UCLA’s Preservation Fest to screen ‘Too late for Tears’ and ‘The Guilty’ as part of monthlong run of restored films

The LA TimesKenneth Turan recently gave high praise indeed to the UCLA Film & Television Archive’s Festival of Preservation.

Too Late for Tears posterThe Guilty posterAs he put it: “Forget Cannes, Sundance, even the Oscars: This is the cinematic event I look forward to most of all. That’s because no other movie festival comes close to it in the magnificent breadth of neglected but compelling American film material it puts on display.”

Hmm. Forget Sundance? Sure. Forget the Oscars? Done. But Cannes? Not so much. That said, however, I am also very much looking forward to UCLA’s terrific monthlong lineup, which begins on March 5 with Anthony Mann’s “Men in War.” This year marks the 17th edition of the festival.

For noir fans, the double feature on Saturday, March 7, should not be missed. It starts at 7:30 p.m.

In “Too Late for Tears” (1949, Byron Haskin), noir badness bursts from the screen as Lizabeth Scott plays a housewife who comes across a suitcase stuffed with $60,000 in cash. Scott seizes the chance to say goodbye to cooking meatloaf, washing dishes and doing laundry. Duh! Besides, it turns out that she’s a much better murderess than she was a homemaker. Arthur Kennedy plays her husband and the always-great Dan Duryea shines as a private eye.

Next up is “The Guilty” (1947, John Reinhardt), based on a short story by Cornell Woolrich. Here, Don Castle and Wally Cassell are lured into trouble by Bonita Granville, who plays twin sisters, one good and one bad, natch. When the nice girl is found murdered, both men are under suspicion. “The Guilty” is reminiscent of Robert Siodmak’s “The Dark Mirror” from 1946.

Film historian Alan K. Rode will discuss the films.

Films will be screened at the Hammer Museum’s Billy Wilder Theater in Westwood.

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Classic ‘Rashomon’ kicks off Kurosawa tribute at the Crest

By Mike Wilmington

Akira Kurosawa of Japan is the “sensei” (or master): a genius of filmmaking and the father of the modern action-adventure movie.

Rashomon poster largeHe was one of the three giants of the Japanese Cinema’s Golden Age (with Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi). He was also a devotee of American action cinema, of film noir and of American Westerns, especially the films of his friend and mentor John Ford.

Kurosawa pioneered an explosive, ingenious cinematic style of multiple camera use and rapid-fire editing that went beyond Ford and revolutionized action moviemaking, enormously influencing Sam Peckinpah (“The Wild Bunch”), Arthur Penn (“Bonnie and Clyde”), Sergio Leone (“A Fistful of Dollars,” a remake of “Yojimbo”), John Sturges (“The Magnificent Seven,” a remake of “Seven Samurai”), Don Siegel (“Dirty Harry”), Clint Eastwood (“The Outlaw Josey Wales”) and many others.

High and Low posterBut Kurosawa’s incandescent scenes of violence do not exist in a moral void. Instead, the sensei’s films are infused with a truly adult and humane perspective on life, a mature observation of character and humanity, and a deep sense of the tragedy that faces us all.

Kurosawa has his cinematic peers: Bergman, Fellini, Renoir, Hitchcock, Welles. But he has no superiors, not even his idol John Ford. His films are, like Kurosawa himself, matchless.

You can see five of them on the big screen at the Crest Theater in Westwood during a monthlong tribute to Akira Kurosawa as a part of their salute to foreign filmmakers. The theater will screen one of Kurosawa’s samurai classics every Sunday at 5 p.m. The schedule is as follows:

Sunday, March 1: “Rashomon” – 1950 (1 hr. 28m) The legendary classic about four contradictory views of a murder: the film masterpiece that put Kurosawa, and Japanese cinema, on the international map.

Seven Samurai poster

Seven Samurai poster

Sunday, March 8: “The Hidden Fortress” – 1958 (2 hr. 6m) The most comical of Kurosawa’s samurai adventure epics, about a warrior who helps rescue a princess. One of the films that most inspired  “Star Wars.”

Sunday, March 15: “High and Low” – 1963 (2 hr. 23m) Inspired by an American crime novel by Ed McBain, this great film noir is about a kidnapping and a businessman who will lose everything if he pays the ransom.

