‘M’ and ‘While the City Sleeps’ to screen at Lacma

Peter Lorre became a star playing a serial killer in the German classic “M.”

Peter Lorre became a star playing a serial killer in the German classic “M.”

Two of director Fritz Lang’s personal favorites among his prodigious oeuvre will play Friday night (Oct. 24) at the Los Angeles County Museum (Lacma)’s Bing Theater: “M” (1931), which he made in Germany, and “While the City Sleeps” (1956), one of his final Hollywood films.

Considered by some critics to be a prototype film noir, “M” stars Peter Lorre as a child killer on the run from both the police and his fellow criminals. It is a deeply chilling performance by Lorre in an unforgettable film.

“While the City Sleeps” is a cynical newspaper saga starring Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, Rhonda Fleming, George Sanders, Vincent Price, Howard Duff and John Drew Barrymore. Andrews plays a New York City journalist on the trail of a serial murderer.

The screenings are presented in conjunction with the exhibition Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s, an exploration of German Expressionist films, co-presented with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Additionally, on Saturday night (Oct. 25), the Bing will feature two noirish fantasy films: Tim Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” and “Edward Scissorhands.”

Vincent Price and Rhonda Fleming are up to no good in “While the City Sleeps” from 1956.

Vincent Price and Rhonda Fleming are up to no good in “While the City Sleeps” from 1956.

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The Film Noir File: Otto Preminger paints it black, twice

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The 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).

Pick of the Week: Preminger Noir on Saturday, April 19

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney star in “Laura” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney star in “Laura” and “Where the Sidewalk Ends.”

Otto Preminger, a prickly auteur with a sometimes mean disposition, claimed not to know what “film noir” meant and often ridiculed interviewers who asked him about it. But in the ’40s and ’50s, the Viennese émigré and nemesis of censors and philistines directed a string of stylish black-and-white, gloomily fatalistic crime pictures that epitomized the whole genre. Two of Otto’s best are showing this Saturday, and you can watch them as a double feature, starting at 8 p.m. EST/5 p.m. PST.

First up is Preminger’s adaptation of Vera Caspary’s best-selling novel of murder and romance in high-style ’40s New York City, “Laura.” This classic is followed by the sharp, moody Ben Hecht-scripted drama of obsessive police and ruthless gangsters “Where the Sidewalk Ends.” Both movies star Dana Andrews as a tough cop and Gene Tierney as a glamour girl, and both of them helped define noir – even if Preminger couldn’t or wouldn‘t.

Laura” (1944, Otto Preminger). 8 p.m. (5 p.m.), Saturday, April 19. With Tierney, Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price and Judith Anderson.

Where the Sidewalk Ends” (1950, Otto Preminger). Saturday, April 19. With Andrews, Tierney, Gary Merrill and Karl Malden. [Read more...]

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The Film Noir File: Sam Fuller takes us down ‘Shock Corridor’

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).

Pick of the Week

Shock Corridor” (1963, Samuel Fuller). 10 p.m. (7 p.m.), Saturday, March 29.

Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 16, 2011.

Friday, March 28

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “The Racket” (1928, Lewis Milestone). The first movie version of playwright/screenwriter/Chicago crime reporter Bartlett Cormack’s tense play about the war of nerves between a tough, obsessed police captain and a brutal mob boss. With Thomas Meighan, Louis Wolheim and Marie Prevost. The movie was remade in 1951 at Howard Hughes’ RKO (by director John Cromwell), with Robert Mitchum and Robert Ryan.

Night of the Living Dead poster1:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.): “Night of the Living Dead” (1968, George Romero). With a plague of blood-thirsty, lurching, relentlessly oncoming zombies rampaging all over the Pittsburgh area, a group of bickering and sometimes hysterical survivors barricade themselves in a suburban house near a graveyard, and try to survive the longest night of their lives. One of the most noirish – and certainly one of the scariest – of all low-budget horror classics, directed (and written) by George Romero with nerve-rending, savage black-and-white pseudo-realism and some macabre humor. Starring Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea.

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich). With Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Victor Buono and Anna Lee. Reviewed in FNB on July 28, 2012.

Saturday, March 29

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “His Girl Friday” (1940, Howard Hawks). With Cary Grant. Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy, Gene Lockhart and John Qualen. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 22, 2013.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Shock Corridor” (1963, Samuel Fuller). See Pick of the Week.

