Film noir fashion lives on with contemporary style-setters

Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.

Lana Turner, Ava Gardner, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, Rita Hayworth and Joan Crawford.

“I saw ‘Rear Window’ and I swear I felt my brain chemistry change,” says film and fashion educator Kimberly Truhler, explaining how she acquired her love of movies and clothes. “I thought why doesn’t everyone  dress like that today?”

Kimberly Truhler

Kimberly Truhler

Gabriela Hernandez

Gabriela Hernandez

Truhler’s comment was part of a terrific talk she delivered Sunday at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles. (Her lecture on the history of fashion in film noir was part of the Skirball’s ongoing “Light & Noir” exhibit.)

During World War II, film industry designers were affected by shortages of fashion materials, such as silk and rubber. Additionally, they had to work around the strict codes of the censors, ensuring that no navels were shown and that legs were properly covered. Carefully constructed two-piece ensembles and thigh-high slits were a few of the ways to circumvent the wardrobe strictures set down by the Hays Office.

Vera West

Vera West

And, of course, designers had to disguise any figure flaws of their leading ladies and men. For example, in “This Gun for Hire” (1942, Frank Tuttle) Edith Head found subtle ways to elongate Veronica Lake’s diminutive (4’ 11”) frame.

Truhler dissected several other classic offerings: “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz, costume design by Orry-Kelly), “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks, costume design by Milo Anderson), “Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz, costume design by Milo Anderson), “Gilda” (1946, Charles Vidor, costume design by Jean Louis), “The Killers” (1946, Robert Siodmak, costume design by Vera West), “The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946, Tay Garnett, costume design by Irene Lentz) and “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder, costume design by Edith Head).

Surprising, given the importance of clothes in establishing character and mood, the Academy did not award an Oscar for costume design until 1948.

Irene Lentz

Irene Lentz

Truhler, who sees 1946 as a stand-out year for film noir, discussed the iconic look of each movie and showed how the designer’s influence is still keenly felt on contemporary runways and with today’s style-setters. She also elaborated on the challenges and pressures costume designers face, pointing out that the legendary Ms. Head “borrowed” work from other people to snag her job at Paramount.

On a sad note, three great talents of the costume-design business (West, Lentz and Robert Kalloch) committed suicide.

We at FNB are looking forward to Truhler’s books – one on the history of film and fashion and another on Jean Louis, who was married to Loretta Young from 1993-1997.

Following Truhler’s talk, Gabriela Hernandez, founder of Bésame Cosmetics, gave a great lecture on the evolution of makeup in the movies (it all started with Max Factor) and how cosmetics were used in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s to create the look of a siren. A raffle winner got a demonstration on how to amp up her film noir allure with Bésame products.

Event photos by Roxanne Brown

Ginger Pauley is known as the Vintage Girl.

Ginger Pauley is known as the Vintage Girl.

Margot Gerber and a fellow retro enthusiast at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Margot Gerber and a fellow retro enthusiast at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Erin Cherry perfectly pulls off a film noir look.

Erin Cherry perfectly pulls off a film noir look.

Redheads rule!

Redheads rule!

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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).

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The Noir File: Young lovers on the run in ‘They Live by Night’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are 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

Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger play the beautiful young couple.

They Live by Night” (1949, Nicholas Ray). Wednesday, Dec. 5, 10:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m.). “Gentle” and “romantic” might seem odd words to apply to film noir. But Nicholas Ray’s “They Live By Night” is one of the gentlest, saddest and most romantic of all noirs, and an inarguable classic as well. It’s the familiar but potent story of two naïve young outlaw lovers-on-the-run: Bowie, a kid with a gun and Keechie, a girl with a heart to be broken (played by Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell, an unusually beautiful young movie couple). Bowie and Keechie are two nice, ordinary kids who‘ve fallen in with the crookedly paternal T-Dub (Jay C. Flippen) and his violent partner Chickamaw (Howard Da Silva) to form a gang of traveling thieves.

Ray was a famous American film outlaw romantic. He and producer John Houseman and screenwriter Charles Schnee derived their legendary gangster love story from Edward Anderson’s harder-bitten Depression novel “Thieves Like Us.” Robert Altman later remade “They Live By Night,” in 1974, under its original title, with Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall as Bowie and Keechie (and Louise Fletcher as the two-faced Mattie). That was one of his neo-noir ’70s gems, but “They Live By Night” – often cited, with “Gun Crazy,” as a direct precursor of “Bonnie and Clyde” – has a tenderness and poetic quality that are unique for the crime movie genre. And never more so than in the remarkable nocturnal wedding-on-the-run of Bowie and Keechie, with Ian Wolfe as the wily justice of the peace reeling off a ceremony, paid witnesses, and the sense of a disappointed but wildly loving heart beating beneath it all.

