On the radar: Events galore at WeHo Reads Noir; ‘Nightcrawler’ at Beyond Fest; ‘True Detective’ gets a clue

Rachel McAdams rocks and we’d love to see her on “True Detective.”

Rachel McAdams rocks and we’d love to see her on season two of
HBO’s “True Detective.”

WeHo Reads event flyerThe City of West Hollywood has been celebrating National Literacy Month with a series of free events collectively called WeHo Reads Noir. On Saturday, Sept. 27, there will be a day of panels, presentations, theater, poetry, art, music and film.

At 7:15 p.m. on Saturday, there will be a free outdoor screening of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”

Nightcrawler,” starring Jake Gyllenhaal as an LA crime photographer, is the must-see title Friday, Sept. 26, at Beyond Fest 2014, which runs through Oct. 4 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The movie will open in theaters next month.

Nightcrawler posterAs the organizers put it: The fest is dedicated to delivering the elite in horror, sci-fi, fantasy and badass cinema. This year’s programming reflects a globally diverse and eclectic mix of premieres, rare repertory screenings and special events, all of which are anchored in bringing firsts to genre fans in Los Angeles.

Beyond Fest has also partnered with Robert Rodriguez’s El Rey Network as its presenting sponsor, a partnership that will make much of the festival’s programming free to creative makers and film fans alike.

Rachel McAdams is said to be locking down the female lead role in season two of HBO’s “True Detective.” Read details here.

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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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Power suits, stylin’ pumps: Working girls’ wardrobes on display

I have a retro kitchen magnet that declares: “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you do your hair.” And how you wear your clothes.

The Best of Everything posterFor proof, just look at “The Best of Everything” (1959, Jean Negulesco), which screens at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre. In this slick and sexy melodrama, based on a Rona Jaffe novel, Joan Crawford holds court in a New York City publishing house. She’s dressed to the nines in every scene, natch. Her perfectly appointed co-stars are Hope Lange, Diane Baker and Suzy Parker (and look out for a young Robert Evans).

At 2 p.m., there will be an illustrated talk called “Working Women’s Fashion,” which organizers describe as follows:  From Rosie the Riveter to Mary Tyler Moore, explore how working women have influenced fashion from the 1940s to the 1970s. Using period images from myvintagevogue.com and a runway show of vintage examples from clevervintageclothing.com, clothing historian Dave Temple will discuss how working women changed the fashion landscape forever.

A fashion show will follow the talk. Additionally, there will be a clothing sale in the Egyptian’s courtyard from noon to 6 p.m.

Now put it in your planner and don’t be late!

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Noir City Hollywood: Don’t miss the final days!

Noir City: Hollywood, the 16th annual festival of film noir, at the Egyptian Theatre will be over before you know it! So plan to take a prowl …

There are double features on Thursday and Friday. On Saturday, “Detour” screens, followed by the festival’s wrap party.

M posterOn Sunday is this rare treat: Joseph Losey’s 1951 version of “M” and “The Hitch-Hiker,” which is the only American film noir directed by a woman: Ida Lupino.

Losey’s American remake of Fritz Lang’s classic from 1931 follows a child murderer being simultaneously hunted by the police and the underworld. “M” stars David Wayne, Howard Da Silva, Luther Adler, Steve Brodie, Raymond Burr, Norman Lloyd, Walter Burke and Jim Backus.

Next up is “The Hitch-Hiker” (1953), a groundbreaking, fact-based story of two pals on a Mexican fishing trip kidnapped by a serial killer. Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy, William Talman and José Torvay star.

Both films screen in newly restored 35mm prints thanks to the Library of Congress. The fest is co-presented by the American Cinematheque and the Film Noir Foundation.

See you in the dark!

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Noir City returns; program includes French, British, Italian films

Rififi posterIt’s almost time to take one of our favorite trips of the year: A one-way ticket to Noir City at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood!

Starting Friday, the American Cinematheque and the Film Noir Foundation will present their 16th annual festival of film noir. Jaded gumshoes, femmes fatale and menacing heavies will reign supreme in gloriously gritty black and white. The fest runs through April 6, with a stand-out celebration on April 5.

We at FNB are especially excited to see the fest expand to include film noir from abroad with evenings devoted to French (“Two Men in Manhattan,” “Rififi,” “Jenny Lamour), British (“It Always Rains on Sunday,” “Brighton Rock”) and Italian (“Ossessione”) noir.

