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Noir Alley

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PHANTOM LADY

 

SPOILERS !

 

This Robert Siodmak noir is not as well-known as it deserves to be. With great black and white cinematography, full of criss-crossing shadows, late night NYC streets, and strange "terrain vague" settings such as Scot's prison interview room, Phantom Lady makes its mark as a true visual noir. Add to that the plot of an innocent man found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, and his secretary's desperate search to find a mysterious witness who can prove his innocence, and you've got a classic noir situation.

 

Ella Raines plays the secretary who works so hard to help her boss ( who of course she's in love with), and she should have been in more movies. She's really good -plus, what a beauty. I tried to post a pic of her here, but couldn't find one that shows how unusual and beautiful her eyes were. The scenes in which she (successfully) "haunts" the bartender who could be a helpful witness for her boss are almost spooky. She just keeps staring at him.

And the bit where she flirts with Elisha Cook Jr.'s drummer are actually kind of funny ( until poor old Elisha gets bumped off...) I love the way Ella puts across a "cheap tart" persona in these scenes, complete with raucous laughter and gum-chewing.

 

There's lots more to say about Phantom Lady, but right now I just want to add a quibble about the plot:

 

Scott Henderson is found guilty of his wife's murder, and condemned to be executed. The key "evidence", or lack of same, seems to be that he cannot locate a witness to his alibi, a woman who, on the night of the murder,  he spent the entire evening with. No one who saw them together will testify that they saw the woman he keeps talking about.

 

But here's the thing:  they saw him ! Both the bartender and the taxi driver confirm that they saw Scott at the time the murder was committed ( or just a minute or so after), first in the bar and then taking a taxi to the show. 

Wouldn't their testimony that they saw him be enough to acquit him? How could he be murdering his wife at 8 pm if he was seen in a bar, some distance away, at 8:02?  Why does he so desperately need the "phantom lady" as a witness?

 

Still, I don't want to get stuck on that. The search for the mysterious lady and her hat make for a fun noir ride, and that's really all I care about.

 

I recommend Phantom Lady for anyone who likes classic noir.

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I really wish more people were catching Eddie Muller's "Noir Alley" screenings, and that more contributed to this thread.  

I know, I know....a lot of people DVR these movies, and intend to watch them later, when they can.

 

Anyway....there are a few more comments I wanted to make about Phantom Lady.

 

Let's see:  I think I mentioned that it's a classic noir plot,,,, an innocent person is indicted for murder/ or someone they care about is murdered/  and the protagonist spends most of the film searching, either for the real murderer, or for a key witness. In the case of Phantom Lady, it's the latter.

 

SPOILERS

 

I love Franchot Tone's performance as the insane, narcissistic killer. It's a very Hitchcockian motif, that of the audience knowing who the killer is fairly early on, but the hero/heroine does not, and in fact often trusts the very person they should fear the most.

Eddie Muller did mention that the producer, Joan Harrison, had worked with Hitchcock extensively before making Phantom Lady;  guess that's why we can spot those Hitchcock -like touches, including that  of the killer being there in plain sight - at least to the audience. It really does add a nice layer of suspense to the proceedings.

 

The fixation with the lady's unusual hat is kind of funny. Ella Raines' character is so delighted when she finally comes into possession of this hat, and yet the hat in and of itself proves nothing. It's the wearer of the hat who's important, who could stand witness to testify for Scott Henderson's innocence. Yet this poor lady appears to be a basket case. It's hard to imagine her being willing to come forward and speak, especially in  court.

 

But it matters not, because Franchot Tone seals his own fate and manifests his guilt when he falls out the window in the film's suspenseful climax. So the lady in the delicate state of mental health is not needed. 

 

Elisha Cook Jr.: The first time I saw Phantom Lady, I could not believe the obviously sexually charged drum solo his character takes, after he takes Ella on a date to a jazz club. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so overt in a '40s movie. The sexual analagy between Cook's frantic intense driving drum solo and his lust for Ella is - well, jaw -dropping.  Also kind of funny, in a way. In fact, like a lot of noirs, there's a fair bit of humour in Phantom Lady.

