Film Noir File: When ‘The Apartment’ invites us in, we can’t say no

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 Apartment posterThe Apartment” (1960, Billy Wilder). Friday, December 19; 5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.),

Laugh-wise, it’s one of the classic American romantic comedies. But “The Apartment’s” high-style black and white look, mordant script, pungent dialogue, sense of entrapment, and sharp savvy urban mood are all very noir. So, of course, is the co-writer/director, the great Billy (“Double Indemnity”) Wilder.

The Apartment” is Wilder’s comic-romantic ’60s masterpiece: a funny, stinging, dark portrayal of American corporate culture circa 1960 and the behind-the-scenes sexism, sex and sleaze that fuels it all, success-wise. Jack Lemmon, at his ebullient best, is C. C. (Buddy) Baxter, a rising young insurance-company employee who lends his apartment to his bosses for their extramarital shenanigans, in return for favorable job reports.

Shirley MacLaine is Fran Kubelik, the winsome drop-dead gorgeous elevator girl of Baxter’s dreams. And Fred MacMurray is Jeff Sheldrake, his boss, her married lover, and the man who (job-wise and infidelity-wise) holds the keys and calls the shots.

The movie takes place during the Christmas season, a not-so-joyous holiday time that Baxter’s horny bosses and tenants treat with little sentiment and much cynicism – a background that only emphasizes Baxter’s loneliness.

Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon play colleagues who are well versed in the seamier side of Corporate America.

Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon play colleagues who are well versed in the seamier side of Corporate America.

There are two main settings, co-designed by Alexander Trauner (ingenious art director of the French classic “Children of Paradise”). First: Baxter’s slightly worn brownstone digs on Central Park West, where he strains spaghetti through a tennis racket and can’t quite get “Grand Hotel” on his dinky TV.

And second: the gleaming high-rise building and the floor where Baxter toils, among a sea of co-workers, modeled after King Vidor’s vast impersonal office space in “The Crowd.” It is there that our boy Baxter will learn, step by risqué step, that you can’t get a key to the executive washroom without getting your hands dirty.

Wilder’s main cinematic inspiration here, besides Vidor, Ernst Lubitsch and some of Billy’s fellow expatriate noir-masters, was David Lean’s and Noel Coward’s peerless 1945 extramarital romance “Brief Encounter,” starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson, who have a chance to rendezvous in a friend’s pad but don’t end up doing so. In “The Apartment,” Wilder lets his imagination run wild and the results, comedy-wise, are bittersweet, hilarious and marvelous.

I.A.L. Diamond, Wilder’s witty fellow scribe on “Some Like It Hot,” co-wrote the script; Adolph Deutsch composed the effulgent score. Jack Kruschen (as Baxter’s mensch of a Jewish doctor neighbor), Ray Walston, Edie Adams and Hope Holiday ably support the three stars – who are all at their absolute best. A multiple Oscar winner and an enduring classic that can still make you tear up, nod in recognition or laugh your bum off, it’s one of own personal favorites. Wilder-wise. [Read more...]

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Baby Jane wants an Oscar and she wants it right now!

Bette Davis, Jack Warner and Joan Crawford in 1962.

Bette Davis, Jack Warner and Joan Crawford in 1962.

Some trivia on Baby Jane and the golden guy …

Oscar statuetteBette Davis earned an Oscar and Golden Globe Best Actress nomination for her work in “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” She lost the Oscar to Anne Bancroft in “The Miracle Worker” and lost the Globe to Geraldine Page in “Sweet Bird of Youth.”

Davis desperately coveted that Oscar as it would have made her the first performer to win three Best Actress awards; she later claimed that Joan Crawford had campaigned against her. (Davis won in 1935 for “Dangerous” and in 1938 for “Jezebel”).

At the ceremony, Crawford (who had one Best Actress Oscar for 1945’s “Mildred Pierce”) accepted for the absent Bancroft. Crawford brushed by Davis, saying, “I have an Oscar to accept.”

In the category of Best Supporting Actor, Buono contended for both an Oscar and Golden Globe, but Ed Begley snagged the Oscar for “Sweet Bird of Youth” and Omar Sharif got the Globe for “Lawrence of Arabia.” (Interestingly, the handsome and charming Peter Lawford had been the first choice for Buono’s part and, by some accounts, even filmed a few scenes before dropping out.)

Bette Davis kisses her daughter B.D., who married at age 16.