Ossessione posterThe program pays tribute to a trio of talented actresses who died in 2013 with noir nights devoted to Joan Fontaine (“Born to Be Bad”, “Ivy”), Eleanor Parker (“Caged,” “Detective Story”) and Audrey Totter (“Tension,” “Alias Nick Beal”).

Actor Dan Duryea will be honored on opening night, March 21, with this enticing double feature: “Too Late for Tears” (a new 35mm restoration) and “Larceny.” Also to be honored (on other nights): writer David Goodis and director Hugo Fregonese.

Be sure to join FNF co-directors Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode as they host another exciting excursion into the dark recesses of Hollywood’s most lasting artistic movement, film noir.

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Film noir greats ‘Shadow of a Doubt,’ In a Lonely Place,’ Double Indemnity’ and more on the big screen in LA

By Film Noir Blonde and Michael Wilmington

Shadow of a Doubt” (1943, Alfred Hitchcock) is the 1 p.m. matinee Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).

A bright and beautiful small town girl named Charlotte “Charlie” Newton (Teresa Wright) is bored. Bored with her well-ordered home in her Norman Rockwellish little city of Santa Rosa, Calif., – where trees line the sunlit streets, everyone goes to church on Sunday and lots of them read murder mysteries at night. Charlie has more exotic dreams. She adores her globe-trotting, urbane Uncle Charlie Oakley (Joseph Cotten) – for whom she was nicknamed – and is deliriously happy when he shows up in Santa Rosa for a visit.

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright play kindred spirits, sort of, in “Shadow.”

But Uncle Charlie has some secrets that no one in his circle would guess – not Uncle Charlie’s adoring sister (Patricia Collinge), nor his good-hearted brother-in-law (Henry Travers), nor their mystery-loving neighbor Herbie (Hume Cronyn), nor Charlie herself. Uncle Charlie, who conceals a darker personality and profession beneath his charming persona, is on the run, pursued by a dogged police detective (Macdonald Carey), who suspects him of being a notorious serial killer who seduces rich old widows and kills them for their money. As handsome, cold-blooded Uncle Charlie, Cotten, who also called “Shadow” his personal favorite film, is, with Robert Walker and Anthony Perkins, one of the three great Hitchcockian psychopaths.

“Shadow of a Doubt,” released in 1943, was Hitchcock’s sixth American movie and the one he often described as his favorite. As he explained to François Truffaut, this was because he felt that his critical enemies, the “plausibles,” could have nothing to quibble about with “Shadow.” It was written by two superb chroniclers of Americana, Thornton Wilder (“Our Town”) and Sally Benson (“Meet Me in St. Louis”), along with Hitch’s constant collaborator, wife Alma Reville. The result is one of the supreme examples of Hitchcockian counterpoint: with a sunny, tranquil background against which dark terror erupts.

Barbara Stanwyck book

On Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., the American Cinematheque presents a Nicholas Ray night at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood: “Johnny Guitar,” starring Joan Crawford and Sterling Hayden, and “In a Lonely Place,” starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. As Jean-Luc Godard said: “Nicholas Ray is the cinema.” And speaking of Godard, the AC’s Aero Theatre is hosting a Godard retrospective, starting Feb. 20.

Femmes fatales don’t particularly like birthdays, but here’s an exception:  “Double Indemnity” turns 70 this year! Did you know Raymond Chandler made a cameo in the film? Read the story here.

And be sure to attend on Sunday, Feb. 9, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica: Barbara Stanwyck biographer Victoria Wilson will sign her book and introduce a screening of “Double Indemnity” and “The Bitter Tea of General Yen.” The signing starts at 6:30 p.m. and the show starts at 7:30 p.m.

Wilson has two other signings coming up; for details, call Larry Edmunds Bookshop at 323-463-3273.

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Prescription for retro glamour: A look back at Schwab’s

Sunset b & wHeading to the West Hollywood Rite-Aid to do a little schmoozing? Not bloody likely. But, in Tinseltown’s golden age, Schwab’s Pharmacy, at 8024 Sunset Blvd., ranked as one of the city’s top spots to meet, greet, mix and mingle.

