The Noir File: Truffaut’s choice as the greatest film noir: ‘Rififi’

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). This week, there’s a trio of great heist films on Tuesday, starting at 10 p.m. Eastern (7 p.m. Pacific): “The Asphalt Jungle,” “Rififi” and “Big Deal on Madonna Street.”

PICK OF THE WEEK

Rififi” (1954, Jules Dassin). Tuesday, Jan. 1, 12 a.m. (9 p.m.). Midway through director Jules Dassin’s French crime classic “Rififi” (“Trouble”), Dassin stages a 33-minute-long masterpiece of suspense: a sequence the most critics regard as the most perfect of all movie heist scenes. It’s a brilliantly designed set-piece of excruciating tension and the only sound is the thieves at work.

Probably no one who sees that scene ever forgets it. Here it is: In the early morning hours, a small band of crooks – which include legendary bank robber Tony le Stephanois (Jean Servais), his young married friend Jo Jo (Carl Mohner), a good thief named Mario (Robert Manuel) and the loose-lipped safecracker Cesar (played by Dassin himself, under the stage name Perlo Vita) – break into an exclusive Parisian jewelry store by drilling though the floor of the room above. They work carefully, quietly, methodically. For the entire scene, there is not a word of dialogue, not a note of background music. A tour de force of moviemaking technique, it helped win Dassin the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Later, François Truffaut called “Rififi” the greatest of all film noirs.

That heist scene also sets up the grim, fatalistic last act of “Rififi,” which is about how thieves fall apart, set in a Paris that seems shrouded in perpetual clouds and drizzling rain. “Rififi” was regarded as an almost instant classic, and it wiped out the stigma of Dassin’s blacklisting by Hollywood. If you’ve never seen this movie and that scene, you won’t forget them either. (In French, with subtitles.)

Tuesday, Jan. 1

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). With Sterling Hayden and Marilyn Monroe.

Marilyn in one of her first important roles.

2:15 a.m. (11:15 p.m.): “Big Deal on Madonna Street” (1958, Mario Monicelli). An inept gang of burglars, played by front-rank Italian movie stars Vittorio Gassmann, Marcello Mastroianni, Renato Salvatori and Toto, try in vain to break into and rob a store. This is perhaps, along with the Alec Guinness-Peter Sellers “The Ladykillers,” the funniest crime comedy ever made: often remade, endlessly copied, never equaled. (In Italian, with subtitles.)

Saturday, Jan. 5

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). With Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Whistler” (1944, William Castle). The first and probably best of the macabre “Whistler” series, based on the popular radio program. Richard Dix, as The Whistler, tries desperately to call off the hit men (Including J. Carroll Naish) he’s hired to kill himself.

2:45 a.m. (11:45 a.m.): “M” (1931, Fritz Lang). With Peter Lorre and Gustaf Grundgens.

Sunday, Jan. 6

4 p.m. (1 p.m.): “The Wrong Man” (1957, Alfred Hitchcock). With Henry Fonda and Vera Miles.

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The Noir File: The Great Film Noir Couple: Bogart and Bacall

By Michael Wilmington
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A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on cable TV. All the movies listed below are from the current schedule of Turner Classic Movies (TCM), which broadcasts them uncut and uninterrupted. The times are Eastern Standard and (Pacific Standard).
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PICK OF THE WEEK
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A Night with Bogie and Bacall: Wednesday, Sept. 5, 8 p.m.-5:30 a.m. (5 p.m.-2:30 a.m.)
They were the King and Queen of Film Noir: Humphrey DeForest Bogart and Lauren “Betty” Bacall. He was insolent and tough; she was insolent and beautiful, and they made dark, wonderful, wise-cracking music together – in a noir world of shadowy streets, nightclubs, guns, crooks, cops, cigarettes, whiskey, trench coats (for him) and evening gowns (for her).

Betty and Bogie were one of Hollywood’s great couples.

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Director-producer Howard Hawks introduced them (as Steve and Slim) in his classic William Faulkner-scripted adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway sea novel “To Have and Have Not.” Hawks reunited them for his adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s private-eye thriller “The Big Sleep.”
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They made two more classic noirs (“Dark Passage” and “Key Largo”) and, from then until Bogie’s death in 1957, they reigned as one of Hollywood’s great couples. They were sardonic, they were sexy, they were brilliant, they were tough and elegant and terrific. They’ve never been replaced. They never will be.
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Wednesday, Sept. 5
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8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). With Bogart, Bacall and Walter Brennan.
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10 p.m. (7 p.m.): “The Big Sleep” (1946, Howard Hawks). Bogie had already incarnated Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco sleuth Sam Spade in John Huston’s nonpareil movie of “The Maltese Falcon.” Here, he recreates that other quintessential private eye, Philip Marlowe (from LA), in Howard Hawks’ equally classic film of Raymond Chandler’s best detective novel, “The Big Sleep.” Bacall is the most gorgeous of the many murder suspects. (As a bonus, she trades horse-racing double entendres with Bogie and sings a ’40s jazz hit.) Dorothy Malone sparkles as a sexy bookseller; Elisha Cook, Jr. plays the patsy. As scripted by William Faulkner, Jules Furthman and Leigh Brackett, this is less dark than Chandler’s novel, but more fun.
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12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Dark Passage” (1947, Delmer Daves). Based on David Goodis’ novel, this twisted noir about a convict on the run (Bogart) is a classic ’40s mystery/romance. With Bacall, Agnes Moorehead and Bruce Bennett.

