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 Drawing on unpublished writings and revealing interviews, film critic J.R. Jones deftly explores the many contradictory facets of Robert Ryan’s public and private lives, and how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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Paris Photo Los Angeles starts Friday at Paramount Studios

Stefania Fersini

Stefania Fersini

Jane O’Neal On Location in LA (To Live and Die in LA), 1984

Jane O’Neal
On Location in LA (To Live and Die in LA), 1984

William Mebane

William Mebane

This weekend you can stroll around a storied studio and see work from some of the world’s finest photographers. The third edition of Paris Photo Los Angeles runs Friday, May 1, to Sunday, May 3, at Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood.

Featuring exhibitors from 17 countries, Paris Photo Los Angeles shows work from nearly 80 art galleries and specialized art book dealers. In addition to still photos, moving images will be displayed.

New this year is the INTRODUCING! Young California Photographer Award, in partnership with J.P. Morgan. After the success of last year’s UNEDITED! Archives of the LAPD exhibition, the program returns with CALIFORNIA UNEDITED!: a collection of 19th Century photographs from the R.J. Arnold Archive.

The exhibition also includes a conversation series called SOUND & VISION.

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Film noir costume design and ‘Gilda’ highlighted this Saturday in Hollywood

Gilda,” arguably Rita Hayworth’s most famous role, will screen this Saturday, April 25, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. Preceding the movie, costume historian Kimberly Truhler will give a one-hour presentation called: “Femmes Fatales, Innocents and Intrigantes: Can the Costume Design of Film Noir Tell Us the Difference?” The talk will start at 2 p.m.

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‘Gilda’ shows that if you’ve got it, you might as well flaunt it

First published on FilmNoirBlonde.com on Sept. 19, 2012

“Gilda” is all about Gilda and that’s the way it should be – for any femme fatale and particularly for Rita Hayworth the most popular pinup girl of WWII, a talented entertainer and Columbia Pictures’ top female star in the mid-1940s. This 1946 movie by director Charles Vidor is essentially a vehicle for the drop-dead gorgeous Hayworth to play a sexy free spirit who lives and loves entirely in the present moment.

Longtime friends Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth had a brief affair during the making of “Gilda.”

Hayworth revels in the sexual power she wields over any man who crosses her path, despite the fact that in post-war America a woman with a mind (and body) of her own spelled nothing but trouble. As the Time Out Film Guide points out: “Never has the fear of the female been quite so intense.” That said, the “independent” Gilda is only briefly without a husband and has to endure a lengthy punishment from her true love.

She first appears, after a devastatingly dramatic hair toss, as the wife of husband Ballin Mundson (George Macready). Suave, but aloof and asexual, Ballin runs a nightclub in Buenos Aires. Gilda passes the time plucking out tunes on her guitar and propositioning other men. Nice work if you can get it.

Enter Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford), an American gambler who runs Ballin’s club. Johnny’s job extends to keeping an eye on Gilda when she’s carousing on the dance floor. Ballin isn’t around much because he’s off trying to form a tungsten cartel with some ex-Nazi pals. But babysitting the boss’ wife (Ballin calls her a “beautiful, greedy child”) is especially tough for Johnny because he and Gilda used to be an item and endured a bitter breakup.

Ballin (George Macready) and Johnny (Glenn Ford) have a tense relationship.

The script is laced with taunts, barbs and innuendo. For example, Gilda tells him: “Hate is a very exciting emotion, hadn’t you noticed? I hate you, too, Johnny. I hate you so much I think I’m going to die from it.” (And some see homosexual undertones in Farrell and Ballin’s relationship.)

Director Vidor, whose other films include 1944’s “Cover Girl” (also starring Hayworth), “A Farewell to Arms” and “The Joker Is Wild” (both 1957), holds his own in the noir genre. “Gilda” is a dark tale (alluding to sexual perversion and repression) and there’s some moody cinematography, courtesy of Rudolph Maté. But Marion Parsonnet’s script, despite many sharp, clever lines, doesn’t hold together and that throws off the pacing. The first third meanders along too slowly while the ending seems abrupt and slapped together.

The plot is thin and vaguely confusing – Ballin is up to no good and at one point is thought to be dead, only to turn up later at a pivotal point in Johnny and Gilda’s romance. They reunite of course and their push-pull tension is the engine that drives the story. Luckily, that tension, combined with solid direction and acting, save the movie.

(The legendary Ben Hecht is an uncredited writer on “Gilda” and if the storyline rings a bell, you might be thinking of “Notorious” also from 1946, written by Hecht, which is another story of ex-Nazis up to no good in South America. Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant play the wary, mistrustful lovers in Alfred Hitchcock’s superior rendering of similar material.)

