Dr. Rich Edwards

June 5 TCM Film Noir Discussions for #NoirSummer for All 13 Films

320 posts in this topic

 

It is dark but hopeful; gritty but satisfying; real and yet not so real (it is hard for me to believe a "union" of beggars could 1. exist and 2. be convinced to work together to find a murderer).  M is the oldest film I have ever seen to address the issue of justice for the mentally insane.  It is also the oldest film I have ever seen to vividly demonstrate mob/herd mentality.

 

And can we just stop a minute and say, Peter Lorre, your acting in this film was amazing?  I first encountered Lorre's work in the film he made ten years later than M, that is, The Maltese Falcon.  What a mesmerizing talent he was!!

 

Scarlet Street, I liked much less than M.  I'm used to seeing E.G. Robinson as a tough guy who cracks wise under pressure, usually with an automatic gun in his hand; not an infatuated fool on his way down from middle age.  SL was difficult to watch, even when I mentally stepped back from the story to just appreciate Lang's artistry.  Where M resolved in an expected and pleasing way, Scarlet Street was just ... so ... sad.

 

The beggar's guild exists in Bertolt Brecht's Threepenny Opera. I know Brecht and Lang had worked together, but I don't know if it was an intentional reference, or just an idea he really liked. I think it's meant to signify the hidden societies and groups within our larger culture. Beggars are ignored by everyone, and create their own culture. It's interesting trying to figure out what different characters and groups on M symbolize, seeing as it was made during Hitler's rise to power, by two people on opposite sides of that viewpoint(Fritz Lang and his wife were cowriters on this; he eventually fled to America to avoid the nazis, she stayed behind and joined the nazi party).

 

Scarlet Street, I think, is fantastic. But I found at the end I had no sympathy for Robinson's character. Throughout the movie he intentionally avoids the slightest confrontation even though it would result in him getting what would make him happy. So he stays passive, he schemes, and it blows up in his face.

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Scarlet Street

 

Just saw Scarlet Street and I think the movie is aptly named. The word scarlet used to be associated with sin, especially sinful women, but in this film, no one is without guilt. Even Adele’s first husband, whom she held up as a high moral character, is guilty of lying and stealing. The movie took a very dim view of human nature. And yet Cross’s paintings were so childlike and vivid, even in black and white. Somehow I remember them as though they were in color, but they weren’t! (His “Self-Portrait” shows Kitty wearing red lipstick and sitting in a light-blue painted chair in real life, I just know it!) Amazing that Fritz Lang was able to accomplish such vivid effects without using color at all.

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I know I'm really late, but here are my rankings of the films from June 5th. I didn't watch all of them, but here is what I thought of the ones I saw:

 

1. The Maltese Falcon--one of my all time favorite films (and books, too) and the film that made me really idolize Humphrey Bogart. Sure, he's not a very nice person, and his morals are out of whack, but he ultimately does the right thing in the end. He's also tough as nails, not afraid of anyone, and tells the police AND gangsters where to get off. And lives. As a 14 year old boy, this man was a god to me.

 

2. L.A. Confidential--one of my favorite Neo-Noirs. I think it captured the elements of a Film Noir--the multiple story-lines, complicated characters, mass corruption and crimes that don't matter as much as the motivation and actions of characters themselves--really well. It presented them in such a way so that didn't feel stale, or cliched. The performances all around are excellent--Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and James Cromwell all steal the show for me--the cinematography is beautiful, and the plot is gloriously episodic in true Chandler/Cain Noir fashion.

 

3. La Bete Humaine--Jean Renoir churns out another compelling character study of French society with characters as troubled as any characters in a Noir.

 

4. Stranger on the Third Floor--very early, experimental Noir, which is why I like this film. It's got a lot going for it, especially the nightmare sequence and the confrontation between Margaret Tallichet and Peter Lorre at the end. For me, the experience of watching this film is in watching how all the elements in play here would blossom in subsequent films like "The Maltese Falcon", "Out of the Past", "Double Indemnity", and any other number of classic Films Noir.

