speedracer5

I Just Watched...

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11 minutes ago, limey said:

I always thought that Mark Cousins could have an alternate career narrating those self-help hypnosis/help you sleep CDs... Having said that, I did enjoy The Story of Film series - along with the array of films that were broadcast to tie in with it. It'd be nice if TCM picked up a few more film documentaries to air (and re-broadcast the Moguls & Movie Stars series, so I can watch the episode that my DVR decided to eat...).

Practically every great "bold realistic foreign" film Cousin cites is on the Criterion catalog, so it works as a great sampler-disk of what to buy on disk or check out on FilmStruck.

Still, when you can literally drinking-game the number of times he says "While Hollywood studios were making Terminators and Hobbits" (one sip, two sips if it's "Hobbits and Terminators", one sip if it's just Terminators, and one gulp if it's just Hobbits, full drink when we see the Christmas ornament), and then turns around in the last episode and praises James Cameron for creating the world of Avatar...

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Le Samouraï (1967) Death In Paris Has A Price

 Le%2BSamoura%25C3%25AF%2B%25281967%2529%2BPoster.jpg

Le Samouraï is a film designed to emphasize the alienated mundaneness, of hitman Jeff's meticulous spartan way of life. This  builds the tension slowly towards flash points of swift release. Director Jean-Pierre Melville, like Sergio Leone and the Hollywood Western, holds a certain loving reverence to American Film Noir and Gangster Films, the "romance of the fedora." After Bob le Flambeur, Melville got to actually film Two Men In Manhattan on location in New York City and he made the most of it. In his sixth gangster epic, Le Samouraï Melville uses the enclosure of an everyday Paris of working man neighborhoods, suburban commuter train stations, nightclubs, industrial ghettos and The Metro, to weave the existential tale of the paid assassin on his last job. The music was by François de Roubaix, and the excellent cinematography by Henri Decaë (Elevator to the Gallows (1958), Purple Noon (1960), ). Full review at with some screencaps from the Criterion DVD in film Noir/Gangster section and with even more at Noirsville  9/10.

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Mommie Dearest (1981) 7/10

If anybody in the universe has not seen or heard of this film, this is the filmed version of Christina Crawford's tell all book of the same name, in which her adopted mother Joan Crawford is shown as an unhinged person who really had no business raising a child - she actually adopted four, including Christina. Did she have lots of lovers? Did she overspend and drink herself into a drunken stupor occasionally, especially in the waning days of her career as she lost her looks? Did she probably have more affection for Pepsi CEO Alfred Steele in her 50s than any of her many lovers in her youth and STILL spend him into an early grave anyways? Probably yes to all of these.

She also was the driven star, giving her career her all, and the proof is in the pudding for she was devoted to her fans, answering their mail personally, and in the fact that she kept a youthful figure way into her 50s. But back to the movie. So she was bound to be driven in her raising of children. Maybe she did make a point - like in the swimming scene - to point out that it was true Christina could never beat her because she would always be bigger and stronger and that life is just unfair. After all Joan grew up poor and had to get everything she got the hard way. What we don't know is if this manic depressive person who treats her daughter according to her mood was the real Joan or the revenge of a disinherited child via accusations in which the accused was as helpless to fight back after death as Christina would have been as a child at Joan's mercy.

At the end of the film, and in the book, Christina Crawford openly lays out the motive for her negative portrayal of her mother - she was completely disinherited along with adopted brother Christopher, even though the film portrays Joan and Christina as having an uneasy truce once Christina reached adulthood and was out of the grasp of her mother's potential for physical abuse. Thus her total shock at being disinherited, and especially in the fact that no real reason was given by Joan in her will.

Now, back to the actual film. I think Faye Dunaway did a fine job of portraying the two faced monster Christina talked about in her book. Whether or not that was the real Joan Crawford. However, Dunaway looks so much like Joan Crawford that it is uncanny. Likewise, Diana Scarwid is excellent as the teenage/adult Christina. Cautious around her mother given her behavior when she was a child, trying to eke out a living as an actress once she is an adult, accepting when Joan won't give her a dime in assistance. Steve Forrest is quite good as Joan's lover, attorney Greg Savitt, whom she cuts out of her life - and her photographs - after he lays out some hard truths to her.

