Film Noir Blonde to introduce ‘Mildred Pierce’ Saturday in West Hollywood

“Mildred Pierce” has an outstanding cast, including Eve Arden (left), Ann Blyth and, of course, the divine Ms. Crawford.

“Mildred Pierce” has an outstanding cast, including Eve Arden (left), Ann Blyth and, of course, the divine Ms. Crawford.

More noir news to share: I will be introducing “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz) at 2 p.m. this Saturday, Sept. 20, at the West Hollywood Library Community Meeting Room, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd.

The movie was popular with critics and audiences, and it garnered six Academy Award nominations including best picture. Joan Crawford won for best actress. The superb cast members (Eve Arden, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Bruce Bennett, Zachary Scott) balance Crawford beautifully. Arden and Blyth both got Oscar nods for supporting actress. They lost to Anne Revere in “National Velvet.”

This free screening is part of WeHo Reads, a noir-themed month-long literary program. On Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film.

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‘The Big Sleep’ a hit in WeHo film noir series

Film Noir Blonde

Film Noir Blonde

I had a great time introducing “The Big Sleep” (1946, Howard Hawks) on Saturday at the West Hollywood Library. Many thanks to event organizers Corey Roskin and Andrew Campbell, who did a great job and gave me a warm welcome.

The free screening was part of WeHo Reads, a noir-themed month-long literary program. Next Saturday, Sept. 20, “Mildred Pierce” will play and on Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, music and film.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d share nuggets of info from my presentation.

***As you probably know, “The Big Sleep” stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who formed one of Hollywood’s primo power couples, onscreen and off.

***“The Big Sleep” is a hard-boiled detective story, to be sure, but its mood is more upbeat, fun and entertaining than a typical film noir. It doesn’t have an angst-ridden, pessimistic, cynical vibe, nor is it a tale of American vets finding it hard to adjust to civilian life after WWII. Instead, the men are glad to be back home and the women welcome them with open arms. It was time for a little romance and there’s flirtation, risqué banter and innuendo aplenty.

The Big Sleep poster 214***Central to the sexy, sultry tone: Bogart and Bacall, of course. This was the second film they starred in. The first was 1944’s “To Have and Have Not,” where the pair fell in love and she famously lit his cig, also directed by Hawks. There were four B&B movies in total, all for Warner Bros. The other two were: “Dark Passage” (1947, Delmer Daves) and “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston).

***Hawks’ wife, Slim Keith, spotted Bacall, a teenage model, in Harper’s Bazaar. Slim showed her husband and he quickly cast her in “To Have and Have Not.” He told Bogart: “You’re the most insolent man on the screen and I’ve found a girl who’s more insolent than you.”

***“The Big Sleep” started shooting in October of 1944. Hawks, a confident, successful auteur (who later would be much admired by French critics) was sure it would be a straightforward production. Um, not so much.

***“The Big Sleep” was Raymond Chandler’s first novel (1939) and the first novel to feature the character Philip Marlowe, a tough private eye based in Hollywood. The film was the first time Bogart portrayed Marlowe.

***The first time Marlowe appeared in celluloid form was in 1944’s “Murder, My Sweet,” starring Dick Powell. This movie was based on Chandler’s second novel, “Farewell, My Lovely” (1940).

***More than likely, Chandler would have been tapped to write the script for “The Big Sleep,” but he had an exclusive contract with Paramount, which had released “Double Indemnity” earlier that year. (Chandler and director Billy Wilder had adapted “Double Indemnity” from James M. Cain’s novel.)

“The Big Sleep” script is notoriously confusing. Here, director Howard Hawks, far left, and his team try to figure it out. The film’s own backstory is also a bit tangled.

“The Big Sleep” script is notoriously confusing. Here, director Howard Hawks, far left, and his team try to figure it out. The film’s own backstory is also a bit tangled.

***Hawks hired William Faulkner and Jules Furthman, the team that had adapted Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not,” for “The Big Sleep.”

***Also hired was a 28-year-old sci-fi writer named Leigh Brackett. Hawks, a macho type who liked to hunt, fish and shoot with his buddies, was surprised to discover that Brackett was a woman but he was glad to give her a shot. He liked women who could hold their own among manly men. She did fine and had a great career.