 

Here's a still of Elisha, whipping himself into an erotic frenzy over pretty "Kansas"  (Ella Raines).

 

phantomlady3.jpg

 

Shirley other people have seen this film, if not this morning, maybe some other time?  I wish I didn't always have to beg for other people's comments here. 

I can't be the only one watching and enjoying this series of noirs.

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PHANTOM LADY

 

SPOILERS !

 

This Robert Siodmak noir is not as well-known as it deserves to be. With great black and white cinematography, full of criss-crossing shadows, late night NYC streets, and strange "terrain vague" settings such as Scot's prison interview room, Phantom Lady makes its mark as a true visual noir. Add to that the plot of an innocent man found guilty of murder and sentenced to death, and his secretary's desperate search to find a mysterious witness who can prove his innocence, and you've got a classic noir situation.

 

Ella Raines plays the secretary who works so hard to help her boss ( who of course she's in love with), and she should have been in more movies. She's really good -plus, what a beauty. I tried to post a pic of her here, but couldn't find one that shows how unusual and beautiful her eyes were. The scenes in which she (successfully) "haunts" the bartender who could be a helpful witness for her boss are almost spooky. She just keeps staring at him.

And the bit where she flirts with Elisha Cook Jr.'s drummer are actually kind of funny ( until poor old Elisha gets bumped off...) I love the way Ella puts across a "cheap tart" persona in these scenes, complete with raucous laughter and gum-chewing.

 

There's lots more to say about Phantom Lady, but right now I just want to add a quibble about the plot:

 

Scott Henderson is found guilty of his wife's murder, and condemned to be executed. The key "evidence", or lack of same, seems to be that he cannot locate a witness to his alibi, a woman who, on the night of the murder,  he spent the entire evening with. No one who saw them together will testify that they saw the woman he keeps talking about.

 

But here's the thing:  they saw him ! Both the bartender and the taxi driver confirm that they saw Scott at the time the murder was committed ( or just a minute or so after), first in the bar and then taking a taxi to the show. 

Wouldn't their testimony that they saw him be enough to acquit him? How could he be murdering his wife at 8 pm if he was seen in a bar, some distance away, at 8:02?  Why does he so desperately need the "phantom lady" as a witness?

 

Still, I don't want to get stuck on that. The search for the mysterious lady and her hat make for a fun noir ride, and that's really all I care about.

 

I recommend Phantom Lady for anyone who likes classic noir.

I like the way you don't know at first who the main protagonists are going to be, but in order for everything to make sense you're asked to swallow that Marlow killed the wife suddenly on impulse then spied on Henderson's every move with enough cash in his pocket to pay off every body Henderson came in contact with, then hangs around making sure that nobody spills the beans,  then after killing Cliff removes all evidence of "Kansas" being there in Cliff's apartment and then keeps that evidence in a draw in his studio. come on.....

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I like the way you don't know at first who the main protagonists are going to be, but in order for everything to make sense you're asked to swallow that Marlow killed the wife suddenly on impulse then spied on Henderson's every move with enough cash in his pocket to pay off every body Henderson came in contact with, then hangs around making sure that nobody spills the beans,  then after killing Cliff removes all evidence of "Kansas" being there in Cliff's apartment and then keeps that evidence in a draw in his studio. come on.....

 

Well, yeah, if you want to get picky about the plot. As far as that goes, my main criticism of the story of Phantom Lady is the fact that they don't even need this mysterious woman as a witness. Both the bartender and the taxi driver confirmed that they saw the accused, just a few minutes after the time of the murder. You'd think that would be alibi enough, what matter if they did or did not see a woman accompanying him?

 

But anyway, cigarjoe, what we have to do, not only with Phantom Lady, but with any number of famous and venerated noirs, is go with our suspension of disbelief. We both know we don't love film noir for its carefully mapped-out and well-considered plot points. Plot is the least important feature of film noir.

 

We've got beautiful Ella Raines, wonderful noirish settings, quirky characters, unforgettable scenes  ( I love that whole sequence in which Ella stalks the bartender, not saying a word the entire time - eerie !), and beautiful dark urban streets. 