The cinematography and art design are top notch. It nails the 40s and 50s look and feel of the fashions, automobiles, and furnishings of the time. I'd say give it a try. The over the top parts are really in the first half, as Christina is growing up. The second half is more low key, humanizing Joan just a bit to where you almost feel sorry for her. In the words of John Waters, in reference to the wire hangers scene, "If you don't like this scene you should never watch movies." For sure, you will not be bored.

Just an aside - Christina isn't the only child of old Hollywood to have mommy issues and to have them end up in print. Somebody of completely different temperament and reputation in life - Jack Benny - wrote an incomplete autobiography due to his sudden death from pancreatic cancer in 1974. It was published with the help of the memoirs of his daughter - also an adopted only child. Although she says largely good things about her dad, she really lays into her mother, Mary Livingston. An interesting parallel.

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1 hour ago, calvinnme said:

 

Mommie Dearest (1981) 7/10

If anybody in the universe has not seen or heard of this film, this is the filmed version of Christina Crawford's tell all book of the same name, in which her adopted mother Joan Crawford is shown as an unhinged person who really had no business raising a child - she actually adopted four, including Christina. Did she have lots of lovers? Did she overspend and drink herself into a drunken stupor occasionally, especially in the waning days of her career as she lost her looks? Did she probably have more affection for Pepsi CEO Alfred Steele in her 50s than any of her many lovers in her youth and STILL spend him into an early grave anyways? Probably yes to all of these.

She also was the driven star, giving her career her all, and the proof is in the pudding for she was devoted to her fans, answering their mail personally, and in the fact that she kept a youthful figure way into her 50s. But back to the movie. So she was bound to be driven in her raising of children. Maybe she did make a point - like in the swimming scene - to point out that it was true Christina could never beat her because she would always be bigger and stronger and that life is just unfair. After all Joan grew up poor and had to get everything she got the hard way. What we don't know is if this manic depressive person who treats her daughter according to her mood was the real Joan or the revenge of a disinherited child via accusations in which the accused was as helpless to fight back after death as Christina would have been as a child at Joan's mercy.

At the end of the film, and in the book, Christina Crawford openly lays out the motive for her negative portrayal of her mother - she was completely disinherited along with adopted brother Christopher, even though the film portrays Joan and Christina as having an uneasy truce once Christina reached adulthood and was out of the grasp of her mother's potential for physical abuse. Thus her total shock at being disinherited, and especially in the fact that no real reason was given by Joan in her will.

Now, back to the actual film. I think Faye Dunaway did a fine job of portraying the two faced monster Christina talked about in her book. Whether or not that was the real Joan Crawford. However, Dunaway looks so much like Joan Crawford that it is uncanny. Likewise, Diana Scarwid is excellent as the teenage/adult Christina. Cautious around her mother given her behavior when she was a child, trying to eke out a living as an actress once she is an adult, accepting when Joan won't give her a dime in assistance. Steve Forrest is quite good as Joan's lover, attorney Greg Savitt, whom she cuts out of her life - and her photographs - after he lays out some hard truths to her.

The cinematography and art design are top notch. It nails the 40s and 50s look and feel of the fashions, automobiles, and furnishings of the time. I'd say give it a try. The over the top parts are really in the first half, as Christina is growing up. The second half is more low key, humanizing Joan just a bit to where you almost feel sorry for her. In the words of John Waters, in reference to the wire hangers scene, "If you don't like this scene you should never watch movies." For sure, you will not be bored.

Just an aside - Christina isn't the only child of old Hollywood to have mommy issues and to have them end up in print. Somebody of completely different temperament and reputation in life - Jack Benny - wrote an incomplete autobiography due to his sudden death from pancreatic cancer in 1974. It was published with the help of the memoirs of his daughter - also an adopted only child. Although she says largely good things about her dad, she really lays into her mother, Mary Livingston. An interesting parallel.

