By Michael Wilmington
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).
CO-PICKS OF THE WEEK: “The Asphalt Jungle” and “The Lady from Shanghai”
“The Asphalt Jungle”
(1950, John Huston)
Saturday, Aug. 4. at 6 a.m. (3 a.m.): Huston’s classic heist movie, scripted by Ben Maddow from W. R. Burnett’s novel, has a near-perfect cast: Sterling Hayden (the muscle), Jean Hagen (the moll), Sam Jaffe (the brains), James Whitmore (the lookout), Anthony Caruso (the safe man), Marc Lawrence (the backer), Brad Dexter (the torpedo), John McIntire (the cop), Louis Calhern (the double-crosser) and Marilyn Monroe (the mistress). One of Jean-Pierre Melville’s three favorite films.
“The Lady from Shanghai” (1948, Orson Welles)Wednesday, Aug. 8. at 10:45 a.m. (7:45 a.m.): Adventurer/sailor Welles gingerly woos a very blonde Rita Hayworth, wife of the wealthy, evil Frisco lawyer Everett Sloane, and victim of Glenn Anders as the very weird George Grisby. A flop in its day, now considered one of the greatest noirs and a Welles masterpiece. The highlights include an amazingly crooked trial scene and the wild chase and shoot-out in a hall of mirrors.
Sat., Aug. 4: Marilyn Monroe Day
8 a.m. (5 a.m.): “Clash by Night” (1952, Fritz Lang) Lang’s cool, underrated adaptation of Clifford Odets’ smoldering play. With Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Ryan, Paul Douglas and Monroe.
10 a.m. (7 a.m.): “Niagara” (1953, Henry Hathaway) One of Monroe’s sexiest roles was as the faithless wife of tormented Joseph Cotten, the two 0f them trapped together in a cabin at Niagara Falls. Jean Peters is the good wife next-door.
8 p.m. (5 p.m.): “Some Like It Hot” (1959, Billy Wilder) Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon, two dance-band musicians in drag, flee the Chicago mob and George Raft after witnessing The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre; Monroe is waiting for them aboard the Miami train. Only part film noir – the rest is gangster movie parody and screwball comedy – but noir can be proud to claim even a portion of the greatest American sound comedy.
Sun., Aug. 5: Claude Rains Day
7:45 a.m. (4:45 a.m.): “They Won’t Forget” (1937, Mervyn LeRoy) Scorching trial drama and noir precursor, set in the South, with Gloria Dickson, Otto Kruger, Elisha Cook, Jr., Lana Turner and Claude Rains as a famed Northern lawyer.
12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “The Unsuspected” (1947, Michael Curtiz) Lesser-known but strong noir about a true-crime radio show, whose producer (Claude Rains) becomes a murderer. With Constance Bennett and Audrey Totter.
Monday, Aug. 6: Van Heflin Day
12:45 p.m. (9:45 a.m.): “Possessed” (1947, Curtis Bernhardt) Joan Crawford, at her most pathological, wants Van Heflin, but is stuck with Raymond Massey. Dark psychological domestic noir, surprisingly good.
2:45 p.m. (11:45 a.m.): “Act of Violence” (1949, Fred Zinnemann) Strong, socially conscious noir: Robert Ryan, a vengeful ex-P.O.W., besieges fellow ex-prisoner and possible traitor Heflin and his wife Janet Leigh. Also co-starring Mary Astor.
9:45 p.m. (6:45 p.m.): “Johnny Eager” (1942, Mervyn LeRoy) Heflin won his supporting actor Oscar playing the alcoholic, intellectual buddy of handsome gangster Robert Taylor. With Lana Turner.
11:45 p.m. (8:45 p.m.): “The Prowler” (1951, Joseph Losey) Brooding tale of a bad cop (Heflin) and the woman he loves, madly (Evelyn Keyes). For hard-core noir fans, this is a must-see.
Tuesday, Aug. 7: Sidney Poitier Day
12:15 a.m. (9:15 p.m.): “Edge of the City” (1957, Martin Ritt) Brilliant acting by John Cassavetes, Sidney Poitier, Jack Warden and Ruby Dee – 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.
Wednesday, Aug. 8: Rita Hayworth Day
9 a.m. (6 a.m.): “The Money Trap” (1966, Burt Kennedy) Western ace and sometime noir-maker Kennedy (“The Killer Inside Me’) turns to contemporary neo-noir in this Walter Bernstein-scripted story of a corrupt cop (Glenn Ford) and his married object of desire (Hayworth). With Joseph Cotten, Ricardo Montalban and Elke Sommer.
12 a.m. (9 p.m.): “Gilda” (1946, Charles Vidor) Hayworth burns down the house as the “Put the Blame on Mame” gal and torch singer. Glenn Ford and George Macready both get singed in this quintessential night-club noir.
Thursday, Aug. 9: Toshiro Mifune Day
6 a.m. (3 a.m.): “Drunken Angel” (Japan, 1948, Akira Kurosawa) Kurosawa’s first critical/audience hit, is almost pure noir: the story of the edgy relationship, in a poor section of the city, between a drunken but idealistic doctor (Takashi Shimura) and a mortally ill gangster (Mifune).
Other Kurosawa films with strong noir elements, both playing in the Mifune series, are the multiple-viewpoint period murder mystery masterpiece “Rashomon” (1950) and his great dark samurai classic “Yojimbo” (1961). All three are must-sees for noir lovers.