 

Would it make sense for Jack to do all those things you enumerate?  No.  Do I care?  Baby, I don't.

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I'm guilty, misswonderly, of recording the Sunday AM Film Noirs for later viewing, including Phantom Lady and so I tried to skip your spoilers.  I love film noir  and wish to participate more in this thread so I need to catch up on my viewing.  Many of them I've seen but I do enjoy Eddie's comments.  I like his ads for the Sunday Noir on TCM, too; well done.

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Sorry but I too am recording Noir Alley to watch later.  One reason is so that I can postpone the possible spoilers in the intros until after I watch the film.  Not to mention that I’m not disciplined enough to sit in front of the TV at the same time every Sunday.  Sundays are usually a busy day for new shows, so it takes me a day or two to get back to the TCM movie.

some spoilers ahead

I love the way Phantom Lady looks and the director clearly threw everything he had into it, but the plot holes such as the one misswonderly mentioned kept me from enjoying the film as much as I would have liked.  Once they had interviewed multiple witnesses who were consistent in denying that the woman existed, it should have been obvious to everyone that if the accused was telling the truth, the next question to ask is who would benefit by discrediting him, but no one seemed interested in following up on that.  Scott Henderson must have had one of the worst defense lawyers ever.

I think I’ve seen this in multiple Noir movies now where the police try to ‘sweat’ the suspect.  I love the pre-Miranda rights days where the cops and their goons feel free to lean on someone indefinitely assuming they will eventually crack.  Do they ever even get the option to talk to a lawyer?

I first noticed Ella Raines from a TCM showing of the B picture The Second Face (1950) and was hooked.  In Impact (1949), Ella plays another role where she is helping to solve the crime, and it’s one of my favorites.

I never expected Eddie to have guests on to talk about fashion in Noir, but the discussion was interesting and fun.

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Sorry but I too am recording Noir Alley to watch later.  One reason is so that I can postpone the possible spoilers in the intros until after I watch the film.  Not to mention that I’m not disciplined enough to sit in front of the TV at the same time every Sunday.  Sundays are usually a busy day for new shows, so it takes me a day or two to get back to the TCM movie.

 

some spoilers ahead

 

I love the way Phantom Lady looks and the director clearly threw everything he had into it, but the plot holes such as the one misswonderly mentioned kept me from enjoying the film as much as I would have liked.  Once they had interviewed multiple witnesses who were consistent in denying that the woman existed, it should have been obvious to everyone that if the accused was telling the truth, the next question to ask is who would benefit by discrediting him, but no one seemed interested in following up on that.  Scott Henderson must have had one of the worst defense lawyers ever.

 

I think I’ve seen this in multiple Noir movies now where the police try to ‘sweat’ the suspect.  I love the pre-Miranda rights days where the cops and their goons feel free to lean on someone indefinitely assuming they will eventually crack.  Do they ever even get the option to talk to a lawyer?

 

I first noticed Ella Raines from a TCM showing of the B picture The Second Face (1950) and was hooked.  In Impact (1949), Ella plays another role where she is helping to solve the crime, and it’s one of my favorites.

 

I never expected Eddie to have guests on to talk about fashion in Noir, but the discussion was interesting and fun.

The mystery books that were mentioned - the Edith Head mysteries - do not seem to be available.

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I just caught up with "Phantom Lady" last night --  TCM/On Demand.  Though there are a few plot holes, I liked the film and I loved Ella Raines.  Boy, does she remind me of Gene Tierney!  And, Franchot Tone makes a great creepy killer. Who knew?

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I really wish more people were catching Eddie Muller's "Noir Alley" screenings, and that more contributed to this thread.  

I know, I know....a lot of people DVR these movies, and intend to watch them later, when they can.

 

Anyway....there are a few more comments I wanted to make about Phantom Lady.

 

Let's see:  I think I mentioned that it's a classic noir plot,,,, an innocent person is indicted for murder/ or someone they care about is murdered/  and the protagonist spends most of the film searching, either for the real murderer, or for a key witness. In the case of Phantom Lady, it's the latter.