I watched this movie one day while home sick and loved it.  Doesn't it always seem like the best movies to watch while sick are the "so bad they're good" movies? Either those or really serious dramas.  I don't know why that is.  Anyway, back to Mommie Dearest...

I thought Faye Dunaway did a great job portraying Joan Crawford, the character.  She really looked like 1940s-1950s Joan too.  Her performance was over the top, but so were Christina Crawford's claims of abuse.  Joan's friends, like Myrna Loy, swore up and down that Christina's book was a complete fabrication.  Even Bette Davis defended Joan stating that she respected Joan's talent and that she didn't deserve to have such a horrible book written about her.  Without having been there first hand, who knows what the real truth is, but I'll bet it's somewhere in between "Saint Joan" and Christina's book.  

My favorite scene in the movie is the classic "No wire hangers, ever" scene.  It is so over-the-top that it's funny.  I will say the Christina Crawford character was so awful at times that I felt bad for Joan having to deal with her.  

What's interesting is that Bette Davis' own daughter, BD wrote her own "Mommie Dearest" book, entitled My Mother's Keeper.  BD, however, had poor timing and released it while her mother was still alive.  I believe the book was released right after Bette had had a stroke and was recovering from that and a mastectomy, so perhaps BD was counting on her mother not pulling through.  Fortunately for the public (and unfortunately for BD), Bette did pull through and was able to include a scathing response to BD in her second memoir, This N' That.  I think BD pretty much has disappeared.  I've read that Christina on the other hand, did make the rounds through the 1980s talk show circuit, but seems to have pretty much disappeared as well. 

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I've watched a bunch of movies recently.  We had a three day weekend this weekend, so there was lots of time for movie watching, among less fun tasks like washing dishes and folding laundry.  

The Doughgirls.  This movie was very madcap and absurd at times, but it was funny--a nice diversion.  This film featured six couples who end up sharing the honeymoon suite during the WWII housing shortage.  Jane Wyman and Jack Carson are one of the couples who are married by a Justice of the Peace and end up at the hotel.  Ann Sheridan and husband John Ridgely (I had to look up his name again) are the married couple who are currently staying in the honeymoon suite and have a hard time leaving when Wyman and Carson show up.  Later, Alexis Smith and (real-life) husband Craig Stevens show up as an engaged couple who want to marry before Stevens leaves for his next military assignment.  Eve Arden shows up as a Soviet solider who just shows up (and maybe is staying in the room too? I don't know.  There were so many people in there).  Charles Ruggles rounds out the cast as Carson's boss, but later ends up as Wyman's boss. 

Carson, who is supposed to be on his honeymoon with Wyman, refuses to stay in the suite because of all the extra people.  Wyman's character, is a complete dim-wit and doormat.  Sheridan and Smith walk all over her.  It seems that the three ladies are also acquainted with one another, which is most likely the main reason why Wyman won't kick them out.  Wyman's character, in my opinion, is the only sour note in the film, because her character is so irritating.  She brags about her haircut to multiple people in the film and it's terrible.  She has that matronly poodle cut hair style that so many women during the 1940s-1950s adopted which instantly aged them 10-15 years.  Sheridan and Smith, while definitely wearing 1940s hairstyles, look much more sleek and sophisticated.  Sheridan, Smith and Arden were my favorite characters in the film.

This movie was so frantic and had so many different characters and situations that at times, it was hard to follow what was going on.  However, overall, it was funny and a great way to spend an hour and a half.  This type of film fulfills the exact role I want from my movies: escapism.  When I watch a movie, I want to be able to forget about all the awful things I heard/read about on the news that day.  Even if it's not an absurd movie like The Doughgirls, and is something more serious like a noir, I am still able to escape.  Noir films are so stylized that you're swept up into their world.  While there are a lot of (I'm sure) great topical films and television shows these days that are winning all the acclaim and accolades, I just don't want to use my "movie time" for watching something about domestic violence or terrorism.  I want to forget about those things for a couple hours. 

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Last night I watched the last hour or so of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES.  Again.  But a funny thing.....