Bette Davis kisses her daughter B.D., who married at age 16.

Director Robert Aldrich (along with Robert Mulligan for “To Kill a Mockingbird”) was nominated for the Palme D’Or director’s prize at the Cannes Film Festival, but that went to Luchino Visconti for “The Leopard.” It was at the film fest that Bette’s daughter B. D. met husband-to-be Jeremy Hyman; she married at age 16, with her mother’s approval.

Ernest Haller got an Oscar nod for best B&W cinematography. He lost to the lensmen behind “The Longest Day.” But “Baby Jane” is great looking and full of choice compositions, such as the shot of Jane’s bleary face shot through a cupboard full of empty liquor bottles.

“Baby Jane’s” wardrobe designer Norma Koch took home the prized statuette for B&W costume design. Blanche has a slightly Victorian vibe, wearing her dark silk dresses with oversize bows (Crawford insisted on wearing falsies) and an old-fashioned up-do. Jane fills out her faded, frilly frocks and scuffs around resentfully in shabby slippers. Hey, at least she’s practical – with all her boozing, heels might precipitate a tumble. Unbeknownst to Davis, the ratty blonde wig Jane wore was reportedly the same one Crawford wore in “The Ice Follies of 1939.”

Astonishingly, there was no Oscar for best makeup and hairstyling. That category was not introduced until 1981.

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Film noir family fun: ‘Baby Jane’ might help you bond this holiday season

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane posterWhat Ever Happened to Baby Jane?/1962/Warner Bros., et al/134 min.

Rocking the season of festive joy and family fun is always easier when you actually like your relatives. On the other hand, unresolved issues have a pesky perseverance, sort of like Aunt Milly’s traditional fruitcake that never leaves the fridge.

A case in point is “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich), a classic dark-humor domestic noir. In the movie, Sisters Blanche and Jane Hudson, two retired Golden Age actresses, are in dire need of a good therapist to help them navigate the layers of self-delusion and address the serious damage done by their rather warped parents.

“Baby Jane,” which stars the inimitable Joan Crawford and Bette Davis, was the only film in which these two supreme screen divas and stalwarts of film noir ever played together. Both were strong, gutsy, competitive actresses who didn’t shy away from a fight, especially with each other. The back story of longtime rivals Bette and Joan plotting battles and butting heads, literally and figuratively, is almost as famous as the movie itself. Nevertheless, their difficult offscreen relationship infuses the film with a delicious tension.

Davis is Baby Jane Hudson, a vaudeville child star whose talent expired when she hit puberty. Crawford plays Blanche Hudson, who, as an adult, became a highly regarded and popular Hollywood actress until a mysterious car accident ended her career.

Sisters Blanche (Joan Crawford) and Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) are two retired Golden Age actresses navigating a tormented relationship.

Sisters Blanche (Joan Crawford) and Jane Hudson (Bette Davis) are two retired Golden Age actresses navigating a tormented relationship.

Confined to a wheelchair, dignified and gracious Blanche lives in a sprawling house. Jane, bitter and brassy and long forgotten by her fans, has nowhere else to go so she tends to Blanche as best she can – in between guzzling bottles of gin and scotch. And she’s planning a comeback, reprising her decades-old hit song “I’m Writing a Letter to Daddy” with the help of a blubbery, unctuous ne’er-do-well musician named Edwin Flagg (Victor Buono).

Realizing that Jane is losing it, Blanche plans to sell the house, get some psychiatric help for baby sis and live in a smaller abode with their kind, caring housekeeper Elvira (Maidie Norman). Think Jane’s going for that? Not bloody likely.

Thus the stage is set for Crawford and Davis to duke it out, including a scene where Davis reportedly kicked Crawford’s forehead and stitches were required. Crawford retaliated by putting weights in her pockets for the scene in which Davis had to haul her around, spurring back trouble for Davis. So much for mellowing with age. As Davis once remarked, “Old age is no place for sissies.”

Joan Crawford reportedly put weights in her pockets for this scene with Bette Davis.

Joan Crawford reportedly put weights in her pockets for this scene with Bette Davis.

Other gossipy asides: Knowing that Crawford was on Pepsi-Cola Co.’s board of directors (a result of her marriage to the firm’s chairman and CEO Alfred Steele, from 1956 until his death in 1959), Davis had a Coke machine hauled on to the set.

