Noir Films

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ChiO
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Re: Noir Films

Post by ChiO »

And probably with a budget less than the cost of printing the one-sheets of those two movies.
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RedRiver
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Re: Noir Films

Post by RedRiver »

FRIGHT is the title of my favorite Woolrich book, though knowing the culture, it has probably been published under different titles. Not the same story as you've described though, Chio. That does sound good!
kingrat
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Re: Noir Films

Post by kingrat »

I saw CRIME BY NIGHT (1944), which has a great noir title. And how about this: a concert pianist whose father-in-law chopped off the pianist's hand with an ax? Is that noir or what? Weirdly, the film isn't noirish at all, more like a fairly light-hearted episode of a TV detective show. Private eye Jerome Cowan and his gal Friday Jane Wyman have some enjoyable banter, and a brunette Faye Emerson is fun as a possibly shady dame who's not averse to a little kissing in the limousine with Cowan. Eleanor Parker, also brunette and billed below Faye in this film, is the ex-wife of the concert pianist. Too bad her part isn't larger.

It's a short film, you may not buy the plot, it's talky and the director (William Clemens) doesn't do much, but if you like Cowan and the three dames, it's fun. A couple of unknown actors, Stuart Crawford as the pianist and Charles Lang as his ex-wife's new squeeze, are good-looking guys. Jerome Cowan keeps referring to a very cute Jane Wyman as "candy lamb," although for most of the movie I thought he was saying "Candyland," which would probably work, too.
RedRiver
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Re: Noir Films

Post by RedRiver »

A lighthearted story about dismemberment? You can't have too many of those!
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JackFavell
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Re: Noir Films

Post by JackFavell »

I love Crime By Night, kingrat, if only because it's Jerome Cowan's only starring role. It's enjoyable, and has some pretty dark stuff going on, though you'd never know it from the direction, as you say. Cowan should have had a series. I actually like Jane Wyman better in her early dizzy blonde/wisecracking mode. Cowan is one of a handful of actors who can go from warm and touching to sleazy and noirish in mere seconds! He can be hilarious or awful. I don't know, I just like his rueful personality, sense of humor and always dapper looks. He always gives exactly what's required, and adds a little something, effortlessly. Who else could go from The Maltese Falcon to Miracle on 34th Street? I literally wait for him to show up in some movies, like The Night Has a Thousand Eyes (he's part of a mindreading act with terrifying results) or his final scene in Mr. Skeffington where he sidesteps getting back together with an ugly Bette Davis so gracefully.
kingrat
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Re: Noir Films

Post by kingrat »

I also wondered if WB considered a series with Jerome Cowan and Jane Wyman because they worked together well. It was fun to see Cowan in a lead role, which he handled well.
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JackFavell
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Re: Noir Films

Post by JackFavell »

I think Wyman was paired with every actor in Hollywood in hopes of starting a series, lol.
clore
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Re: Noir Films

Post by clore »

Did anybody watch Riffraff yesterday - or at any other time?

Had RKO made this one with Robert Mitchum or Dick Powell in the lead, it would probably be more highly regarded. But an obviously aging Pat O'Brien doesn't exactly do the film any harm, and Anne Jeffreys is there to help him out in the climatic fight scene.

George Diskant's cinematography deserves a special mention, he and former cinematographer Ted Tetzlaff who directed make a great team.

Riffraff is very interesting in its following a pattern that was started by a film that aired in three different version on the previous night. Just as in The Maltese Falcon, O'Brien's character (Dan Hammer - and coincidentally, Mike Hammer made his literary debut the same year) is approached by three different parties seeking or knowing of a valuable item, and he has to juggle them all while staying above suspicion for a murder.

Granted, this is a staple in such things, but the fun here is in how well the cliches are served up and just how well this modest programmer stacks up against its more well-known brethren.
kingrat
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Re: Noir Films

Post by kingrat »

I'm not sure whether to include SATAN MET A LADY (1936) here, because even though it's based on THE MALTESE FALCON and follows the plot fairly closely, it's a screwball comedy. There's almost a pre-Code feeling, with Warren William chasing or having succeeded with every woman in sight except Alison Skipworth, who's playing the Sidney Greenstreet role.