A nephew of ours, a forty something, finally got cable service again after a two year lay-off.  TCM is part of it's basic package.  While looking through it's "guide" he noticed the movie was on.  Him and his wife were over earlier today for a visit, and she told of how he decided to watch it because he always heard what a "great" movie it was supposed to be, and wanted to see if it was up to the hype.

Well, both said they liked it a lot and I said I've seen it a lot and agreed it's great.  But she was still amused when telling us, "You should have seen Jason.  When it got to that part where the guy with the hooks was showing that girl all he goes through at night and when she hugged him and he finally hugs her back, all of a sudden I hear Jason sniffling and I looked and he was wiping his eyes!"  Apparently, like me, that scene had an affect on him.  I told her I understood.  I said that I've seen the movie probably more than the year has days, and I STILL get watery-eyed when that scene plays. :D 

So, it has a new fan.  And, according to him, so does VIRGINIA MAYO! ;)

Sepiatone

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My 'Doughgirls' post seemed really long, so I'm breaking it up into another post:

Honolulu.  This 1939 film featuring Eleanor Powell, Robert Young, George Burns and Gracie Allen is very much a product of its time.  Setting aside the fact that musicals like this aren't typically produced anymore, the things in this film would never pass today's "Social Justice Warrior" world.  Granted, Honolulu's portrayals of race are pretty bad, but like I said, it's very much a product of its time. Eleanor Powell dons blackface to pay tribute to Bill Robinson.  Her performance is reminiscent of Fred Astaire's homage to Robinson in Swing Time.  Both Powell and Astaire are obviously paying tribute to Robinson, but both choose to don blackface to honor him.  Powell chooses to go the minstrel route with the white lips whereas Astaire does not.  These two routines would never fly today and people would be advocating a boycott on Powell, Astaire, MGM, RKO and probably Hollywood.  Two other questionable portrayals in Honolulu are that of the black servant and the Asian servant.  Both men are very stereotypical portrayals of their respective races.  The black servant is overly excitable and easily confused and the Asian servant has limited English skills, has big teeth and is prone to giggling a lot.  Both remind me of the portrayals of race in Warner Brother cartoons. 

Robert Young plays a dual role.  He plays the Hollywood celebrity Brooks Mason, who is tired of being famous and just wants peace and quiet. Young's other role is as George Smith, a Hawaiian pineapple plantation owner who is in New York for business.  Hollywood Young and Hawaiian Young meet through pure coincidence (as always happens in these types of films) and Hollywood Young convinces Hawaiian Young to trade places with him--he wants to relax and Hawaiian Young wants some more excitement. Hollywood Young, masquerading as Hawaiian Young, boards a cruise ship to Hawaii.  On the cruise ship, he meets Eleanor Powell, a dancer and her friend, Gracie Allen who also plays the ukulele.  I am assuming that the ladies are part of a bigger act? The storyline was a little confusing as it was hard to remember which Young was which and what exactly was happening in the film, but fortunately, the best part are Eleanor Powell's dance numbers.

Powell's jump rope dance at the beginning of the cruise is really fun as is the aforementioned tribute to Bill Robinson.  Her best routine in the film is her hula dance, which at the time was considered pretty risque because of her costume.  She is just wearing a bikini top and hula skirt (and presumably underwear).  I love Eleanor Powell and her numbers are always the highlight in every film of hers that I've seen.  Gracie Allen was fine, her shtick wears thin for me though, but she has her moments.  Her best scene is in the costume party scene where she is dressed as Mae West.  She does a routine with other costumed passengers, including a group dressed as The Marx Brothers (with two Grouchos!).  In the audience, "Joan Crawford," "WC Fields," "Clark Gable," and "Oliver Hardy," can be spotted.  George Burns I can barely remember from the film, only that he's Hollywood Robert Young's agent (assistant? manager?).  

Overall, this film is a fun diversion but is very much a product of its time. 