Davis arranged for her daughter Barbara Merrill (later known as B.D. Hyman) to play a small role as teenage neighbor Liza Bates. Crawford carped about Babs’ acting ability, which was not exactly in abundant supply.

(And some trivia: Liza’s mom, Mrs. Bates, was played by Anna Lee, who played Bronwyn in 1941’s “How Green Was My Valley” and much later Mrs. Quartermaine on the TV soap “General Hospital.”)

For years, some critics sneered at “Baby Jane” calling it exploitative, campy, far-fetched and too long. Admittedly, it’s medium budget and there is a key plot point that turns on a very creaky hinge. But who cares? The chance to watch Davis dive into her role as grotesque Baby Jane with such pure relish and to see Crawford’s restrained, reined-in performance in the far less showy, perhaps more challenging, part of self-contained victim Blanche is an absolute delight. The supporting cast sparkles as well.

Victor Buono plays the unctuous ne’er-do-well musician named Edwin Flagg who is helping Baby Jane relaunch her career.

Victor Buono plays the unctuous ne’er-do-well musician named Edwin Flagg who is helping Baby Jane relaunch her career.

For all the glorious moments of black comedy, hats off to Lukas Heller’s script from the Henry Farrell novel. Ernest Haller received an Oscar nod for his luscious cinematography.

Following in the footsteps of Billy Wilder and “Sunset Blvd.,” Aldrich masterfully paints this sympathetic portrait of losers and those left behind by the Hollywood machine. And in the reversal at the finale, despite the arch humor throughout, Aldrich probes the poignant depths of a sibling relationship – evoking long-simmering feelings of resentment and guilt, regret and sadness.

Jane’s evil mind-games are chilling and her telephone impersonations of Blanche are hilarious. But what’s most unforgettable and perhaps most brave of Davis is Jane’s dreadful appearance. Her rat’s nest of bleached-blonde curls appears to be groomed on an annual basis. Jane’s caked-on cupid’s bow mouth and heavy bands of jet-black liner apparently made Davis cry when she finally saw herself onscreen. Davis described it as the look of a woman who never bothered to remove her makeup from day to day but simply kept adding more.

Would FNB dare to choose sides between these pioneers of female power, these bastions of bitchiness? Well of course she would! Team Joan is clearly the way to go. Disciplined, determined and driven, Crawford fought tooth and nail for everything she ever had. And she proved to have better business sense than Davis, asking for a percentage of “Baby Jane’s” profit whereas Davis settled for a flat fee. Last but not least, Crawford apparently tried to befriend an unreceptive Davis before the cameras started rolling.

The Warner Brothers DVD edition has a disc of extra goodies, including a short documentary comparing the careers of Davis and Crawford; a Turner bio feature of Davis, narrated by Jodie Foster; a clip of Davis on a ’70s TV show singing “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” and wearing a perfectly horrid old-lady dress; and a British TV interview with Crawford, looking and sounding as regal as the queen.

So, pop some corn, roast some chestnuts and gather the family to watch this delicious dysfunction. Happy holidays, everyone!

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Three neo-noirs open and a legendary blonde gets her day

Gena Rowlands makes her mark with the help of her son Nick Cassavetes (right).

Gena Rowlands makes her mark with the help of her son Nick Cassavetes (right).

Veteran actress Gena Rowlands knows that life is messy. She made her mark playing difficult, disturbed and complex women in films such as “A Woman Under the Influence,” “Faces” and “Gloria,” all made with her husband, the groundbreaking writer/director/actor John Cassavetes. (All three films garnered Oscar noms.)

But Rowlands, 84, recently dealt with a happy mess when she planted her hands and feet in wet cement at the TCL Chinese Theatre IMAX, formerly known as Grauman’s Chinese.

“I want to tell you one thing and I want you to listen,” she told the crowd at the ceremony last Friday. “If I get stuck in that cement, I expect all of you to help me out of it.”

Six Dance Lessons posterJoking aside, it’s hard to imagine Rowlands, with her gravelly voice, graceful posture and piercing blue eyes, needing help of any kind. To be sure, she’s delightful to watch in her latest vehicle, a comedy/drama called “Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks.”

Directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman and written by Richard Alfieri (from his hit play of the same name), the movie introduces us to two lonely-hearts: Rowlands as a bored widow named Lily with time on her hands and no one to twirl her around the ballroom, and Cheyenne Jackson as Michael, a snippy gay dance teacher with attitude and arrogance to spare. It’s familiar territory: the oddballs with nothing in common who clash at first, then find true camaraderie and lasting affection.

