The Film Noir File: Belafonte and Ryan bet it all on ‘Odds’

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

“Odds Against Tomorrow”
(1959, Robert Wise). 1 a.m. (10 p.m.) Monday, Jan. 20

Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte lead a stellar cast in "Odds Against Tomorrow."

Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte lead a stellar cast in “Odds Against Tomorrow.”

Here is one of the great, underrated film noirs – a movie whose reputation and stature was recognized early on by French critics and has continued to grow over the past half century.

Based on a novel by suspense specialist William McGivern (“The Big Heat”), “Odds Against Tomorrow” boasts a riveting and exciting story, unforgettable characters and a social/political allegory that’s pointed and powerful. With Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, Shelley Winters and Gloria Grahame. Read the full review here.

Thursday, Jan. 16

Joan Crawford plays a crime boss in this remake of a 1939 Swedish thriller.

Joan Crawford plays a crime boss in this remake of a 1939 Swedish thriller.

12:30 a.m. (9:30 p.m.): “A Woman’s Face” (1941, George Cukor). A crime boss (Joan Crawford) with a ruined face has her physical damage repaired by plastic surgery. Embarking on another crime, she must decide whether to pursue the evil she knows or the good that beckons. Remade from the 1939 Swedish thriller by director Gustaf Molander, with Ingrid Bergman in Crawford’s part. The original was better, but the remake is good. The supporting cast includes Melvyn Douglas, Conrad Veidt (in his Hollywood specialty, a smooth sadistic villain), Reginald Owen, Marjorie Main and Henry Daniell. Script by Donald Ogden Stewart and mystery writer Elliot Paul.

4:15 a.m. (1:15 a.m.): “These are the Damned” (1963, Joseph Losey). Expatriate American director Losey, a Black List victim, was still in Britain when he made this scintillatingly shot mix of neo-noir, juvenile delinquent thriller, and “Village of the Damned”-style anti-war science fiction. MacDonald Carey is the boat enthusiast/ businessman at a coastal British city, who falls for a Teddy Girl (Shirley Anne Field). Her gang-boss brother (played by sullen young Oliver Reed) is touchy, jealous and dangerous. Chased by the gang (whose signature song is the bizarrely uncatchy psychotic-sounding pseudo-rock ballad “Black Leather! Black Leather! Kill! Kill! Kill!”), the couple escapes to an island in the grip of a doomsday scientific experiment with irradiated children, run by Alexander Knox. It’s a pretty crazy show, but it really grips you, and it looks great. Written by Losey regular Evan Jones (“Eva” and “King and Country”).

Saturday, Jan. 18

The one and only Tallulah Bankhead stars in "Lifeboat."

The one and only Tallulah Bankhead stars in “Lifeboat.”

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lifeboat” (1944, Alfred Hitchcock). During World War II, an American ocean liner is torpedoed by a Nazi submarine. The survivors – now trapped in the lifeboat and in the vast waters – have to decide whether to trust the only person among them who knows how to navigate the boat: the Nazi captain of the sub that sunk them (Walter Slezak). This anti-Fascist parable/thriller and character study, the most political and left-wing movie Alfred Hitchcock ever made, was originally written by John Steinbeck; Ben Hecht and Jo Swerling also had hands in it. Shot basically in one studio tank and in the lifeboat, this underrated flick features a shocker of an ending and a first-rate cast, including Tallulah Bankhead, John Hodiak, William Bendix, Canada Lee, Hume Cronyn and Henry Hull.

Sunday, Jan. 19

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Two Mrs. Carrolls” (1947, Peter Godfrey). With Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Alexis Smith. Reviewed in FNB on June 27, 2012. [Read more...]

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The Noir File: Belafonte and Ryan in ‘Odds Against Tomorrow’

By Michael Wilmington & 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).

PICK OF THE WEEK

Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte lead a top cast in “Odds Aganist Tomorrow.”

Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959, Robert Wise). Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.). Here is one of the great, underrated film noirs – a movie whose reputation and stature was recognized early on by French critics and has continued to grow over the past half century.

Directed by Robert Wise, and based on a novel by suspense specialist William McGivern (“The Big Heat“), “Odds Against Tomorrow” boasts a riveting and exciting story, unforgettable characters and a social/political allegory that’s pointed and powerful.

Three mismatched New Yorkers – genial, corrupt ex-cop Dave (Ed Begley), brutal ex-con Earl (Robert Ryan) and reckless Johnny (Harry Belafonte), a nightclub entertainer with huge gambling debts – join forces for an upstate bank robbery, a well-planned heist that will supposedly solve all their money problems. But the problems are just beginning. Earl is a racist who hates Johnny on sight and Johnny has a short fuse as well. Things begin to unravel, then explode.

Gloria Grahame plays an extra-friendly neighbor.