---

Joy of Living.  I'll admit that Irene Dunne isn't one of my favorites as her characters tend to get kind of whiny (but I liked Theodora Goes Wild), but I thought she was really great here.  Dunne plays a Broadway singer who serves as her family's meal ticket.  Her family, including sister Lucille Ball, don't do much, other than enjoy the wealth and status (by association) Dunne's success brings them.  Dunne is exhausted, but is constantly pressured into taking more and more responsibilities on and Dunne does as to not disappoint her family.  Despite all of her hardwork and wealth, her family's spendthrift ways has plunged Dunne deeply into depth.  When she finds out about her financial woes, she is very disillusioned (who wouldn't be?).  Dunne ends up meeting "c ock of the walk" Douglas Fairbanks Jr.  At first she is put off by Fairbanks' pushiness and even as him arrested at one point, accusing him of being a masher.  Fairbanks manages to charm his way out of jail time and even gets Dunne appointed as his probation officer.  Legally he has to report to Dunne two times a week.  As she gets to know Fairbanks, Dunne finds out that he comes from wealth but has chosen to live his life as a pleasure seeker.  He also claims to own an island in the South Pacific and urges Dunne to leave her stress behind and live in paradise with him.  

I originally recorded this film for Lucille Ball.  She is good as Dunne's younger sister (and understudy), but her part is so small, she doesn't really get to make much of an impression.  Though, she continues to prove that she is good with the one-liners.  It must have been frustrating for Lucy to have come from such a great supporting part in Stage Door, to be put into another small supporting part, but in not as prestigious a film.  I actually liked Dunne in this film.  She didn't come across whiny in this film and I thought she looked very beautiful.  I could do without her singing, but I liked her singing more than that of Jeannette MacDonald.  Douglas Fairbanks Jr is always a charmer and he's very handsome in this film.  It's easy to see why Dunne would have a hard time between choosing Broadway or Fairbanks.  I think her family's thirst for wealth and status has killed any desire Dunne may have had to be a Broadway star.  She's just going it to keep the family in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed. 

This film was average.  Not horrible, not amazing.  It was a nice diversion.

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Five Gates to Hell (1959).

Neville Brand plays a Vietnamese warlord in French Indochina in 1950 whose commander is deathly ill.  So he leads a raiding party to kidnap a bunch of doctors and nurses from a Red Cross field hospital to treat the commander, who is laid up in a hilltop castle.  The medical staff obviously would like to escape.

The idea is good, but Brand is miscast (technically, he's mixed-race, as his white mother died in childbirth) and the dialogue the characters (especially his) have to deliver is terrible.  The production values also look surprisingly subpar.  FXM also showed a panned-and-scanned version of this.  It's going to be on FXM Retro again this Tuesday and Wednesday (11/14 and 11/15) if you have the channel.

5/10

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Call Northside 777.  This was a great noirish film starring James Stewart.  According to the narration and prologue, this was based on a true story.  The film depicts the 1932 murder of a police officer in a speakeasy in Chicago.  In 1933, two men were given life sentences for the murder.  The action of Call Northside 777 starts out eleven years later, in 1944.  Lee J. Cobb, editor of the Chicago Times, comes across a small ad in the classifieds offering $5,000 to whomever can offer information regarding the murderer of the police officer in 1932.  Anyone with information is urged to call Northside 777.  Cobb is intrigued that someone would be offering so much money for an eleven year old, solved murder, and why it is in such an inconspicuous ad.  He has a hunch that there is a story in there and he assigns lead reporter, James Stewart to the case.  Stewart is at first uninterested but as he thinks out loud and asks questions, Cobb urges him to investigate and see what he can come up with.  Stewart starts with meeting the owner of the classifieds ad, who turns out to be the mother of one of the men put in prison for the murder.  She is adamant that her son is innocent and as Stewart interviews more people investigated in the case and reviews more news stories and documents related to the case, he realizes that the man in jail for this crime may really be innocent.  Noir mainstay Richard Conte stars as the (allegedly) wrong-fully convicted man.  Helen Walker has a small but effective role as Stewart's devoted wife whom he confides in when he's trying to figure out the case.  They also work on a jigsaw puzzle together throughout the film, which very skillfully acts as a metaphor for what Stewart is trying to do in his work life.  Betty Garde (known as "Stark, Kitty" in my favorite "ladies in prison" movie, Caged!) plays the eyewitness whose inconsistent ability to pick out the murderer in the lineup comes into question by Stewart.  She is very bitter and uncooperative toward Stewart, so he's forced to undermine her credibility without her assistance in clearing the man whom he feels was wrongfully convicted. 