Tuesday, Dec. 4

4 a.m. (1 a.m.):“Night and the City” (1950, Jules Dassin). Crooked fight promoter Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark) tries to outrace the night. One of the all-time best film noirs, from Gerald Kersh’s London novel. With Gene Tierney, Herbert Lom and Googie Withers.

Wednesday, Dec. 5

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “Gun Crazy” (1949, Joseph H. Lewis).

Thursday, Dec. 6

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz).

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed).

Saturday, Dec. 8

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Autumn Leaves” (1956, Robert Aldrich). Cougar Joan Crawford falls for an unstable younger man (Cliff Robertson); co-starring Vera Miles.

Sunday, Dec. 9

3 p.m. (12 p.m.): “Harper” (1966, Jack Smight). Paul Newman, at his most attractively laid-back, plays one of detective literature’s most celebrated private eyes, Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer, in this brainy thriller based on MacDonald’s novel “The Moving Target.” One catch: Archer has been renamed “Lew Harper,” so Newman could have (he hoped) another hit movie with an “H” title, like “The Hustler” and “Hud.” He got one. The stellar cast includes Lauren Bacall, Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Shelley Winters, Robert Wagner, Arthur Hill, Robert Webber and Strother Martin. Scripted by William Goldman.

5:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m.): “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959, Otto Preminger).

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Lady in the Lake” (1947, Robert Montgomery).

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The Noir File: As time goes by, ‘Casablanca’ remains sublime

By Michael Wilmington

A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on cable TV. All the movies listed below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Casablanca” (1942, Michael Curtiz) Wednesday, Aug. 29, 10 p.m. (7 p.m.) On the Warner Brothers back lot, in an exotic city that hums with intrigue, we watch one of the movies’ immortal affairs and grandest pictures: “Casablanca” is, in some respects, the perfect Hollywood Golden Age studio movie.

Stuck in the middle: Ilse (Ingrid Bergman) is torn between duty (Paul Henreid) and love (Humphrey Bogart) in “Casablanca,” one of the best Hollywood Golden Age studio movies.

We see the frustrated and tormented but finally sublime passion of gloomy hard-case cabaret owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart, in his most popular role) for scared, on-the-run Ilse (Ingrid Bergman, in hers). Ilse is the emotionally torn woman of mystery whom Rick loved and lost, the angel who won his heart and left him in Paris. She now belongs body and soul, it seems, to the idealistic underground anti-Fascist leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid). Around them swirl the ideological storms of Nazi-ravaged Europe, at least as Warners saw them.

Humphrey Bogart and Dooley Wilson

And backing them up is one of the all-time great Hollywood supporting casts: Claude Rains as the suave and lecherous Vichy police head Renault; Conrad Veidt as the elegant, murderous Nazi commander Strasser; Sydney Greenstreet as the vaguely sinister rival cabaret owner; Peter Lorre as Ugati, the rat with the papers; S. Z. “Cuddles” Sakall as the lovable fat busybody; Marcel Dalio as the nimble croupier; Curt Bois as the ferret-like pickpocket (“Vultures everywhere!”); and of course that indefatigable piano man Sam (Dooley Wilson) – the fellow who plays (or doesn’t) “As Time Goes By.”

“Casablanca,” which expertly melds several key ’40s Hollywood genres (drama, comedy, noir, spy thriller, love story) was adapted from a truly lousy play “Everybody Goes to Rick’s,” reworked by the Epstein brothers (Julius and Philip) and Howard Koch, and directed by that sometimes underrated master, Michael Curtiz. A big hit in its day and also a multiple Oscar winner, this picture has never stopped pleasing and rousing audiences. It probably never will. (Also available in Warners’ three-disc 70th anniversary edition DVD and Blu-ray.)

Saturday, Aug. 25: Tyrone Power Day

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957, Billy Wilder) From the famous Agatha Christie short story, Billy Wilder expertly fashions one of the screen’s trickiest trial-drama/murder mysteries – with Charles Laughton as the wily, wheelchair-bound barrister, his real-life wife Elsa Lanchester as his long-suffering nurse, and Tyrone Power and Marlene Dietrich as the incendiary couple caught up in a legendary triple-reverse surprise ending.