A program Saturday at the Egyptian Theatre highlighted the pivotal role Schwab’s played in Hollywood networking from the 1930s to the 1960s. Teacher/history buff Marc Chevalier delivered a photo-driven presentation, followed by a short that was filmed at Schwab’s to promote a 1946 bio-pic, “The Jolson Story,” and the exquisite movie “Sunset Blvd.” (1950, Billy Wilder), which features the drugstore in a key scene.

Chevalier started his talk with a cherchez la femme angle. The property – on the south side of Sunset Boulevard, between Laurel Avenue and Crescent Heights – first belonged to Dr. George E. Paddleford and his wife, Genevieve McKinney Toomey Teal Paddleford, a “international adventuress and love pirate,” with a string of duped husbands.

The Sunset Medical Building complex opened its doors in 1931.

The Sunset Medical Building in the 1930s. Schwab’s was to the right of the window awning (far right).

The Paddlefords owned lots 1, 2 and 29 of the Crescent Heights tract and built a mansion on lot 2. Fond of giving Dr. Paddleford’s expensive cuff links and other valuable belongings to her lovers, Genevieve drew her husband’s ire and the couple divorced around 1920. She left for Europe where she continued to live the high life, charm men, court scandal, oh and steal stuff from Ritz-Carlton hotels.

Dr. Paddleford (an associate of oil magnate Edward L. Doheny) sold the property and in 1931 architects Alvan Norstrom and Milton Anderson designed the Sunset Medical Building for developers C.H. Thomsen and W.L. Easley. The year before, for the same developers, Norstrom and Anderson designed a building directly across the street. It’s in use today as the Laugh Factory and Greenblatt’s Deli.

Schwab’s was a place to see and be seen.

Schwab’s was a place to see and be seen.

Despite the prosaic name (it became known as the Crescent Heights Shopping Center and later simply “The Corner”), the new building turned out to be a modern-day palace. Its front and side facades were clad in dark tan marble from Southern France and trimmed in rosso levanto Italian marble. (At the time, the only other commercial structure in Los Angeles that boasted so much marble was downtown’s Merritt Building from 1915.) Inside The Corner, rooms were paneled and floored in mahogany; some had terrazzo marble floors. Doctors’ and dentists’ offices were on the second level. A covered-bridge walkway allowed patients to cross from one wing to another. The back court had a 30-space parking lot.

Nearby was the Spanish-Moorish style Garden of Allah apartment complex, originally owned by actress Alla Nazimova in 1919; the Garden was torn down in 1959. Many residents from this chic residence supported businesses at The Corner.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was among the notable residents at the Garden of Allah.

F. Scott Fitzgerald was among the notable residents at the Garden of Allah.

Norstrom and Anderson’s marble stunner housed several merchants on the ground floor, including Richard Talmadge, former actor and stuntman for Douglas Fairbanks, who ran a flower shop, and the owner of the Crescent Heights Market, Ben Ruben, known for insulting his customers at no extra charge. Howard Hughes treated his girlfriends to makeovers at the beauty salon.

In 1932, the Schwab brothers (Bernard, Leon, Jack and Martin) took over a failing drugstore in the complex; they would eventually own six pharmacies. But Schwab’s on Sunset wasn’t just a place to drop off a prescription or buy toiletries. Open from 7 a.m. to midnight, the gathering spot served meals as well as soda-fountain drinks. The store had five phone booths and frequently offered automatic credit. Customers could also buy high-end liquor, tobacco, chocolate, perfume and cosmetics. There was no charge for deliveries.

Billy Wilder filmed the Schwab’s  scene at Paramount.

Billy Wilder filmed the Schwab’s scene at Paramount.

In the movie “Sunset Blvd.,” William Holden’s character, a struggling screenwriter named Joe Gillis, tells us the pharmacy is his headquarters, explaining: “That’s the way a lot of us think about Schwab’s. Kind of a combination office, coffee klatch and waiting room. Waiting, waiting for the gravy train.” (Though it would seem the ideal location shoot, Wilder had the interior recreated and filmed on a Paramount lot.)

Arguably, what made Schwab’s the place to network and nosh was the fact that journalist/actor/producer Sidney Skolsky wrote his Photoplay column “From a Stool at Schwab’s” in a second-floor office, by arrangement with the Schwab family.

Sidney Skolsky and Marilyn Monroe attend an industry function.

Sidney Skolsky and Marilyn Monroe attend an industry function.