I thought Stewart was excellent in his role as the everyday man whose work could affect the lives of many people associated with the case.  I normally dislike Lee J. Cobb because he's usually so over the top in his portrayals (he's awful in Golden Boy), but he was good in the role as Stewart's boss who urges him to keep going in his investigation.  I do get the sense though that Cobb is just trying to increase readership in the newspaper, he couldn't care less about Conte's character; but Stewart is the one with a little more humanity who is more about solving the crime and helping than increasing readership to the Chicago Times.  I think he is especially taken aback by Conte's mother and ex-wife.  One thing I thought was interesting about this film was that the man who administers the lie detector test to Conte is the actual inventor of the lie detector test.  

I would watch this film again.  Newspaper films are one of my favorite subgenres. 

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2 hours ago, speedracer5 said:

I watched this movie one day while home sick and loved it.  Doesn't it always seem like the best movies to .  I will say the Christina Crawford character was so awful at times that I felt bad for Joan having to deal with her. 

I thought the same thing.  She came across as such a brat that I'm surprised the real Christina continues to show up at screenings of the movie unless she's oblivious to how "brattily" she's portrayed. 

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5 minutes ago, HoldenIsHere said:

I thought the same thing.  She came across as such a brat that I'm surprised the real Christina continues to show up at screenings of the movie unless she's oblivious to how "brattily" she's portrayed. 

I think Joan was the "brat".

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I'd put Call Northside 777 in Fox's cycle of docudramas of which they made several from 1945 through about 1950, not so much a noir.

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3 minutes ago, Fedya said:

I'd put Call Northside 777 in Fox's cycle of docudramas of which they made several from 1945 through about 1950, not so much a noir.

I agree.    I liked Call Northside 777 and Stewart gives a fine performance,  but I don't see much noir in it.   

Funny but Wiki calls the film 'reality based film noir''.    Like you, I prefer "docudrama"  (or if the lead is a police officer a police procedural which were also popular crime films but where most didn't have enough noir elements for me to label them that).

 

 

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1 hour ago, Fedya said:

Oh, and Golden Boy has more problems than just Lee J. Cobb.

If Golden Boy had been made 10-15 years later, Tony Curtis would have been perfect in William Holden's role.  The best part of Golden Boy is Barbara Stanwyck. Holden is lucky that Stanwyck was cast and stood up for him, otherwise, he would have never gotten anywhere with that film.

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1 hour ago, Fedya said:

I'd put Call Northside 777 in Fox's cycle of docudramas of which they made several from 1945 through about 1950, not so much a noir.

I agree that it wasn't so much a noir, that's why I said "noirish" since it is released as part of Fox's noir series.

What are some other Fox docu-dramas?

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"Nancy Wake: Gestapo's Most Wanted" (2015) short historical docudrama about the British Special Operatives Executive Agent the Gestapo named the White Mouse (always slipping from their grasp).

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nancywakethewhitemouse_coverimg.png.2017

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Believe it or not, I've never seen MOMMIE DEAREST. Guess it just struck me as too sordid (although I had read the book when it came out) I'll just have to see it!

And I remember seeing Bette Davis on Donahue's show when BD's book came out. She had a rebuttal to the book at the end of the show saying something to the effect, "Stop relying on me for your life... if it wasn't for me no one would read your book."

And I too caught the last hour of BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and was moved to tears in several scenes. What a great movie.
I love all the charactors and especially the incredible script. The scene when Peggy says "I'm going to break up that marriage" is especially well worded. I love the parental support without preaching or criticizing. Imagine: bringing kids up to adulthood & responsibility.

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10 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I agree.    I liked Call Northside 777 and Stewart gives a fine performance,  but I don't see much noir in it.   