***Faulkner decided to divide the work in a strange way: He and Furthman would be one team and Brackett would be another. The two “teams,” working separately, would tackle alternating chapters of the book and slot them together when they’d finished. The script was somewhat disjointed and Hawks took a stab at tweaking it.

WeHo Reads event flyer

***Bacall was just 20 years old and had scant training as an actress when she played spoiled rich girl Carmen Sternwood in “The Big Sleep.” Her female co-stars were Martha Vickers as her little sister, Carmen; Dorothy Malone as a bookstore clerk and Sonia Darrin as a so-called bookstore clerk.

***The book has a serpentine plot and so does the movie. It’s easy to lose track of the narrative but there are seven dead by the end. One day, Bogart asked Hawks who killed the Owen Taylor character (the Sternwood family chauffeur). Hmm, good question. Hawks didn’t know and neither did the writers. Hawks sent Chandler a telegram and he replied that he didn’t know either.

***Hawks sometimes had to shoot around Bogart because the actor was going on drinking benders. Though Bogart had met the love of his life in Bacall, there was a glitch. Still married to his third wife, actress Mayo Methot, he ended the affair with Bacall and he tried to reconcile with Methot. It didn’t go well and Bogart took to binging. Also, there was tension because Hawks was hoping to ignite a romance with his protégée Bacall and she snubbed him.

***All that said, they still managed to have a good time on the film. In fact, Jack Warner sent Hawks this memo: “Word has reached me that you are having fun on the set. This must stop.”

Corey Roskin introduces the event.

Corey Roskin introduces the event.

***Hawks was known for fast-paced action and comedy. He also gave rise to the “bromance” before the term existed. So, as I said, this film does not have the brooding, doom-and-gloom feeling that typically characterizes film noir. By the same token, it doesn’t have the intense chiaroscuro visual style (which has its roots in German Expressionism) that so often shapes the look of film noir. Nevertheless, “The Big Sleep,” which was an A-budget title, boasts a top cinematographer: Sid Hickox, who also shot “Dark Passage.”  (Max Steiner provided the score.)

***They finished shooting in January 1945. Bogart divorced Methot and married Bacall in May 1945. “The Big Sleep” was shown to U.S. servicemen in the Philippines in August 1945. World War II was ending so Warner Bros. hurried to release  movies with war-related narratives. “The Big Sleep” wasn’t timely or topical and could be released at a later date.

***Also, Warner Bros. put “The Big Sleep” on the back burner so as not to compete with Bacall’s second movie: “Confidential Agent” (1945) based on a Graham Greene novel and co-starring Charles Boyer. Unfortunately, though, that film garnered scathing reviews for Bacall.

***Warner Bros. then turned its attention back to “The Big Sleep,” hoping the movie would be able to compensate for the disappointment of “Confidential Agent.” The studio showed it to preview audiences and they wanted more scenes with Bogart and Bacall. So did Bacall’s agent. And, as Mrs. Humphrey Bogart, she now had impressive clout.

Film Noir Blonde at the event.

Film Noir Blonde at the event.

***In January 1946, Hawks spent six days reshooting and came up with another version of the film, one that gives us more Bogie and Bacall sizzle. There is also less of Martha Vickers – even though she was quite good, promoting Bacall and recapturing the electric chemistry of “To Have and Have Not” was the priority. The new scenes reportedly were written by one or both of the Epstein brothers, Julius and Philip, of “Casablanca” fame.

***“The Big Sleep” was released on Aug. 31, 1946. The narrative was even less clear than before, but who cares?! We have Bogart and Bacall in top form – flirting and fighting off baddies – in a very entertaining film. Both versions of the movie (as well as a short documentary on the changes) are available from Warner Bros.

***Hawks was once asked what makes a great movie. His answer was three great scenes and no bad scenes. By that definition, “The Big Sleep” surely ranks as a great work.

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The Film Noir File: ‘To Have and Have Not’ and ‘Key Largo’ showcase noir’s top couple

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 Classics from The Couple: Bogart and Bacall
Bogie. Bacall. The Ultimate Film Noir Couple. At their best. Need we say more?