No wonder Bette Davis didn't like it. It was two years after OF HUMAN BONDAGE made her a big star and a year after she won the Oscar for DANGEROUS, and though she gets top billing, she's been offered a supporting role to Warren William, and she may actually have less screen time than Marie Wilson as the secretary, Murgatroyd. If you find Marie Wilson annoying, you might want to skip this one.

The supporting cast includes Porter Hall as Warren William's detective partner, and Winifred Shaw as the not-so-grieving widow. Instead of the short Peter Lorre, we have the tall and ever so polite Arthur Treacher, and instead of pint-size Elisha Cook, Jr. there's the big boy with the beanie, Maynard Holmes.

Perhaps it was the blessing of low expectations, but I found the film entertaining. William Dieterle is an underrated director, and he's better-known for biopics and romances than comedy. It's surprising how effectively the plot works as a comedy.
RedRiver
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Re: Noir Films

Post by RedRiver »

I think you've hit it, King Rat. If you don't expect a serious, thoughtful crime story, "Satan" is entertaining. Good cast, light tone. If you DO expect a solid detective story, you might be disappointed.
kingrat
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Re: Noir Films

Post by kingrat »

“You don’t just write fiction, you live fiction,” Faye Emerson tells Zachary Scott in the tasty thriller Danger Signal (1945, Robert Florey). We first see Zachary in the room of a woman who appears to be dead. While the landlady pounds on the door, he takes most of the money out of the woman’s purse and tugs her wedding ring off. A close-up shows us the inscription: “Till death do us part.” While on a bus to LA, he unobtrusively steals the airman pin from a coat that’s been flung over the seat next to his, and he pins it on his own lapel. Yep, Zachary is playing another sleazy guy—but not a weak one.

By the way, when he arrives in LA, we see the “Hollywoodland” sign, which is a treat for those who look for LA landmarks.

Soon our Zachary is renting a room from the mother of a nice plain Jane stenographer (Faye Emerson), who looks radiant when she falls in love. Her kid sister (Mona Freeman) will eventually return from a tuberculosis sanitarium. Her other friends include a sassy friend (Joyce Compson); a shy, tongue-tied scientist (Bruce Bennett—both of Mildred P’s husbands are in this movie); and a psychiatrist of unspecified foreign origin (Rosemary DeCamp). Good acting, smart directing, and fine cinematography by James Wong Howe are big pluses. Check out the series of shots where Faye thinks Zachary is trying to break into her room, then through her keyhole she watches him watch whoever is at the front door.

Writers in films are usually good guys—screenwriters see things that way. Here, Zachary Scott isn’t pretending to be a writer; he actually gets his stories published. One particularly good scene late in the film has Scott and Faye Emerson deliberately quoting what they said at a previous dinner when they felt quite differently about each other.

Unfortunately, the rushed ending isn’t strong enough, but for me that was the only unsatisfying part. The Code prevented several other possible endings, and it’s hard to say what the best one would be.
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JackFavell
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Re: Noir Films

Post by JackFavell »

Is that Joyce Compton kingrat? Man, she's been showing up lately everywhere. I've seen her on TCM at least 4 times this week. Now she's at the SSO! I'll have to check this movie out, it sounds like it starts out to be a sort of Catch Me If You Can or The Great Imposter-type plot, but veers away? I think I saw it somewhere on Netflix maybe.
RedRiver
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Re: Noir Films

Post by RedRiver »

This sounds deliciously cheezy!
kingrat
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Re: Noir Films

Post by kingrat »

Some have said that Danger Signal is like a combination of Shadow of a Doubt and Mildred Pierce.
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Robert Regan
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Re: Noir Films

Post by Robert Regan »

I heartily recommend to all an excellent new book called What Is Film Noir? by William Park. It discusses succinctly and clearly what is and what isn't noir and if it is a genre, a style, or a period. The text is, happily, brief, 130 pages followed by annotated lists of films. The book is very pricey, but my library got it for me on an inter-library loan. The Ebook version is much cheaper.

While recommending books, I am very fond of The Real Joyce Compton, written by her with Michael Ankerich. It is highly informative and as charming as her memorable screen appearances, with lots of pictures and what just might be a complete filmography of her work from 1925 to 1957.
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