Funny but Wiki calls the film 'reality based film noir''.    Like you, I prefer "docudrama"  (or if the lead is a police officer a police procedural which were also popular crime films but where most didn't have enough noir elements for me to label them that).

 

 

It's got the crime angle, it's got the obsessed individual, noir as originally defined is about dark subject matters, any dark subject matter, including the wrongfully accused, the drug or alcohol addict, the deviant maniac, etc., etc., and it's got the gritty and stylistic cinematography. Noir isn't just about detectives, femme fatales and mysteries. Though in a way Jimmy Stewart is functioning as a sort of detective. For me, and this is also what got the noirs noticed by the French critics in the first place is the visual component, the dark cinematography. For me it's a noir.

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5 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

It's got the crime angle, it's got the obsessed individual, noir as originally defined is about dark subject matters, any dark subject matter, including the wrongfully accused, the drug or alcohol addict, the deviant maniac, etc., etc., and it's got the gritty and stylistic cinematography. Noir isn't just about detectives, femme fatales and mysteries. Though in a way Jimmy Stewart is functioning as a sort of detective. For me, and this is also what got the noirs noticed by the French critics in the first place is the visual component, the dark cinematography. For me it's a noir.

I'll have to watch the film again for that "gritty and stylistic cinematography".    As we have discussed before you tend to focus more on those visuals,  while I tend to focus more on noir themes (as it relates to how 'noir' a film is),  and I only recall a few scenes that have "gritty and stylistic cinematography"  (e.g. the one where Stewart really challenges that so called eye witness in the run down apartment).  

I admit I could be bias in that "oh-shucks" Jimmy can't really function as a noir type PI.   (but he does have some very noir qualities in those fine Mann westerns).     

 

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17 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

...and I only recall a few scenes that have "gritty and stylistic cinematography"  (e.g. the one where Stewart really challenges that so called eye witness in the run down apartment).  

The on location work in Chicago, the night streets, the various dive bars he checks out looking for Wanda Skutnik, the tenements, it's sort of in Naked City style noir.

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Appointment With Danger (1951) Midwest Noir

Poster.jpg


Great opening sequence of a body disposal in the pouring rain I was hooked from the get go. Although, before you get to the story proper, you get a brief sort of rah rah, backslapping narrated infomercial, praising the US Postal Service. I guess you could say,  instead of what the french would call a "policier" its a postal.

The film can boast highly of some excellent railroad/railyard footage and copious amounts of atmospheric location work around the bleak industrial landscapes and brownfields of the Gary Indiana smelters and steel mills.

The director was Lewis Allen who has a string of Noirs to his name, (Desert Fury (1947), So Evil My Love (1948), Chicago Deadline (1949) Suddenly (1954), Illegal (1955)) before segueing into TV in the 1960s. The cinematography was by John F. Seitz (Double Indemnity (1944), The Lost Weekend (1945), Chicago Deadline (1949), Sunset Boulevard (1950), and Rogue Cop(1954)). The music was by Victor Young (Gun Crazy (1950)).

The film also stars Stacy Harris, David Wolfe, Dan Riss, Geraldine Wall, and George J. Lewis. A Paramount Pictures Production, filmed in Fort Wayne, La Porte, and Gary Indiana, also in Chicago, Illinois, USA. Very enjoyable romp through Noirsville 8/10.

Review with screencaps here in Film Noir/Gangster section.

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6 hours ago, cigarjoe said:

It's got the crime angle, it's got the obsessed individual, noir as originally defined is about dark subject matters, any dark subject matter, including the wrongfully accused, the drug or alcohol addict, the deviant maniac, etc., etc., and it's got the gritty and stylistic cinematography. Noir isn't just about detectives, femme fatales and mysteries. Though in a way Jimmy Stewart is functioning as a sort of detective. For me, and this is also what got the noirs noticed by the French critics in the first place is the visual component, the dark cinematography. For me it's a noir.

What does it matter if it's noir or not? So many noir buffs love to debate as to whether the label applies.

I thought that being a good or, at least, interesting film is what counted the most.

