Kingrat discusses the difficult choices any noir aficionado faces, though his analysis of Try and Get Me makes it an understandable choice:
Later on, Kingrat posted about The Killing too:One of my toughest decisions at the festival was to choose between TRY AND GET ME (1950, dir. Cy Endfield) and MILDRED PIERCE with Ann Blyth in attendance. I happened to see Eddie Muller at the bar in Club TCM, an appropriate place for the czar of noir, and asked him about Cy Endfield, saying that he seemed to be a better director than his reputation. EM: “Which is zero.” We both like ZULU; Muller said that HELL DRIVERS is great; he hadn’t seen SEA FURY, which I like; and he urged me to see TRY AND GET ME. Which is why SueSue will have to tell you about MILDRED PIERCE and Ann Blyth.
Beau Bridges and several members of his family were present, and Beau said that he felt that his father was there in spirit. Beau said that Lloyd Bridges was particularly proud of four films: HOME OF THE BRAVE; TRY AND GET ME; HIGH NOON; and the live TV drama TRAGEDY IN A TEMPORARY TOWN, with a Reginald Rose script. This is the one where Bridges was supposed to bring a baseball bat on stage to smash the headlights of cars of a mob trying to lynch a Hispanic man, but he forgot to bring the bat when he entered. Instead, he went wild and accidentally used the word “g.d.” which was forbidden on television. Beau Bridges also said that his father was a great dad. According to Beau, his father was blacklisted because he had invited the African-American actor Jimmy Edwards home to dinner. They had worked together in HOME OF THE BRAVE.
Eddie Muller said that he had asked Beau if he wanted to bring his family to a film where his dad plays a psycho killer. Cy Endfield was blacklisted and moved to England to work. Because his name was Cyril Raker Endfield, people tended to assume he was English, just as Jules Dassin had to be French. By the way, Endfield is sometimes billed as Cy Enfield and sometimes as C. Raker Endfield.
As advertised by the czar of noir, TRY AND GET ME is quite good. It’s based on the same incident which inspired Fritz Lang’s FURY, an actual lynching in San Jose in the early 1930s. However, the stories are not at all alike except for the storming of the jail scenes. In FURY Spencer Tracy is innocent; I don’t think it’s spoiling the story to say that in TRY AND GET ME this is not the case. The film opens with Frank Lovejoy (excellent in the main role) returning home after failing to get a job. We’re in GRAPES OF WRATH territory. As a noirish fate would have it, instead he meets Lloyd Bridges, who cleverly recruits him for the dark side. Bridges is just terrific. These scenes are, in effect, seduction scenes, and that’s how Bridges plays them and Endfield directs them.
A major theme of the film is how the newspapers build up a series of small-time robberies into a “major crime wave,” probably by East Coast gangsters who have moved in. Richard Carlson, who looks and sounds amazingly like Hugh Marlowe, plays the columnist who fans the flames. He is then aghast when he realizes that he’s created a mob mentality. The voice of reason is his friend, an Italian nuclear physicist (based on Fermi, perhaps?).
That morning I’d seen CAPE FEAR—not exactly a day of light comedy—so I was particularly struck by the contrast between TRY AND GET ME’s emphasis on social breakdown as the reason for crime and Robert Mitchum’s totally evil predator in CAPE FEAR. Does TRY AND GET ME’s faith in social improvement now seem a bit naïve? There’s no explanation for the evil in CAPE FEAR: it’s just there, hard-wired into Max Cady, the Mitchum character.
A fun fact: Beau Bridges hadn’t known beforehand that his mother has a bit part in TRY AND GET ME, playing a reporter who’s come down from San Francisco to cover the case. Eddie Muller didn’t know that, either.
Before The Killing was shown at the festival, Dennis Bartok interviewed Coleen Gray. She needed assistance getting on and off stage, but mentally was quite sharp and seemed very much like the sweet character she often played. Though it’s only hearsay, she has heard that Stanley Kubrick was looking for a “Coleen Gray type” and someone said, “What about Coleen Gray?” He did not interview her.
She had heard he was a brilliant up-and-comer, so she went to see Killer’s Kiss, which was playing in Inglewood on the lower half of a double bill with Summertime. [You have to love the way Hollywood marketed their films.] At the end of Killer’s Kiss, there was spontaneous applause, which hadn’t occurred for Summertime.
Sterling Hayden had been in the OSS. He was quiet and she was quiet; her code of conduct was not to interrupt another actor’s train of thought. Hayden was a gentleman who knew what he was supposed to do. She thought he was perfect in the movie. As she said, her scenes were “bookends” in the film, so she didn’t work with actors like Timothy Carey. She hadn’t met him before but had seen him baring his teeth in films.
Kubrick’s wife, Ruth Slobotka, was the art director. She remembers that Ruth Slobotka wanted the curtains to hang at a certain angle, then the set man later came by and straightened them, RS later came back on set and re-arranged them, etc. She said she wanted to watch the movie again to see how the curtains finally looked. (Darn it, I forgot to look for this.)
She had imagined that this new genius would invest her with new qualities. In actuality, Kubrick didn’t give her notes. He just printed the scene. (My take is that Coleen Gray gave the qualities her character needed, so Kubrick didn’t interfere with something that worked.) Kubrick did do a good bit of work with Marie Windsor, who has, as Coleen Gray noted, the leading female role.
Coleen Gray suggested that a good story is the apex of the triangle with the director at the left of the base and the actors on the right. She was thrilled and delighted by the finished film—which was indeed the reaction of the audience at the festival.
Really, what’s not to like about The Killing? I could note that the ending is taken from a famous John Huston film, but it works well here, too. Sterling Hayden is at his best (he did not seem remarkable to me in Johnny Guitar or The Asphalt Jungle, or maybe he just got overshadowed by gifted co-stars in the latter film). Coleen Gray is right as the nice girl who’ll go along with her man even against her better judgment. The script is a well-oiled machine. Hey, someone has to play a wacko killer: how about Timothy Carey? The audience loved him, just as they loved Elisha Cook, Jr. and Marie Windsor as a less than perfect couple. We relished every line and every glance. People left the theater talking about Cook and Windsor. I also loved Kola Kariani as the combination chessmaster/thug. What a marvelous conception.
CineMaven and I chatted after the film about the Jay C. Flippen character. She asked if I thought he seemed to have a crush on Sterling Hayden when he suggests that the two of them go off together and disparages the idea of Hayden marrying. Yes, that’s exactly what I saw, and I have little doubt that’s what the actor and director intended.
Kubrick’s direction is outstanding. Notice, for instance, the way he introduces several characters with panning shots which carry them past places which will be significant in the story. Some of the scenes with Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook, Jr. are done in long takes, which you may not notice because the dialogue is so good. One woman who teaches film said that The Killing changed her view of Kubrick, and I agreed. This is definitely my favorite; I prefer the films before 2001: A Space Odyssey where actors and story are as important as directorial effects. Concepts become much more important than characters in his later films, but The Killing is one of those fortunate films where everything seems to have gone right. One of the top noirs? You bet.