Director Howard Hawks discovered Lauren Bacall and cast her opposite Humphrey Bogart. They fell for each other while making “To Have and Have Not.” She was 19.

Director Howard Hawks discovered Lauren Bacall and cast her opposite Humphrey Bogart. They fell for each other while making “To Have and Have Not.” She was 19.

To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). Tuesday, Sept. 16, 10 a.m. (7 a.m.).

With Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Walter Brennan, Hoagy Carmichael and Marcel Dalio.

Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). Tuesday, Sept. 16, 12 p.m. (9 a.m.). With Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor and Thomas Gomez.

Friday, Sept. 12

Miriam Hopkins

Miriam Hopkins

12:45 a.m. (9:45 p.m.): “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” (1931, Rouben Mamoulian). Fredric March won the Best Actor Oscar for playing those exemplars of good and evil, alter-egos Jekyll and Hyde, in this dark and very stylish version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic about the potion that turns a good man into the devil incarnate. With Miriam Hopkins as Hyde’s sad, beauteous victim Champagne Ivy. For Jerry Lewis’ daffy version of this tale, try his 1963 comedy classic “The Nutty Professor,” on TCM this week at 8 p.m. (5 p.m.), Thursday, Sept. 11.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Story of Temple Drake” (1933, Stephen Roberts). A grim pre-Code adaptation of William Faulkner’s shocker about Deep South rape, scandal and murder, and the weird relationship between rich girl Temple (Miriam Hopkins) and the brutal gangster whom Faulkner called Popeye (Jack La Rue).

3:45 a.m. (12:45 a.m.): “Freaks” (1932, Tod Browning). With Olga Baclanova, Wallace Ford and Harry Earles. Reviewed in FNB on April 18, 2013.

Saturday, Sept. 13

Catherine Deneuve stars in "Belle."

Catherine Deneuve stars in “Belle.”

8 p.m. (5 p.m. ,.): “Belle de Jour” (1967, Luis Bunuel). With Catherine Deneuve, Michel Piccoli, Genevieve Page, Jean Sorel, Francisco Rabal and Pierre Clementi. (In French, with subtitles.) Reviewed in FNB on March 8, 2013.

Monday, Sept. 15

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Background to Danger” (1943, Raoul Walsh). With George Raft, Brenda Marshall, Sydney Greenstreet and Pater Lorre. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 9, 2013.

Tuesday, Sept. 16

A shot from Bacall's modeling days.

A shot from Lauren Bacall’s modeling days.

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Confidential Agent” (1945, Herman Shumlin). Classy but somewhat turgid adaptation of one of Graham Greene’s spy “entertainments.“ With Charles Boyer, Lauren Bacall and Peter Lorre.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). See Pick of the Week.

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). See Pick of the Week.

Wednesday, Sept. 17

6:30 a.m. (3:30 a.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). With Sterling Hayden, Jean Hagen, Sam Jaffe, Louis Calhern and Marilyn Monroe.

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “The Narrow Margin” (1952, Richard Fleischer). With Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor and Jacqueline White.

Blue Gardenia poster11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “The Blue Gardenia” (1953, Fritz Lang). With Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Nat “King” Cole and Raymond Burr. Reviewed in FNB on May 22, 2013.

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Suddenly” (1954, Lewis Allen). With Frank Sinatra, Sterling Hayden, James Gleason and Nancy Gates. Reviewed in FNB on April 23, 2012.

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955, Stuart Heisler.) With Jack Palance, Shelley Winters, Lee Marvin and Lon Chaney, Jr. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 15, 2013.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Al Capone” (1959, Richard Wilson). With Rod Steiger, Martin Balsam and Fay Spain. Reviewed in FNB on May 29, 2014.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Billy Budd” (1962, Peter Ustinov). With Terence Stamp, Robert Ryan, Ustinov and Melvyn Douglas. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 10, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Great Sinner” (1949, Robert Siodmak). Dark costume drama with eye-catching Siodmak direction and an extraordinary cast: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Melvyn Douglas, Walter Huston, Ethel Barrymore, Agnes Moorehead and Frank Morgan. In novelist Christopher Isherwood’s offbeat screenplay, Peck is obsessed with Gardner and with gambling.

