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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The Film Noir File: Ida Lupino Day, Dassin’s prison noir

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

Ida Lupino was one of the few female moviemakers of the studio-era heyday.

Actress and director Ida Lupino was one of the few female moviemakers of the studio-era heyday.

No one could play a moll or a tough dame on screen like Ida Lupino – even though in life, she was a sophisticated British émigré from a notable theatrical family. (Her father was the famous stage and screen star Lupino Lane.)

She could look just right with a cigarette in her mouth and a highball in her hand, and she could trade quips with the best and toughest of them, including Humphrey Bogart, Robert Ryan, John Garfield, and her wry one-time husband Howard Duff.

She’s also a landmark lady in film history as one of the few female moviemakers of the studio-era heyday. In the early ’50s, Ida co-produced and directed a string of taut B noirs (“Outrage,” “The Bigamist,” “The Hitch-Hiker” and others) that were models of nervy, economical and socially probing American movie making.

Lupino tackled tough, ambitious subjects (rape, bigamy, crime) and handled them with lean expertise. Later in her career, she directed on television, where she was a mainstay helmer on the offbeat Western series “Have Gun, Will Travel” with Richard Boone.

We’ll always remember her, though, as a reigning queen of film noir.

Movies to be shown today (June 12) are: “They Drive By Night,” “High Sierra,” “The Hard Way,” “Outrage” “Beware, My Lovely,” “On Dangerous Ground” and “The Hitch-Hiker.”

The divine Burt Lancaster in "Brute Force."

The divine Burt Lancaster in “Brute Force.”

Friday, June 13

2 p.m. (11 a.m.): “The Woman on Pier 13” (1949, Robert Stevenson). With Robert Ryan, Laraine Day, John Agar and Thomas Gomez. Reviewed in FNB on April 9, 2013.

3:15 p.m. (12:15 p.m.): “Dementia 13” (1963, Francis Coppola). Stylish but tawdry little Roger Corman-produced cheapie about a murder rampage in an isolated mansion. With William Campbell (JFK mistress Judy Exner’s ex-hubby), Luana Anders and Patrick Magee.

Sunday, June 15

2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Purple Noon” (1960, Rene Clement). With Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet and Marie Floret. (In French, with subtitles.) Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 5, 2013.

Brute Force movie poster colorTuesday, June 17

12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957, Billy Wilder). With Charles Laughton, Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power and Elsa Lanchester. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 9, 2012.

Wednesday, June 18

6:45 a.m. (3:45 a.m.): “Brute Force” (1947, Jules Dassin). With Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Yvonne De Carlo, Charles Bickford and Jeff Corey. Reviewed in FNB on Aug. 15, 2013.

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With thanks and sadness, let’s raise a glass to Kate

I think of my spiritual ancestors as Joan Crawford, Barbara Stanwyck, Gloria Grahame, Lauren Bacall, Joan Bennett and Bette Davis. Their hard-won independence, their juicy scandals and their irrepressible willful streaks on and off screen laid the groundwork for all of us femmes fatales to call the shots, own our dramas and embrace the concept of high maintenance. Put simply: to be a bitch.

Kate's, at the corner of Wilshire and Doheny, opened in 1987.

Kate’s, at the corner of Wilshire and Doheny, opened in 1987.

That said, there are many other vixens, vamps and troublemakers who, though far less famous, are equally inspirational. One of these role models by extension, as it were, was Kate Mantilini, the namesake of a terrific Beverly Hills restaurant that is closing its doors on June 14, after 27 years in business.

Owner Marilyn Lewis says a recent rent increase prompted her decision.

Kate Mantilini was a feisty woman of the 1940s and the mistress of Marilyn Lewis’ uncle. (Marilyn and her late husband Harry Lewis were also the founders of the enormously popular Hamburger Hamlet chain. Harry died last June; he was 93.)

Says Marilyn Lewis: “My mother wouldn’t let me speak to her, nobody would allow us to mention her name, but she was a very strong woman and I wanted to name my restaurant after her.”

Actors, writers and execs gathered at the famous Beverly Hills restaurant.

Actors, writers and industry execs gathered at the famous Beverly Hills restaurant.

Of Irish and Italian descent, the unconventional Kate reportedly liked to do things her way and one of the things she really liked to do was to run businesses. The restaurant’s boxing mural is a nod to the fact that Kate worked in the male-dominated field of fight promotion.