Sunday, March 22: “Yojimbo” – 1961 (1 hr. 50m) The great samurai film, revolving around a cynical warrior who plays both sides in a town feud against each other.

Sunday, March 29: “Seven Samurai” – 1954 (3 hr. 27m) Seven gutsy independent samurai, led by an idealistic veteran warrior, defend a village against vicious marauding bandits. One of the greatest and most exciting films ever made.

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Film Noir File: Your passport to Coen Bros.’ neo-noir ‘Country’

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). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Pick of the Week

No Country posterNo Country for Old Men” (2007, Joel and Ethan Coen). Tuesday, March 3, 12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.)

The Coen Brothers’ most praised and prized movie, and one of their most memorable, is the grim, mesmerizing crime-drama/chase-thriller “No Country for Old Men.” The multiple-Oscar winning film is adapted, very faithfully, from one of Cormac McCarthy‘s darkest and most violent novels.

Set in 1980s Texas, in an anti-John Ford Western land of harsh plains and searing deserts, barren cities and the hot, speedy roads that connect all of them, the movie is about a huge cache of illegal drug money that falls into the hands of a local cowboy-hatted small-towner named Moss (Josh Brolin) after a massacre wipes out most of the criminals and smugglers handling the transfer.

Unfortunately, there’s one deadly efficient collector still around: the incredible Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh a.k.a. Sugar, a terrifying psychopathic killer with a seemingly permanent dour deadpan stare, a laughably lousy haircut and a relentless talent for finding the right people in all the wrong places – and sending them to the hell that surely must have spawned him.

There are other terrific actors (playing terrific roles) in “No Country,” namely Tommy Lee Jones as Ed Tom Bell, a melancholy old sheriff watching his world disintegrate, Bell’s lonely old friend (Barry Corbin), Moss’s steadfast but unlucky wife (Kelly MacDonald) and a lippy, freelance loot-scavenger (Woody Harrelson).

Texas. Tough guys. Epic bad hairstyling. Enjoy your visit to this ‘Country.’ Or else.

Saturday, Feb. 28. Thriller Day

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Window” (1949, Ted Tetzlaff).

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Night Must Fall” (1937, Richard Thorpe).

9:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m.): “Kind Lady” (1951, John Sturges).

10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): “Wait Until Dark” (1967, Terence Young).

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Narrow Margin” (1952, Richard Fleischer).

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “Strangers on a Train” (1951, Alfred Hitchcock).

3:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.): “Shadow of a Doubt“ (1943, Alfred Hitchcock).

Sunday, March 1

Chicago poster10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Chicago” (2002, Rob Marshall). This strange, Oscar-winning hybrid is, of all things, a neo-noir crime courtroom musical. It’s based on the jazzy, snazzy Broadway show by songsmiths Kander and Ebb (of “New York, New York”) and director Bob Fosse, which in turn was based on the classic 1942 film noir “Roxie Hart” by writer-producer Nunnally Johnson and director William Wellman.

The story is as cynical as, well, a ’20s Chicago newspaper guy on deadline. Wannabe star showgirl Roxie (Renee Zellweger in the old Ginger Rogers role) schemes to become famous by committing a near-murder and generating a sensational trial. John C. Reilly is her hapless hubby, Richard Gere is her flashy lawyer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones (an Oscar winner here) steals the whole damned show as another would-be murderess and Roxie’s inspiration. This is a good, splashy, nasty neo-noir, but you can’t help wondering about the movie the late Bob Fosse might have made out of it.

Wednesday, March 4

12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “Dementia 13” (1963, Francis Ford Coppola).

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Film Noir Blonde, Durant Library celebrate Women in Film Noir

I am very pleased to announce that I have programmed a series for the Will & Ariel Durant Library in Hollywood called Women in Film Noir. The series runs in March to honor Women’s History Month. We are highlighting women’s contribution to the genre at a time when there were many barriers to working outside the home.

Ida Lupino juggled work and family. Shown: Ida with her husband Howard Duff and daughter Bridget.

