Film Noir File: Summer of Darkness has strong second chapter

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: Friday is Noir Day on Summer of Darkness

Nothing beats a stroll a down a dark slick street to cool off on a hot summer night. The second week of TCM’s Summer of Darkness boasts as strong a lineup as the first. Curated and hosted by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation and the Noir City film festivals, TCM’s Summer of Darkness is one festival of shadowy dreams and gun crazy nightmares you won’t want to miss.

Friday, June 5

Glass Key poster 300 w6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Glass Key” (Stuart Heisler, 1942). Brian Donlevy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake star in this stylish remake of the 1935 film based on Hammett’s popular novel. The story follows a ruthless political boss and his personal adviser, who become entangled in a web of organized crime and murder involving the daughter of a rising gubernatorial candidate. Akira Kurosawa once claimed this film to be the inspiration for his classic samurai flick “Yojimbo” (1961).

7:30 a.m. (4: 30 a.m.): “Laura” (Otto Preminger, 1944).

9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “Ministry of Fear” (Fritz Lang, 1944). Ray Milland, just released from a British mental institution, wins the wrong cake at a charity raffle and becomes ensnared in a nightmarish web of espionage and murder. Graham Greene wrote the source novel. Co-starring Marjorie Reynolds and Dan Duryea.

10:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m.): “Murder, My Sweet” (Edward Dmytryk, 1944).

12:15 p.m. (9:15 a.m.): “Danger Signal” (Robert Florey, 1945). More top-notch caddery from that expert lounge snake, Zachary Scott, pulling the wool over Faye Emerson’s and other eyes. 1:45 p.m.

(10:45 a.m.): “Detour” (Edgar Ulmer, 1945).

3 p.m. (12 p.m.): “Mildred Pierce” (Michael Curtiz, 1945).

5 p.m. (2 p.m.): “Deadline at Dawn” (Harold Clurman, 1946). Bill Williams is a sailor on leave who has just one New York City night to prove his innocence of murder. Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas are the shrewd dancer and philosophical cabbie trying to help him. Clifford Odets’ script is from a Cornell Woolrich novel.

6:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.): “Johnny Angel” (Edwin L. Marin, 1946). Middling noir with George Raft hunting down killers and Claire Trevor.

“Gun Crazy” is Joseph H. Lewis’ masterpiece.

“Gun Crazy” is Joseph H. Lewis’ masterpiece.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Gangster” (Gordon Wiles, 1947). A sleeper. Good, neglected gangster noir, based on novelist (and later, screenwriter) Daniel Fuchs’ superb Brooklyn low-life chronicle, “Low Company.” (Read it, if you haven’t.) With Barry Sullivan, Shelley Winters, Akim Tamiroff, John Ireland and Harry Morgan.

9:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.): “Gun Crazy” (Joseph H. Lewis, 1950).

11:30 p.m. (8:30 p.m.): “Tomorrow is Another Day” (Felix Feist, 1951). An ex-con (Steve Cochran) adjusts violently to post-prison life. With Ruth Roman.

1:15 a.m. (10:15 p.m.): “Nightmare Alley” (Edmund Goulding, 1947).

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “Night Moves” (Arthur Penn, 1975). Underrated ’70s private-eye noir, set in the Florida Keys, with Gene Hackman as the tough P. E. and Melanie Griffith, Edward Binns and James Woods in fine support. Written by Alan Sharp and directed by Arthur Penn (“Bonnie and Clyde”).

Saturday, June 13

Bullitt poster - Copy 2148 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Bullitt” (Peter Yates, 1968). One of the more stylish cop-movie thrillers. With Steve McQueen at his coolest, Jacqueline Bisset at her loveliest, Robert Vaughn at his slimiest – plus the car chase to end all car chases.

Sunday, June 14

2:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m.): “A Kiss Before Dying” (Gerd Oswald, 1956). A charming psychopath (Robert Wagner) preys on two sisters (Joanne Woodward, Virginia Leith) in this tense adaptation of the novel by Ira Levin (“Rosemary’s Baby”). With Jeffrey Hunter and Mary Astor.

12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Greed” (Erich von Stroheim, 1924). Erich von Stroheim’s silent masterpiece about the dark side of life in San Francisco and Death Valley, with Gibson Gowland, Jean Hersholt and ZaSu Pitts as an odd, deadly triangle. Mutilated and cut by nearly six hours by MGM and Irving Thalberg, this is still one of the all-time great films.