The first time I went to the famous spot was for a late-night supper after seeing a Murnau double-bill at Lacma’s Bing Theater. I was visiting from Chicago and my friend Mickey Cottrell, a veteran film publicist and top-notch performer, suggested to the little group that had gathered that we nosh there. “Let’s head to Kate’s,” he said, as if Kate were a friend who had missed the movie but invited us to her place afterward.

Kate’s hasn’t changed much since it opened in 1987. Outside, by night, a blazing red neon sign pierces the inky blackness of Wilshire Boulevard. The building sits on the northwest corner of Wilshire and Doheny. Kate’s is walking distance from the Academy; the Weinstein Company is across the street.

Michael Mann shot a scene of "Heat" here.

Michael Mann shot a scene of “Heat” here.

Inside, the long, narrow room pulses with talk and laughter; fleet servers fly by, their crisp white aprons flash against the muted gray and cream walls. Glasses, plates and silverware clink and chime.

“I’m definitely moving here,” I thought to myself as we walked in that night, now long-ago. “This is so much cooler than Chicago.”

Mickey had a regular booth he liked; he suggested I order the sand dabs. Delightful. Our party was delightful too. Boisterous, funny, quick to argue fine points about films.

The kind and generous writer/producer/filmmaker Myron Meisel picked up the tab. Critic Michael Wilmington pointed out that the character actor Wallace Shawn was sitting in another booth.

Kate’s has always been popular with industry folk; celebs like Billy Wilder and Mel Brooks were regulars. Writers too, such as Susan Orlean and Tere Tereba, stopped by. Michael Mann, a master of filming Los Angeles by night, chose Kate’s for the scene in “Heat” (1995) when Al Pacino and Robert De Niro talk about their lives as cop and criminal.

Heat posterHarry Lewis was in the entertainment business before he and his wife became restaurateurs. As a contract player with Warner Bros. in the ’40s; Harry had a part in the film-noir classics “Key Largo” starring Humphrey Bogart and Edward G. Robinson as well as in “Gun Crazy” with John Dall and Peggy Cummins.

My friends and I may have been the last ones out that night and I’ve been back many times since. (I moved to Los Angeles in November of 2007.) I celebrated birthdays there, met girlfriends for drinks, marked triumphs big and small, stopped by for a slice of lemon ice-box pie and a cup of coffee after seeing a film at the Wilshire screening room.

It’s tough to think that after next Saturday I won’t be able to go to Kate’s anymore. I was a fan of the food (in particular the Cannes Film Festival salad and the split-pea soup) and the building and the vibe. By vibe I mean a sort of magic that’s absent from lots of trendy new restaurants.

Dessert is a must! Shown: the candy bar ice cream pie.

Dessert is a must! Shown: the candy bar ice cream pie.

You felt when you went to Kate’s that you were truly “in” – you might rub shoulders with Hollywood power brokers – but more importantly you were in for really good food and a really good time. Every time you went.

The Beverly Hills Cultural Heritage Commission is considering the property for landmark status to protect the building in the event that new owners decide to remodel. The land parcel (9101, 9107 and 9111 Wilshire Blvd.) features the work of architects Pereira and Luckman, Maxwell Starkman and Thom Mayne.

I hope that happens. But in the meantime, I’m going to raise a glass to Kate – who liked a good fight – and to the strong women she inspired – who doubtless have healthy appetites and never skip dessert.

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Film Noir File: Beautiful young Brando blazes in ‘Waterfront’

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK

On the Waterfront
(1954, Elia Kazan). 8 p.m. (5 p.m.), Saturday, June 7.

Elia Kazan’s socially conscious film noir masterpiece “On the Waterfront” is a touchstone of the American cinema, one of those movies you never forget. This powerhouse social drama, a film loaded with heart, brains and guts, pulls you into the crime-ravaged docks of New York City in the 1950s.

Karl Malden, as the crusading priest, talks with Brando's ex-pug, Terry Malloy.

Karl Malden, as the crusading priest, talks with Brando’s ex-pug, Terry Malloy.

Shot in New Jersey and based on actual events, adapted by writer Budd Schulberg from a series of articles by Malcolm Johnson, the movie portrays an exploited band of longshoremen battling for their rights on a dock run by a corrupt union, gangsters and killers. Kazan, Schulberg and a wonderful ensemble give this story a stinging realism few other films of the ’50s can match.