Ida Lupino juggled work and family. Shown: Ida with her husband Howard Duff and their daughter, Bridget, who was born in 1952.

The library will screen five films, starting March 2.

I will be giving a talk at the library at 1 p.m.  Saturday, March 7. The opening night double feature is a spotlight on Ida Lupino, actress, director, writer and producer.

5 p.m. March 2: “On Dangerous Ground” (1951, 82 min.): Ida Lupino plays a blind country girl who lives with her brother. She meets a psychologically scarred cop (Robert Ryan) when her brother becomes a suspect in a murder. With a taut script by A. I. Bezzerides (“Kiss Me Deadly”) and moody, poetic direction from Nicholas Ray, “On Dangerous Ground” is an unforgettable film noir.

Nightmare Alley poster 214The Hitch-Hiker” (1953, 71 min.): Fate isn’t smiling when two guys on vacation give a lift to a man who turns out to be serial killer. “The Hitch-Hiker,” starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman, is the only classic film noir directed by a woman, the great Ida Lupino. Best known as an actress, Lupino was also a director, writer and producer. She co-wrote “The Hitch-Hiker.”

5 p.m. March 9: “Nightmare Alley” (1947, 110 min.) A film noir set in the seedy world of a carnival, “Nightmare Alley” tracks an ambitious performer (Tyrone Power) as he pursues a better life. Crucial to his rise and fall are three women: Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray and Helen Walker. Unusual for time, Walker plays an upper-class working woman who is not a teacher, nurse or secretary.

Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s novel and directed by Edmund Goulding, “Nightmare Alley” is unusually cerebral and rich with subtext. Also unusual for that time: Barbara McLean served as editor – by 1947, many women had been pushed out of film editing jobs, despite the fact that in the early days of the industry they dominated that function.

In a Lonely Place poster5 p.m. March 16:  “Strangers on a Train” (1951, 101 min.) With standout performances from Robert Walker and Farley Granger, “Strangers” stands as an excellent example of Alfred Hitchcock’s subversive casting. The film is based on the novel of the same name by master of suspense Patricia Highsmith. Czenzi Ormonde (aka Gladys Lucille Snell) co-wrote the script with Raymond Chandler. Pat Hitchcock plays a small but memorable part.

5 p.m. 23: In a Lonely Place” (1950, 94 min.) Based on a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes, “In a Lonely Place” tells the story of a screenwriter (Humphrey Bogart) and an actress (Gloria Grahame) who live in the same Hollywood apartment building and fall in love. All is not well, however, when it seems the writer might also be a deranged killer. Masterfully directed by Nicholas Ray and edited by Viola Lawrence, sometimes called “Hollywood’s first lady film cutter.”

The Durant Library is at 7140 W. Sunset Blvd. (one block east of La Brea), Los Angeles, CA 90046, 323-876-2741.

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Skirball Cultural Center screens ‘Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood’

The exhibitions close on Sunday, March 1.

The exhibitions close on Sunday, March 1.

Time flies, that’s for sure. The Skirball Cultural Center’s superb exhibitions Light & Noir: Exiles and Émigrés in Hollywood, 1933–1950 and The Noir Effect, which began last October, will close Sunday, March 1.

The closing day (March 1) is an ideal opportunity to head up to the Skirball. That way you can see “Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood,” a 2009 PBS documentary about members of the German film industry who left Europe and re-created their careers in Los Angeles, forever changing the way American movies were made. More than 800 filmmakers fled the Nazis; some found great success in the U.S., but others were less fortunate. Sigourney Weaver narrates the movie.

Film excerpts include: “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Fury,” “Ninotchka,” “To Be or Not To Be,” “Casablanca,” “The Wolf Man,” “Double Indemnity,” “Phantom Lady,” “Sunset Blvd.,” “High Noon,” “The Big Heat” and “Some Like It Hot.” Also covered will be classics of early German cinema, including “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” “Metropolis,” “The Blue Angel” and “M.”

Additionally, “Cinema’s Exiles” features behind-the-scenes archival footage of director Fritz Lang in Germany and Marlene Dietrich’s “Blue Angel” screen test as well as home-movie footage and photographs. Eyewitness accounts of this era are provided by screen actress Lupita Kohner, author Peter Viertel and (via archive statements) Lang, Billy Wilder and Fred Zinnemann, among others.

