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Film noir runneth over on the schedule lately

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As much as I enjoy watching most noirs, quite a few go over the top and into

melodrama. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the elements that make up noir,

at least according to some theorists, the shadowy visual sense, the rainy urban back

streets, the femme fatale, the fated ruination of a character or characters, the seamy

underbelly of life, the cynical view of the world, etc. seem so set and repetitive. Even

if one defines noir instead as a certain mood or sensibility, there still are many elements

of melodramatic exaggeration. This doesn't in any way diminish the entertainment

value of these movies. I guess I'm just a noir minimalist.

 

I thought that the early childhood sequences were some of the best in the film, a

combination of noir and a gothic story of the evil aunt, all wrapped up in a child's

view of the world. One also finds the initial theme of small town power and corruption

that plays a large part in the rest of the movie, but it's at its most basic and concentrated

in the childhood section. After that, it's fairly well done, but it turns into a more

conventional noir story. If you're going to get rid of the aunt, it should be done without

witnesses, and in a more discreet manner. It's only fair to give the kiddie a pass because

of her relative youth and inexperience.

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> {quote:title=C.Bogle wrote:}{quote}

> tumblr_kxsue5z6qp1qzu1fpo1_500.jpg

>

>

> This is what is known as a caption rich photo.

 

 

Uh oh! Is that The Woman With X-ray Eyes?

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tumblr_kxsue5z6qp1qzu1fpo1_500.jpg

Walter, if you put one more dented, half off can in my cart, I'll

walk out of this store and you'll never see me again.

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....and Walter is thinking, "How did I ever get involved with this princess? Most of the women I've gone out with would be thrilled to get a dented, half-off can".

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> {quote:title=C.Bogle wrote:}{quote}

> As much as I enjoy watching most noirs, quite a few go over the top and into

> melodrama.

 

Like *The Damned Don't Cry* or even *The Letter*? Whenever Joan Crawford or Bette Davis touched noir/crime/mystery it had a melodramatic appeal to it.

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Great commentary misswonderly. Don't really know what I could add to it since I agree so much.

 

I too, have never seen Van Heflin in a poor performance. I found him deliciously creepy in The Feminine Touch breathing down young Roz Russell's neck, also, Van Heflin almost solely saves one of the worst film noirs that isn't film noir but probably a backstage mystery, the all star cast *Black Widow*.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> No thanks. I use the same dating service that was used in FRENZY. I recommend it highly with one proviso. If you are a female, you stand a reasonable chance of getting murdered.

 

Just don't go out with anybody wearing a tie.

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This is what is known as a caption rich photo.

 

From now on, Uncle Charley does the shopping. Period.

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Actually, it looks like the head of a femme fatale in a blonde wig is on sale, and Fred doesn't know how to react. Run Fred Run (it's only her head, there's no ankle bracelet to get you hooked).

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I agree with everything you said. This is a good movie. But I've seen so much better. More than anything else, it's melodrama. Nothing wrong with that. But just as OUT OF THE PAST is better noir, THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL is superior soap. Where THE KILLERS outshines it as crime drama, IMITATION OF LIFE beats it as a relationship story.

 

The transition from kids to adults works well. I like that concept in KINGS ROW, MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS. And I like it here.

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So..*.Martha Ivers* part noir, part melodrama, part dating service. People seem to agree that the childhood scenes are effective. And that cats and unsympathetic overbearing aunts don't mix.

 

Moving on...I figure most people have seen *The Narrow Margin*, another noir that was playing on TCM recently. I have three things to say about this.

 

1: Marie Windsor is very good as the fake "trashy wife of gangster"/ incognito cop. She has those big strange eyes, good for un-nerving people. And that kind of harsh, "chippy" way of speaking. (I loved her as the greedy complaining wife in *The Killing*. Poor Elisha Cook Jr.) I do have to wonder, though, why, if she's hiding from the bad guys -( in an inexplicably large room on a train, no less ! I can tell you, there's no such thing as a room that big on a train ) - is she playing noisy, not particularly good swing music at full volume? And where'd she get the gramophone? In fact, it's the loud swing music wafting through the door of her room that gives her away.

 

2: I'm disappointed in the Charles McGraw character.Ok, he has a low opinion of Miss Windsor, thinks she's "trash", etc. Fair enough. But even when he discovers that Windsor was actually an undercover cop, serving the dual purpose of protecting the real gangster's wife and testing McGraw's integrity, he has not one word of respect for her, no regret that he treated her with such hostility, no regret that she died in the line of duty (partly because of his carelessness -also partly because of her love for mediocre swing music), not even any admiration for her acting abilities (the character's , not Windsor's.) I keep expecting him, right up to the end of the film, to say some word of appreciation for the female cop's dedication. But there's nothing.

 

3: I particularly enjoyed this film as it is set almost entirely on a train, and I had just had a three day experience on a train. I can tell you, there were no record-players and no fat men in the corridors -both would have been impossible. The train motif keeps the action limited in both scope and (obviously) location, forcing the director to be imaginative in how the scenes play out. By the way, the "cocktail lounge" in *The Narrow Margin* exactly resembles the lounge on the train I took. I swear the armchairs were from the set of this movie.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 26, 2010 5:53 PM

 

redriver, I'm expecting popcorn and grape juice next time you post. Don't wear a tie, though, please.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 26, 2010 5:55 PM

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CBogle wrote:

*As much as I enjoy watching most noirs, quite a few go over the top and into*

*melodrama. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that the elements that make up noir,*

*at least according to some theorists, the shadowy visual sense, the rainy urban back*

*streets, the femme fatale, the fated ruination of a character or characters, the seamy*

*underbelly of life, the cynical view of the world, etc. seem so set and repetitive. Even*

*if one defines noir instead as a certain mood or sensibility, there still are many elements*

*of melodramatic exaggeration. This doesn't in any way diminish the entertainment*

*value of these movies. I guess I'm just a noir minimalist.*

 

. *. . quite a few go over the top and into melodrama. . .* That's because that's what they are. Noir is state of mind, a concept applied after the fact, to a disparate group of films that share some stylistic visuals and a mid-20th Century filming. So many movies are pigeon-holed into this 'noir' concept: western noir, women's noir, etc. but when they were made they were catalogued, publicized and released as "Western", "Crime Drama", "Women's Film", "Melodrama", etc.