Monday, June 15

Bunny Lake poster12 p.m. (9 a.m.): “The Fallen Idol” (Carol Reed, 1948). mesmerizing story of a little French boy (Bobby Henrey), a French diplomat’s son, who hero-worships the embassy butler (Ralph Richardson), but mistakenly comes to believe his idol has murdered his wife, and keeps unintentionally incriminating him. Graham Greene adapted the script from his short story.

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.): “Bunny Lake Is Missing” (Otto Preminger, 1965). Bunny Lake is an American child kidnapped in London, Carol Lynley her terrified mother, Keir Dullea her concerned uncle, Anna Massey her harassed teacher, Noel Coward her sleazy landlord, and Laurence Olivier the brainy police detective trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. The most important of those pieces: Was Bunny ever really there at all? A neglected gem; based on Evelyn Piper’s novel.

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Film Noir File: Summer of Darkness starts off with a bang

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: Summer of Darkness starts Friday

Hold onto your hat, button up your raincoat (you guys) or slip into your slinky gown (you gals), practice your best sneers or sultry glances, shove your gat in your pocket, crush a cigarette in the nearest ashtray (but don‘t smoke it), gun your engines and get set for the ride of your life.

June is the month when all lovers of film noir get the treat of the year on Turner Classic Movies. All you have to do every Friday is remember what day it is, then switch on the set and gorge yourself on TCM’s great festival of classic crime and prime punishment, Summer of Darkness.

Some experts consider “The Maltese Falcon” the first film noir. Others say “Stranger on the Third Floor” holds that distinction.

Some experts consider “The Maltese Falcon” the first film noir. Others say “Stranger on the Third Floor” holds that distinction.

It’s the station’s annual banquet of stylish movie murder and mayhem, of gunmen and gunsels, of whiskey and women and blues in the night, and of dark deeds on dark, rainy city streets. Each Friday, throughout June, running from dawn to dusk and late into the night (natch), TCM will show nearly 50 classic noir titles, including “The Maltese Falcon,” “Born to Kill,” “Out of the Past,” “The Third Man,” “The Killers” and “Detour.”

Curated and hosted by the Czar of Noir himself, Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation and the Noir City film festivals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and other towns where people prowl around after midnight, TCM’s Summer of Darkness is one season in Hell, and one festival of dreams and nightmares, you won’t want to miss.

Friday, June 5

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “M” (Germany: Fritz Lang, 1931).

8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “La Bete Humaine” (France: Jean Renoir, 1938). Jean Renoir’s noir masterpiece is a dark, stark tale of railroads, adultery, madness and murder, with Jean Gabin as the train engineer who goes crazy with l’amour fou, Simone Simon as the woman who drives him there, and Fernand Ledoux as her rat husband and his boss. The source is a classic novel by Emile Zola.

9:45 a.m. (6:45 a.m.): “The Letter” (William Wyler, 1940).

11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.): “Stranger on the Third Floor” (Boris Ingster, 1940).

The great Peter Lorre stars in “Stranger on the Third Floor.”

The great Peter Lorre stars in “Stranger on the Third Floor.”

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “High Sierra” (Raoul Walsh, 1941).

2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.) “The Maltese Falcon” (John Huston, 1941).

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “Journey Into Fear” (Norman Foster & Orson Welles (uncredited), 1942).

5:45 p.m. (2:45 p.m.): “Johnny Eager” (Mervyn LeRoy, 1942).

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Nora Prentiss” (Vincent Sherman, 1947). Ann Sheridan gives Doc Kent Smith all the oomph he can handle.

10:15 p.m. (7:15 p.m.): “Woman on the Run” (Norman Foster, 1950). Neglected noir with Sheridan sizzling as a murder witness’s wife.

11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “Dark Passage” (Delmer Daves, 1947).

L.A. Confidential poster 2141:45 a.m. (10:45 p.m.): “Born to Kill” (Robert Wise, 1947).

3:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.): “L. A. Confidential” (Curtis Hanson, 1997).

Saturday, June 6

4:15 p.m. (1:15 p.m.): “The Big Heat” (Fritz Lang, 1953).

Monday, June 8

5 p.m. (2 p.m.): “Conflict” (Curtis Bernhardt, 1945).

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Man Hunt” (Fritz Lang, 1941). Big game hunter Walter Pidgeon goes after human prey Adolf Hitler – who was no friend of Fritz.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “Hangmen Also Die” (Fritz Lang, 1943).