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The Film Noir File: Huston works the angles in ‘Asphalt Jungle’

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 Asphalt Jungle” was a hugely influential thriller.

“The Asphalt Jungle” was a hugely influential thriller.

The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). Thursday, Sept. 4, 10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.). With Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe, Jean Hagen, Marilyn Monroe, Louis Calhern. Reviewed here.

Thursday, Sept. 4

4:30 p.m. (1:30 p.m.): “Obsession” (1949, Edward Dmytryk). A classic noir helmer, Edward Dmytryk, puts a classic noir ham, Robert Newton, through the agonies of mad marital jealousy in this lesser known, but gripping thriller. With Sally Gray and Naunton Wayne.

6:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Sniper” (1952, Edward Dmytryk). Arthur Franz plays a psychologically disturbed sniper, picking off his victims from the upper stories, in this solid Dmytryk noir thriller.

Shirley MacLaine plays the party girl who loves Frank Sinatra to pieces.

Shirley MacLaine plays the party girl who loves Frank Sinatra to pieces.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Some Came Running” (Vincente Minnelli, 1958). Frank Sinatra plays a World War II returning vet and prospective novelist who goes back to his bourgeois Midwestern hometown. There he becomes involved with his stuffy, square relatives and neighbors (Arthur Kennedy and Martha Hyer), a charming gambler (Dean Martin), and an adoring party girl (Shirley MacLaine) who loves him to pieces. One of the great underrated American ‘50s movies, it’s as good as any of Douglas Sirk’s romantic melodramas. In some ways, this picture is just as much a classic as “From Here to Eternity.” And, if Shirley, as Ginny, doesn’t make you cry, you have no heart. From James Jones’ novel (as was “Eternity.”)

10:30 p.m. (7:30 p.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). See Pick of the Week

Friday, Sept. 5

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman), With Dorothy Mackaill and Donald Cook. Reviewed in FNB on May 6, 2013.

Saturday, Sept. 6

Caged poster4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “Caged” (1950, John Cromwell). With Eleanor Parker, Agnes Moorehead and Hope Emerson. Reviewed in FNB on July 13, 2012.

Sunday, Sept. 7

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “And Then There Were None” (1945, Rene Clair). With Barry Fitzgerald, Walter Huston, Judith Anderson and Louis Hayward. Reviewed in FNB on March 5, 2014.

Tuesday, Sept. 9

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Stranger” (1946, Orson Welles). Orson Welles plays a mad post-World War II fascist who’s hidden himself in a peaceful New England city. He‘s about to marry Loretta Young and is being pursued by a relentless cop, Edward G. Robinson. Welles’ most conventional thriller was also his most popular with audiences. It’s no “Touch of Evil,” but it still plays well.

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “The Pawnbroker” (1964, Sidney Lumet). With Rod Steiger, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Brock Peters and Juano Hernandez. Reviewed in FNB on June 28, 2014.

Wednesday, Sept. 10

2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.): “They Made Me a Fugitive” (1947, Alberto Cavalcanti). From Cavalcanti, the director of the classic French documentary “Rien que les Heures,“ this is a good British noir, in the Carol Reed vein. Trevor Howard is an embittered escaped con, wrongly convicted of murder, who breaks out and goes after the real killer. With Sally Gray.

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The Film Noir File: ‘I Wake Up Screaming’ is a sleeper gem that won’t make you snooze

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

Playing as part of Betty Grable Day.

Playing as part of Betty Grable Day.

I Wake Up Screaming” (1941, H. Bruce Humberstone). Saturday, Aug. 30. 11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.).

In the Neglected Works of Noir department, “I Wake Up Screaming” is just crying out for attention.

Director H. Bruce Humberstone made a fun and taut whodunit that’s also a treat for the eyes. The film stars Betty Grable (singer, dancer and pin-up legend in her first dramatic role) and Carole Landis as sisters Jill and Vicky Lynn, who quickly shed their homespun sensibilities as they fend for themselves in New York City. You can read the full review here.