The chemistry between Ford and Hayworth is about as real as it gets. Longtime friends, they had a brief affair during the making of the movie. In his book, “A Life,” Glenn Ford’s son Peter writes that Vidor coached Glenn and Rita with “outrageously explicit suggestions.” Peter Ford quotes his father as saying: “[Vidor’s] instructions to the two of us were pretty incredible. I can’t even repeat the things he used to tell us to think about before we did a scene.”

Hayworth performs “Put the Blame on Mame,” choreographed by Jack Cole.

According to Peter Ford, this off-screen fling stemmed from Hayworth’s unhappy marriage to Orson Welles. The romance also drew the ire of Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn, who reportedly lusted after Hayworth and whom Hayworth rejected. “Gilda” was the second film Hayworth and Ford appeared in together; they worked together three more times afterward as well.

“Gilda” wasn’t a critical hit, but it proved popular with audiences, especially the famous “Put the Blame on Mame” scene.

Choreographed by Jack Cole, a bold and brilliant innovator, the number is as close to a strip tease as was possible in 1946. Hayworth was dubbed by Anita Ellis in that number, though there is some debate as to whether it’s Hayworth’s voice when she runs through the song with Uncle Pio (Steven Geray) earlier in the movie.

Though “Gilda” cemented Hayworth’s celebrity status, her fame came at a price. “Every man I’ve known has fallen in love with Gilda and wakened with me,” she said. But, despite her career ups and downs, five failed marriages and a long struggle with Alzheimer’s, she kept her sense of humor. In the 1970s, Hayworth was asked, “What do you think when you look at yourself in the mirror after waking up in the morning?” Her reply: “Darling, I don’t wake up till the afternoon.”

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COLCOA French fest opens and Noir City Hollywood closes

It’s a busy time for film buffs in Los Angeles.

The COLCOA French Film Festival opens tonight, Monday, April 20, with an elegant reception and the opening night film, a thriller called “A Perfect Man,” directed and co-written by Yann Gozlan and starring Pierre Niney and Ana Girardot.

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in  “A Perfect Man.”

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in “A Perfect Man.”

It’s a story of shifting identities as a struggling author stumbles upon a wildly unethical way to make the best-seller list.

With echoes of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley, “A Perfect Man” strikes us as a divinely decadent way to kick off this wonderful festival, now in its 19th year.

There is much to see this year (check the COLCOA site for info on free screenings and cool events) and we are counting the days until Friday’s Film Noir Series.

The fest takes place at the Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046.

Sunday was the closing day of an essential film fest, for noiristas and others: Noir City Hollywood, presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation. The foundation’s urbane noirphiles Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode were on hand throughout the fest to introduce the movies. This year, they brought another excellent selection (heavy on adaptations of the great master of pulp suspense Cornell Woolrich).

The lineup included a real find: the American debut of three almost unknown but brilliantly done and stunningly visualized film noirs from Argentina: “The Black Vampire” (Roman Vinoly Barreto, 1953), a remake of Fritz Lang’s “M,” and superb adaptations of Woolrich stories in “Never Open That Door” (Carlos Hugo Christensen, 1952) and “If I Should Die Before I Wake” (Christensen, 1952).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

The fest wrapped up with a four-movie proto-noir marathon:

The Ninth Guest” (1934, Roy William Neill) a mystery with a generous dollop of Deco glam.

Let Us Live” (1939, John Brahm) featuring the great Henry Fonda as a wrongly identified killer and a riveting performance from Maureen O’Sullivan as his girlfriend.

Heat Lightning” (1934, Mervyn LeRoy) a pre-Code delight about two sisters (Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak) running a garage and car-repair shop in the desert and ridding the place of rats, such as fleeing criminal and old flame (Preston Foster).

Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman) Dorothy MacKaill is unforgettable as a sparkling blonde siren who spends the entire movie fighting off men as she waits in vain on a Caribbean island to be with the guy she truly loves (Donald Cook).

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

My attendance was spotty this year because I had to leave town unexpectedly (such is life for a femme fatale) but my colleague Mike Wilmington caught quite a few.

Other highlights from this year’s fest were: “Woman on the Run,” “The Underworld Story,” “Abandoned,” “Circle of Danger,” “Berlin Express,” “Ride the Pink Horse,” “The Fallen Sparrow,” and “The Guilty” as well as that triple bill of Argentinian film noir.

The closing-weekend party was loads of fun, especially since I won a nifty raffle prize! I definitely needed my drink tickets that night. Why? By the small but mighty curveball in “The Guilty” when the lead character (Don Castle) reveals that he is studying “commercial geography” to land a good job.

What??? Education and hard work to get ahead? Was the movie going to start preaching about the virtues of a work ethic? Aaargh! Thankfully, this was, in fact, a temporary glitch and the character turned out to be crazy-bad.

Phew! I was freaked out there for a moment but everything was just as it should be in Noirville.