12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.): “Saboteur” (Alfred Hitchcock, 1942).

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‘High Sierra’ kicks off Ida Lupino tribute at Lacma

Ida Lupino directed “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The Bigamist,” both from 1953, as well as five other features.

Ida Lupino directed “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The Bigamist” as well as five other features.

High Sierra” is the first of five films starring the multi-talented Ida Lupino to play this month at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Tuesday matinee series runs June 2-30.

High Sierra posterMost famous as an actress, Lupino was also a director, writer and producer. She was the second woman (after Dorothy Arzner) to join the Directors Guild of America. Lupino was known for her energy and her intensity as well as her fiery temperament and mercurial character. She once described herself as “the poor man’s Bette Davis.” Like Davis, Lupino craved meaty, challenging roles and was not afraid to look unglamorous while playing them.

Earlier in her career, she was billed as “the English Jean Harlow” and she was made to dye her hair blonde. But whether she was a blonde or a brunette, Lupino had a strong affinity with film noir. She certainly had a knack for playing tough broads and bad girls from the wrong side of the tracks.

In addition to “They Drive By Night” and “High Sierra,” she earned 15 film noir or crime/mystery acting credits. She directed seven feature films (most notably “The Hitch-Hiker” and “The Bigamist” both from 1953) as well as many TV shows.

Thank you, Lacma, for celebrating Lupino’s rich and enduring contribution to film noir. The other films in the series are: “Ladies in Retirement,” “The Man I Love,” “Road House” and “The Big Knife.”

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Happy birthday, Marilyn!

Marilyn Monroe would have been 89 today. We are re-running this essay as a tribute to our favorite blonde bombshell.

Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926-Aug. 5, 1962) will be honored at a memorial service on Monday, Aug. 5, in Westwood.

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Marilyn modeled to support herself.

Bugs. Dogs. God. Since childhood, she was quick to ask questions about the everyday and the esoteric. This little girl named Norma Jean, as curious and proud as she was lonely and neglected, grew up to be Marilyn Monroe, the world’s most iconic and enduring sex symbol. Her love affair with the public still burns bright more than 50 years after her death on Aug. 5, 1962. She was 36.

Perhaps she sought answers and collected facts as a distraction from the grinding poverty and desperate uncertainty she faced as a kid. Her mother, Gladys, who fought bouts of mental illness, was unable to take care of her and her father had long been absent from their lives.

Norma Jean bounced between friends’ places and foster homes in Los Angeles. She was treated poorly for the most part, made to bathe in dirty water, molested by a man named Mr. Kimmel, pushed into marriage at 16 to Jim Dougherty, whom she barely knew, to avoid returning to the orphanage.

She was physically as well as intellectually precocious, fully developed by 12, and she knew her looks would open doors for her. There was a way, she believed, she could parlay her games of make believe into something refined, meaningful and artistic. If she got training and made the right connections, she could escape from her harrowing childhood.

“The truth was that with all my lipstick and mascara and precocious curves, I was as unsensual as a fossil. But I seemed to affect people quite otherwise.” — MM on her school days

Groucho Marx described Marilyn as Mae West, Theda Bara and Little Bo Peep all rolled into one.

“In Hollywood a girl’s virtue is much less important than her hair-do.” — MM

“After a few months, I learned how to reduce the boredom [at a Hollywood party] considerably. This was to arrive around two hours late.” — MM

As a struggling model and actress, Marilyn would spend Sundays at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, watching people walk from the trains to be greeted, hugged and kissed, wondering what it would feel like to be cared about, to be missed and wanted.

“I could never be attracted to a man who had perfect teeth. I don’t know why, but I have always been attracted to men who wore glasses.” — MM

She got a few small parts in the pictures, studied acting and attended Hollywood parties, carefully crossing her legs to hide the holes in her nylons, quietly watching other guests play cards and win money.

“When the men laughed and pocketed the thousands of dollars of winnings as if they were made of tissue paper, I remembered my Aunt Grace and me waiting in line at the Holmes Bakery to buy a sackful of stale bread for a quarter to live on a whole week,” she recalled in her memoir (co-written with Ben Hecht), “My Story.”