 

SPOILERS

 

I love Franchot Tone's performance as the insane, narcissistic killer. It's a very Hitchcockian motif, that of the audience knowing who the killer is fairly early on, but the hero/heroine does not, and in fact often trusts the very person they should fear the most.

Eddie Muller did mention that the producer, Joan Harrison, had worked with Hitchcock extensively before making Phantom Lady;  guess that's why we can spot those Hitchcock -like touches, including that  of the killer being there in plain sight - at least to the audience. It really does add a nice layer of suspense to the proceedings.

 

The fixation with the lady's unusual hat is kind of funny. Ella Raines' character is so delighted when she finally comes into possession of this hat, and yet the hat in and of itself proves nothing. It's the wearer of the hat who's important, who could stand witness to testify for Scott Henderson's innocence. Yet this poor lady appears to be a basket case. It's hard to imagine her being willing to come forward and speak, especially in  court.

 

But it matters not, because Franchot Tone seals his own fate and manifests his guilt when he falls out the window in the film's suspenseful climax. So the lady in the delicate state of mental health is not needed. 

 

Elisha Cook Jr.: The first time I saw Phantom Lady, I could not believe the obviously sexually charged drum solo his character takes, after he takes Ella on a date to a jazz club. I don't think I've ever seen anything quite so overt in a '40s movie. The sexual analagy between Cook's frantic intense driving drum solo and his lust for Ella is - well, jaw -dropping.  Also kind of funny, in a way. In fact, like a lot of noirs, there's a fair bit of humour in Phantom Lady.

 

Here's a still of Elisha, whipping himself into an erotic frenzy over pretty "Kansas"  (Ella Raines).

 

phantomlady3.jpg

 

Shirley other people have seen this film, if not this morning, maybe some other time?  I wish I didn't always have to beg for other people's comments here. 

I can't be the only one watching and enjoying this series of noirs.

 

Excellent, excellent review. I was at work at the time, but I've seen it a number of times. I most definitely agree with everything you said. Elisha Cook - heh, heh, heh! What a scene! There was a bunch of stuff cut out of this film when it was released but I can never remember why or what was deleted.

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Yep, that drum solo was something to see.  Poor Elisha.  Bogart slaps him, Ella rejects him.  I guess all he can do is keep "beating on his drums" (so to speak.)

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Here is a sample link for the 'Edith Head' mystery books that were mentioned on Sunday's Noir Alley:

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/bookseries/B01FMJVAS4/ref=dp_st_0765381850

 

They also have kindle versions if you like digital.

 

I could not find them in the TCM Shop, so I hope the moderators don't mind the semi-plug here.

 

Here's the same bio on the authors from goodreads:

 

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14055036.Renee_Patrick

 

The Keenans were a nice addition to Sunday's show.

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HE RAN ALL THE WAY   

 

This was John Garfield's last film. Maybe, knowing this, that's why to me there's something quite sad about it. 

 

Here's my usual question that I ask forlornly every Sunday: anyone else here watch it, any thoughts and /or comments about it?

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I finally caught up with Phantom Lady and enjoyed it.  I agree that the lady wasn't needed at all  because there were witnesses to the fact that the protagonist was at the bar and in the taxi.  In the real world this would have been enough to not arrest the guy, much less get a conviction but heh, it's a noir world so we just go with it.  Nevertheless, I loved the "drummer scene" with the all its frenzy - how'd they get that past the censors?  Great scene!  My favorite sequence was Ella's silent stalking of the bartender.  The camera work was masterly.

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HE RAN ALL THE WAY   

 

This was John Garfield's last film. Maybe, knowing this, that's why to me there's something quite sad about it. 

 

 

 

I feel the same way, not only about this film, MissW, but also about Garfield's second last film, The Breaking Point, which Eddie Muller and many others also rank as a noir.

 

Garfield looks physically good in The Breaking Point, which started filming in February, 1950 but by the time the film was released in September the pressure was really upon him because of the Red scare in Hollywood and, despite good critical reviews, Warners didn't promote it for that reason. The film died at the box office and, until recent years when a few people started talking about it and it was discovered by many for the first time, it was largely forgotten.

