The Noir File: French style from Jean Gabin in ‘Grisbi’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir and pre-noir on cable TV. All movies below are from the schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard). Lots of Robert Mitchum and Gloria Grahame this week!

PICK OF THE WEEK

Legendary, stylish Jean Gabin plays a legendary, stylish gangster named Max le Menteur.

Touchez pas au Grisbi” (1954, Jacques Becker). Friday, Nov. 30, 11:15 p.m. (8:15 p.m.): Film noir is a French term and the masters of the form include major French filmmakers as well as Americans. One of those masters is New Wave favorite Jacques Becker (“Casque d’Or“). And Becker’s noir masterpiece is “Touchez pas au Grisbi.” The film takes a wonderfully atmospheric and psychologically acute look at the Parisian underworld: at a legendary, stylish old gangster named Max le Menteur (played by the legendary, stylish Jean Gabin), at the spoils of Max’s last big job and at the unbreakable ties of friendship that entrap him. Adapted by Becker and Albert Simonin from Simonin’s novel, with two later noir mainstays in small roles: Jeanne Moreau and Lino Ventura. The title translates as “Don’t Touch the Loot.” (In French, with subtitles.)

Monday, Nov. 26

7 a.m. (4 a.m.): “The Narrow Margin” (1952, Richard Fleischer).

6:30 p.m. (3:30 p.m.): “The Steel Trap” (1952, Andrew L. Stone). In a neat twist from writer-director Stone, Joseph Cotten plays a bank employee/embezzler, desperately trying to return the loot he filched. With Teresa Wright. A favorite of noir expert Foster Hirsch.

Tuesday, Nov. 27

6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Brighton Rock” (1947, John Boulting). From Graham Greene’s classic novel about a babyfaced killer on Brighton beach named Pinkie (Richard Attenborough), smartly co-scripted by Greene.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Unsuspected” (1947, Michael Curtiz). Lesser-known but strong noir about a radio true crime show, whose producer (Claude Rains) becomes a murderer. With Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield and Audrey Totter.

4:30 a.m. (1:30 a.m.): “The Woman on the Beach” (1947, Jean Renoir). Renoir’s U.S. noir: A disturbed guy (Bob Ryan) gets involved with a blind painter (Charles Bickford) and his sexy wife (Joan Bennett).

Wednesday, Nov. 28

7:15 a.m. (4:15 a.m.): “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk). The famous postwar thriller about an anti-Semitic murder, co-starring Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan, Robert Young and Gloria Grahame.

1:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m.): “Macao” (1952, Josef von Sternberg & Nicholas Ray). Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell strike sultry sparks in this exotic thriller from Howard Hughes’ RKO. Directed by Josef Von Sternberg, with uncredited reshooting by Nick Ray. Co-starring Gloria Grahame, William Bendix and Thomas Gomez.

2:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m.): “The Big Heat” (1953, Fritz Lang).

Friday, Nov. 30

12:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m.): “White Heat” (1949, Raoul Walsh).

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Locket” (1946, John Brahm). Flashbacks within flashbacks adorn this stylish psychological noir about a troubled seductress (Laraine Day). With Robert Mitchum and Brian Aherne.

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Levine to co-host ‘Choreography by Jack Cole’ on TCM

Critic Debra Levine

Jack Cole and Marilyn Monroe

Los Angeles-based dance critic and arts journalist Debra Levine will co-host a special tribute to the influential dance maker Jack Cole (1911-1974) on Turner Classic Movies. The four-film tribute will be broadcast on Monday, Sept. 10, starting at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT). Levine joins TCM’s veteran host Robert Osborne to provide commentary.

From 1941 to 1962, Cole pioneered American jazz dance as an art form in Hollywood films. He contributed dance sequences to 30 movies at Columbia Pictures, Twentieth Century Fox and Metro Goldwyn Mayer, some credited, some not.

Cole left behind a celluloid track record of outstanding dance sequences with highly diverse themes (including some with a noir-tinged, nightclubby vibe), all with a recognizable Cole brand that is uncannily contemporary.

TCM schedule for Sept. 10

Tonight & Every Night” (1945, Victor Saville) 8 p.m. (5 p.m.)
Rita Hayworth, Lee Bowman, Janet Blair, Marc Platt

On the Riviera” (1951, Walter Lang) 10 p.m. (7 p.m.)
Danny Kaye, Gene Tierney, Gwen Verdon

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1952, Howard Hawks) 11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.)
Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell

Les Girls” (1957, George Cukor) 1:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.)
Kay Kendall, Taina Elg, Mitzi Gaynor, Gene Kelly

Born John Ewing Richter in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1911, Jack Cole’s extraordinary career as a top American dancer/choreographer began with pioneering modern-dance troupe, Denishawn. His innovative nightclub act, Jack Cole and His Dancers, toured the nation’s night clubs starting around 1933. In the mid 1940s in Los Angeles, Cole began a 20-year run as a brilliant and innovative Hollywood choreographer, crafting ingenious customized dance sequences for stars like Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and others.

Cole coached the stars not only in movement but also in song and line delivery. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Levine called Cole’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” (1953): “a delicious confection, a piece of Hollywood perfection.”

Cole died in Los Angeles in 1974; he was 62.

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Mitzi Gaynor to appear at UCLA’s Jack Cole tribute night

So many bad girls, so little time ...

Innovative choreographer Jack Cole is finally getting his due. Long neglected in most discussions of dance on film, Cole introduced radically modern ideas and forms to a sphere often treated as merely decorative. He also lent distinction to the careers of stars such as Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable and Mitzi Gaynor. Cole came to Hollywood from the world of nightclubs and Broadway.

Jack Cole

Mitzi Gaynor

As dance critic Debra Levine points out, Cole was a preeminent film choreographer when he joined Twentieth Century Fox to coach Monroe and Jane Russell in 1953’s “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

His film portfolio includes remarkable female solos: “Put the Blame on Mame” for Hayworth in the film noir “Gilda” (1946); “No Talent Joe” for Grable in “Meet Me After the Show” (1951) and “Beale Street Blues” for Gaynor in “The I Don’t Care Girl” (1953).

On Saturday, Aug. 4, the UCLA Film & Television Archive is hosting a tribute to Cole. There will be a screening of “The I Don’t Care Girl” and a discussion with Gaynor, Levine and Larry Billman, founder of the Academy of Dance on Film. Directed by Lloyd Bacon, the movie shows Cole’s hyper-stylized choreography to dazzling effect.

The UCLA event precedes Levine’s guest-host appearance on Turner Classic Movies. “Choreography by Jack Cole,” a four-film Cole homage, airs Sept. 10 on TCM.

UCLA’s tribute is at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Billy Wilder Theater, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90024, 310-206-8013. Tickets are $10 and I hear they are going fast!

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