Somehow, it’s a tad hard to buy that the stunningly gorgeous Michael is really that hard up for guys to date. (On stage, David Hyde Pierce played Michael, opposite Uta Hagen.) And there are more than a few manufactured moments. But this is a fluffy, crowd-pleasing, feel-good flick.

At a recent press day, Rowlands said she welcomed the chance to play the role, given the paucity of good parts for older women. “They’ve been done sort of an injustice,” she said. “Older people are the ones who have been places and seen things and have insight.”

Rowlands’ crisp and independent Lily likely will resonate with viewers. “She just wasn’t going to take it. She just wasn’t going to be miserable,” said Rowlands. “She was going to have some fun.”

And Rowlands said she voiced her opinion about Lily’s sexy dancing dress, making sure it looked as tasteful as possible. As she put it: “I have not made a reputation on my bosom!”

Inherent Vice posterThe much-anticipated “Inherent Vice” (director Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel of Los Angeles in 1970) stands as an exemplar of the neo-noir canon.

As pothead private eye Doc Sportello, Joaquin Phoenix is grubby, raunchy and amusing throughout. Doc agrees to help his ex-girlfriend (Katherine Waterston) after she confides to him that her current lover’s life could be in danger. Doc’s snooping sets off a gloriously Byzantine plot in the tradition of “The Big Sleep,” “Out of the Past,” “D.O.A,” “Pulp Fiction” and “The Big Lebowski.”

Doc encounters an assortment of mostly corrupt malcontents, including Josh Brolin as a brutish cop, Owen Wilson as an airheaded surf musician, Jena Malone as his wry wife, Reese Witherspoon as a cynical district attorney not averse to puffing a joint, Benicio Del Toro as Doc’s hip lawyer, and Martin Short as an evil dentist.

Anderson provides assured direction as well as a script that is both slick and at times touching. “Inherent Vice” is a head-banging cinematic ride. It’s hard, however, to escape the feeling that this trippy, 148-minute excursion to hippiedom could be a little more entertaining, a little funnier than it is. Anderson puts his top-tier cast in comic situations and there are laughs, to be sure, just not quite enough to energize the material as a whole.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper posterIn “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” documentarian Nick Broomfield tells a riveting crime story of haunting sadness and infuriating injustice. But given that the crimes – the murders of at least 10 women, some of whom were prostitutes – took place in South Central Los Angeles it’s hardly surprising, according to London-born Broomfield, who describes Los Angeles as operating under apartheid.

Certainly, it is staggering to consider that the murders took place over a period of 22 years with apparently little effort by police to follow clues, connect the cases or alert the community to the potential danger. LA Weekly reporter Christine Pelisek broke the story in 2007. In 2010, a mechanic named Lonnie Franklin, now 62, was arrested and is awaiting trial.

The LAPD would not participate in Broomfield’s film so arguably there may be gaps or questions about the events. But one thing’s for sure: Watching Broomfield’s recounting of the facts will make your blood boil.

The Captive posterFrom its opening scene, “The Captive,” loosely based on an actual case in Ontario, Canada, declares itself an unconventional thriller. That’s not surprising given that it’s directed and co-written by unconventional filmmaker Atom Egoyan (“Where the Truth Lies,” “The Sweet Hereafter”).

The titular captive is a girl named Cass (Alexia Fast) who is abducted and held prisoner for close to a decade by an uber-creepy rich guy (Kevin Durand). Her parents, Mireille Enos and Ryan Reynolds, struggle to maintain hope that Cass is still alive; meanwhile their marriage is in tatters. Rosario Dawson and Scott Speedman are the cops trying to crack the case.

Some elements of “The Captive” are praiseworthy: the stark cinematography full of isolated, foreboding winterscapes; the weird, unnerving atmosphere; the raw performances. But the story feels ill conceived and randomly plotted, leading to a particularly hackneyed and hard-to-buy turn for Dawson’s tough, streetwise character. Unfortunately, the non-linear narrative doesn’t so much unfold as flop around, sometimes annoyingly, serving to create tedium more than tension.

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Film noir birthday boys honored on TCM and getTV

Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson star in 1959’s “A Hole in the Head,” directed by Frank Capra.

Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson star in 1959’s “A Hole in the Head,” directed by Frank Capra.