Among Skolsky’s many talents was a knack for nicknames and he dubbed the drugstore Schwabadero’s, an allusion to the Trocadero nightclub down the street. (Even more famously, in 1934, he was the first journalist to write a story using Oscar to refer to the Academy Award.) As a producer on the 1946 movie “The Jolson Story,” it was Skolsky’s idea to shoot the after-party at Schwab’s and use the footage as a publicity short.

Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Mickey Cohen, Gloria Swanson, Judy Garland, the Marx Brothers, Cesar Romero and Shelley Winters were regular Schwabadero’s customers. Marilyn Monroe, another loyal patron, reportedly left messages for Skolsky, under the name Miss Caswell. Charlie Chaplin and Ava Gardner stopped in and made their own milkshakes.

Though it’s widely thought that Lana Turner was discovered sipping a soda at Schwab’s, in fact it was at the Top Hat malt shop, several blocks east on Sunset, that in 1937, at age 16, she attracted the attention of Hollywood Reporter publisher William Wilkerson.

Debunking the myth: Lana Turner was discovered at a malt shop down the street from Schwab’s.

Lana Turner was discovered at a malt shop down the street from Schwab’s.

By the time Schwab’s had its closeup in “Sunset Blvd.,” Russian immigrant/Beverly Hills businessman Martin Belousoff owned the property. In 1949, Googie’s coffee shop, designed by architect John Lautner in Space Age/midcentury modern style, was built nearby and served customers such as James Dean, Marlon Brando and beat-generation poets. (Googie’s lasted until 1989.)

Compared with Googie’s, Schwab’s looked passé and in 1955 Belousoff decided to remodel inside and out, commissioning architects Louis Armet and Eldon Davis for the job. But not long after Schwab’s updated, new Sunset Strip venues were opening up and gaining popularity with aspiring stars and ’60s hipsters.

Schwab’s, which had been in business for 50 years and earned worldwide fame as a Hollywood hive of activity, closed its doors in 1983 and was torn down in 1988. But it remains Hollyood’s most famous drugstore – a legendary place to sip sodas, schmooze, spot stars and, like many a prospective Lana Turner, strut your stuff.

Schwab's was open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

Schwab’s was open from 7 a.m. to midnight.

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On the radar: ‘Lee Miller in Fashion,’ front-row seats at MBFW, Toronto film fest in full swing, 3-D film noir in Hollywood

Model, muse and photographer Lee Miller

I’m looking forward to reading Becky E. Conekin’s new book, “Lee Miller in Fashion.” The NYT’s Cathy Horyn says the book is very engaging and nicely researched.

Want front-row seats at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in New York? You can watch the shows here. MBFW started Thursday, Sept. 5, and runs through Sept. 12.

Jim Jarmusch’s new movie, a vampire romance called “Only Lovers Left Alive,” screened Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Toronto International Film Fest. The fest runs Sept. 5-15.

The World 3-D Film Fest starts Friday, Sept. 6, at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. “Dial M for Murder” shows Sunday and there is a special film-noir night on Sept. 12! The fest runs through Sept. 15.

Meanwhile, the Hitch fest continues on TCM. “Vertigo” ran Thursday, as noted on the FNB facebook/twitter feeds, and the Sunday schedule is packed with great titles.

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Film noir gets a Hawaiian punch Saturday at the Egyptian

New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago … these are the cities we usually associate with the grim, glamorous tales of film noir.

But when you get the rare chance to see a noir with a more exotic setting, it’s all the more memorable. The American Cinematheque is offering just such a viewing opp when it goes tiki on Saturday, June 1.

Noir stalwart Marie Windsor stars in this unusual example of the genre.

The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood is showing “Hell’s Half Acre” (1954, John Auer), which was filmed in filmed in Honolulu. Evelyn Keyes stars as a dancer combing the streets of Honolulu’s red-light district to hunt for her missing G.I. husband (Wendell Corey), who she believes is alive and writing songs in Hawaii.

Turns out, he’s also a gangster vying with Philip Ahn for control of the island’s vice rackets. Toss sultry, statuesque Marie Windsor into the mix, and it’s pulp nirvana, says the Cinematheque.

The party starts at 5 p.m. in the Egyptian’s courtyard, where there will performances from King Kukulele & the Friki Tikis and the Polynesian Paradise Dancers, tiki vendors and a cash bar with Polynesian drinks. A slide show and a 50th anniversary tribute to the Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room by Bob Baker’s Marionettes will precede the 7:30 p.m. screening.

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