In “Waterfront,” we get a ringside seat at a battle between good and evil, crime and the law. Pitted against the brutal, crooked union-boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb), is an idealistic, courageous priest, Father Barry (Karl Malden), and a washed-up, but eventually heroic ex-boxer, Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando).

Eva Marie Saint and Brando, gorgeously framed by cinematographer Boris Kaufman.

Eva Marie Saint and Brando, gorgeously framed by cinematographer Boris Kaufman.

Among the movie’s other indelible characters: Rod Steiger as Charlie, Terry Malloy’s fancy-dressing mouthpiece-for-the-mob brother, and Eva Marie Saint, in her Oscar-winning movie debut as Edie Doyle, whose brother was murdered by Johnny Friendly’s thugs, and with whom Terry falls in love.

“On the Waterfront” is a knockout on all levels. It has great direction (Kazan), a great tough script (Schulberg), great black-and-white photography (Boris Kaufman), great naturalistic art direction (Richard Day), a great score (Leonard Bernstein), and, most of all, that perfect ensemble cast, with the extraordinary Brando at his youthful peak.

Brando makes every one of his scenes come alive, breathe and bleed, especially when Terry cries out to his brother Charlie (Steiger): “You don’t understand! I coulda had class! I coulda been a contender! I coulda been somebody! Instead of a bum, which is what I am.”

We’ll always remember that electrifying confession of failure and pain in the back of that cab, coming from the young brilliant actor playing the gentle-hearted, beaten-down ex-pug. He moves us so deeply because he was more than a contender; he was the champ. He had more than class; he had genius. He was more than somebody. He was Brando.

You can watch “On the Waterfront” on TCM of course. But if you’re lucky enough to be in Los Angeles this weekend, you can see the film on the big screen at 7:30 p.m., Friday, June 6, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Appearing on stage at that showing, to discuss the movie, will be one of its eight Oscar-winners, Eva Marie Saint.

Thursday, June 5

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Tarnished Angels” (1957, Douglas Sirk).

Dorothy Malone stars as a restless wife; Rock Hudson plays a roving reporter.

Dorothy Malone stars as a restless wife; Rock Hudson plays a roving reporter.

The setting: New Orleans at Mardi Gras. The source: William Faulkner’s novel “Pylon.” Scripted by George Zuckerman, who also penned Sirk’s “Written on the Wind” (1956).

The stars (who also played in “Wind”): Robert Stack and Dorothy Malone are a married couple; Rock Hudson is Burke Devlin, a drunken newspaper reporter at the Times-Picayune, who becomes enamored of them both.

With compassion and high style, “Tarnished Angels” focuses on life’s fringes and the ironies of heroism. Brilliantly shot by Irving Glassberg (who also shot Sirk’s “Captain Lightfoot”), it’s one of the best-looking black-and-white/widescreen movies of its era, a dark gem of noir style.

The one flaw is Hudson’s mostly un-drunk Devlin. But it’s not his fault; Hudson began the movie playing Devlin as soused, but Universal, fearful of harm to their big star’s image, ordered him to play it sober.

The film is a classic anyway. It was Sirk’s favorite of the films he directed and Faulkner preferred it to all the other movies made from his work, even the acknowledged 1949 classic “Intruder in the Dust.” Faulkner, no stranger to booze himself, even liked Hudson’s cold-sober Devlin.

Saturday, June 7

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan). See Pick of the Week.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Rumble on the Docks” (1956, Fred F. Sears). A poor man’s mash-up of “On the Waterfront” and “Crime in the Streets,“ with rebel rocker James Darren (“Gidget”), Laurie Carroll and Robert Blake.

11:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.): “The Mob” (1951, Robert Parrish). Broderick Crawford is an undercover cop, playing a bad guy to infiltrate a poisonous waterfront mob. The Mob includes Richard Kiley, Ernest Borgnine, Charles Bronson and Neville Brand. Lesser known, but a good noir.

Sunday, June 8

Notorious movie poster6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Notorious” (1946, Alfred Hitchcock). With Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains and Louis Calhern. Reviewed in FNB on Feb. 12, 2013 and Feb. 20, 2012.