Frank Sinatra and Edward G. Robinson were both born Dec. 12. So, on Friday, TCM is running a b’day tribute to EGR. And getTV is celebrating Sinatra’s 99th birthday with a programming marathon and Twitter party.

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Film Noir File: Postman rings twice for Garfield and Granger

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 Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946, Tay Garnett). Sunday, Dec. 14; 6 a.m. (3 a.m.). With Lana Turner, John Garfield, Cecil Kellaway and Hume Cronyn.

Lana Turner, John Garfield and Cecil Kellaway are the players in the “Postman” love triangle.

Lana Turner, John Garfield and Cecil Kellaway are the players in the “Postman” love triangle.

In the opening of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” a sign reading “MAN WANTED” flashes at us twice. This man, John Garfield as it happens, is really wanted. But you wouldn’t know it from Lana Turner’s imperious entrance.

She drops a tube of lipstick, then deigns to let him pick it up and return it to her. He decides to let her get it herself. She’s unruffled and he’s hooked. In a way, these first few minutes of the film foreshadow the sexual power play between Garfield’s Frank and Turner’s Cora.

Read the full review here.

Friday, Dec. 12

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Kid Galahad” (1937, Michael Curtiz). In this archetypal boxing-gangsters crime drama, a bumpkin bellhop (Wayne Morris) with big natural prize-fighting talent, tangles with a wily promoter (Edward G. Robinson), a mean mobster (Humphrey Bogart) and a true-blue dame (Bette Davis). One of those ’30s movies that late-night TV audiences loved. Later remade by Phil Karlson as an Elvis Presley vehicle, “Kid Galahad” was a major prize winner at the 1937 Venice Film Festival.

Saturday, Dec. 13

12 p.m. (9 a.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. With Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten, Angela Lansbury and Dame May Whitty.

A distraught Tippi Hedren confronts a wary Sean Connery in “Marnie.”

A distraught Tippi Hedren confronts a wary Sean Connery in “Marnie.”

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Marnie” (1964, Alfred Hitchcock). With Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren, Diane Baker and Bruce Dern.

Sunday, Dec. 14

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “Blowup” (1966, Michelangelo Antonioni). With David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles and The Yardbirds. Reviewed in FNB on June 19, 2014.

Tuesday, Dec. 16

4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “The Sea Wolf” (1941, Michael Curtiz). Jack London’s philosophical sea-going melodrama about vicious cargo-ship captain Wolf Larsen (Edward G. Robinson). Larsen is an egghead fascist and brutal autodidact who’s going blind and crazy as he toys with his crew and his passengers (John Garfield, Ida Lupino, Barry Fitzgerald and Alexander Knox).

With its noirish cast, writer (Robert Rossen) and director, this is probably the best of many film versions of London’s dark tale. The movie seethes with gangsterish menace and obvious parallels to then-contemporary WWII conflicts.

Wednesday, Dec. 17 

“Side Street” was the second noir to feature young lovers played by Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell.

“Side Street” was the second noir to feature young lovers played by Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell.

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Dial 1119” (1950, Gerald Mayer). Crisp little B-thriller about a barful of New York City types held captive by a maniac. With Marshall Thompson, Andrea King, Sam Levene and Keefe Brasselle.

1 p.m. (10 a.m.): “Mystery Street” (1950, John Sturges). A good, smart police procedural, set partly at Harvard University, with a homicide cop and forensic scientist (Ricardo Montalban and Bruce Bennett), trying to crack a murder with sexual overtones. Co-starring Elsa Lanchester, Sally Forrest, Jan Sterling and Marshall Thompson. Written by Sydney Boehm (“The Big Heat”).

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Side Street” (1950, Anthony Mann). The postman rings too often here too, as Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell, the two tenderly romantic, stunningly photogenic stars of Nick Ray’s love-on-the-run noir classic “They Live by Night,” are rematched for one of Anthony Mann’s best B-noirs. Granger is a financially strapped postal delivery guy who makes one slip and swipes money that turns out to be the property of some particularly murderous criminals. O’Donnell is his lovely and loyal wife. The stellar gallery of crooks, cops and bystanders lurking around them includes James Craig, Paul Kelly, Jean Hagen and Charles McGraw. The cast, Sydney Boehm’s taut script, the evocative New York City location photography (by Joseph Ruttenberg) and the full-throttle, exciting action set-pieces make this “B” special. (Also see our FNB Farley Granger piece on April 4, 2011.)