The studio suits weren’t encouraging. Darryl Zanuck and Dore Schary told her that she was unphotogenic, that she didn’t have the right look. She persevered. Eventually, it was her enraptured fans (she garnered 7,000 letters a week) who fueled her fame and propelled her rise to the top. “I knew I belonged to the public and to the world, not because I was talented or even beautiful but because I had never belonged to anything or anyone else.”

“We were the prettiest tribe of panhandlers that ever overran a town.” — MM on her early years as a Hollywood actress.

One of her most important movies, early on, was a film noir: “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). “Don’t Bother to Knock” (1952, Roy Ward Baker) and “Niagara” (1953, Henry Hathaway) also showcased her talent for playing dark, dangerous women.

The studio pushed her toward lighter fare – musicals and comedies – where she played frothy flirts and bubble-headed gold diggers: “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953, Howard Hawks), “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953, Jean Negulesco) and “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954, Walter Lang).

Marilyn pushed back, wanting more complex parts and sometimes she got them. She teamed up with some of Hollywood’s greatest directors: Huston, Hawks, Otto Preminger in “River of No Return” (1954), Joshua Logan in “Bus Stop” (1956), twice with Billy Wilder, in 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch” and four years later in the black-comedy classic “Some Like It Hot.”

In 1960, she worked with George Cukor in “Let’s Make Love.” Cukor also directed her in the unfinished “Something’s Got to Give” (1962). She co-starred with Sir Laurence Olivier (he also directed) in “The Prince and the Showgirl” (1957) and earned acclaim for her work, especially from European critics.

“In a daydream you jump over facts as easily as a cat jumps over a fence.” — MM

It was choreographer Jack Cole’s idea to pair pink and red in the color scheme of 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Marilyn was the favorite movie actress of the French philosopher/novelist/playwright Jean-Paul Sartre, and he wrote the lead female part in his original script “Freud” (1962) for her. (Susannah York played it.)

“I’ve often stood silent at a party for hours listening to my movie idols turn into dull and little people.” — MM

Her boyfriends reportedly included Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Elia Kazan, Orson Welles, Yves Montand, John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy; her best girlfriend (and one-time roommate) was Shelley Winters. During the height of her fame, Marilyn married two more times – to Yankee baseball great Joe DiMaggio (January-October 1954) and to playwright Arthur Miller (1956-1961).

Miller wrote “The Misfits” (1961) for her. In that ill-fated film, Marilyn co-starred with Clark Gable, the movie star she’d so often pretended was her father, and was directed by Huston, whom she considered a genius. During the arduous shoot in the Nevada desert, the Monroe-Miller marriage came apart. Gable died from a heart attack days after the filming ended. Said Huston of Marilyn: “She went right down into her own personal experience for everything, reached down and pulled something out of herself that was unique and extraordinary. She had no techniques. It was all the truth, it was only Marilyn.”

Marilyn once implored a LIFE reporter: “Please don’t make me a joke.”

Her vulnerability and little-girl-lost quality, coupled with her stunning looks and glamour, are often cited as the reasons for her widespread, lasting appeal.

There’s no doubt she faced a litany of lingering problems: a family history of mental illness; emotional instability and physical maladies; a dependency on drugs and alcohol; endometriosis, abortions and miscarriages; difficulty remembering lines and showing up on time; broken marriages and failed affairs as well as frustration and fights with 20th Century-Fox (the studio refused to let her see scripts in advance of a shoot, then relented).

Some of her early work is slightly cloying – the breathy voice a little too mannered, her demeanor a little forced. And despite critical recognition for “Bus Stop,” “Prince” and “Some Like It Hot,” she remained pigeonholed as a blonde bombshell, a sexy joke.

“When you’re a failure in Hollywood – that’s like starving to death outside a banquet hall with the smells of filet mignon driving you crazy.” — MM

Orry-Kelly designed Marilyn’s clothes in “Some Like It Hot.”

“When you’re broke and a nobody and a man tells you that you have the makings of a star, he becomes a genius in your eyes.” — MM

Marilyn’s marriage to playwright Arthur Miller came apart while making “The Misfits.” Co-star Clark Gable died days after shooting ended.

Yet it was her precise and subtle comic timing that set her apart from other actresses. As Wilder put it: “She was an absolute genius as a comic actress, with an extraordinary sense for comic dialogue. … Nobody else is in that orbit; everyone else is earthbound by comparison.”

“To love without hope is a sad thing for the heart.” — MM

Humor was likely a coping mechanism she’d honed in an effort to ward off the crushing emptiness she’d known since childhood. Norma Jean saw movies again and again at Hollywood theaters; play-acting with other kids, she thought up the good stuff, the drama.