Tuesday June 10

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Woman in the Window” (1944, Fritz Lang). With Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Raymond Massey and Dan Duryea. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 24, 2011.

10 p.m. (7. P.m.): “Scarlet Street” (1945, Fritz Lang). With Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea. Reviewed in FNB on Nov. 24, 2011.

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Eva Marie Saint to appear at 60th anniversary screening of ‘On the Waterfront’

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint both won Oscars for their work.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint both won Oscars for their work.

Think of “On the Waterfront” (1954, Elia Kazan) and, most times, Marlon Brando springs to mind, with his famous line: “I coulda been a contender.”

But don’t forget that behind the great Brando was a great blonde: Eva Marie Saint, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her work. Her award was one eight wins for the film: Picture, Director, Editing, Actor, Writing (Story and Screenplay), B&W Art Direction/Set Decoration, B&W Cinematography.

With its expressionistic black and white visuals, and its story of crime in the lower depths of New York City, “On the Waterfront” more than qualifies as film noir.

On Friday, June 6, the Academy and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma) is presenting a special screening in honor of the film’s 60th birthday at the museum’s Bing Theater. Eva Marie Saint will make an appearance. We at FNB are looking forward to hearing about her memories of making the flick.

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Film noir genius Fritz Lang’s work honored at the Aero

Fritz Lang was said to be tough on actors. You vere expecting othervise?

Fritz Lang was said to be tough on actors. You vere expecting othervise?

“In my opinion, there were only two directors in Hollywood who made films without regard to box-office success: Erich Von Stroheim and myself.”

So said Vienna-born noir master Fritz Lang (1890-1976). Lang came to Tinseltown in the mid-1930s after training as a painter, making landmark movies (“Metropolis” and “M”), and turning down an offer from Joseph Goebbels to head the German film studio UFA. In sunny California, the purveyor of angst and gloom snagged a contract with MGM.

For the next two decades, Lang, who was often difficult and demanding, directed many films with A-list stars for various studios, but never earned the acclaim he deserved. His career fizzled and he headed to Germany in the late 1950s to direct his final three movies, none of which resurrected his professional standing.

His work, however, was championed by Cahiers du cinéma critics and is highly regarded today. You can indulge in your own little Lang-fest starting Thursday when the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica starts Master of Darkness: The Testaments of Fritz Lang with “Scarlet Street” and “Hangmen Also Die!”

This delightfully dark series is must-see viewing for fans of film noir!

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The Film Noir File: A Day with Fritz Lang, Der Noirmeister

By Film Noir Blonde and Mike Wilmington

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK: Friday, May 30: A Day of Noir with Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang lived in a world of nightmares: in 20th century Germany during World War I, the economic collapse of the Weimar Republic, the turbulent sturm und drang of the 1930s, the murderous rise of the Nazis and the subsequent conflagration of WWII.

Lang created cinematic nightmares as well: crafting terrifying frescoes and mad (but sometimes all too true) visions of a world of crime and war. His movies, mostly done in the ultra-noir hues of high-style black and white cinematography, spanned the silent era, when he made “Metropolis,” “Die Nibelungen” and the “Dr. Mabuse” thrillers, and the sound era, when he made “M,” “Fury,” “Scarlet Street” and “The Big Heat.”

Fritz Lang was a noir master.

Fritz Lang was a noir master.

Lang, who started his artistic career as a sculptor, was equally great as a director of German art films and of American crime movies. He made cinematic classics in both countries. His early collaborator, and also his wife, was the brilliant scriptwriter Thea Von HarbouM”), who ended up leaving him and joining the Nazi Party.

Lang managed to elude Fascist censorship and was once offered the leadership of the entire German film industry by Joseph Goebbels, who (like Hitler) was an admirer of Lang and Von Harbou’s spectacular science fiction epic “Metropolis.” (See below.) A leftist and anti-Nazi, and also a man who had Jewish relatives, Lang fled Germany and Europe instead, and wound up one of the top directors of the Hollywood studio system during its heyday. He was also, indisputably, one of the reigning masters of the movie style we call film noir.

Young French critic-directors (Godard, Truffaut, Chabrol) idolized Lang, as much for his American films as his German ones. Finally, in the mid-1950s, he returned to Germany. He made a last few German pictures, and co-starred, as himself. in Jean-Luc Godard’s French classic ”Contempt.”