 

The stress that Garfield was going through shows itself in his appearance in He Ran All the Way,  filmed quickly in July and August, 1950. That stress is particularly apparent in some closeups. He had suffered a heart attack in 1949, so the scenes requiring physicality in the film were tiring for him. That running sequence that he did at the beginning of the film during the robbery was only done the one time by the actor. He did no rehearsals. The swimming scene with Shelley Winters in the pool also tired him.

 

Speaking of Winters, she tired everyone on the set of this film, never seeming to be prepared, and with a big fallout coming over the film's ending. Winters wanted to kill Garfield with a knife on the couch (as the book on which the film was based had ended). But director John Berry and Garfield wanted the final scene to be in the street, where the emphasis could be upon Garfield's character.

 

Winters's intransigence against doing that scene was so bad that the director threatened to film it without her, putting an extra in a blonde wig in the shot in place of her. Shelley drove Garfield and just about everyone else crazy while making this film, and there was at least one huge screaming argument heard between the two actors in her dressing room. Curiously, years later the lady wrote that she couldn't remember whether she had an affair with Garfield or not. A belated slap at the actor?

 

He Ran All the Way is an interesting film, and there's an angry lost child quality about Garfield's portrayal. As the film proceeds it's apparent that he wants to be accepted by the family he is holding captive and, when he's not, he can turn nasty. He's a not too bright guy looking for love who doesn't know how to plan ahead any more than one day at a time. Possibly the frustration seen in the actor's portrayal is a reflection of what he was going through in his life at the time.

 

The supporting cast is fine, including Winters despite all the problems on the set with her. Wallace Ford, who had scored well as a sleazy, pathetic character in The Breaking Point, is reunited with Garfield here, and gives a particularly strong performance as the father, I thought.

 

menace8.png.jpg

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HE RAN ALL THE WAY   

 

This was John Garfield's last film. Maybe, knowing this, that's why to me there's something quite sad about it. 

 

Here's my usual question that I ask forlornly every Sunday: anyone else here watch it, any thoughts and /or comments about it?

 

Next to watch on my list, misswonderly,  I did record it for later viewing.  I've seen at least part of it before some time ago.  John Garfield was such a good actor.  How he was treated because of the "red scare" near the end of his life is heartbreaking.

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Really enjoyed He Ran All the Way.  Did an excellent job of maintaining the suspense throughout, and was both thrilling and tragic.  Story did a beautiful job of revealing the complexities of an individual, both the good and the bad, and how one's environment can shape what they become.  Garfield's character reminded me a little of the In Cold Blood murderer that Robert Blake portrayed in his famous role.  You realize that they're a bad person but your heart breaks at their situation in life.

 

My recording failed for some reason so I have not seen the wrap-up comments yet, but in the intro I appreciated seeing John Garfield's daughter as another fine guest for the Noir Alley series.  Hope TCM will post the movie to On Demand so I can catch the ending comments as well.

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Winters's intransigence against doing that scene was so bad that the director threatened to film it without her, putting an extra in a blonde wig in the shot in place of her. Shelley drove Garfield and just about everyone else crazy while making this film, and there was at least one huge screaming argument heard between the two actors in her dressing room. Curiously, years later the lady wrote that she couldn't remember whether she had an affair with Garfield or not. A belated slap at the actor?

 

 

Thanks TomJH for the detailed write up of He Ran All the Way.  Since we learned that Shelley Winters was the actress that Robert Osborne famously corrected on the details of her Oscar nominations, other memory failings wouldn’t surprise me.

 

I’m happy to say that TCM posted the film to the On Demand section for my cable service this evening, so I was able to see Eddie’s wrap-up with John Garfield’s daughter Julie, where she confirmed the difficulties in working with Shelley Winters that you mentioned.  Since I think the ending of the film works very well as-is, I'm glad they stuck to their vision.