Marilyn liked her body and, some days, she enjoyed the attention she got from her looks. But she also gave the impression that her beauty could be swiftly forgotten, that she got bored too fast to dwell on her appearance. Underneath the surface, right alongside the troubled soul, was a well of pure bliss that wasn’t hard to reach, if she had a receptive audience, whether it was a likeminded bookworm friend or a movie palace packed with people.

When the fantasy was in full, giddy swing, she laughed sweetly and cynically, sometimes at herself. She could be funny with a look, a gesture or a makeshift prop – sparking joy from nothing at all.

Sir Laurence Olivier said of Marilyn: ”Look at that face – she could be five years old.”

Photographers include: George Barris, Richard Avedon, Philippe Halsman, Milton Greene, Sam Shaw and Bert Stern.

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Robert Ryan author J.R. Jones to appear at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in conversation with Film Noir Blonde

Robert Ryan exuded masculinity and mystery in equal parts and he’s always been one of my favorite film noir actors. He could easily play a good guy but his forte was for those tormented, enigmatic characters, who were dark and volatile, moody and quick-tempered.

Robert Ryan book coverRemember him as an embittered vet in “Act of Violence,” (1948, Fred Zinnemann), where he co-starred with Van Heflin, Janet Leigh and Mary Astor? He made his mark the previous year as a vicious bigot in “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk) with Robert Young, Robert Mitchum and Gloria Grahame.

He was unforgettable as the over-the-hill boxer fighting his last fight in “The Set-Up” (1949, Robert Wise) with Audrey Totter, and as the tormented cop in “On Dangerous Ground” (1952, Nicholas Ray) with Ida Lupino. In 1959, playing another bigot, Ryan again worked with Wise in the classic heist movie “Odds Against Tomorrow” which also starred Harry Belafonte, Gloria Grahame and Shelley Winters.

Not to mention “The Naked Spur,” “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “God’s Little Acre,” “Billy Budd,” “The Dirty Dozen,” The Wild Bunch” and “The Iceman Cometh.”

So, I am very excited to announce that I will be talking with Chicago-based author J.R. Jones about his new book, “The Lives of Robert Ryan,” at 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 16, at Larry Edmunds Bookshop in Hollywood.

“Crossfire” was the film that put Robert Ryan on the map.

“Crossfire” was the film that put Robert Ryan on the map.

According to Amazon: “The Lives of Robert Ryan” provides an inside look at the gifted, complex, intensely private man whom Martin Scorsese called “one of the greatest actors in the history of American film.”

The son of a Chicago construction executive with strong ties to the Democratic machine, Ryan became a star after World War II. … His riveting performances expose the darkest impulses of the American psyche during the Cold War.

At the same time, Ryan’s marriage to a liberal Quaker and his own sense of conscience launched him into a tireless career of peace and civil rights activism that stood in direct contrast to his screen persona. Drawing on unpublished writings and revealing interviews, film critic J.R. Jones deftly explores the many contradictory facets of Robert Ryan’s public and private lives, and how these lives intertwined in one of the most compelling actors of a generation.

Larry Edmunds Bookshop is at 6644 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA, 90028, 323-463-3273.

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Los Angeles celebrates Orson Welles centennial

Orson Welles was born May 6, 1915.

Orson Welles was born May 6, 1915.

He hailed from the small Midwestern town of Kenosha, Wisc.

Chubby cheeked and heavy-set, he was not classically good looking. He frequently ran afoul of the Hollywood studio execs. He was considered a genius of theater, radio and film, but many of his movies were not financially successful. He had a hard time staying faithful to one woman.

His appetite was prodigious. Younger viewers might remember him as a TV spokesman for Gallo wine.

Orson Welles, who was born 100 years ago today, experienced unparalleled ups and downs over the course of his impressive career. And he is arguably the single most important influence in 20th century cinema. It’s clear that, 30 years after his death on October 10, 1985, his impact is still felt and still refracted in what we watch on the big screen. There’s been no one quite like Welles, and it’s hard to imagine someone besting him any time soon.

Touch of Evil posterIn honor of his centennial, the Crest Theater in Westwood is showing “Touch of Evil” tonight (May 6) at 7:30 p.m.

The American Cinematheque is running a series, starting Thursday, May 7, at the Aero Theatre in Santa Monica called Touch of Genius: Orson Welles at 100.