“Cinema’s Exiles: From Hitler to Hollywood” (90 min.) will start at 11 a.m. Sunday. It is free with museum admission. Museum tickets are available at the door.

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Favorite film noir Oscar moments

I wasn’t terribly impressed with last night’s Oscar ceremony. Long and not very funny, for the most part. But, I enjoyed Richard Brody’s assessment in The New Yorker and present you with these golden moments from Oscars past.

Generally speaking, film-noir titles were not wildly popular with Academy voters. Certainly, a B picture stood little chance of being honored. Film noir movies with bigger budgets and brighter star power might have earned nominations but ultimately lost the Oscar. That said, one category in which film-noir talent held its own was writing.

The Academy recognized that fact in 2010 with its excellent Oscar Noir screening series, which celebrated film-noir classics from the 1940s, all of which were nominated in the writing categories. You can see clips from the series and learn more about the Oscars’ history at www.oscars.org. It’s a terrific resource. While there, I also found out about a quintessential 1940s woman who had a hand in shaping the ceremony as we know it today: Margaret Herrick. Read more about her here.

Joan Fontaine, sitting with David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Hitchcock at the 1941 ceremony, starred in

Joan Fontaine, sitting with David O. Selznick, Alfred Hitchcock and Alma Hitchcock at the 1941 ceremony, starred in “Rebecca,” though she lost the gold to Ginger Rogers. “Rebecca” won Best Picture and Best Cinematography. Fontaine claimed the Oscar the next year in Hitchcock’s “Suspicion.” In the 1941 show, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a six-minute, direct-line radio address from the White House, honoring the work of Hollywood. This was the first time an American president had participated in an Academy Awards evening. Also, for the first time, the names of all the winners were kept secret until they were announced during the ceremony. Hitchcock received an honorary Oscar in 1968.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Curtiz on the set of "Casablanca," which snared the gold in 1944. The film was released in late 1942 and competed with titles from 1943.

Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Michael Curtiz on the set of “Casablanca,” which snared the gold in 1944. The film was released in late 1942 and competed with titles from 1943.

Joan Crawford triumphed playing the title role in 1945's "Mildred Pierce." Director Michael Kurtiz accepted the award at the ceremony because Crawford was ill and confined to bed. Clearly, she perked up when she found out she won.

Joan Crawford triumphed playing the title role in 1945′s “Mildred Pierce.” Director Michael Kurtiz accepted the award at the ceremony because Crawford was ill and confined to bed. Clearly, she perked up when she found out she won.

Ray Milland holds his Best Actor Oscar. He won for his portrayal of an alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder's "The Lost Weekend" from 1945. The film also won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, a rare feat for such a noirish flick.

Ray Milland holds his Best Actor Oscar. He won for his portrayal of an alcoholic writer in Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend” from 1945. The film also won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay, a rare feat for such a noirish flick.

"All the King's Men," a political noir from 1949, garnered Best Picture, Best Actor for Broderick Crawford and Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes McCambridge. The gold winners savor the moment with director Robert Rossen.

“All the King’s Men,” a political noir from 1949, garnered Best Picture, Best Actor for Broderick Crawford and Best Supporting Actress for Mercedes McCambridge. The gold winners savor the moment with director Robert Rossen.

Eva Marie Saint took home the Best Supporting Actress for  "On the Waterfront" from 1954. "On The Waterfront" also won Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration, (Richard Day), Black-and-White Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Directing (Elia Kazan), Film Editing (Gene Milford), and Writing – Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg).

Eva Marie Saint took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for
“On the Waterfront” from 1954. “On The Waterfront” also won Best Picture, Best Actor (Marlon Brando), Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration, (Richard Day), Black-and-White Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Directing (Elia Kazan), Film Editing (Gene Milford), and Writing – Story and Screenplay (Budd Schulberg).

Grace Kelly won the Best Actress gold for 1954's "Country Girl." I know, I know, it's not a noir but Kelly was one of Hitchcock's favorite blondes, she's shown with co-star William Holden (mmm) and I love the dress. Kelly quit acting in 1955 to marry Prince Rainier.