Friday, Aug. 29 (Joseph Cotten Day)

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Under Capricorn” (1949, Alfred Hitchcock). With Ingrid Bergman, Joseph Cotten and Margaret Leighton. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 17, 2012.

11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “The Steel Trap” (1952, Andrew L. Stone.) With Cotten, Teresa Wright and Jonathan Hale. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 26, 2012.

3 p.m. (12 p.m.) “Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor). With Bergman, Charles Boyer, Cotten, Dame May Whitty and Angela Lansbury. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 26, 2012.

6:45 p.m. (3:45 p.m.): “Journey Into Fear” (1942, Norman Foster & Orson Welles (uncredited). As he would later in “The Third Man,” star Joseph Cotten here plays an innocent American coping with corrupt WW2-era Europe. Based on one of novelist Eric Ambler’s brainy, tense, left-wing spy thrillers and set in war-torn Eastern Europe, the movie was faithfully adapted by the Mercury Theater Company, by their fearless leader, Orson Welles and his designated director Norman Foster. (Cotten also co-wrote the screenplay.) Like too much of Welles’ work, the film was mutilated in the cutting, but it still packs a Wellesian punch. With Dolores Del Rio, Agnes Moorehead and Everett Sloane.

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed). With Cotten, Welles, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Citizen Kane” (1941, Orson Welles). With Welles, Cotten, Sloane, Dorothy Comingore, Moorehead and Ray Collins. Reviewed in FNB on July 13, 2012.

Saturday, Aug. 30 (Betty Grable Day)

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “I Wake Up Screaming” (1941, H. Bruce Humberstone). See Pick of the Week above.

Blue Dahlia posterSunday, Aug. 31 (Alan Ladd Day)

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Glass Key” (1942, Stuart Heisler). With Alan Ladd, Veronica Lake, Brian Donlevy and William Bendix.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “This Gun for Hire” (1942, Frank Tuttle). With Ladd, Lake, Robert Preston and Laird Cregar.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Blue Dahlia” (1946, George Marshall). With Ladd, Lake and Bendix.

Wednesday, Sept. 3

12 a.m. ( p.m.): “A Woman’s Face” (1941, George Cukor). With Joan Crawford, Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt, Marjorie Main and Henry Daniell. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

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Preminger provides hands-on direction in ‘Angel Face’

Angel Face/1952/RKO Radio Pictures/91 min.

Angel Face posterWho in his right mind would bitch-slap an angel? Well, in film-noir, no one is really in his right mind and in “Angel Face” Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) isn’t quite what you’d call a cherub.

No, her heavenly exterior (spoiled but stunningly gorgeous rich girl) masks a demonic core (cold-blooded killer). So when hysterical Diane takes a smack from her beloved Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) she hits him right back.

That’s cool for the characters, but I wonder what excuse director/producer Otto Preminger had? When filming the scene, Preminger insisted on repeated takes of Mitchum slapping Simmons.

Fed up, Mitchum slapped Preminger, asking, “Is that how you want it?”

Preminger retaliated by trying to fire Mitchum, but Howard Hughes, the real power behind the movie, refused. Hughes wanted Mitchum and Simmons. He wanted Simmons off-screen as well and made a pest of himself trying to seduce her, no matter that she was married to Stewart Granger.

With Preminger and Hughes harassing her, Simmons was lucky to have Mitchum around to stick up for her – you might even say he was her guardian angel. Maybe Preminger couldn’t handle the pressure; for contractual reasons, the whole film was shot in about 18 days.

The movie was knocked by critics upon its release, but was later ranked by the great French director Jean-Luc Godard as one of the 10 Best American Films of the Sound Era. It’s worth watching on that basis alone. Oh, and then there’s 90 minutes of looking at Mitchum. Mmmm. It’s worth watching on that basis alone.

Spoiled rich girl Diane (Jean Simmons) wants Frank (Robert Mitchum) all to herself. So there.

Spoiled rich girl Diane (Jean Simmons) wants Frank (Robert Mitchum) all to herself. So there.

Here’s the setup: Responding to a medical emergency at the Tremayne home, ambulance driver Frank meets a strange little family, with skeletons aplenty: Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion and do their best to avoid Dad’s stick-in-the-mud second wife Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O’Neil, who was also Scarlett’s mom in “Gone With The Wind”).