Fritz Lang, born in Vienna in 1890,  died in Los Angeles in 1976, at age 85. Eight of his best pictures are screening on TCM this Friday.

(The Lang films without notes below have been reviewed previously in Film Noir Blonde. Next week, starting Thursday, seven Lang films will play on the big screen at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica.)

“Scarlet Street” (1945) stars Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett.

“Scarlet Street” (1945) stars Edward G. Robinson (center) and Joan Bennett.

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “Metropolis” (1927, Fritz Lang). The rich vs. the poor, the factory owners vs. the workers, and the mad scientist vs. the people and their heroine (Brigitte Helm as the human Maria and her double, the false robot Maria) in the greatest of all silent era science fiction epics. And it’s noir as well. With  Alfred Abel and Rudolf-Klein-Rogge).

7:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m.): “M” (1931). With Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke and Gustaf Grundgens.

9:15 a.m. (6:15 a.m.): “Fury” (1936). Spencer Tracy, Sylvia Sidney, Bruce Cabot, Walter Brennan and Walter Abel.

11 a.m. (8 a.m.). “Scarlet Street” (1945). With Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett and Dan Duryea.

1 p.m. (10 a.m.). “Clash by Night” (1952). With Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Paul Douglas and Marilyn Monroe.

3 p.m. (12 p.m.). “The Blue Gardenia” (1953). With Anne Baxter, Richard Conte, Raymond Burr, Ann Sothern and Nat King Cole.

4:45 p.m. (1:45 p.m.). “Moonfleet” (1955). A moody Robert Louis Stevenson-style costume adventure-romance, about a dashing pirate (Stewart Granger) who wins the hearts of a young lad (Jon Whiteley) and several beautiful and susceptible ladies (Viveca Lindfors, Joan Greenwood). Based on a bodice-heaving bestseller, with supporting turns by George Sanders and Ian Wolfe. They especially loved this one in “Cahiers du Cinema.”

6:15 p.m. (3:15 p.m.). “”While the City Sleeps” (1956). With Dana Andrews, Ida Lupino, George Sanders, Thomas Mitchell, Vincent Price, Howard Duff, Rhonda Fleming and John Drew Barrymore. [Read more...]

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Shady lady delight: ‘The Lady from Shanghai’ at Lacma

As part of the Essential Orson Welles series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, “The Lady from Shanghai” and “Mr. Arkadin” will play Saturday, May 24, starting at 7:30 p.m.

The Lady from Shanghai/1948/Columbia Pictures/87 min.

Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles

The Lady from Shanghai poster“Citizen Kane” is hallowed cinematic ground, I know, but my favorite Orson Welles film is “The Lady from Shanghai” (1948), which he wrote, produced, directed and starred in, playing opposite his real-life wife Rita Hayworth, one of the most popular entertainers of the 1940s.

In “The Lady from Shanghai” Welles plays Michael O’Hara, an Irish merchant seaman, in between ships in New York. By chance, or so he thinks, he meets the wily blonde operator Elsa Bannister (Hayworth) and saves her from being mugged in the park. Elsa invites Michael to join her as she sets sail for Acapulco.

The boat belongs to her husband, a wizened, creepy criminal lawyer named Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane), and he’ll be on the trip too. So will his partner, the moon-faced and sinister George Grisby (Glenn Anders).

O’Hara agrees regardless. “Once I’d seen her,” he says, “I wasn’t in the right frame of mind.” On their voyage (the yacht belonged to Errol Flynn), Elsa and Michael flirt every chance they get; Arthur gets touchy and calls her “Lovah,” in a most unloving way; Grisby is generally unpleasant.

The tension builds, then breaks when they reach San Francisco. But not for long. Grisby has a plan to cash in on an insurance policy by faking his own murder and bribes Michael to help him. Need I say the plan doesn’t quite work out as they’d hoped? This is film noir, you know. “The Lady from Shanghai” is richly surreal and haunting in its intensity.

Welles and cinematographer Charles Lawton Jr. use staggering angles and startling black shadow almost to the point of abstraction. Two of the most famous sequences are the aquarium and the funhouse hall of mirrors at the end. Of the latter, Time Out notes that “it stands as a brilliant expressionist metaphor for sexual unease and its accompanying loss of identity.”

