she was, in fact, a fine actress and a bold woman, especially in “Dial M” where she fights off her attacker.

Don’t get too excited about the special-feature interview with Pierre Salinger, conducted in 1982, just months before she died. Salinger shows a knack for asking inane questions and, though the still-lovely Kelly makes the best of it, the result is very dull viewing indeed.

The Alex Theatre in Glendale will show a “car-crazy” film noir double feature on Saturday night: “Gun Crazy” (1950, Joseph H. Lewis) and “The Lineup” (1958, Don Siegel). You can read more here.

The Film Noir Foundation’s Alan K. Rode will introduce the films.

 

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Femmes Noirs series hits NYC’s Film Forum

“Postman” kicks off the Femmes Noirs series this weekend in NYC.

“Postman” kicks off the Femmes Noirs series this weekend in NYC.

I’ll go to Manhattan at the drop of a hat. And my stylish chapeau is now officially earthbound because there’s a three-week Femmes Noirs series running at Film Forum! Yes, my silver-screen sisters in crime are radiating duplicity and depravity in classic flicks, programmed by Bruce Goldstein, through Aug. 7.

Titles include: “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Leave Her to Heaven,” “Out of the Past,” “Pandora’s Box,” “Niagara,” “Angel Face” “The Killers,” “Gilda,” “The Lady from Shanghai,” “Scarlet Street,” “Murder, My Sweet,” “The Maltese Falcon,” “Kiss Me Deadly,” “The Killing,” “Gun Crazy,” “Detour,” “Dead Reckoning,” “Pitfall,” “Sudden Fear,” “Tension,” “Body Heat,” “Fatal Attraction,” “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers,” “Too Late for Tears” and the prototype for the genre, “Double Indemnity.”

It pains me to write this list and think I might miss some of these! And, to top it off, the forum’s neighboring restaurant, Clarkson, is offering a complimentary Manhattan Noir cocktail when patrons present a ticket stub. And here I am left to rough it in LA, sipping champagne poolside. But maybe I can finagle a way to head east on someone else’s dime or lure Goldstein to LA for a second run of the series. There is of course one major omission in the forum’s lineup: the irredeemably bad Jean Gillie in “Decoy.” As Leonard Maltin put it: She makes Barbara Stanwyck’s character in “Double Indemnity” look like Snow White.”

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The Film Noir File: ‘Scarface’ times two makes for a gangster classic knockout

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Pick of the Week:
The Two “Scarfaces“

Scarface poster 1932

The first “Scarface” came out in 1932: a ferociously violent and bloodily realistic contemporary gangster tale directed by Howard Hawks, produced by Howard Hughes, and co-scripted by Ben Hecht, W. R. Burnett and several others. Set in Chicago and loosely based on the vicious career of the country’s most famous Prohibition era mob czar, Alphonse “Al” Capone of Chicago. It starred Paul Muni as the sexy, ape-like, gun-crazy Capone protagonist, Tony Camonte, George Raft as his poker-faced, coin-flipping sidekick, Ann Dvorak as his seductive (and the object of his obsession), Karen Morley as his cynical blonde girlfriend, and Osgood Perkins (Tony’s dad) and Boris Karloff as two of the crooks he slaughters in his murderous rise to the top.

One of Hawks’ best, and one of the director’s own personal favorites, the 1932 “Scarface” was stark, brutal, tense, darkly comic, knowingly written (by ex-Chicago reporter Hecht), beautifully, stylishly and excitingly made (a visual “X” marked the spot of each of Tony’s killings) and one of the great crime films of its era. That was the time, of course, that included William Wellman‘s “The Public Enemy” with James Cagney and Mervyn LeRoy‘s “Little Caesar,” with Edward G. Robinson. Nevertheless, the Hawks-Hecht-Hughes-Muni “Scarface” — in which Hecht deliberately modeled the main characters on Renaissance Italy’s murderous Borgia family — is the masterpiece of them all.

Scarface poster 1983

The second “Scarface” was released in 1983. Rethinking the story and resetting it to the equally violent Miami drug trade and the a criminal’s odyssey from Cuba in the post-Kennedy era, it starred Al Pacino (at his most magnetic and over-the-top as the now Havana-born Tony, Steven Bauer as his gun-packing buddy, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as his perversely adored sister, Michelle Pfeiffer as his gorgeous blonde main squeeze, and, among other drug trade mobsters, F. Murray Abraham, Harris Yulin and Robert Loggia. A cult film and a big favorite of actual gang guys, it was dedicated to Hawks and Hecht by writer Oliver Stone and Director Brian De Palma. Like the other, older “Scarface,” it both rivets you to you seat and knocks you out if it. Both movies are killers, but I’d give the edge to the first.

Scarface” (1932, Howard Hawks). 12 a.m. (9 p.m.). Thursday, July 17.