Rhonda Fleming and Vincent Price are supporting players in "While the City Sleeps."

Rhonda Fleming and Vincent Price are supporting players in “While the City Sleeps.”

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “While the City Sleeps” (1956, Fritz Lang). The great film noir director Fritz Lang worked even longer in Hollywood than he did in Germany, and of all the pictures of his American career, his two favorites were reportedly the 1936 lynch-mob classic “Fury” (starring Spencer Tracy and scripted by Bartlett Cormack), and the lesser-known crime thriller “While The City Sleeps.” Set in a big metropolitan newspaper which is in the throes of transition and a possible take-over, the movie’s complex plot revolves around both the corporate battles at the paper, and the big news story that is consuming the city and the newsroom: a series of vicious serial slayings by an unknown psychopathic killer. It’s an engrossing melodrama, steeped in stark, boozy, big-city ’50s atmosphere.

The remarkable cast is headed by noir mainstays Dana Andrews and Ida Lupino (as star reporters). Andrews and Lupino bring a whole raft of urban noir memories along with them. So does the supporting cast of journalists, executives and crime-fighters, played by George Sanders, Vincent Price, Thomas Mitchell, Howard Duff, Rhonda Fleming, James Craig, Sally Forrest and Mae Marsh. The young leather-jacketed psycho-killer they’re after is played by John Barrymore, Jr. (aka John Drew Barrymore, John Barrymore’s son and Drew Barrymore’s dad.)

That all-star cast and Lang’s moody mastery of big-city tension and cynicism keep you on the hook. Though we wouldn’t rank this picture above “Scarlet Street” and “The Big Heat” (which Lang apparently did), it’s an underseen, underrated gem of film noir, hot off the presses, from the genre’s heyday.

The Lady from Shanghai posterSunday, March 30

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948, Orson Welles). With Welles, Rita Hayworth, Everett Sloane and Glenn Anders. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 26, 2013.

Monday, March 31

9 p.m. (6 p.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.

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): North by Northwest” (1959, Alfred Hitchcock). With Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason and Martin Landau. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 17, 2012.

 

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Susan Andrews to introduce ‘Laura’ at the Egyptian Theatre

The delightful, urbane and unapologetically posh film noir “Laura” (1944, Otto Preminger) screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.

Here’s a quick synopsis from the event organizers: Investigating a murder, chain-smoking Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews) falls in love with the dead woman, only to find out it wasn’t she who was murdered. The brilliant cast includes Gene Tierney as the gorgeous Laura, Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker and Vincent Price as Laura’s fiancé, Shelby Carpenter. The film is said to have been an inspiration for David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks.”

You can read my full review of “Laura” here.

Dana Andrews’ daughter, Susan Andrews, will introduce the movie. Author Carl Rollyson will sign copies of his book “Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews” at 6:30 p.m. in the lobby. (“Laura” was recently released on Blu-ray and is a great addition to your film library.)

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The Noir File: Dark treats from Preminger, Dassin and Lang

Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney are one of film noir’s great couples.

By Michael Wilmington & 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

Where the Sidewalk Ends” (1950, Otto Preminger). Thursday, Dec. 27, 1:15 a.m. (10:15 p.m.).
While investigating a murder, a smart but sometimes savage Manhattan police detective named Mark Dixon (Dana Andrews) accidentally kills an innocent suspect (Craig Stevens). Dixon tries to cover it up, but his relentless new boss Lt. Thomas (Karl Malden) keeps pushing the evidence toward an affable cabbie named Jiggs (Tom Tully). And Dixon has fallen in love with Jiggs’ daughter, model Morgan Taylor (Gene Tierney). Gary Merrill plays a crook/gambler.

Scripted by Ben Hecht from William Stuart’s book “Night Cry.” If you want to know what film noir is all about, check this one out.

Thursday, Dec. 27

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Black Widow” (1954, Nunnally Johnson). Crime among the Broadway elite, from one of Patrick Quentin’s mystery novels. Not much style, but the cast includes Van Heflin, Ginger Rogers, Gene Tierney, George Raft and Peggy Ann Garner.

4:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.): “Night and the City” (1950, Jules Dassin). 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 masterpiece of style and suspense. From Gerald Kersh’s novel; with Gene Tierney, Herbert Lom, Francis L. Sullivan and Googie Withers.