Films to be shown are: “The Lady from Shanghai,” “The Stranger,” “Citizen Kane,” “The Magnificent Ambersons,” “Chimes of Midnight,” “Othello,” “Touch of Evil” and a new documentary, “Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles.” Reviews for most of these titles are on FNB — just hit the search bar on the right.

Film historian F.X. Feeney will sign copies of his new book Orson Welles: Power, Heart, and Soul and introduce each night in the series.

Feeney will also appear at a free screening of “Chimes of Midnight” at 5 p.m. Monday, May 11, at the Will & Ariel Durant Branch Library in Hollywood, 323-876-2741.

Touch of Evil” also screens at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, at Lacma’s Bing Theater.

 

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Film noir takes center stage as Summer of Darkness returns

We are super excited that Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is going dark on Fridays in June and July with the return of Summer of Darkness, film noir screenings hosted by Eddie Muller, also known as “The Czar of Noir.”

TCM Summer of Darkness 2015The Summer of Darkness programming slate will feature more than 100 noir titles making it the most extensive catalog of noirs ever presented by the network.

Summer of Darkness titles include:

Nightmare Alley poster 150·      “Nora Prentiss” (1947, Vincent Sherman), starring Ann Sheridan and Kent Smith.

·      “Born to Kill” (1947, Robert Wise), starring Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor.

·      “Nightmare Alley” (1947, Edmund Goulding), starring Tyrone Power, Joan Blondell, Coleen Gray and Helen Walker.

·      “Gun Crazy”(1950, Joseph H. Lewis), starring John Dall and Peggy Cummins.

·      “The Third Man” (1949, Carol Reed), starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli and Trevor Howard.

·      “L.A. Confidential” (1997, Curtis Hanson) starring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kim Basinger.

Double Indemnity posterTCM first featured Summer of Darkness programming in the summer of 1999.

In addition to the 24-hour on-air programming, fans will also have the opportunity to experience film noir on the big screen when TCM, Fathom Events and Universal Pictures bring Billy Wilder’s 1944 noir classic “Double Indemnity,” starring Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck, to theaters across the country on July 19 and 20.

Count us in! Reviews for most of these titles are on FNB — just hit the search bar on the right.

 

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Paris Photo Los Angeles starts Friday at Paramount Studios

Stefania Fersini

Stefania Fersini

Jane O’Neal On Location in LA (To Live and Die in LA), 1984

Jane O’Neal
On Location in LA (To Live and Die in LA), 1984

William Mebane

William Mebane

This weekend you can stroll around a storied studio and see work from some of the world’s finest photographers. The third edition of Paris Photo Los Angeles runs Friday, May 1, to Sunday, May 3, at Paramount Pictures Studios in Hollywood.

Featuring exhibitors from 17 countries, Paris Photo Los Angeles shows work from nearly 80 art galleries and specialized art book dealers. In addition to still photos, moving images will be displayed.

New this year is the INTRODUCING! Young California Photographer Award, in partnership with J.P. Morgan. After the success of last year’s UNEDITED! Archives of the LAPD exhibition, the program returns with CALIFORNIA UNEDITED!: a collection of 19th Century photographs from the R.J. Arnold Archive.

The exhibition also includes a conversation series called SOUND & VISION.

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‘A Perfect Man’ is an ideal start to COLCOA film festival

Last night, the COLCOA French Film Festival kicked off with a lovely reception and a screening of “A Perfect Man,” directed and co-written by Yann Gozlan.

A Perfect Man posterIn the movie, Pierre Niney plays Mathieu Vasseur, a sensitive smart loner and struggling fiction writer. When he happens to find an unpublished manuscript written by a French soldier in the Algerian War (who is now deceased), Mathieu takes a gamble and sends it to a publisher. It’s an instant success and Mathieu’s once-dismal existence is transformed, bringing him money, acclaim and the love of Alice Fursac (Ana Girardot), a beautiful and brainy literature professor who hails from a prominent family.

But three years later, Mathieu’s lies catch up with him: he’s spent all his money and he’s made zero progress on a second book. Also bothering him: a blackmailer and a nosy friend of the Fursac family. As Mathieu gets more desperate to cover his tracks (à la Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley), he turns to increasingly dire methods to hang onto his pretty illusion.

As always, the COLCOA opening-night reception was delightful.

As always, the COLCOA opening-night reception was delightful.