Scarface” (1983, Brian De Palma). 11 p.m. (2 a.m.). Thursday, July 17. [Read more...]

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Ballet noir: Pretty and pernicious in pink

Specter of the Rose posterTrue film noir fans know that back alleys, lonely streets and bar rooms aren’t the only place for angst-ridden protagonists to play out their sagas of doom and struggles against Fate.

In fact, dance critic Debra Levine over at http://artsmeme.com has coined a name for a new sub-genre: ballet noir. Well, I can attest that most femmes fatales and their fall guys have done their pirouettes with temptation and pas de deux with The Law. And of course I’ve always been partial to pink.

For her main proof point, Levine points to “Specter of the Rose,” a 1946 passion project of legendary Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and a rare “prestige” offering from Republic Pictures.

Set in the world of classical ballet, “Specter” is a psychological melodrama about an aging dance instructor and a scurrilous impresario who promote the comeback of a stupendous dancer, also suspected to be mad—and possibly murderous.

Judith Anderson, Michael Chekhov, Ivan Kirov star. Hecht wrote, directed and produced. Cinematographer Lee Garmes co-produced and shot the flick.

See “Specter of the Rose” for yourself this Saturday, July 19, at 7:30 p.m. at the Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood. Levine and her partner in crime Bryan Cooper of the Hollywood Heritage Museum will introduce the film. http://www.cinema.ucla.edu/events/2014-07-19/specter-rose-1946

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The late great Sharon Tate receives tribute at the Egyptian

SharonTate_jacket.inddGet your blonde on this Sunday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Debra Tate will sign copies of her book “Sharon Tate: Recollection” ($30) and introduce a bombshell double bill of “Valley of the Dolls” (1967, Mark Robson) and “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (1967, Roman Polanski). Tate was nominated for a Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer in her role as a B-movie queen in “Valley of the Dolls.”

The event starts at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby. The book features a foreword by Polanski and never-before-seen images of the ethereal beauty and talented actress, who was murdered in 1969 in her Benedict Canyon home by the Charlie Manson family. She was 26, married to Polanski and pregnant at the time of her death.

Tate was an icon of the ‘60s innate elegance and charm continue to draw admirers today. In the photo book, Sharon Tate’s story emerges through quotes and short essays by her sister, Debra Tate, as well as by those who knew and have been influenced by her, including:

A foreword by Sharon’s husband Polanski

Previously unseen childhood photos from the Tate family album

Original quotes and recollection essays written specially for this book by Jane Fonda, Kelly Osbourne, Bert Stern, Michelle Phillips, Patty Duke, Lee Grant, Elke Sommer, Joan Collins, Viva, Tony Scotti and Trina Turk.

Retrospective quotes by Truman Capote, Diana Vreeland, Richard Avedon, Dominick Dunne, Warren Beatty, Mia Farrow, Orson Welles, Barbara Parkins, George Harrison, David Niven, Deborah Kerr, Yul Brynner and Kirk Douglas.

Rare and classic photographs by David Bailey, Milton Greene, Philippe Halsman, Shahrokh Hatami, Terry O’Neill, Peter Basch, John Engstead, Peter Brüchmann, Neal Barr and Jean Jacques Bugat.

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‘Life Itself’ Roger Ebert doc offers insight, candor, inspiration

Billy Wilder doesn’t go for the obvious arc. He isn’t interested in the same things the characters are interested in. He wants to know what happens to them after they do what they think is so important. He doesn’t want truth but consequences. Few other directors have made so many films that were so taut, savvy, cynical, and, in many ways and tones, funny. …

Double Indemnity’ was his third film as a director. That early in his career, he was cocky enough to begin a thriller with the lines ‘I killed him for money – and for a woman. I didn’t get the money. And I didn’t get the woman.’ And end it with the hero saying ‘I love you too’ to Edward G. Robinson.”

Life Itself posterSo writes Roger Ebert (1942-2013), the Pulitzer-prize-winning film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, in his book “The Great Movies.” If you knew Ebert mainly from his hugely successful and world-famous TV show “Two Thumbs Up” (co-starring Gene Siskel), it might surprise you to know quite what a prolific writer he was. He published more than 20 books as well as many collections of reviews. (He started at the Sun-Times in 1966.)

Ebert used his staggering intelligence and covert sensitivity to get under the skin of a movie, to approach a film as both a tenacious reporter and a Spartan poet –baldly pointing out flaws, rapturously praising beauty and incisively assessing the director, cast and crew. He also championed little-known filmmakers and obscure movies, including more than a few film-noir titles.

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and, though it was removed, his battles with cancer would continue over the next decade. Ebert took his health problems in stride, refusing to let his mighty passion wane.