Ava Gardner co-stars with Robert Taylor in “The Bribe.”

Tuesday, Aug. 28: Ava Gardner Day

10:45 p.m. (7:45 p.m.): “The Bribe” (1949, Robert Z. Leonard) Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton and Vincent Price in the smoky noir tale of a federal guy and a femme fatale. A lot of it wound up in the 1982 Steve Martin-Carl Reiner film noir parody “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”

Wednesday, Aug. 29: Ingrid Bergman Day

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Gaslight” (1944, George Cukor) Set in foggy Victorian gas-lit London, this is the best of all the melodramas and noirs where a bad husband tries to drive his wife insane (or vice versa). Here, Charles Boyer gives the treatment to Oscar-winner Ingrid Bergman. Joseph Cotten, Dame May Whitty and teenage Angela Lansbury are among the bystanders. Based on the Patrick Hamilton stage play (and film) “Angel Street.”

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Free stuff from FNB: More chances to win Bogart movies

The reader-giveaway prize for June was the Humphrey Bogart set, which contains “They Drive by Night,” “Across the Pacific,” “Action in the North Atlantic” and “Passage to Marseille,” from Warner Home Video and Turner Classic Movies. I am extending this giveaway to July so that I can run a review of “They Drive by Night.”

In August, I will give away the WHV/TCM Greatest Gangster Films: Humphrey Bogart set, featuring “High Sierra,” “The Petrified Forest,” “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” and “All Through the Night.” I will run a review of “High Sierra” in August. Each set is $27.92.

All who entered in June are still eligible to win. To enter the July giveaway, for the Classic Legends: Humphrey Bogart set, just leave a comment on any FNB post from July 1-31.

We welcome comments, but please remember that, for the purposes of the giveaway, there is one entry per person, not per comment.

The June-July winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early August. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared. Good luck!

Here’s more info on the movies in the Classic Legends: Humphrey Bogart set. [Read more...]

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Free stuff from FNB: Classic Legends Bogart set

Warner Home Video (WHV) and Turner Classic Movies (TCM) are adding two new sets to the TCM Greatest Classic Legends line. The newest additions feature Humphrey Bogart and Joan Crawford. (On the Crawford set is “Mildred Pierce,” “Humoresque,” “Possessed” and “The Damned Don’t Cry.”)

Humphrey Bogart

Courtesy of WHV, I will be giving away the Bogart set, which contains “They Drive by Night,” “Across the Pacific,” “Action in the North Atlantic” and “Passage to Marseille.”

(Additionally, WHV and TCM will release the Greatest Gangster Films: Humphrey Bogart set, featuring “High Sierra,” “The Petrified Forest,” “The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse” and “All Through the Night.”)

Each set is $27.92 and will be available on June 26.

To enter the June giveaway, for the Classic Legends: Humphrey Bogart set, just leave a comment on any FNB post from June 1-30. We welcome comments, but please remember that, for the purposes of the giveaway, there is one entry per person, not per comment.

The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early July. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared. Good luck! (Josh is the winner of the May reader giveaway, a Blu-ray set of “Body Heat,” “L.A. Confidential,” and “The Player.” Congrats to Josh and thanks to all who entered!)

Here’s more info on the movies in the Classic Legends: Humphrey Bogart set.

THEY DRIVE BY NIGHT (1940) – Bogart and George Raft share a driving ambition in a feisty tale of brothers trying to make it as independent truckers in this fine example of Warner Bros. social-conscience filmmaking that’s also a film noir. Ann Sheridan and Ida Lupino also star.

ACROSS THE PACIFIC (1942) – In this wartime thriller, Bogart plays U.S. counterspy Rick, who trades barbs with Mary Astor, matches wits with Sydney Greenstreet and swaps bullets with saboteurs of the Panama Canal. John Huston directs this reunion of the three stars of “The Maltese Falcon.”

ACTION IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC (1943) – This World War II salute to Allied forces stars Bogart as First Officer Joe Rossi, who, along with his captain (Raymond Massey), matches tactics with U-boats and the Luftwaffe. The tactics are so on target that this became a Merchant Marine training film.