The script, based on the Sherwood King novel “If I Die Before I Wake,” crackles with noir attitude (“Everybody’s somebody’s fool,” says O’Hara). Hayworth, the perfect femme fatale, looks contemporary and sexy whether in her chic nautical garb or the filigree hat she wears in the courtroom.

Welles had to endure tremendous interference from Columbia Pictures execs, particularly studio chief Harry Cohn. Though the film was shot in 1947, Cohn delayed the release until 1948 in order to “fix” it. Welles’ original 155-minute cut was chopped to 87. Cohn also insisted that the movie have more closeups of Hayworth and that Welles film a scene of her singing. Welles was displeased with the score by the studio-appointed composer who disregarded Welles’ guidelines for the music; the mirror scene, for example, was to be unscored to heighten the sense of terror.

“The Lady from Shanghai” did not do well in the U.S. upon its release, though it was admired in France. Welles’ decision to have Hayworth cut her long red hair and bleach it blonde caused a controversy, and many in Hollywood believed it contributed to the film’s poor box-office returns. Watch this film for its serpentine plot twists, stunning images and as a testament to the fact that you should never underestimate the power of a good-hair day.

“The Lady from Shanghai” plays at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 24, at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), 5905 Wilshire Blvd.

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The Film Noir File: Anthony Mann’s sizzling ‘Raw Deal’

The Film Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).

PICK OF THE WEEK:

Raw Deal“ (1949, Anthony Mann). Friday, May 23, 5:15 p.m. (2:15 p.m.)

The eternal triangle: Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt and Dennis O’Keefe in “Raw Deal.”

The eternal triangle: Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt and Dennis O’Keefe in “Raw Deal.”

We’re in Washington state, on the run, surrounded by mountains, fog and guys with guns. Dennis O’Keefe is one of them: a tough, angry escaped convict named Joe Sullivan. Joe, need we say, got a raw deal. He took the rap and went to stir for fat, sleazy mobster Rick Coyle (Raymond Burr), a rat who double-crossed him and now wants him dead. Claire Trevor is Pat Cameron, the moll who loves Joe and sprang him from jail. She’s on the lam too. Marsha Hunt is a pretty legal caseworker who thinks Joe is innocent and got mixed up in the jail break; she also has a yen for the guy. John Ireland is bad news walking: Coyle’s murderous torpedo.

Here is a vintage, top-of-the-line B-movie film noir from the Golden Age and they don’t get much better or more noir. Director Anthony Mann was as much a master of this form as he was of the Western, or the epic, and he‘s at his peak in “Raw Deal.“ The cast is top-notch. The writers, a crack team, included Leopold Atlas (Wellman’s “The Story of G.I. Joe”) and Mann’s frequent collaborator, John C. Higgins (“T-Men,” “Border Incident.”) The photography – grim, moody, coldly romantic  – was shot by the master, John Alton. These guys and gals all know what they’re doing, and the picture is a little masterpiece, the real deal.

Thursday, May 22

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The House on 92nd Street” (1945, Henry Hathaway). With William Eythe, Lloyd Nolan, Signe Hasso and Gene Lockhart. Reviewed in FNB on March 13, 2013. [Read more...]

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FNB tributes to ‘Double Indemnity’ continue: Look on twitter

In honor of the 70th anniversary of “Double Indemnity,” we at FNB are hosting intermittent tributes. On Valentine’s Day, we compiled  a list of 14 reasons we adore the flick. Yesterday, we started tweeting the novel (by James M. Cain). Not sure how long that will take, but it should be fun. And here we are rerunning a review. Next, we should host a party in the Hollywood Hills. Until then …

Double Indemnity/1944/Paramount/106 min.

Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck

She’s got a plan, she just needs a man. And that’s a welcome challenge for a femme fatale, especially one with an ankle bracelet.

In Billy Wilder’s film noir masterpiece, “Double Indemnity,” from 1944 Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) wants out of her marriage to rich, grumpy oldster, Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers). Poor Phyllis doesn’t get much love from Dietrichson’s adult daughter, Lola (Jean Heather) either. Fresh-faced and feisty, Lola is hung up on her temperamental boyfriend Nino Zachetti (Byron Barr).

For Phyllis, seducing a new guy to help make hubby disappear is so much more cost-effective than hiring a divorce lawyer. A smart insurance man is even better. Along comes Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) trying to sell a policy, just as Phyllis finishes a session of sunbathing, wearing an ankle bracelet and not much more. That’s about as much bait as Walter needs.