Grace Kelly won the Best Actress gold for 1954′s “Country Girl.” I know, I know, it’s not a noir but Kelly was one of Hitchcock’s favorite blondes, she’s shown with co-star William Holden (mmm) and I love the dress. Kelly quit acting in 1955 to marry Prince Rainier.

The RKO Pantages Theatre hosted many Oscar ceremonies. The 31st Academy Awards ceremony, held on April 6, 1959, ended 20 minutes early, after producer Jerry Wald cut numbers from the show to make sure it ran on time. Host Jerry Lewis was left to fill up the time.

The RKO Pantages Theatre hosted many Oscar ceremonies. The 31st Academy Awards ceremony, held on April 6, 1959, ended 20 minutes early, after producer Jerry Wald cut numbers from the show to make sure it ran on time. Host Jerry Lewis was left to fill up the time.

Billy Wilder juggles Oscars snared by his dark comedy "The Apartment," which won Best Picture, Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle), Directing (Billy Wilder), Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), and Writing – Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond).

Billy Wilder juggles Oscars snared by his dark comedy “The Apartment,” which won Best Picture, Best Black-and-White Art Direction-Set Decoration (Alexander Trauner and Edward G. Boyle), Directing (Billy Wilder), Film Editing (Daniel Mandell), and Writing – Story and Screenplay written directly for the screen (Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond).

Eight-time Costume Design winner Edith Head was costume supervisor for the 40th (1967) Academy Awards and offered her fashion tips in the letter above. Also seen above are presenter Leslie Caron and Best Director winner Mike Nichols.

Eight-time Costume Design winner Edith Head was costume supervisor for the 40th (1967) Academy Awards and offered her fashion tips in the letter above. Also seen above are presenter Leslie Caron and Best Director winner Mike Nichols.

"The French Connection," a neo-noir from1972, won Best Picture. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Directing (William Friedkin), Film Editing (Jerry Greenberg), and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Ernest Tidyman).

“The French Connection,” a neo-noir from 1971, won Best Picture. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Gene Hackman), Directing (William Friedkin), Film Editing (Jerry Greenberg), and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Ernest Tidyman).

"The Godfather" (1972) cast members: Maron Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino and xx. The classic family-crime saga won Best Picture. The movie also won Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). “The Godfather Part II" (1974) became the first sequel to win the award for Best Picture. Part Two claimed five more Oscars including the directing prize for Coppola.

“The Godfather” (1972) cast members: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, and John Cazale. The classic family-crime saga won Best Picture. The movie also won Best Actor (Marlon Brando) and Writing – Screenplay based on material from another medium (Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola). “The Godfather Part II” (1974) became the first sequel to win the award for Best Picture. Part Two also claimed five more Oscars including the directing prize for Coppola.

Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson and producer Robert Evans at the 1975 Oscars ceremony. Towne took home the Oscar for writing "Chinatown," perhaps the best neo-noir script ever written.

Robert Towne, Jack Nicholson and producer Robert Evans at the 1975 Oscars. Towne took home the Oscar for writing “Chinatown,” perhaps the best neo-noir script ever written.

Robert DeNiro gives accepts his Best Actor Oscar for "Raging Bull" (1980) directed by Martin Scorsese, who grew up on classic noir and became a neo-noir master. The oft-subbed Scorsese finally won the directing gold for 2007's "The Departed."

Robert DeNiro accepts his Best Actor Oscar for “Raging Bull” (1980) directed by Martin Scorsese, who grew up on classic noir and became a neo-noir master. The oft-snubbed Scorsese finally won the directing gold for 2006′s “The Departed.” This was DeNiro’s second Oscar, having garnered Best Supporting Actor for “The Godfather Part II.”

During his fourth decade in the movies, Jack Palance won Supporting Actor for his role as Curly in "City Slickers" (1991). His famous one-handed pushups onstage became a running joke with host Billy Crystal throughout the show. Our favorite Palance film-noir part: "Sudden Fear" (1952, David Miller) in which he co-starred with Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame.