 

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23 minutes ago, cigarjoe said:

Appointment With Danger (1951) Midwest Noir

Poster.jpg

 

Appointment With Danger is a fun film. It's been a while since I saw it but I recall enjoying that moment in which Alan Ladd laid Jack Webb out cold.

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Edge of Darkness (1943)

Still frequently powerful WWII resistance melodrama, dealing with the German occupation of a small Norwegian town, Trollness, and the underground movement there waiting for the right time to stage an uprising against their captors.

A class "A" production from Warner Brothers, with striking photography and camerawork, and a strong cast providing solid performances. The film opens with German soldiers investigating a small town, where a Norwegian flag, rather than a German, is seen flying. Almost like the opening to Beau Geste, the camera pans across a village that has been a slaughterhouse, with the bodies of German soldiers and Norwegian villagers scattered everywhere. The rest of the film is a flashback to tell the story of the events that lead to this catastrophic scene of carnage.

Errol Flynn had been a replacement for Bogart as a fisherman who leads the town's underground movement. The actor had apparently wanted out of the project because of the smallness of his role. Indeed, while top billed, this is not a Flynn star vehicle.

He is part of an impressive ensemble cast which includes the likes of Ann Sheridan as his girlfriend, Walter Huston as her father, the town's respected doctor, who does not want to resist the Germans through a revolt, Judith Anderson as a hotel owner and underground worker, John Beal as Sheridan's quisling brother who cannot be trusted to not cooperate with the Germans, Ruth Gordon as Huston's day dreaming well meaning wife, and Charles Dingle as the slimy owner of the town's cannery who willingly cooperates with his German captors.

Arguably the best of all is Helmut Dantine as the ruthless Nazi commander of the occupation. Dantine's role may be a standard stereotype but he brings strength and intelligence to the role. Oh, there is also Nancy Coleman as Dantine's Polish mistress, clearly a conflicted individual, desperate to stay alive no matter what but torn by her betrayal of her people.

One of the more unusual aspects of this WWII propaganda film's screenplay is the inclusion of a sympathetic German soldier. All the other Germans are clearly bad guys here, but one soldier has a few polite encounters with Judith Anderson. He tells her how he is a carpenter, speaks of how they must get along after the war and how she reminds him of a friend he used to have. Anderson is cold towards him, telling him he is a German, but he responds with a look of understanding and sensitivity.

I can't think of another propaganda film of this era that had a similar portrait of humanity in a German soldier, and I wish the screenplay had explored his characterization and desire for a relationship with Anderson still further.

In stark contrast to that there is also a scene which depicts the rape of a villager by a German soldier. The scene is far from graphic but, instead, artfully done - you see the woman walking towards the camera as the camera glides down her legs. Suddenly a man's legs appear behind her as he picks her off the floor and carries her away. The camera continues to pull back outside the building in which the attack is occurring, as German troops march by, the camera then scanning upward to reveal the irony of the building in which it the sexual assault happened - a church. It's a fine moment by director Milestone of a scene which will lead to a cascading series of events in the film's story line.

The film's screenplay can be accused of its share of portentous dialogue, at times. "In times like this we must be like steel," Flynn says at one point. At another time villager Roman Bohnen beams as he looks straight at the camera and says, "In the future they will say there were giants in Trollness."

But this stilted dialogue is more than compensated for by the film's climactic action sequences, which boasts stunning camerawork and remarkable stunt work as the villagers finally storm the hotel in the woods, which Dantine and the Germans use as headquarters. Director Lewis Milestone and any second unit directors involved are to be fully congratulated for these stirring scenes.

If Flynn seems unusually low key it's perhaps understandable as he was reporting back to the soundstages of this film during the time of his statutory rape trial. Ann Sheridan, too, was preoccupied elsewhere as she was in the midst of a divorce. They're both generally effective here, though, as, indeed, is the entire cast.

Franz Waxman contributes a powerful, at times choir enhanced, musical score.

This film can be found as part of the "Errol Flynn Adventures" DVD box set in a fine, sharply defined print. If only all prints of pre-'50s films could look this good.

Edge+of+Darkness+10.jpg

3 out of 4

 

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