Diane gloms onto Frank, even though he has a girlfriend, the virtuous, slightly bland and aptly named Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman). Frank’s basically a good guy but loyalty isn’t his strong suit. Learning that his dream is to open a garage, Diane convinces her folks to hire him as the family chauffeur; she tells Frank that her indulgent parents might just throw some start-up cash his way.

But when Mumsy suddenly starts getting stingy, Diane decides to arrange a tragic car “accident” for the stuffy Mrs. Moneybags. What could go wrong? Well, Daddy could also get in the car (he does). And Diane and Frank could wind up getting charged with murder (they do).

Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion. Dad’s second wife Catherine (Barbara O’Neil) foots the bill.

Diane and her Daddy (Herbert Marshall) enjoy loafing around their roomy mansion. Dad’s second wife Catherine (Barbara O’Neil) foots the bill.

Diane doesn’t sweat it, though. She can afford a pricey, clever lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames). Thanks to his legal maneuvering and the legal ineptitude of District Attorney Judson (Jim Backus, yep, that’s Thurston Howell III, aka Mr. Magoo), she and Frank are acquitted.

They’re free, but Frank’s not about to stick around, even though he knows firsthand that Diane has a knack for causing fatal accidents and that she has a way of getting all “If I can’t have him, nobody else can either” about things …

“Angel Face” is not a definitive noir. The camera work and lighting don’t contribute to a sense of doom or create a mood of suspense. There’s far too much sunshine and fresh air here. Dimitri Tiomkin’s romantic music lends lightness as well.

None of that should diminish its standing, however. This quirky flick – which owes a debt to “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) as well as 1945’s “Leave Her to Heaven” and “Fallen Angel,” which Preminger also produced and directed – has flashes of original brilliance: a splendid cast; perfectly symmetrical story structure; an unhurried pace. Frank Nugent, Oscar Millard and an uncredited Ben Hecht wrote the script from a Chester Erskine story.

“Angel Face” shows how noir flexed and began to reinvent itself in the ’50s, reacting less to post-war malaise and more to the conformity and quiet corruption of the 1950s. Note all the references to the power, temptation and ultimate taint of money. Nearly everyone becomes a victim of greed.

The trial scenes, with Preminger’s trademark long takes, prefigure his courtroom drama masterwork, “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959) starring James Stewart, George C. Scott and Lee Remick.

Mitchum is, gloriously, Mitchum. And Simmons makes an unforgettable Eisenhower-era femme fatale: the dangerous, decadent diabolical rich girl. When Godard and Jean Seberg created the treacherous beauty Patricia in “Breathless,” they must have been thinking, at least a little, of Simmons’ Angel Face, the gorgeous girl who got slapped.

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The Film Noir File: Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott fall into a deadly De Toth ‘Pitfall’

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can't wait!

TCM goes all Audrey on Friday and we can’t wait!

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

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell star in ‘Pitfall.’

Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). 4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.) Monday, Aug. 25. De Toth was a sometime master at exposing the swamps of terror that could lie beneath the routines of everyday middleclass life. In this scary little noir quadrangle thriller, Dick Powell, who was one of the better Philip Marlowes, is a sort of lower echelon Walter Neff – an insurance man leading an apparently happy (if slightly dull) life who gets involved with a criminal’s sultry girlfriend (Lizabeth Scott). Jane Wyatt is Powell’s sweet bourgeois wife and Raymond Burr is an evil, lecherous private eye, who pulls all of them onto the dark side. That’s a terrific cast, noir to the hilt, and De Toth’s grim, methodical style is ideal for the cynical, unsparing James Cain-ish subject matter.

This pungent little film noir sleeper is part of Dick Powell Day. (Also showing on the big screen Friday night in Westwood: see previous post.)

Friday, Aug. 22: Audrey Hepburn Day

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

Saturday, Aug. 23: Ernest Borgnine Day

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Bad Day at Black Rock” (1955, John Sturges). With Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. Reviewed in FNB on April 7, 2012.