 

 

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I just watched He Ran All the Way and was blown away by John Garfield's performance (not for the first time).  He put everything into this film.  The ending (SPOILER) with him at the car was terrific yet so sad because it was the last  film scene in his life.  Kudos to everybody responsible for making this movie.  I enjoyed Eddie's interview with John Garfield's daughter.   It seems to me that this was a little early in Shelley's career for her to be such a prima donna off camera (and if she can't remember having an affair with John Garfield, well, shame on her because no matter how many people I slept with, you can bet I'd remember having an affair with John Garfield.) 

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I’m happy to say that TCM posted the film to the On Demand section for my cable service this evening, so I was able to see Eddie’s wrap-up with John Garfield’s daughter Julie, where she confirmed the difficulties in working with Shelley Winters that you mentioned.  Since I think the ending of the film works very well as-is, I'm glad they stuck to their vision.

 

Rats! I'm sorry I missed TCM's presentation of He Ran All the Way, a film I have on DVD. I had no idea that Julie Garfield was going to be interviewed by Eddie Muller. I would have loved to hear her comments.

 

Anyone here remember Lori, a poster on these boards a few years ago who was a huge John Garfield fan? Boy did she have a passion for her favourite star, both saddened and outraged by the raw deal he got from the Hollywood blacklist. Because she was further upset that Garfield was not as well remembered today as she thought he should be, Lori started a petition campaign to try to get Warners to release a box set of Garfield films on DVD and among the signatures that she got was that of his daughter, Julie.

 

For anyone interested in a great Garfield biography I heartily recommend Robert Nott's insightful He Ran All the Way: The Life of John Garfield. It's a wonderful read about a street guy who made it big in Hollywood, was politically naive and paid the ultimate price for it at a time of paranoia and cowardice in the film community.

 

Garfield had his flaws as a person, as do we all, but he had a big heart for the under privileged, which he had once been. I recall one anecdote in the book (the details are a little fuzzy in my memory now but this is the gist) about a guy who once came up to Garfield after he had become a big star, and put on a con job about the two of them after been childhood chums on NYC streets, and how he could really use a little money. Garfield reached into his pocket and gave him $200. After the guy had left a friend with Garfield asked him why he did that, that the guy obviously hadn't known him. Garfield's response: I know but the guy looked like he needed the money. Sounds like a sweet guy to me.

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The most recent offering to be aired on "Noir Alley" was High Wall.

 

yanceycravat, since you're clearly an Eddie Muller fan - and therefore, presumably, a noir fan - did you see this film?  If so, let us know what you thought of it.

 

ps...Come to think of it, if anyone has seen High Wall, on "Noir Alley" or any other time, let us know what you thought of it.

 

Me, I love Audrey Trotter. 

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The most recent offering to be aired on "Noir Alley" was High Wall.

 

yanceycravat, since you're clearly an Eddie Muller fan - and therefore, presumably, a noir fan - did you see this film?  If so, let us know what you thought of it.

 

ps...Come to think of it, if anyone has seen High Wall, on "Noir Alley" or any other time, let us know what you thought of it.

 

Me, I love Audrey Trotter. 

 

I've seen the High Wall a few times.    Ok,  film but it lacks action being a psychological melodrama focused on the interworking of Robert Taylor's brain.    There is a really nice noir style murder scene;  a murder committed so causally as if one was getting their morning paper. 

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The most recent offering to be aired on "Noir Alley" was High Wall.

 

yanceycravat, since you're clearly an Eddie Muller fan - and therefore, presumably, a noir fan - did you see this film?  If so, let us know what you thought of it.

 

ps...Come to think of it, if anyone has seen High Wall, on "Noir Alley" or any other time, let us know what you thought of it.

 

Me, I love Audrey Trotter. 

I actually watched it this week, that sequence where Taylor is on the run with the dead girl at his side was great,

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Due to a cable system issue I missed recording Noir Alley this week, and there was no On Demand listing later to bail me out - boo!  However, after visiting the Noir Alley Facebook page I discovered that there is now a Noir Alley web site - noirally.tcm.com - and you can watch Eddie’s intros for several of the films there - yay!  (Look under the “Video Archive” tab.  No after-movie clips are included, though.)  So I was able to catch the intro for High Wall there this week.  Thank you TCM for fully supporting Noir Alley!