During his fourth decade in the movies, Jack Palance won Supporting Actor for his role as Curly in “City Slickers” (1991). His famous one-handed pushups onstage became a running joke with host Billy Crystal throughout the show. Our favorite Palance film-noir part: “Sudden Fear” (1952, David Miller) in which he co-starred with Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame.

Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary won the Oscar for writing "Pulp Fiction" (1994). It earned six other noms.

Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary won the Oscar for writing “Pulp Fiction” (1994). It earned six other noms.

Frances McDormand hold her Best Actress Oscar for her work in 1996's "Fargo." Writer/director team Joel and Ethan Coen won for Best Original Screenplay. They went on to win writing and directing Oscars for 2007's "No Country for Old Men."

Frances McDormand hold her Best Actress Oscar for her work in 1996′s “Fargo.” Writer/director team Joel and Ethan Coen won for Best Original Screenplay. They went on to win writing and directing Oscars for the 2007 neo noir “No Country for Old Men.”

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Film Noir File: Five stylish ’70s thrillers make must-see viewing

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). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). All films without a new review have been covered previously in Film Noir Blonde and can be searched in the FNB archives (at right).

Jane Fonda won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Klute.”

Jane Fonda won the Best Actress Oscar for her role in “Klute.”

Saturday, Feb. 21

11 p.m. (8 p.m.): “Deliverance” (1972, John Boorman).

3:45 a.m. (12:45 p.m.): “Klute” (1971, Alan Pakula).

Sunday, Feb. 22

1 a.m. (10 p.m.): “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975, Sidney Lumet).

3:15 a.m. (12:15 a.m.): “Network” (1976, Sidney Lumet).

Monday, Feb. 23

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “All the President’s Men” (1976, Alan Pakula). Burglary and other high crimes and misdemeanors in a soon-to-be-legendary Washington D. C. hotel called The Watergate turn out to be instruments of re-election for the Nixon White House in their no-holds-barred 1972 presidential campaign — as uncovered by two dogged, relentless Washington Post investigative reporters named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman).

One of the best true crime movies ever: directed with neo-noir flair by Pakula, knowingly scripted by Oscar winner William Goldman (based on the Woodward-Bernstein book), with a first rate cast that includes Oscar winner Jason Robards (as crusty mandarin editor Ben Bradlee), Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Ned Beatty, Jane Alexander and F. Murray Abraham. Maybe the best and most accurate of all “inside” dramas on American journalism and politics.

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Top reasons we love ‘Double Indemnity’

Double Indemnity poster

Yes, we’re still gushing about “Double Indemnity,” the film noir classic from 1944. And why not? It can still draw an audience, after all. ArcLight and the Skirball Cultural Center are showing “Double Indemnity” Monday night in Sherman Oaks.

Billy Wilder‘s great prototype film noir turns 71 this year and yet it never gets old. Starring Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray and Edward G. Robinson, the movie boasts a screenplay that Wilder co-wrote with Raymond Chandler, based on James M. Cain‘s novel, which was inspired by actual events.

Here’s why we hold the picture dear to our hearts, dearies.

14. As film noir historian and author Foster Hirsch once put it: “It’s the quintessential film noir. This is the mother lode, primary source film noir. It’s the basis for every film noir you’ve ever loved.”

13. Someone with the name Walter Neff turns out to be a tough guy.

12. All Walter has to do to escape punishment is sit tight. Yet, his ego drives him toward a final confrontation with his lover/partner in crime. He’s so damn human.

11. Barbara Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson is a fashion victim. She’s so damn human.

10. The first time Phyllis shows up at Walter’s apartment, she says she is returning his hat (which he supposedly left at her house) but the previous scene clearly shows him taking his hat as he leaves. Still, there’s so much tension between them, who cares?!

9. The door to Walter’s apartment opens the wrong way (it shields Phyllis on one of her visits) but you’re so caught up in the story you hardly notice.

As Billy Wilder acknowledged, no door in the world would open this way.

As Billy Wilder acknowledged, no door in the world would open this way.

8. You could buy Phyllis Dietrichson’s house for $30,000.

7. You could have a beer at a drive-in restaurant, served by a car-hop, no less.

6. The look of supreme satisfaction on Phyllis’s face at the moment her husband is murdered.

5. Stanwyck and MacMurray both took a risk and played against type.

4. Edward G. Robinson almost steals the show and it’s really a bromance between his character and MacMurray’s Walter Neff.