Sunday, Aug. 24: Gladys George Day

Maltese Falcon poster10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Flamingo Road” (1949, Michael Curtiz). With Joan Crawford, Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet and Gladys George. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 19, 2012.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “The Roaring Twenties” (1939, Raoul Walsh). Ace newsman Mark Hellinger produced this punchy chronicle of three World War I vets, (explosive outlaw James Cagney, bad guy Humphrey Bogart and good guy Jeffrey Lynn) and their lives during Prohibition times and the gangster era after the war. It’s engrossing, exciting and salty as the best Walsh, Bogart and Cagney always are. Also with Priscilla Lane and Gladys George.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.). “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, John Huston). With Bogart, Mary Astor, Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Elisha Cook, Jr., Ward Bond and George.

1:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.). “He Ran All the Way” (1951, John Berry). With John Garfield, Shelley Winters and Wallace Ford. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 4, 2013.

Monday, Aug. 25: Dick Powell Day

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth). See Pick of the Week.

9:15 p.m. (6:15 p.m.): “Murder, My Sweet” (1944, Edward Dmytryk). With Powell, Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley and Mike Mazurki.

3 a.m. (12 a.m.): “The Tall Target” (1951, Anthony Mann). With Powell, Adolphe Menjou, Paula Raymond and Ruby Dee. Reviewed in FNB on My 6, 2013.

Wednesday, Aug. 27: Edmond O’Brien Day

D.O.A poster8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953, Ida Lupino). With Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman. Reviewed in FNB on June 6, 2013.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “White Heat” (1949, Raoul Walsh). With Cagey, Virginia Mayo, O’Brien and Steve Cochran. Reviewed in FNB on March 10, 2012.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “D.O.A.” (1950, Rudolph Maté). With O’Brien, Pamela Britton and Luther Adler.

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Film noir feast this weekend: ‘Sin City,’ Exile Noir and ‘Pickup’

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

“Double Indemnity” and “Pitfall” will open UCLA’s Exile Noir series.

There are several delectable film noir offerings this weekend in Los Angeles. First, a sequel worth seeing! That would be “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” by directors Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez. It’s a follow-up to 2005’s “Sin City.” (Miller adapted both scripts from his graphic novels.)

Sin City 2“Sin City 2” stars Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Josh Brolin and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The movie opens Friday.

Following closely behind its Hollywood Exiles in Europe series, UCLA is hosting Exile Noir, a lineup that explores the major contribution to film noir by German-speaking émigrés in Hollywood, all of whom were schooled in German expressionist cinema. Exiled from Nazi Germany, Jewish writers and directors brought a dark vision to their work, informed by staggering loss, pain, fear and betrayal.

Their arrival in Los Angeles permanently altered the city’s creative landscape. As Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the UCLA Film & Television Archive, recently told Susan King of the LA Times: “[Their arrival] changed not just the film industry and the kind of films that were being made, it changed the intellectual life. You have people who are not in the film industry but came here because of the weather and perceived opportunities, like [composer] Arnold Schoenberg and [author] Thomas Mann. They changed the intellectual character of Southern California.”

Pitfall poster 214The program, which runs through Sept. 28, kicks off with an impressive double bill: the prototype of the genre, “Double Indemnity” (1944, Billy Wilder) and “Pitfall” (1948, André De Toth), starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott and Jane Wyatt. In honor of “Double Indemnity” turning 70 this year, on Valentine’s Day, we compiled a list of 14 reasons we love this flick.

This series is presented in anticipation of the Skirball Cultural Center exhibit, Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950, running Oct. 23–March 1, 2015. More on that in the next few weeks.

Also, as I mentioned earlier this week, the Egyptian Theatre is showing Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” and “White Dog.” His daughter Samantha Fuller will introduce the movies.

There’s no doubt: Life is good for noiristas in Los Angeles!

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Sam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece plays on the big screen

Pickup on South Street posterSam Fuller’s film noir masterpiece “Pickup on South Street” (see review and TCM listing below) will screen Friday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Sam Fuller’s daughter, Samantha Fuller, will introduce the film. His novel, “Brainquake,” recently published by Hard Case Crime, will be available for sale in the lobby.