(movie spoilers ahead)

How bleak must things have been in post-war America that the more cynical noir stories seem to have resonated with audiences?  Since I am now watching the Noir Alley films on a regular basis, I am somewhat surprised that I find myself depressed by the more negative aspects of many of the stories.  In High Wall, for example, we see:

 - a District Attorney who is hell-bent on convicting a mentally damaged suspect while he’s still healthy enough to stand trial
 - another scene of a suspect alone in the middle of a group of interrogators trying to convince him to confess
 - a court-appointed lawyer who is mostly interested in selling the defendant’s story to the tabloids
 - a psychiatric review board who claims that the patient’s son is in the next room so they can see how he will react

Is there any connection between the bleakness of these films and the fact that many of the screenwriters ended up on the Hollywood Black List?

Robert Taylor is one of my favorite actors and Audrey Totter is really great in the film - she almost single-handedly pulled me through much of the movie.  Poor Herbert Marshall in another slimy villain role. Overall High Wall is well-crafted (do all noir movies have great cinematography?) and I enjoyed seeing how they wrapped things up in the end.

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Due to a cable system issue I missed recording Noir Alley this week, and there was no On Demand listing later to bail me out - boo!  However, after visiting the Noir Alley Facebook page I discovered that there is now a Noir Alley web site - noirally.tcm.com - and you can watch Eddie’s intros for several of the films there - yay!  (Look under the “Video Archive” tab.  No after-movie clips are included, though.)  So I was able to catch the intro for High Wall there this week.  Thank you TCM for fully supporting Noir Alley!

 

(movie spoilers ahead)

 

How bleak must things have been in post-war America that the more cynical noir stories seem to have resonated with audiences?  Since I am now watching the Noir Alley films on a regular basis, I am somewhat surprised that I find myself depressed by the more negative aspects of many of the stories.  In High Wall, for example, we see:

 

 - a District Attorney who is hell-bent on convicting a mentally damaged suspect while he’s still healthy enough to stand trial

 - another scene of a suspect alone in the middle of a group of interrogators trying to convince him to confess

 - a court-appointed lawyer who is mostly interested in selling the defendant’s story to the tabloids

 - a psychiatric review board who claims that the patient’s son is in the next room so they can see how he will react

 

Is there any connection between the bleakness of these films and the fact that many of the screenwriters ended up on the Hollywood Black List?

 

Robert Taylor is one of my favorite actors and Audrey Totter is really great in the film - she almost single-handedly pulled me through much of the movie.  Poor Herbert Marshall in another slimy villain role. Overall High Wall is well-crafted (do all noir movies have great cinematography?) and I enjoyed seeing how they wrapped things up in the end.

I don't think the movies in general were anymore bleak than at any other period.  You have to add in the vast numbers of westerns, non-noir mysteries, comedies, dramas, SciFi, horror and others that were also being produced.

I think part of the appearance of so much bleak noir is that TCM has done a good job of acquiring them and showing them.

 

"- a District Attorney who is hell-bent on convicting a mentally damaged suspect while he’s still healthy enough to stand trial

 - another scene of a suspect alone in the middle of a group of interrogators trying to convince him to confess

 - a court-appointed lawyer who is mostly interested in selling the defendant’s story to the tabloids

 - a psychiatric review board who claims that the patient’s son is in the next room so they can see how he will react"

 

There are movies and TV shows today and over past 30 years that have also had these features.  In fact, you could say one and two are "ripped from the headlines" as in Law and Order TV series.

 

When I go on the On Demand premium channels movie selections, a lot of them appear pretty bleak to me.  Then I will begin some and they turn out to be bleak.

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I thought it was gorgeously shot, I like Audrey Totter, and Eddie gave it a great intro, but I just could not get into HIGH WALL (1947)

 

I think a good part of the blame lies with Robert Taylor.

 

ETA: when I am able tomorrow I will post the "SUSPENSE!" radio version of HIGH WALL with a VERRRRRRRY different ending. I want to say it stars Robert Young & Herbert Marshall and it is excellent.

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