On December 09, 2016, movie fans wish a very happy 100th birthday to Issur Danielovitch Demsky, better known as Kirk Douglas.* For my natal tribute, I’ve chosen his charmingly menacing performance as Whit Sterling in possibly the most noir of all noirs, Out of the Past. Please note, there are major spoilers ahead. If you have not seen Out of the Past, what is the matter with you? I kid…bookmark this page, go watch it, and then come back.
As #TCMParty people and/or readers of this blog may or may not know, I’m obsessed with the 1947 mystery-drama Lured. Sure, the presence of one of my favorite velvet-voiced British thespians, George Sanders, has a lot to do with it. But its major charm is Lucille Ball’s fine performance in the lead role, which, while allowing flickers of her comedic genius to show through, always makes me wish she’d done more dramatic roles.
Back in May 2014, when Cinema Detroit was showing Sony Pictures’ 4K restoration of The Lady From Shanghai, I had occasion to research the making of Orson Welles’ classic film noir, and I discovered that, while Errol Flynn is (probably) not in the movie, he was present and was very much involved in the filming.
In our classic movie corner of the world, the eleventh month of the year is not dedicated to family gatherings or special sales. Here we celebrate crime-laden streets, shadowy figures, and suspicious cops. This is Noirvember.
@TCMParty host Trevor has chosen three noirs:
Thursday, November 21 @ 8 p.m. – Jack Bernhard’s DECOY (1946) starring Jean Gillie, Edward Norris and Robert Armstrong.
Sunday, November 24 @ noon – Richard Fleischer’s ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) starring Charles McGraw, Adele Jergens and William Talman.
Thursday, November 28 @ 8 p.m. – Edward Dmytryk’s CORNERED (1945) starring Dick Powell, Walter Slezak and Micheline Cheirel.
We hope everyone will want to participate, as it’s sure to be a fun, informative time. If you already subscribe to Warner Archive Instant, you’re all set. If you don’t, you can sign up for a free two-week trial here.
Either way, you need only be on Twitter at the scheduled time, use the correct hashtags, and wait for the host to signal, “START THE MOVIE,” to enjoy online Noirvember.
We’re thrilled to be presenting these Warner Bros. film noirs as part of the excitement of #TCMparty, and hope this is the first of many collaborations between our enthusiastic film-loving community and the studio with deep dark noir roots.
Note that these Noirvember tweet-a-longs are in addition to the regular #TCMparty events, which follow along to scheduled programming on TCM (dates listed below). Please visit the TCM Party tumblr for more info.
Wednesday, November 6 @ 8 p.m. THE KILLERS (1946)
Wednesday, November 13 @ 8 p.m. GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL (1957)
Tuesday, November 19 @ 8 p.m. THE MALTESE FALCON (1941)
Wednesday, November 27 @ 8 p.m. FIELD OF DREAMS (1989)
Every year, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) throws a few surprises into their Summer Under The Stars (SUTS) programming. As you may know, SUTS means each day in August is dedicated to the films of a single brilliant star. Along with actors you might expect, such as Humphrey Bogart (Aug. 1) and Bette Davis (Aug. 14), TCM always includes a few surprising choices. For instance, I don’t know of any other cable channel that would run nearly 24 hours of silent films, but that’s exactly what happened on Ramon Novarro‘s day (August 8). If you missed Ben-Hur (1925) starring Novarro and Francis X. Bushman, you really should check it out.
The other somewhat unconventional and totally welcome choice in the SUTS mix this year is Catherine Deneuve (Monday, August 12). As I said on Jean Gabin day in 2011…big ups to TCM for running 24 hours of subtitles. (Actually, there is one English-language Deneuve film, The Hunger, showing at 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday, August 13. But still…it’s not something you see every day.)
Un flic is French for “a cop;” the film’s American title is less ambiguous: Dirty Money. Delon plays the title role, a brutal, not-so-clean police commissioner, who suspects that his friend, a nightclub owner (Crenna), is behind a series of bank robberies and drug deals. Cathy (Deneuve) is caught between them, sleeping with both and keeping both their secrets. Her model beauty and perfectly coiffed hair belie the anxiety in her nervous gestures and darting eyes. It’s a small part but a memorable one.
Melville is one of my favorite directors, he does crime pictures as well as anyone. His newsreel-style, on-location filmmaking was influential on Jean-Luc Godard (whose use of jump cuts was inspired by Melville). This was Melville’s last film, and like my favorite Le samouraï, Un flic may as well have been shot in the black and white of a film noir…cold desaturated colors, dark rooms, inky shadows. Thematically it’s as melancholy as any noir, and the line between the lawman and the criminal is as hazy as dusk in the Paris of Melville’s creation…this isn’t Woody Allen’s City of Lights. Part of it is unbelievable (you’ll know it when you see it), and I’m pretty sure Crenna was dubbed, but these are minor details in a suspenseful and enjoyable neo-noir.