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Noir City Hollywood kicks off with Ann Sheridan double bill

Woman on the Run posterNoir City Hollywood starts Friday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The famed fest, now in its 17th year, kicks off with an Ann Sheridan double feature: “Woman on the Run” (1950, Norman Foster) and “The Unfaithful” (1947, Vincent Sherman).

In “Woman on the Run,” police believe Sheridan can lead them to a key witness in a San Francisco gangland killing. The snag is she doesn’t want to feed them info. The witness is her husband (Ross Elliott), but she’s done with him. To hell with helping out! Dennis O’Keefe plays an enterprising (is there any other kind?) newspaperman.

In “The Unfaithful,” Sheridan has a dalliance that leads to death. Not hers, natch. David Goodis and James Gunn wrote the script (based on W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Letter”) and set the story in Los Angeles. Featuring Zachary Scott, Lew Ayres and the always-delightful Eve Arden.

The Unfaithful posterNoir City Hollywood will screen 26 films over 12 nights! The fest, which is presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation, runs through April 19. Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation will introduce the movies.

Woman on the Run” was restored in 2014 by the Film Noir Foundation in conjunction with the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Restoration funding for “Woman on the Run” was provided by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust through the Film Noir Foundation. “The Unfaithful” screens in a 35mm print.

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Film Noir Series at COLCOA celebrates 10th anniversary with Jean Dujardin’s new film

The Connection posterThe Franco-American Cultural Fund Tuesday night announced the lineup for this year’s COLCOA French Film Festival. The fest, now in its 19th year, runs April 20-28 at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles.

Speaking at the Consul General of France in Beverly Hills, COLCOA’s executive producer and artistic director François Truffart revealed that 68 films (including three world premieres and 14 U.S. premieres) will be shown over nine days. Additionally, COLCOA will introduce a new competition dedicated to films and series produced for television.

The festival will open with the North American premiere of “A Perfect Man,” a thriller co-written and directed by Yann Gozlant. It stars Pierre Niney and Ana Girardot.

COLCOA will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its Film Noir Series with Academy Award winner Jean Dujardin’s new film “The Connection,” co-written and directed by Cédric Jimenez. The other two films in the series are: “SK1,” co-written and directed by Frédéric Tellier, and “Next Time, I’ll Aim For the Heart,” written and directed by Cédric Anger.

La Chienne posterAs part of the COLCOA Classics Series, an exclusive program of digitally restored premieres, master director Jean Renoir’s first-rate pre-noir from 1931 “La Chienne” will screen. This was remade in the U.S. in 1945 by Fritz Lang as “Scarlet Street.”

All other series are back as well: the After 10 Series (April 21-25); the Happy Hour Talk Panel Series in association with Variety (April 21-25); the French NeWave 2.0 Series presented in association with IndieWire (Saturday, April 25); the Short Film Competition (Sunday, April 26); the Focus on a Filmmaker (Michel Hazanavicius) (Thursday, April 23) and the Focus on Two Producers: Maxime Delauney and Romain Rousseau (Saturday, April 25).

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Eva Marie Saint will appear at the Laemmle Royal tonight

Academy Award winner Eva Marie Saint will appear at the Laemmle Royal tonight for a Q&A and screening of “Exodus” (1960), directed by noir great Otto Preminger.

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Another outstanding TCM Classic Film Fest!

A huge thank you to everyone at the TCM Classic Film Fest for another great event. TCM staff outdid themselves in terms of top-notch programming and events, and volunteers went out their way to be pleasant, helpful and polite.

We had a great time binge-watching! One of many highlights was “The French Connection” and Q&A with director William Friedkin and Alec Baldwin at the TCL Chinese Theatre.

I will run a more detailed roundup story at a later date.

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What to see, what to see: TCM Classic Film Fest starts today

The TCM Classic Film Festival is in full swing today and runs through Sunday in Hollywood. “There’s nothing like watching a movie on a screen with a big audience,” said head programmer Charlie Tabesh at yesterday’s press conference. This year’s theme is history and Tabesh added that he is particularly looking forward to the film “1776,” directed by Peter H. Hunt, who will be in attendance along with stars William Daniels and Ken Howard.

Last night, I stopped by the Formosa Café to mingle with fellow scribes. Several people shared my view that it’s tough to decide what to see and to strike a balance between longtime favorites and exciting new discoveries. I know, I know – what a good problem to have!

One thing’s for sure: I will attend the opening party and will see the newly restored film noir “Too Late for Tears” (1949, Byron Haskin), starring Lizabeth Scott, Arthur Kennedy and Dan Duryea.

For now, I will leave you with this shot from one of last year’s poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt. (Photo courtesy of TCM.) Life is good!

Poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt are a special treat.

Poolside screenings at the Hollywood Roosevelt are a special treat.

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