The Noir File: A plan to swap murders in Alfred Hitchcock’s great thriller ‘Strangers on a Train’

By Michael Wilmington and Film Noir Blonde

The Noir File is FNB’s guide to classic film noir, neo-noir, sort of 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

Farley Granger and Robert Walker chat over lunch in “Strangers on a Train.”

Strangers on a Train” (1951, Alfred Hitchcock). Tuesday, April 2, 8 p.m. (5 p.m.).

Tuesday, March 26

6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “The Asphalt Jungle” (1950, John Huston). With Sterling Hayden, Sam Jaffe and Marilyn Monroe.

12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “Crime Wave” (1954, Andre De Toth). One of De Toth’s best noirs. In this grim L.A.-shot cops-and-robbers thriller, Gene Nelson plays an ex-con trying to go straight, but stymied by a brutal cop (Sterling Hayden), who wants to nail him for a stick-up and murder committed not by Nelson but by his old prison mates. (The gang, a top-notch crock of crooks, includes Ted De Corsia, Charles Bronson and Timothy Carey). As for Hayden, this is one of his great “heavy” roles. As a cop who won’t give up, while confidently ruining the life of an innocent man, he’s maniacal, terrifying.

Thursday, March 28

7:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.): “Dead Ringer” (1964, Paul Henreid). Two twin sisters, one obscenely rich, and one financially strapped, have been off each other’s radar for years, ever since bitchy rich Margaret stole bitter not-rich Edith’s wealthy fiancé. Then they meet up at the hubby’s L. A. funeral. Since both sisters are played by Bette Davis, we can expect the same kind of elegant switcheroo (one twin playing another) she pulled in the superior “A Stolen Life” (1946, Curtis Bernhardt), which plays at 11:30 a.m. (8:30 a.m.). Expect to have some fun, despite the fact, or maybe because of it, that the whole story is so implausible, even William Castle might have ducked it.

Bette manages the double role with skill, style and sizzle – though her “Now Voyager” co-star/chum Paul Henreid directs the whole thing without much inspiration, or even inspired silliness. But then again, why ask for the moon, when you have the stars?

8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Edge of the City” (1957, Martin Ritt). With John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Jack Warden and Ruby Dee. Brilliant acting – pitched in an “On the Waterfront” key and set in the same kind of grim dockside milieu – stands out in this tough yet humane film.

Monday, April 1

5 p.m. (2 p.m.): “The Unholy Three” (1930, Jack Conway). The sound remake of one of Lon Chaney’s eeriest pictures: the one where he plays a cross-dressing ventriloquist at a carnival, taking up a life of crime with a crooked midget (Harry Earles) and the carnival strong man (Ivan Linow).

Tuesday, April 2

2:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m.): “Born to Kill” (1947, Robert Wise). With Claire Trevor, Lawrence Tierney and Walter Slezak.

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