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It was an after the fact categorization that was applied to what were likely called crime

melodramas before noir became such a popular term, and was then applied to other

genres. I'm sure film historians and scholars have written on the subject of how the

terminology changed, with melodramas gradually evolving into noirs over the years.

Being able to create a certain label that one can bring films under makes things a bit

easier for viewers, and later there were probably commercial considerations too. It's

easier to sell all manner of things when one can brand them. Get your noir sunglasses.

 

Yeah, Walter/Fred was probably used to a less well off type of dame. Phyllis was a bit

out of his league, at least bottom line wise. Bette and Joan seemed to add a women's

picture dimension to the noirs they were in, bending the genres a little.

 

I was reminded of Kings Row too. In both films, the childhood sequences seem to

have a certain foreboding, eerie tone to them that makes an impression on the audience.

 

Uncle Charley not only went shopping but cooked the meals, and I'll wager he made sure

that Chip and Ernie cleaned their plates.

 

You would think the Charles McGraw character, however gruff he was before, might show

a little sympathy for Marie Windsor after her death. I guess he was just going to be as

tough as nails from start to finish.

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When you look at Leonard Maltin's film guides, many of the films which we know as noirs are referred to as melodramas in the capsule reviews.

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Did anyone catch *Jeopardy* during Barbara Stanwyck's bday tribute? It was only in an 1:15 time slot. Is it me or is Ralph Meeker so deliciously evil? I've also seen him in a few episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he's great at being the "bad guy".

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With regards to the Narrow Margin and the reaction of McGraw, note that most of his reaction was that his higher ups didn't trust him and thus couldn't let me in on the fact Windsor was a fake. Since all of his focus was on that he didn't have any emotions left for Windsor. Also, to continue the bad girls look one way, good girl look another, theme of the movie McGraw has to dismiss Windsor even upon death. Even after this he still cannot accept, until the very end, that the classy dame is the gangster moll.

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Jul 27, 2010 3:39 PM

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Leonard better get with the noir program. :)

 

Meeker did make an effective bad guy. Even in Kiss Me Deadly when he was the

"hero", I didn't find him very likable. I believe Meeker was in the first episode of

Alfred Hitchcock Presents, along with Vera Miles and Frances Bavier. In that

one he played sort of an average joe good guy.

 

Yes, I think it's safe to say that McGraw was pretty set in his ways, and wasn't

going to accept something that didn't fit into his hardened mindset. Mentioning

the real moll reminds me how wholesomely pretty she was. You never know.

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So many movies are pigeon-holed into this 'noir' concept

 

We drive ourselves crazy with all these labels. I don't worry about what's noir, what's screwball, what's gothic and what's horror. It's all fiction. They're all movies. I do use the terms. Mostly to avoid redundant writing. I don't want to use the word "story" a dozen times. If one man's noir is another's crime drama, that's A-OK with me.

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Yes, redriver, it's like worrying about whether to say "movie" or "film". I agree, let's just get on with enjoying them,

 

There's a thread or two in other forums right now about Humphrey Bogart. Which reminded me of a good little noir with HB and Lauren Bacall, *Dark Passage.* My favourite scene is, of course, the face-changing one. Pretty strange.

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> {quote:title=misswonderly wrote:}{quote}

> Yes, redriver, it's like worrying about whether to say "movie" or "film". I agree, let's just get on with enjoying them,

>

> There's a thread or two in other forums right now about Humphrey Bogart. Which reminded me of a good little noir with HB and Lauren Bacall, *Dark Passage.* My favourite scene is, of course, the face-changing one. Pretty strange.

 

The concept of plastic surgery in black and white films is so weird to me. I have no idea why. Although it is not a noir, Joan Crawford in *A Woman's Face* was quite interesting too....what a scar that was!

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Just curious why you refer to DARK PASSAGE as a "little" noir. I would think that a noir with Bogart and Bacall would be a BIG noir.

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I consider *A Woman's Face* a distant cousin to noir; it's got a character isolated from the rest of society, alienated, misanthropic; it's got a crime element; and it's certainly got more than a hefty dose of melodrama. It is, in fact, a bona-fide Joan-o-drama.

 

Yes, the subject of plastic surgery in old black and white films in general, and noir in particular, is an odd one. At least one other comes to mind, the 1948 Paul Henreid vehicle, *The Scar*, also known as *Hollow Triumph*. This one, ironically, has the protagonist aspiring to obtain a disfigurement to his face, not eradicate it.

 

But as I said before, nothing beats that plastic surgery scene in *Dark Passage*. The sinister office (what kind of a doctor, even a decommissioned one, is open at three o'clock in the morning?), the almost jeering speech the doc gives Humphrey, I guess just to reassure him ("I could make a man look like a baboon..." ), and best of all the weird dream sequence, with Bogart swirling through a vortex of bizarre, mocking faces and escape cars. And when it's all over, he still wants to smoke!

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 29, 2010 10:34 AM

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 29, 2010 10:36 AM

 

Correcton: I just remembered, what the doc actually says is, "I could make you look like a bulldog, or a monkey" Nice comforting thing to say just before your plastic surgery.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 29, 2010 10:55 AM

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