3. Raymond Chandler makes a cameo appearance, about 16 minutes into the movie, at Walter’s office building.

2. It’s perfectly paced – you can watch it over and over and it moves along lickety split every time, leaving you wanting more.

1. It truly ranks as a classic flick – it’s as fresh, sexy and funny today as it was in 1944. The writing, acting, directing cinematography, lighting, art direction are matchless.

Do you love “Double Indemnity” as much as we do? Then let us know!

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Film Noir File: A star-studded week of Oscar darkness

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). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). Films listed without a review can be searched in the FNB archive on the right side of the page.

Pick of the Week

A Place in the Sun” (1951, George Stevens). Friday, Feb. 13, 2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.).

Elizabeth Taylor as Angela and Montgomery Clift as George are one of the most ravishing star couples of the American cinema.

Elizabeth Taylor as Angela and Montgomery Clift as George are one of the most ravishing star couples of the American cinema.

George Stevens’ adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s classic crime novel “An American Tragedy.” It’s a melancholy look at a rising young working-class guy named George Eastman, who seems on the path to riches and romance, but whose dark impulses bend him toward destruction.

A great critical favorite in its time and still highly influential, “Place in the Sun” is a moody masterpiece about the wayward side of the American dream. Stevens’ movie also showcases one of the most ravishing (and ultimately sad) star couples of the American cinema: Montgomery Clift as George and Elizabeth Taylor as his dream, Angela. Also in the cast: film noir mainstays Shelley Winters and Raymond Burr.

Taylor and Clift were close friends off the screen as well.

Taylor and Clift were close friends off the screen as well.

Among the picture’s six Academy Awards were Oscars for Stevens’ direction and to screenwriters Michael Wilson and Harry Brown.

Thursday, Feb. 12
9:30 p.m. (6:30 p.m.) “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed).

5:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.): “The Lavender Hill Mob” (1951, Charles Crichton).

Friday, Feb. 13
9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1945. Albert Lewin).

11 a.m. (8 a.m.): “The Bad Seed” (1956, Mervyn LeRoy).

1:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m.): “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962, Robert Aldrich).

3:45 p.m. (12:45 p.m.): “The Birds” (1963, Alfred Hitchcock).

Saturday, Feb. 14
8:45 p.m. (5:45 p.m.): “The Harder They Fall” (1956, Mark Robson).
2:45 a.m. (11:45 p.m.): “The Blackboard Jungle” (1955, Richard Brooks).
4:45 a.m. (1:45 a.m.): “The Man with the Golden Arm” (1955, Otto Preminger).

Sunday, Feb. 15 (Film Noir Day)
7 a.m. (4 a.m.): “Johnny Eager” (1941, Mervyn LeRoy).
9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “T-Men” (1948, Anthony Mann).
10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): “The Naked City” (1948, Jules Dassin).
12:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston).
2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.): “The Blue Dahlia” (1946, George Marshall).
4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “The Maltese Falcon” (1941, John Huston).
6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston).
11 p.m. (8 p.m.): “The Defiant Ones” (1958, Stanley Kramer).

Susan Hayward with her Oscar.

Susan Hayward with her Oscar.

1 a.m. (10 p.m.): “I Want to Live!” (1958, Robert Wise). Susan Hayward won her Oscar for playing Barbara Graham, a real-life hard-nosed San Francisco prostitute. Graham was convicted of murder and facing the gas chamber.

But, according to Frisco crime reporter Ed Montgomery (played in this movie by “Psycho’s” psychiatrist Simon Oakland), she was innocent, the framed victim of a faulty justice system.

This riveting chronicle proves that Wise, a great favorite of French noir expert and Hollywood film aficionado Jean-Pierre Melville, was an absolute master of crime movies. The images are searing black and white. The acting is tough, smart, pungent. The jaunty modern jazz score is by Johnny Mandel, with the formidable Gerry Mulligan on baritone sax.

The ending is wrenching, unforgettable. So is Hayward.

Monday, Feb. 16
8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Anatomy of a Murder” (1959, Otto Preminger).