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The Film Noir File: Paying tribute to Otto Preminger

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

Happy Birthday, Otto Preminger (1905-1986)

Friday, Dec. 5

During the filming of “Angel Face,” Robert Mitchum bonded with Jean Simmons when he came to her defense against Preminger’s mistreatment.

During the filming of “Angel Face,” Robert Mitchum bonded with Jean Simmons when he came to her defense against Preminger’s mistreatment.

His nickname was “Otto the Ogre.” He was one of the most colorful and feisty of all the star Golden Age Hollywood directors. His verbal abuse of actors, including beautiful actresses and children, was legendary.

But Otto Preminger – known for his hot temper, thick German accent, bald bullet head, defiance of taboos and long camera takes – was also one of the czars of film noir in the 1940s and early ’50s, when he directed classics like “Laura,” “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and “Angel Face.” Later on, he made one of the best of all trial dramas, 1959’s “Anatomy of a Murder,” and directed the neglected 1965 British thriller “Bunny Lake is Missing.”

Read the rest of the story here.

Gene Tierney and Vincent Price size each other up in Otto Preminger’s “Laura.”

Gene Tierney and Vincent Price size each other up in Otto Preminger’s “Laura.”

6:15 a.m. (3:15 a.m.): “The Human Factor” (1970). Preminger’s last film – a faithful adaptation of Graham Greene’s dark, knowing novel about a British defector/putative spy (Nicol Williamson) – has a good, smart script, inspired by the Kim Philby case, written by playwright Tom Stoppard. The top cast includes Derek Jacobi, Richard Attenborough, Iman, John Gielgud and Robert Morley. But it suffers from a parsimonious budget and Otto’s declining film fortunes.

8:15 a.m. (5:15 a.m.) “Advise and Consent” (1962). With Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton, Don Murray, Walter Pidgeon, Gene Tierney, Burgess Meredith and Franchot Tone. Reviewed in FNB on Dec. 4, 2013.

The Man with the Golden Arm poster12:45 p.m.: (9:45 a.m.): “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955) As a man struggling to give up his heroin habit, Frank Sinatra leads a superb cast in this riveting adaptation of Nelson Algren’s novel. Kim Novak plays his ex-girlfriend. Sinatra earned a Best Actor Oscar nom; the film’s music (by Elmer Bernstein) and art direction-set decoration also were considered for Oscars. With Eleanor Parker and Darren McGavin.

4:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m.): “Angel Face” (1953). With Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons and Herbert Marshall.

6:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.): “Laura” (1944). With Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Judith Anderson and Vincent Price.

Other non-noir Premingers shown on his birthday are his two well-made stage adaptations: George Bernard Shaw’s historical drama “Saint Joan” (1957), scripted by Greene, with Jean Seberg, Richard Widmark and Anton Walbrook at 10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.) and F. Hugh Herbert’s controversial sex comedy “The Moon is Blue” (1953), with William Holden, Maggie McNamara and David Niven, at 3 p.m. (12 p.m.). Both are worth a look.

Sunday, Dec. 7

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “The Lady Vanishes” (1938, Alfred Hitchcock). With Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Dame May Whitty and Paul Lukas.

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History of fashion in film noir highlighted Sunday at the Skirball Cultural Center

Mildred Pierce (1945). Shown: Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth. Photo © Warner Bros.

“Mildred Pierce” (1945, Michael Curtiz). Shown: Joan Crawford and Ann Blyth. Photo © Warner Bros.

Who doesn’t admire the polish and panache of ’40s fashion, particularly as worn by the leading ladies of film noir?

Kimberly Truhler will discuss the era’s influences and evolution in a lecture at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, at the Skirball Cultural Center in West Los Angeles.

During World War II, the film industry was affected by shortages of fashion materials. Truhler will examine how in spite of these restrictions – and sometimes in response to them – costume designers managed to create some of the most iconic looks of the time, worn by stars such as Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner and Lana Turner. These innovations not only defined much of 1940s style, but also continue to influence our fashion today.

Truhler is a historian, educator and founder of GlamAmor, a website dedicated to preserving the history of fashion in film.

Following the program, Gabriela Hernandez, founder of Bésame Cosmetics, will talk about the history of makeup and show how to achieve that film noir look.