But it wasn’t just movies that he was enthusiastic about. He was passionate about politics and social justice, sports and travel, and he was deeply devoted to his wife Chaz Ebert (a trial attorney whom he met in AA) and their family. In 2011, Ebert published “Life Itself: A Memoir,” which spurred director Steve James to make a movie about Ebert’s extraordinary life journey.

The result is a film that is engaging, entertaining, fiercely honest and truly inspiring.

“Life Itself” opens Friday in theaters, on iTunes and on Demand.

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A centennial party for the Man who set the movies in motion

The Squaw Man posterAny idea who Dustin Farnum, Monroe Salisbury and Winifred Kingston were? In fact, they hold a prestigious claim in Hollywood history. They starred in 1914’s “The Squaw Man,” co-written and co-directed by Cecil B. DeMille. The 74-minute flick was the first U.S. feature-length movie.

DeMille, the brilliant (now legendary) director, was somewhat reluctant to take on the project. The best jobs come through networking and, in this case, DeMille had a great contact – his mother got him the gig.

But, once he agreed to make the picture, he was quick to recognize the potential of Los Angeles’ dramatically beautiful scenery for exterior shots. For interiors, DeMille rented a barn at Selma and Vine streets in Hollywood for $200 a month. DeMille’s western saga turned out to be a commercial success and helped establish Hollywood as the world’s top spot for movie making.

The old barn now stands at 2100 N. Highland Ave. and is home to the Hollywood Heritage Museum, which is hosting a “Squaw Man” centennial party on Tuesday, July 1, from 5-8 p.m. The event will include a continuous screening of the movie, special presentations from authors and historians, and a party with retro touches, such as antique cars. Barbeque and beverages will be served.

Border Incident posterThe Hollywood Chamber of Commerce is co-hosting the event. Admission for chamber and museum members is free. Tickets for the general public are $10 for adults (free for kids under 10). There is free parking in Lot D off of Odin St. Register for the party here.

Also of note: “Border Incident” (1949, Anthony Mann), starring Ricardo Montalban, George Murphy and Howard Da Silva, plays tonight at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre, 1615 Vine St., in Hollywood! And there’s more Montalban noir next month. See the site for more info. 

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The Film Noir File: Greene, Reed make a great ‘Third Man’

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

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

Pick of the Week:
Two by Graham Greene and Carol Reed

One of the greatest of all British novelists (Graham Greene) and one of England’s finest film directors (Carol Reed) teamed up for a nonpareil collaboration that produced a classic drama about boyhood, infidelity and murder, “The Fallen Idol” and the Viennese-set postwar thriller that many critics feel is the best of all British films, “The Third Man.” You can catch them both today.

Alida Valli and Joseph Cotten star in "The Third Man."

Alida Valli and Joseph Cotten star in “The Third Man.”

The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed). 2 p.m. (11 a.m.). Sunday, June 29. With Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard. Read the full review here.

The Fallen Idol” (1948, Carol Reed). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.), Sunday, June 29. With Ralph Richardson, Michele Morgan, Bobby Henrey and Jack Hawkins. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 28, 2012.

Monday, June 30

9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “Deadline at Dawn” (1946, Harold Clurman). With Susan Hayward, Paul Lukas and Bill Williams. Reviewed in FNB on June 25, 2013 and Oct. 13, 2012.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Pawnbroker” (1964, Sidney Lumet). Scorching drama about a Jewish Holocaust survivor (Rod Steiger) who runs a pawn shop in Harlem, and is haunted and bedeviled by memories of the death camps, while also subject to the hell of everyday life in the modern black New York City ghetto. With Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters, Jaime Sanchez, Raymond St. Jacques, and the fantastic Juano Hernandez as the old man who wants to talk. From the novel by Edward Lewis Wallant. Searingly photographed in black and white by Boris Kaufman; with a music score by Quincy Jones.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “In the Heat of the Night” (1967, Norman Jewison). With Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant and Scott Wilson. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

The Italian Job poster4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “The Italian Job” (1969, Peter Collinson). Michael Caine, at his most playful, is at the wheel one of the most elaborate – and stylized and stylish – of all the neo-noir heist thrillers. Caine is an ex-con who literally shuts down Turin, Italy to steal a truckload of gold with the aid of computers, a huge gang and three red, white and blue Mini-Coopers. The supporting cast includes Noel Coward (yes, that Noel Coward), Raf Vallone, Benny Hill (yes, that Benny Hill) and Rossano Brazzi. The final heist and chase sequence is a real doozy, one of the most memorably over-the-top of all ’60s action set-pieces. The script is by cult writer Troy Kennedy Martin; the cinematographer is the peerless Douglas Slocombe.

Wednesday, July 2

5:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.): “The Fallen Sparrow” (1943, Richard Wallace). With John Garfield, Maureen O’Hara and Walter Slezak. Reviewed in FNB on June 27, 2012.

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