UPDATE: No worries if you missed this on Deneuve day and you have Netflix. I searched the site on the off chance they would have Un flic on DVD, and lo and behold, not only do they have it, it’s also streaming. C’est super!
In honor of Barbara Stanwyck‘s 106th birthday on July 16, I asked TCM Party people their favorite Stanwyck movie. I personally feel that she was good to excellent in every movie she did, but everyone has one that stands out more than others. Actually not one. Usually many. As I quickly realized, it’s a tough choice to make. I also realized afterwards I had enough votes on my hands for a totally unscientific poll. Since I didn’t really specify a number of films, I counted each mention via Twitter and Facebook of a movie’s title as a vote for that movie. Yeah, yeah, I know…it’s completely unscientific!
And now…to the results…
5th place — Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
Stanwyck plays a bedridden invalid whose shady husband (Burt Lancaster) may or may not be trying to kill her. Plenty of flashbacks and suspense galore.
I’m not gonna summarize these…if you haven’t seen them, go watch them now.
3rd place – The Lady Eve (1941)
Stanwyck, playing a con woman, sets her sights on “Hopsy” (Henry Fonda), the beer heir who can’t stand beer. Hopsy falls in love with her right away, but complications ensue when she realizes she loves him back.
2nd place – Christmas in Connecticut (1945)
I was surprised how highly this placed, but I really shouldn’t be. Stanwyck plays a homemaking columnist who lives in an apartment, can’t cook, isn’t married, and doesn’t have any kids. Her friend, chef Felix (S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall), provides all the recipes and she fakes the rest. The arrangement hits some hilarious snags when her editor (Sydney Greenstreet) wants a war hero (Dennis Morgan) to stay at her non-existent farm (she totally made it up) for the holidays.
1st place – Double Indemnity (1944)
No surprise here. Fine direction from Billy Wilder, stunning cinematography by John F. Seitz, and excellent performances from a perfect cast add up to possibly the best film noir — and one of the best films — ever made.
I know, I missed your favorite…mine didn’t get even one vote! (Hint: check out the feature image for this post.) So give me a piece of your mind in the comments. PS: if you like classic movies, and you watch them on Turner Classic Movies, you might want to join us for one of our live #TCMParty tweetalongs. For deets, follow @TCM_Party or get more info here.
In my research for tonight’s TCM Party, Woman in Hiding (1950), I found an abundance of interesting information about the film’s star, Ida Lupino, that is way too long for a tweet and much better suited to a blog post. This is very far from comprehensive but I hope it will pique interest in this fascinating woman who was a pioneer in so many ways. I was aware that she was one of the few female directors and was the only one working in Hollywood in the late ’40s through the mid ’50s, but I didn’t know that she also wrote film and television scripts and directed television shows throughout the ’50s and ’60s, including episodes of The Fugitive, Bewitched, and Gilligan’s Island.
Lupino was born in Camberwell, London, England in 1918 (though the year is variously given as 1916 or 1914). Her mother was an actress; her father was a comedian from a famous theatrical family. Her uncle, Lupino Lane, was an acrobat. She wrote a play for school at the age of seven and trained for a year at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She was in five films in England before moving to Hollywood in 1933, when she was hired to make two films at Columbia.
She often played tough but sympathetic women who had their share of hard luck. Her role in one of my favorite films noir Road House (1948) with Richard Widmark and Cornel Wilde seems to be a fairly typical one for her; she plays Lily, a worldly-wise singer caught between her boss Jefty and his childhood friend Pete. When Lily falls for Pete and turns down Jefty’s marriage proposal, Jefty frames Pete for embezzlement, he’s convicted, and they are trapped. It’s a really concise, enjoyable noir, with Widmark at his crazy-bad best. Lupino did her own singing, which included Johnny Mercer’s “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).” Two other favorites of mine are High Sierra (1941) with Humphrey Bogart and Devotion (1946), about the Brontë family, in which Lupino plays Emily.