Psycho poster 214Tuesday, Feb 17 (Crime Day)
7:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.): “Fury” (1936, Fritz Lang).
9:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m.): “Monsieur Verdoux” (1947, Charles Chaplin & Robert Florey).
11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “Big Deal on Madonna Street” (1958, Mario Monicelli).
1:45 p.m. (10:45 a.m.) “In Cold Blood” (1967, Richard Brooks).
4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “The Thomas Crown Affair” (1968, Norman Jewison).
6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Bullitt” (1968, Peter Yates).
12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Psycho” (1960, Alfred Hitchcock).

Wednesday, Feb. 18
8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Apartment” (1960, Billy Wilder).
12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.): “The Hustler” (1961, Robert Rossen).
5:15 a.m. (2:15 a.m.): “Lolita” (1962, Stanley Kubrick).

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‘Thelma Jordon’ shows Stanwyck at near her bad-best

The File on Thelma Jordon/1950/Paramount Pictures/100 min.

By Michael Wilmington

“The File on Thelma Jordon” plays at 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Skirball Cultural Center, the final film in The Intriguante—Women of Intrigue in Film Noir series.

The File on Thelma Jordon posterBarbara Stanwyck, one of the smartest and toughest of all the classic Hollywood femmes fatales, was terrific at playing earthy babes who knew their way around a bedroom – and sometimes a courtroom or an insurance office as well. She made a schnook out of policy-seller Fred MacMurray in “Double Indemnity.” She put Van Heflin and Kirk Douglas through the wringer in “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.”

And, as the hard-boiled man-killer in “The File on Thelma Jordon,” she gives the business to the seemingly solid and non-malleable Wendell Corey, playing a district attorney named Cleve Marshall. The DA draws the touchy assignment of prosecuting Thelma for the murder of her elderly, very wealthy aunt.

Paul Kelly plays Cleve’s suspicious buddy, Joan Tetzel his not-suspicious-enough wife. Stanwyck, of course, is the gal who arouses those suspicions as well as a lot of good old-fashioned Golden Age Hollywood desire.

Corey (marvelous as a psycho in Budd Boetticher’s 1956 budget noir thriller “The Killer is Loose”) is surprisingly effective in “Thelma Jordon” as a straight-arrow guy. He’s tough and savvy, sure, but Thelma bends him like a Charleston Chew.

Barbara Stanwyck was never bashful about playing bad girls or loose women or even murderesses.

Barbara Stanwyck was never bashful about playing bad girls or loose women or even murderesses.

Stanwyck eats parts like this (and guys like this) for lunch. She was one Hollywood star who was never bashful about playing bad girls or loose women or even murderesses. She always knew just the right touch of acid (or whiskey) to drop into her milk and honey come-ons.

Thelma Jordon doesn’t sport a nasty-girl blonde wig like Stanwyck’s Phyllis Dietrichson in “Double Indemnity,” but she’s adept at skirting the law and lawyers. First a scheming opportunist who keeps very bad company, then an adulteress and finally a woman accused of an awful murder, Thelma’s a real dark-side knockout.

The movie’s director is one of the authentic masters of film noir: the great German émigré and expressionist puppeteer of twisted people and sinister streets, Robert Siodmak (“The Killers,” “Criss Cross,” “Phantom Lady”). Siodmak is visually right in his element here. Working with classy cinematographer George Barnes (“Spellbound”), he pulls us into an inky cinematic pool of psychological havoc and guilt.

The writer of “Thelma Jordon,” Ketti Frings, was no stranger to noir either, having penned thrillers such as “Guest in the House,” “The Accused” and “Dark City.” (Eventually she won a Pulitzer Prize for her stage version of Thomas Wolfe’s novel “Look Homeward Angel.”) Here, she shows Thelma spinning her webs, Cleve flying into them and everything getting darker and deadlier. And damned if Frings, Siodmak and Stanwyck don’t get some sympathy for Thelma as well.

This is Stanwyck at near her bad-best, Siodmak at his darkest and most Teutonically stylish. No, I don’t know why they spell Jordon with two “o’s.” But, like Wendell Corey, I won’t argue with the lady, especially when the lights go down.

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