They flirt, fall for each other and eventually arrange to bump off Mr. Dietrichson, making it look like he fell from a train. It’s a one-in-a-million way to go with a huge payoff from a double-indemnity insurance policy issued by Walter’s company. After that, they play it cool and wait for the check. They’ve planned it like a military campaign, so they’re in the clear until Walter starts to suspect that he’s not the only guy who’s been drooling at Phyllis’ ankles.

Edward G. Robinson

Besides his lust for the blonde (and their chemistry truly sizzles), Walter’s real love is the platonic father/son relationship he has with his boss at the insurance company, Barton Keyes, sharp, cynical and married to his job, played brilliantly by Edward G. Robinson.

Critic Richard Schickel says “Double Indemnity” is the first true noir. I disagree – what about 1941’s “The Maltese Falcon” and “Stranger on the Third Floor” from 1940? Or even Fritz Lang‘s “M” from Germany in 1931? But the point is “Double Indemnity” was the standard against which every subsequent noir was measured. It’s a glorious treat visually. John Seitz’s luscious lighting and captivating use of shadow bring to mind Vincent Van Gogh’s observation: “There are no less than 80 shades of black.” The score by Miklos Rozsa works perfectly with the visuals to build and sustain atmosphere.

The performances (Stanwyck, MacMurray and Robinson) are tremendous. Though Stanwyck was nominated for the best actress Oscar and “Double Indemnity” was also nominated in six other categories (picture, director, screenplay, cinematography, sound recording and score), MacMurray and Robinson were not in the running and the film didn’t win any Oscars. In retrospect, their work in this movie is some of the best acting of the decade. MacMurray (who might be most familiar as the father in TV’s “My Three Sons”) is such a natural as the easily tempted yet very likeable Neff, it’s surprising now to learn that the role was a major departure from his usual nice-guy parts.

As James Pallot of “The Movie Guide” writes: “Robinson … beautifully gives the film its heart. His speech about death statistics, rattled off at top speed, is one of the film’s highlights.” When Keyes realizes that Walter has betrayed him, it’s heartbreaking in a way that few other noirs are.

Wilder co-wrote the script with Raymond Chandler, based on the taut little novel by James M. Cain, published in 1936. (The novel was inspired by the real-life 1927 Snyder-Gray case.) In the book “Double Indemnity,” smitten Walter says of Phyllis’ physical charms, “I wasn’t the only one that knew about that shape. She knew about it herself, plenty.”

The dark, witty script follows the book pretty closely, but Chandler’s contributions are key. For example, check out this bit of simmering dialogue:

Phyllis: There’s a speed limit in this state, Mr. Neff, 45 miles an hour.

Walter: How fast was I going, Officer?

Phyllis: I’d say around 90.

Walter: Suppose you get down off your motorcycle and give me a ticket.

Phyllis: Suppose I let you off with a warning this time.

Walter: Suppose it doesn’t take.

Phyllis: Suppose I have to whack you over the knuckles.

Walter: Suppose I bust out crying and put my head on your shoulder.

Phyllis: Suppose you try putting it on my husband’s shoulder.

Walter: That tears it…

Chatting things over while Mr. Dietrichson is away.

Now it seems egregious that Wilder (1906-2002) and “Double Indemnity” were snubbed at the Oscars. Born in what is now Poland, Wilder escaped the Nazis, but his mother and other family members perished in a concentration camp. He knew firsthand the dark, sometimes horrific, side of life and that knowledge imbued his work with an unparalleled richness and depth. He was also hilarious. If I could have martinis with any film noir director, living or dead, it would be Billy.

I’ve seen interview footage of him where he punctuated his conversation with deep and frequent laughter. And I’ve heard stories about him playing practical jokes – apparently he when he lost the 1944 best director Oscar to Leo McCarey (who won for “Going My Way” starring Bing Crosby) Billy stuck out his foot and tripped McCarey as he walked down the aisle to pick it up. Maybe if I get that fantasy date with the spirit of Billy, I’ll bring Dick Schickel along too. He might benefit from a girly martini and tagging along with Billy and me.

So, suppose you do yourself a favor and watch “Double Indemnity” the first chance you get. You won’t be sorry.

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