Ryan’s performance is a scorcher; he‘s a perfect villain, bad to the bone. Belafonte’s is compelling and non-clichéd. (He was also one of the producers.) Begley’s is jovial but poignant, a Willy Loman-like salesman peddling his own destruction. The women in the case, a pair of bad blondes – Shelley Winters as Earl’s whining wife and Gloria Grahame as his slutty neighbor – are top-notch.

French noir master Jean-Pierre Melville named “Odds Against Tomorrow” as one of his three all-time favorite movies; the other two were: “The Asphalt Jungle” and “The Best Years of Our Lives.” Along with the 1949 boxing classic “The Set-Up” (which had Ryan in a sympathetic role, as the aging fighter) this is the best of Wise’s crime movies. The screenplay was mostly by the uncredited and blacklisted Abraham Polonsky (“Force of Evil“). The original jazz score is by John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet. The atmospheric black and white cinematography is by Joseph C. Brun (“Edge of the City”).

Tuesday, Jan. 15

10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Deadline at Dawn” (1946, Harold Clurman). With Susan Hayward and Paul Lukas.

Wednesday, Jan. 16

8 p.m. (5 p.m.) : “Cry Danger” (1951, Robert Parrish). Fast, breezy revenge yarn, with Dick Powell looking for payback, and Rhonda Fleming, William Conrad and William Erdman standing by.

12:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m.): “The Breaking Point” (1950, Michael Curtiz). With John Garfield and Patricia Neal.

2:30 a.m. (11:30 p.m.): “The Prowler” (1951, Joseph Losey). With Van Heflin and Evelyn Keyes.

Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman

Friday, Jan. 18

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “Notorious” (1946, Alfred Hitchcock). With Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Reins.

Saturday, Jan. 19

10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): “The Big Knife” (1955, Robert Aldrich). Clifford Odets’ backstage Hollywood shocker of a play is like a faceful of acid, and director Aldrich pulls no punches. Jack Palance is the beleaguered movie star Charlie Castle; surrounding him in an infernally corrupt studio system are Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters and Everett Sloane.

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Lolita” (1962, Stanley Kubrick). With James Mason, Sue Lyon and Peter Sellers.

3 a.m. (12 a.m.): “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955, Stuart Heisler). Color and Cinemascope remake of the Raoul Walsh-Humphrey Bogart-Ida Lupino gangster saga “High Sierra,” with the original stars replaced by Jack Palance and Shelley Winters. Inferior, but not awful. With Lee Marvin in his snarl mode.

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FNB proclaims Gloria Grahame Day: July 13

Lately I find myself compulsively watching “Sudden Fear” from 1952 starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance and Gloria Grahame. It’s on as I write, in fact.

Directed by David Miller, the movie has a lot going for it (regular readers know I adore Joan Crawford) but at the top of the list is Grahame, playing a femme fatale nonpareil who’s also rather skilled at mingling in high society.

Gloria Grahame shined in '50s noir classics.

With her feline face, flirty smile and hour-glass figure, Grahame was a stalwart of film noir. Besides “Sudden Fear,” she was in “Crossfire” (1947, Edward Dmytryk), “In a Lonely Place” (1950, Nicholas Ray), “Macao” (1952, Josef von Sternberg), “The Big Heat” (1953, Fritz Lang), “Human Desire” (1954, Fritz Lang), “Naked Alibi” (1954, Jerry Hopper) and “Odds Against Tomorrow” (1959, Robert Wise).

Commenting on her seductive powers, she once said, “It wasn’t the way I looked at a man, it was the thought behind it.” (Though she often played the bad girl, she was a Los Angeles native from a comfortable family.)

She had acting chops, too, winning a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her part in “The Bad and the Beautiful” (1952, Vicente Minnelli). Her breakthrough role was Violet Bick in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1947, Frank Capra).

Her career faltered, though, when on “Oklahoma” (1955, Fred Zinnemann) she acquired a reputation as being difficult to work with. Her big number in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical is “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No.” Natch. Also harmful to her public image was the fact that in 1960 she married Anthony Ray, her former stepson from her marriage (1948-1952) to director Nicholas Ray. Nonetheless, she worked on the stage, in TV and occasionally in films until she died at 57 in 1981. She was married four times and had four children.

So, because I can, I am declaring July 13 Gloria Grahame Day on FNB and will be posting reviews of her noir classics in the coming weeks. (If you are in LA, try to catch “In a Lonely Place” at LACMA on Friday, July 22.)

OK, time to restart “Sudden Fear” and break it to my friend – who stopped by tonight, took one look at the alluring Grahame and asked if he could get a date with her – that request, alas, will have to remain in the realm of fantasy. Ah, men and their fantasies; it’s a kingdom Grahame ruled perhaps not wisely but well.

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