It's a bit late in the day for this one, it was aired last Sunday, and now we're almost up to the next one coming up for this Sunday ( as in, tomorrow.) Still....it's a film worth discussing....
THE BLUE GARDENIA
Oh, Fritz Lang, you are so friggin good ! I can't think, off-hand, of a Fritz Lang film I haven't liked, a lot, and The Blue Gardenia is no exception.
The film's premise is a classic noir theme: A sympathetic protagonist ( in this case, a woman !) thinks she's committed a murder, but maybe she didn't, she just can't quite remember ( due to about a gallon of hard liquor in the form of "Polynesian Pearl Divers". I'd kind of like to try one of these. But not 10 in a row...)
Even the audience doesn't know whether she killed Harry Prebble, the man who was trying to force himself on her when she whacks a poker at him - or so we're led to believe, but it's hard to tell, what with the point-of-view camera angle and the smashed mirror and Norah's ( our heroine) being so drunk.
This film,by the way, is interesting to watch these days if only for the 1953 take on date-rape, which the above scenario definitely is. Attempted date-rape.
Can't resist noting that the scene leading up to the date-rape situation is the meeting between Norah and lascivious, predatory Harry ( Raymond Burr, good casting choice), at the trendy hot spot, "The Blue Gardenia". I love scenes like this - luxurious, pleasure-filled '50s nightclubs with fancy drinks and musicians like Nat King Cole (who sings, beautifully, the title song.) What fun it would be to hang out at a place like that !
What we have with The Blue Gardenia is something unusual for 1953, a female-centric crime movie with most of the story seen from the perspective of a female character, Norah Larkin. Norah is convincingly and sympathetically played by Ann Baxter, proving that "Eve" was not just a happy fluke for this talented actress.
Norah lives with her two room-mates (female, of course), and one of the fun things about this movie is the way you see how the three women have worked out a co-operative system when it comes to house-keeping tasks and morning routines such as washing the dishes and making the orange juice. I really enjoyed all the scenes ( and there are quite a few) with the three "girls" interacting in their smallish apartment, talking, kidding, and supporting each other.
But what Lang and Baxter really nail is the panic a person would feel if they believed they'd committed a murder. Panic complicated by confusion, if you couldn't remember what exactly had transpired the night you think you might have done the murder. And the "closing net" feeling as the newspapers and radio continually update the story, how it's reported that the police are hard on the trail of the killer, is a perfect noir trope.
I love the scene where Norah hears that they've figured out the killer was wearing a black taffeta dress. She gets up in the middle of the night and burns her dress ( a fabulous little black cocktail dress, what a waste !), only to encounter a police officer on the beat. Ann Baxter is wonderful at conveying the fear, the jumpiness, her character would feel in such a situation. (Turns out the cop just wants her to limit her incinerator activities to day- time....)
I haven't yet mentioned Richard Conte, who plays a hard-working reporter who wants to get Norah's "story" before the cops do. There's a fun Cinderella-like bit in which Conte ("Casey Mayo") tests whether the women calling him to tell the story, claiming they're the killer, are truly the one the police are looking for by asking their shoe size ( Norah had left her shoes in the murdered man's apartment.)
Conte is one of my favourite noir actors. He can do "good" guy ( as in The Blue Gardenia) or heartless villain ( check out The Big Combo ) with equal aplomb. He's perfect as the ambitious journalist who ( of course) falls for Norah once he meets her. I do have a bit of trouble believing that he doesn't realize that Norah, who claims she's just representing her "friend", is the suspect the police are looking for. The old "it's not me, it's my friend" strategy had been used so many times, shirley Casey Mayo would have spotted it.
Anyway, I know I'm all over the place with these comments about The Blue Gardenia. Sorry if I haven't gone into the plot more, but for one thing, I assume that people wouldn't be reading this if they hadn't already seen the film, and for another, I don't think the plot is the most interesting aspect of a movie to talk about.
I hope all you noir fans out there, if you didn't catch The Blue Gardenia when it was on last Sunday, at least recorded it. It's well worth adding to your collection.