Sunday, Dec. 30

8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.): “Bunny Lake is Missing” (1965, Otto Preminger). Bunny Lake is an American child kidnapped in London, Carol Lynley her terrified mother, Keir Dullea her concerned uncle, Anna Massey her harassed teacher, Noel Coward her sleazy landlord, and Laurence Olivier the brainy police detective trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The most important of those pieces: Was Bunny ever really there at all? A neglected gem; based on Evelyn Piper’s novel.

4 a.m. (1 a.m.): “Ministry of Fear” (1944, Fritz Lang). Ray Milland, just released from a British mental institution, wins the wrong cake at a charity raffle and becomes ensnared in a nightmarish web of espionage and murder. The source is one of novelist Graham Greene’s “entertainments.” Co-starring Marjorie Reynolds and Dan Duryea.

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Murder and martinis with a twist: ‘Laura’ brings us butlers, bodies and banter

Laura/ 1944/ Twentieth Century Fox/88 min.

“Laura” makes me nostalgic for a life I never led — the adventures of a 1940s career girl living in Manhattan: landing a job on Madison Avenue, buying suits and silk stockings for work, renting a place for $40/month, meeting handsome men, dinner and drinks at the Stork Club, weekend trips to the country.

Of course, “Laura” does have a few downsides — murder and mistaken identity, for starters. Seems that turning every head and being the toast of the town, as is the case with the charming and lovely Laura (Gene Tierney), may prove very dangerous. In a series of flashbacks, we learn the details of Laura’s life and it appears that in addition to having many admirers, she attracted an enemy or two as well.

The movie starts with Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) setting the scene. Lydecker, a campy, sybaritic writer, played mentor to Laura as she made a name for herself in advertising and he’s extremely proud of his protegee’s success, especially her popularity with men.

Lydecker is also, quite rightly, very proud of his apartment, with its animal-print chairs and a chunky bathtub equipped with a swiveled tray for his Smith Corona typewriter. I love this Lydecker line: “In my case, self-absorption is completely justified. I have never discovered any other subject quite so worthy of my attention.”

Later, he tells Laura, “For you, a lean, strong body is the measure of a man.” I knew I liked Laura. That doesn’t mean she’s picked the right man, however. She’s engaged to smarmy, sleazy Shelby (Vincent Price) and he clearly doesn’t deserve her.

Once the murder (I’ll keep this a bit vague so I don’t spoil it) is committed, we meet the anti-society, take-no-guff Det. Lt. Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), who questions the upper-crust types that populate Laura’s world. Mark may lack social graces but he’s definitely a lean, strong body worth rooting for. And Mark definitely falls for Laura.

Amid his investigation, there’s plenty of cocktail conversation, pretentious accents, gorgeous gowns and quirky personalities. And after realizing Murder No. 1 was a bit careless, the killer strikes again.

Beautifully put together and immensely entertaining, “Laura” was nominated for five Academy Awards – art direction, screenplay, director, supporting actor (Webb) and b&w cinematography. Joseph LaShelle won for cinematography.

Based on a popular novel by Vera Caspary, the screenplay by Jay Dratler, Samuel Hoffenstein and Betty Reinhardt, with uncredited help from Ring Lardner Jr., is full of wit and Algonquin-caliber one liners. The wonderfully lush music came from David Raksin.

Otto Preminger served as producer and took over as director after Fox chief Darryl Zanuck pulled Rouben Mamoulian off the job. Preminger replaced the original cinematographer Lucien Ballard with LaShelle.

In 1977, the New Yorker called the movie: “Everybody’s favorite chic murder mystery.” This is no B picture. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have a dark side. With its treatment of sexual obsession, casual betrayal and class structure, “Laura” explores raw themes in a refined setting.

One of noir’s great strengths is that as a genre it very frankly challenged the myth that America was a classless society and pointed out that patrician elegance bred corruption just as much as, if not more than, the streetwise desperation of common criminals. [Read more...]

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‘Laura’ quick hit

Laura/ 1944/ Twentieth Century Fox/88 min.

Part polished whodunit, part classic noir, this elegant, urbane thriller stars Gene Tierney in one of her most famous roles. Suspects and surprises abound as do witty one-liners and ’40s high style. Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price are the men in Laura’s life. Otto Preminger directs.

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