Granted, there are several times where “A Perfect Man” might inspire head-shaking incredulity. But I found that easy to forgive because there is so much that’s highly entertaining about the film – Niney and Girardot are just right for their parts, not to mention the luscious cinematography, shocking twists, taut pacing and gorgeous locations.

Alfred Hitchcock had a name for viewers who quibbled with the likelihood of a suspense movie’s plot points occurring in real life: The Plausibles. In his view, these nitpickers were missing the point, which was to enjoy the story’s thrills, both narratively and visually.

Of course, there needs to be some semblance of reality as well as sophistication in terms of storytelling in order to gloss over pesky points of fact. And it’s a difficult balance to maintain – some films are so compelling that it’s easy to forgive even major errors, others we dismiss completely because we just can’t buy into the film’s reality.

In the case of “A Perfect Man,” ditch your Plausibles checklist and just have a good time.

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COLCOA French fest opens and Noir City Hollywood closes

It’s a busy time for film buffs in Los Angeles.

The COLCOA French Film Festival opens tonight, Monday, April 20, with an elegant reception and the opening night film, a thriller called “A Perfect Man,” directed and co-written by Yann Gozlan and starring Pierre Niney and Ana Girardot.

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in  “A Perfect Man.”

Pierre Niney plays the wily writer in “A Perfect Man.”

It’s a story of shifting identities as a struggling author stumbles upon a wildly unethical way to make the best-seller list.

With echoes of Patricia Highsmith’s Mr. Ripley, “A Perfect Man” strikes us as a divinely decadent way to kick off this wonderful festival, now in its 19th year.

There is much to see this year (check the COLCOA site for info on free screenings and cool events) and we are counting the days until Friday’s Film Noir Series.

The fest takes place at the Directors Guild of America, 7920 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 90046.

Sunday was the closing day of an essential film fest, for noiristas and others: Noir City Hollywood, presented by the American Cinematheque in collaboration with the Film Noir Foundation. The foundation’s urbane noirphiles Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode were on hand throughout the fest to introduce the movies. This year, they brought another excellent selection (heavy on adaptations of the great master of pulp suspense Cornell Woolrich).

The lineup included a real find: the American debut of three almost unknown but brilliantly done and stunningly visualized film noirs from Argentina: “The Black Vampire” (Roman Vinoly Barreto, 1953), a remake of Fritz Lang’s “M,” and superb adaptations of Woolrich stories in “Never Open That Door” (Carlos Hugo Christensen, 1952) and “If I Should Die Before I Wake” (Christensen, 1952).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

Dorothy MacKaill lights up the screen in “Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman).

The fest wrapped up with a four-movie proto-noir marathon:

The Ninth Guest” (1934, Roy William Neill) a mystery with a generous dollop of Deco glam.

Let Us Live” (1939, John Brahm) featuring the great Henry Fonda as a wrongly identified killer and a riveting performance from Maureen O’Sullivan as his girlfriend.

Heat Lightning” (1934, Mervyn LeRoy) a pre-Code delight about two sisters (Aline MacMahon and Ann Dvorak) running a garage and car-repair shop in the desert and ridding the place of rats, such as fleeing criminal and old flame (Preston Foster).

Safe in Hell” (1931, William Wellman) Dorothy MacKaill is unforgettable as a sparkling blonde siren who spends the entire movie fighting off men as she waits in vain on a Caribbean island to be with the guy she truly loves (Donald Cook).

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

Don Castle was a Clark Gable lookalike.

My attendance was spotty this year because I had to leave town unexpectedly (such is life for a femme fatale) but my colleague Mike Wilmington caught quite a few.

Other highlights from this year’s fest were: “Woman on the Run,” “The Underworld Story,” “Abandoned,” “Circle of Danger,” “Berlin Express,” “Ride the Pink Horse,” “The Fallen Sparrow,” and “The Guilty” as well as that triple bill of Argentinian film noir.

The closing-weekend party was loads of fun, especially since I won a nifty raffle prize! I definitely needed my drink tickets that night. Why? By the small but mighty curveball in “The Guilty” when the lead character (Don Castle) reveals that he is studying “commercial geography” to land a good job.

What??? Education and hard work to get ahead? Was the movie going to start preaching about the virtues of a work ethic? Aaargh! Thankfully, this was, in fact, a temporary glitch and the character turned out to be crazy-bad.

Phew! I was freaked out there for a moment but everything was just as it should be in Noirville.

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