“Pickup” will pair with 1982’s “White Dog.”

We at FNB celebrate the work of this in-your-face auteur, who unabashedly reveled in the seedy, touted the tacky, glommed onto the grim (not to mention the grime) and did his own thing until the very end. See you there!

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The Film Noir File: Sam Fuller plays rough in noir classic ‘Pickup on South Street’

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).

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in "Pickup."

Thelma Ritter and Richard Widmark play tough cookies in “Pickup.”


Pick of the Week

Pickup on South Street” (1953, Samuel Fuller). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) Wednesday, Aug. 20. From the 50s heyday of vintage film noir and the Red Scare comes a hard-boiled gem. Trust me. They don’t make em any tougher, crazier or edgier than this grimy, sharp classic by Sam Fuller — a prize winner at the 1953 Venice Film Festival, and probably Fuller’s best movie. It takes place in New York City in the lower depths, the dark waterfront, the mean streets. Our “hero” is a ferret-faced natty pickpocket (Richard Widmark), who lives on the docks by night and, by day, strips suckers of their wallets on the subways.

After accidentally lifting some valuable microfilm capable of compromising national security, the thief is suddenly up to his neck with cops, with a rat’s nest of Commie spies run by Richard Kiley, with a beautiful, tight-skirted, loose-moraled streetwalker played by Howard Hughes missus Jean Peters, and with a scrappy fence little old lady huckster named Mo, played by the great character lady Thelma Ritter in her most atypical role.

If you haven’t seen “Pickup on South Street,“ you don’t know noir at its noirest. Or Thelma and Sam at their roughest and toughest.


Friday, Aug. 15 (Faye Dunaway Day)

3:30 p.m. (12:30 p.m.): “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967, Arthur Penn). With Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Michael J. Pollard and Gene Wilder. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 4, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Three Days of the Condor” (1975, Sydney Pollack). Robert Redford is a U. S. government reader and analyst whose world suddenly opens under his feet one day, when most of his colleagues are killed and he becomes a wanted man on the run. The quintessential paranoid anti-C.I.A. thriller, this is a modern variant on the prototypical Hitchcockian “wrong man suspenser. Based on the novel “Six Days of the Condor,” it’s been copied endlessly, especially by novelist John Grisham. With Faye Dunaway, Max Von Sydow, Cliff Robertson and John Houseman.

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in "Chinatown."

Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway star in “Chinatown.”

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Chinatown” (1974, Roman Polanski). With Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston and Burt Young. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 11, 2013.

Saturday, Aug. 16 (Herbert Marshall Day)

6: 15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.): “The Underworld Story” (1950, Cy Endfield). Big city reporter Dan Duryea gets exiled to a small-town murder case, in a plot that reminds you of Billy Wilder’s (later) “Ace in the Hole.” With Herbert Marshall and Gale Storm.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Foreign Correspondent” (1940, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joel McCrea, Laraine Day, George Sanders and Herbert Marshall. Reviewed in FNB on March 26, 2014.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Murder!” (1930, Alfred Hitchcock). A guilt-stricken juror (Herbert Marshall) tries to clear a convicted murderer whom his vote condemned. One of Hitch’s best and most inventive early talkies. With Miles Mander.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “The Letter” (1940, William Wyler). With Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and Gale Sondergaard. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 19, 2012. Followed at 1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.), by the 1929 film version of “The Letter,” directed by Jean De Lemur, starring the legendary lady of Maugham’s “Rain,” Jeanne Eagels.

Sunday, Aug. 17 (John Hodiak Day)

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). With Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, Walter Slezak, William Bendix and Hume Cronyn. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 16, 2014.

Coolhand Luke poster


Tuesday, Aug. 19 (Paul Newman Day)

1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.): “Harper” (1966, Jack Smight). With Paul Newman, Janet Leigh, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris and Arthur Hell. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.). “Cool Hand Luke” (1967, Stuart Rosenberg). With Paul Newman, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton. Reviewed in FNB on March 21, 2014.

Wednesday, Aug. 20 (Thelma Ritter Day)

10 p.m. (7 p.m.). “Pickup on South Street”: See Pick of the Week.

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