***

Jeanne Carmen

Jeanne Carmen

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 6, at the West Hollywood Library, Brandon James (author and son of Jeanne Carmen) will discuss his book Jeanne Carmen: My Wild Wild Life as a New York Pin Up Queen, Trick Shot Golfer & Hollywood Actress.

James documents his mother’s encounters and friendships with Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Lenny Bruce, Howard Hughes, Bob Hope, Joe DiMaggio, Sam Giancana, Johnny Roselli and many more.

We wrote about Jeanne Carmen’s legacy here and Brandon James kindly shared copies of his mom’s movie posters, which we displayed here.

This program will take place in the library’s community meeting room and parking validation will be provided. The library is at 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., West Hollywood, CA, 90069. 310-652-5340.

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The Film Noir File: A day with Hitch, master of suspense

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

A Day With Alfred Hitchcock (Friday, Nov. 28)

Robert Cummings, Ray Milland and Grace Kelly form the love triangle in “Dial  M for Murder.”

Robert Cummings, Ray Milland and Grace Kelly form the love triangle in “Dial M for Murder.”

When it came to making movie thrillers, manufacturing chills, and squeezing the last drop of tension out of every thrill-packed scene and breath-catching set piece, Alfred Hitchcock was, by common consent, the Master of Suspense — king of the genre in the cinema’s Golden Age. Born in London, an émigré who moved to Hollywood in the ’40s, “Hitch,” as he was called by most movie folk, could plan and plot a suspense scene like no one else — riveting his audiences almost from his opening minutes, and building his unforgettable sequences and his little gems of nerve-racking tension with a meticulous expertise and vivid imagination that all thriller-makes envied and all tried (usually unsuccessfully) to emulate.

Hitchcock liked his heroines to be blonde and in distress, his villains to be charming and deadly, and his heroes to be fallible or accused of something they didn’t do. And he liked his movies (like those villains) to be devilishly seductive and watchable. Of all his contemporaries, he is still the film director most known, most watched and most imitated. And when his 1958 masterpiece “Vertigo” — that eerie romantic chiller starring James Stewart as a detective afraid of heights and Kim Novak as the beautiful mystery woman for whom he falls — was recently voted the best movie of all time, finally beating out runner-up “Citizen Kane” in the Sight and Sound film poll, it was a recognition that was probably as much for Hitchcock’s entire oeuvre.

Tippi Hedren gets direction from Hitch.

Tippi Hedren gets direction from Hitch.

Today’s Hitchcock mini-festival gives us five of his acknowledged classics, from the ’30s (“The Lady vanishes”), the ’40s (“Shadow of a Doubt,” which Hitchcock often named as his personal favorite), the ’50s (”Dial M for Murder”), to the ’60s (“Psycho” and “The Birds“), as well as the underrated 1942 “Saboteur” and 1964 “Marnie.” His constant, though often uncredited, collaborator on all these pictures, and on most of his others, was his one-time script woman, wife and life-long partner Alma Reville Hitchcock. If you’re a movie aficionado, you’ve probably seen them all, but they always repay a return visit. After all, life and love may fail you, but a thriller by Hitch will almost always get you on the hook.

5:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.): “The Lady Vanishes” (1938, Alfred Hitchcock). With Michael Redgrave, Margaret Lockwood, Paul Lukas and Dame May Whitty. Reviewed in FNB on March 12, 2012.

7:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.): “Saboteur” (1942, Alfred Hitchcock). With Robert Cummings, Priscilla Lane, Otto Kruger and Norman Lloyd. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 18, 2014.

9:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m.): “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943, Alfred Hitchcock). With Joseph Cotten, Teresa Wright, Macdonald Carey and Hume Cronyn. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 9, 2014.

11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “Dial M for Murder” (1954, Alfred Hitchcock). With Grace Kelly, Ray Milland and Cummings. Reviewed in FNB on Sept. 11, 2012.

1:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m.): “Marnie” (1964, Alfred Hitchcock). With Sean Connery, Tippi Hedren and Diane Baker. Reviewed in FNB on Jan. 30, 2012.

3:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.): “The Birds” (1963, Alfred Hitchcock). With Rod Taylor, Hedren and Jessica Tandy. Reviewed in FNB on Oct. 23, 2014.

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Psycho’ (1960, Alfred Hitchcock, 1960). With Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles and Martin Balsam. Reviewed in FNB on July 7, 2011.

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Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Retro Thanksgiving 2014

Hope you have a thoroughly decadent holiday.

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