PASSAGE TO MARSEILLE (1944) – Bogart reunites with director Michael Curtiz and other key “Casablanca” talent for a tension- and controversy-swept story of a French patriot who escapes Devil’s Island, survives a dangerous freighter voyage and becomes a gunner in the Free French Air Corps.

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‘Casablanca’ kicks off Oscars Outdoors summer series

“Casablanca” screens on Friday, June 15.

“Casablanca” will kick off Oscars Outdoors, an exciting summer series from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Starting June 15 and running Friday and Saturday nights through Aug. 18, screenings will take place at a new open-air movie theater (with an outdoor surround-sound system) at 1341 Vine St., just south of the ArcLight Cinemas in Hollywood; capacity is 350 seats. You can view the complete lineup and buy tickets here.

Tickets for each Oscars Outdoors screening are $5 for the public, free for children 10 years and younger and $3 for Academy members and students with ID. Seating is unreserved. Gates will open at 6:30 p.m., and screenings begin at sunset. Attendees are encouraged to bring low lawn chairs, blankets and warm clothing. Popular food trucks will be on site during each screening.

In addition to hosting the Oscars Outdoors screening series, the venue is expected to serve the Academy and the community as an event space for special screenings, educational programs and other functions, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The Academy’s summer and fall programming calendar is available here.

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In ‘The Letter,’ Bette Davis captivates as a woman both elegant and evil

The Letter/1940/Warner Bros. Pictures/95 min.

“Strange that a man can live with a woman for 10 years and not know the first thing about her,” says Howard Joyce (James Stephenson) in 1940’s “The Letter,” directed by William Wyler. The woman in question is Leslie Crosbie (Bette Davis), vivacious, charming, self-assured and willful. The man is her husband Bob (Herbert Marshall), sweet, gentle, kind and trusting, and apparently not the sharpest tool in the shed. Or maybe he’s just too busy with work – he runs a rubber plantation in British Malaya. Leslie runs the house and occupies her free time with lace work, tennis parties and gin slings.

Bette Davis and Herbert Marshall play a married couple in "The Letter" from 1940 by director William Wyler.

Howard, a lawyer and friend of the couple, makes his comment in the course of defending Leslie after their tranquil existence suddenly becomes threatened. While Bob is away on business, Leslie receives a late-night visit by an acquaintance, Geoff Hammond, who professes his love for her and tries to force himself on her. So, she shoots him dead; a clear case of self-defense to hear her tell the story. And who doesn’t believe Bette Davis when she’s holding court?

It’s an unpleasant matter, “horrible,” as she says, to be dispensed with as quickly and neatly as the British colonial justice system will allow. And that’s pretty quickly and neatly as these are white, upper-middle-class, upstanding citizens of the empire. It’s smooth sailing, until the appearance of a letter, in Leslie’s handwriting, demanding that Hammond come over the night of the murder and noting that Bob would be away all night.

The letter is in the possession of Hammond’s wife (Gale Sondergaard), a Eurasian native, and she’s willing to let it go for $10,000. But keeping it away from the prosecution and keeping it away from Bob are two different things.

While “The Letter” predates the most prolific period of classic American film noir and its femme fatale is a patrician, married Englishwoman, it is nevertheless a fine example of the form. Just look at the dark, moody, high-contrast lighting, courtesy of cinematographer Tony Gaudio. Nearly every interior scene contains shadowy black bars suggesting confinement. Exterior scenes of lush moonlit landscapes and close-ups of those Bette Davis eyes (the opening scene is particularly memorable) convey the surfacing of the wild, devilish impulses we all struggle to contain.

Then there’s the taut direction by Wyler and sterling acting all round. Wyler, one of Hollywood’s most admired directors, demanded subtlety from Davis, knowing that her strength would resonate on its own. As Leslie Crosbie, she’s an extremely complex femme fatale, equal parts supreme elegance and base evil, one minute winning our sympathy, the next minute making us feel like utter fools for liking her.

Known for being a perfectionist, the German-born Wyler earned the nicknames “90-take Willie” and “Once Again Wyler.” He and Davis had worked together on 1938’s “Jezebel” (for which she won her second Oscar; the first was for “Dangerous” from 1935, directed by Alfred E. Green). Wyler and Davis had an affair that lasted through the production of “Jezebel.” He remained one of her favorite directors. Wyler won three best director Oscars, for 1942’s “Mrs. Miniver, “The Best Years of Our Lives” from 1946 and 1959’s “Ben-Hur.” [Read more...]

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