She was cast against type in Escape Me Never (1947) as an impoverished single mom being taken care of by Errol Flynn’s character. The picture flopped but Lupino and Flynn became good friends and stayed close. Her nickname for him was “The Baron” and he called her “Mad Idsy.” [tcm.com]
Lupino often referred to herself as “the poor man’s Bette Davis.” While under contract with Warner Brothers, she would pass on Davis’ seconds, often getting herself suspended. Bored during this down time, she developed a curiosity about filmmaking and began to linger on sets, learning the craft of directing. [imdb.com]
She became a director accidentally, taking over Not Wanted (1949) for Elmer Clifton, who had a heart attack three days into filming, though she did not give herself director credit. She was already producing and had co-written the script about an unmarried pregnant girl who gives her baby up for adoption. Her films, whether she worked as director, writer, producer or all of the above, often dealt with subjects that weren’t openly discussed in US society at the time, such as pregnancy outside marriage, rape (Outrage (1950)), and bigamy (The Bigamist (1953)). It seems to me that Lupino was the unintentional model for today’s writer/director/producer/actors who at times take jobs in front of the camera to secure funding so they can be behind it for their next projects. Sean Penn and Sarah Polley are two I thought of. The production company Lupino formed with her husband Collier Young, The Filmakers [sic], made a total of 12 films.
As a director, Lupino is known for her ability to create suspense, a talent that served her well as she moved into television work in the mid-’50s and ’60s. Her fifth film, The Hitch-hiker (1953), is about a couple of guys on their way to a fishing trip in Mexico who, as you might guess, pick up a murderous hitchhiker. Lupino builds tension by confining some of the action to the interior of the car going through the isolated Mexican desert. Even when they’re not in the car, the buddies are cornered by the psychopath and his gun. Hitch-hiker is available to watch for free on YouTube or at Internet Archive.
Just as Nora Ephron blazed a trail for Diablo Cody, so did Ida Lupino for the women who came after her.
More on Ida Lupino:
Just wanted to spotlight a great and very thorough review of the film noir Brute Force (1947) by my friend Kevin, a.k.a. Jack Deth. Directed by noir legend Jules Dassin, Burt Lancaster stars as Joe Collins, an unruly prisoner in an overcrowded penitentiary, who constantly clashes with the brutal, tyrannical guards and warden.
When he and his pals are assigned to drain pipe duty, they work out a scheme to escape that is very likely doomed from the beginning. Or is it? Find out tonight at 10:00 EST on TCM.
I’ve had a horrendous case of writer’s block this week, trying to come up with something original to say about Orson Welles’ 1958 film noir masterpiece, Touch of Evil. As I noted last August, it’s practically impossible to say anything that hasn’t already been said about Welles and his work. After all, there are countless books and movie blogs rightly singing their praises, and Touch of Evil has long been regarded as a great of the film noir genre. But I’ve got to add my $.02 because Detroit Film Theatre is showing the film on Saturday, January 14 at 4:00 p.m. as part of their DFT 101 series. So I’ll just list why I’m so looking forward to this opportunity to see it as it was meant to be seen:
- Touch of Evil is arguably the last in the film noir classic cycle. Welles’ own Citizen Kane is considered an important influence on what would eventually come to be known as film noir, and it’s clear that he had mastered the elements of film noir style, exemplified by his use of chiaroscuro lighting and subjective camerawork. Welles also wrote the film’s script, which contains most of film noir’s thematic elements. A hero (Charlton Heston as a Mexican narcotics officer named Mike Vargas) lost in a labyrinth of shadiness and duplicity, shadowed streets, corruption, and seedy characters. In Welles’ hands, it’s a feast for the eyes.
- Welles also stars in this, his last American film, taking on the role of corrupt, alcohol-soaked cop Hank Quinlan. Quinlan’s jurisdiction is Los Robles, a seedy town on the Texas side of the U.S.-Mexico border where all sorts of crime occurs, but Quinlan seems to be the worst. We see him slowly losing even the pretension of moral authority, as he conspires against Vargas, endangers Vargas’ wife (Janet Leigh), plants evidence, drinks to excess, and generally acts as judge and jury, convicting anyone he doesn’t like, usually a Mexican.
- It will be a joy to see the film’s opening sequence, a three-minute, 20-second long take, on the big screen. We are shown a bomb being armed and concealed in the trunk of a Cadillac, which we then follow over the border in an amazing continuous shot, that ends with the explosion of the bomb.
- As Tana (Marlene Dietrich) might have said about the 1958 version of Touch of Evil, “Honey, you’re a mess.” Welles wasn’t allowed to control the film’s final cut. The studio’s version placed the credits over the long take, added a musical soundtrack to it, and added some scenes to the rest of the film — apparently the film’s plot was deemed to intricate for the average moviegoer. Thankfully, DFT will be showing the 1998 restoration, which was based on a painstaking 58-page memo Welles sent to the head of Universal Studios (who ignored it), so that what we see on Saturday will be as near to what Orson Welles intended as possible. Don’t miss it!