“Key Largo” was the last film B & B made together.

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2 a.m. (11 p.m.): “Key Largo” (1948, John Huston). With Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson and Claire Trevor.
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4 a.m. (1 a.m.): “Bacall on Bogart” (1988, David Heeley). A documentary on Bogart, with the perfect hostess, Betty.
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5:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m.): “Bogart: The Untold Story” (1996). Another Bogart documentary, hosted by his son Stephen Bogart.
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Saturday, Sept. 1
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8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “The Band Wagon” (1953, Vincente Minnelli). This great Fred Astaire-Vincente Minnelli MGM musical closes with an incredible Astaire-Cyd Charisse number that’s also a razor-sharp film noir parody and a hilarious send-up of Mickey Spillane: the legendary “Girl Hunt” Ballet.
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Robert Walker and Farley Granger share a tense moment in “Strangers on a Train.”

Sunday, Sept. 2
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6 p.m. (3 p.m.): “Strangers on a Train” (1951, Alfred Hitchcock). With Farley Granger, Robert Walker and Ruth Roman.
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Monday, Sept. 3
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1 a.m. (10 p.m.): “Night and the City” (1950, Jules Dassin). With Richard Widmark and Gene Tierney. (See Noir File 7-13-12.)
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Tuesday, Sept. 4
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10:30 a.m. (7:30 a.m.): “Murder, My Sweet” (1944, Edward Dmytryk). Dick Powell, known for musicals, makes a better Philip Marlowe than anyone could have imagined, in this shadowy, hard-nosed adaptation of “Farewell, My Lovely.” Dmytryk’s best movie; with Claire Trevor, Anne Shirley and Mike Mazurki.
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The Noir File: Hawks, Hemingway, Bogie and Bacall Have it

By Michael Wilmington

A noir-lover’s guide to classic film noir on Turner Classic Movies (TCM). The times are Pacific Standard (listed first) and Eastern Standard.

Saturday, July 21

Bogie and Bacall create one of the most magical moments in movies.

5 p.m. (8 p.m.): “To Have and Have Not” (1944, Howard Hawks). One of my all-time favorite movies is this crackling adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s novel of boating and gunplay, reset in wartime Martinique and legendary for its incendiary love scenes between co-stars Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. (They met on the set here and later married.) Bogie is at his toughest and most likeable as Harry Morgan, a charter fishing boat captain torn between Vichy government thugs and French partisans.

The sensational 19-year-old Bacall plays singer/adventuress Marie (a.k.a. Slim), who memorably asks Harry “You know how to whistle, don’t you?” The supporting cast includes piano man Hoagy Carmichael, Marcel Dalio (“Grand Illusion”), Dan Seymour and Walter Brennan (great as Harry’s pal, Eddie the Rummy). Two Nobel Prize winners, both friends of Hawks, were among the writers here: original author Hemingway (whose book was considerably changed) and screenwriter William Faulkner.

Tuesday, July 24

7:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m.): “Strangers on a Train” (1951, Alfred Hitchcock). Two strangers meet on a train: social-climbing tennis pro Guy Haines (Farley Granger) and charming rich-kid psychopath Bruno Anthony (Robert Walker). Since they both have someone “ruining” their lives (Guy’s estranged wife and Bruno’s father) Bruno proposes, seemingly playfully, that they swap murders. Guy thinks it’s a joke, but Bruno is dead serious. One of Hitchcock’s best: a superb noir adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s classic literary thriller, with an amazing performance – blood-chilling, hilarious and strangely moving – by Walker. Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll, Marion Lorne and Hitch’s daughter Patricia Hitchcock are in the supporting cast. Raymond Chandler was one of the screenwriters.

9 a.m. (12 p.m.): “Jeopardy” (1953, John Sturges). Barbara Stanwyck, desperately trying to save endangered hubby Barry Sullivan – trapped by an accident and the rising tide under a Pacific Ocean pier – is herself kidnapped by Ralph Meeker, a ruthless outlaw with a yen for Stanwyck. A real nail-biter, directed by John Sturges (“The Great Escape,” “The Magnificent Seven”). Scripted by Mel Dinelli.

1:30 p.m. (4:30 p.m.): “D.O.A.” (1950, Rudolph Maté). Quintessential noir. Edmond O’Brien, as an accountant visiting San Francisco, is slipped a dose of slow-acting poison; he has only a day to find his mysterious killers. With Luther Adler, Pamela Britton, Beverly Garland and Neville Brand. Co-scripted by Russell Rouse.

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Free stuff from FNB: Win four Bogie and Bacall movies!

The Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall set features four great movies.

I have a great Christmas-bonus giveaway this month: The Bogie & Bacall Signature Collection DVD set. The set includes these thriller/film-noir classics from the 1940s:

“To Have and Have Not,” 1944, by director Howard Hawks

“The Big Sleep,” 1946, Howard Hawks

“Dark Passage,” 1947, Delmer Daves

“Key Largo,” 1948, John Huston

(Anita is the winner of the November reader giveaway, Criterion’s DVD edition of “The Killers.” Congrats to Anita and thanks to all who entered!)

To enter the December giveaway, just leave a comment on any FNB post from Dec. 1-31. The winner will be randomly selected at the end of the month and announced in early January. Include your email address in your comment so that I can notify you if you win. Your email will not be shared.

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