 

5. Born to Kill--Lawrence Tierney is great in this, enough said. Young or old, he scares the hell out of me...

 

6. The Letter--Great performance from Bette Davis, as usual! I found the story was a little predictable, but interesting and very suspenseful nonetheless. Like "Stranger on the Third Floor", which released the same year in 1940, the fun of watching this movie was in seeing how it presented elements--long shadows, a dangerous femme fatale, and a murder--that would reappear in later Films Noir.

 

7. Nora Prentiss--definitely the weakest of the ones I saw, but still enjoyable. Ann Sheridan's performance was strong in spite of the script, which I thought was fairly weak, and Kent Smith was not very convincing at all as the doctor. It's a good thing that the film is called "Nora Prentiss", because Sheridan is the strongest part of the film. 

 

Great first two weeks! Can't wait for next Friday!!! 

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Thank you for your input.  I have thought the expression might mean: "cracking wise" or "wise cracking". I have Googled it and come up empty handed. I, too, will be interested if anyone else has suggestions.

I forget exactly how it's used in this movie but one way "crackin'" could be used is as in "Get crackin'" "Get goin', get movin'" .  Also, I'm pretty sure "foxy" in those days meant "crafty", smart, in a very enterprising way, one who would do something to "outfox" (outsmart) someone else.  I'm pretty sure the wicked witch of the west at one point says to Dorothy, "Thought you were pretty foxy, didn't you!"

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Yes, I'd say your instincts are right on the mark.  There was enormous corruption in the city of LA during this period, and the influence of "Confidential" magazine and the double-dealings by the studios and others was considerable.  A couple of really good reads on these topics: "L.A. Noir" by John Buntin covers the history of corruption in LA, centering on the Police and organized crime.  "Shocking True Story" by Henry E. Scott covers the history of "Confidential" and the associated scandals.   Both books are  good reads!

Thanks for the comment, and for the reading suggestions.

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I find a lot of noir hard to follow. Of course I'm not focusing as much on stories. I'm so consumed with the look,the detectives,heavies and dames,with all the witty banter going back and forth more than the plot itself. My mind tends to wander on the production aspects like...

"That was a nice stunt there,I bet he got an extra $10 for that hard roll down the stairs"...or,"Wow,she really gave Mitchum a hard slap...wonder how many takes that was set up in?" ect ...Then afterwards,I go back through the film again,to pay attention to the whole point of the movie. Goldwynism #13.."I read part of it,all the way through."

Sometimes, noir is more about the "sizzle" than the "steak"!

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HIGH SIERRA: You Can't Leave Home Again

"Mad Dog" returns home for a big score but is done in by a jinx dog's  

loyalty.  He also makes a lame girl tough and a tough dame lame.

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MALTESE FALCON: Metonomy Fall Con.

The falcon is the holy grail for all involved but falls into Spade's hands who maintains his integrity throughout despite the wiles of Brigid et. al..

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JOURNEY INTO FEAR: Fear Itself.

Graham tries to evade attempts on his life by hiding but only succeeds when finally his anger vanquishes his fear. 

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JOHNNY EAGER: "Only a sucker plays with dice he can't handle." 

The dice Eager can't handle are his feelings for his melancholy baby, Liz (who makes him melancholy too). Eager finally craps out by 711 while committing an act of love. 

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DARK PASSAGE: New Facade.

After Bogie is rescued by Bacall, a cabbie and a plastic surgeon who all think he's innocent, and after solving the crime he was falsely accused of, he still has to flee to Peru to find life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

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BORN TO KILL: Crimes of Passion.

Some poor sap is played for a sucker by Sam Wilde's dame to make Sam green-eyed, so Sam offs them both. He bumps off his best friend for allegedly cutting in and lastly he clips his new dame for double-crossing him until the coppers plug him full of lead. 

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SCARLET STREET: Mistaken Id.

A sad sack cashier/artist saves a damsel in distress whose a femme fatale playing the ingenue. 

He croaks her for two-timing, setting up her boyfriend for the rap and they haunt him for the rest of his life.

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Scarlet Street

 

Just saw Scarlet Street and I think the movie is aptly named. The word scarlet used to be associated with sin, especially sinful women, but in this film, no one is without guilt. Even Adele’s first husband, whom she held up as a high moral character, is guilty of lying and stealing. The movie took a very dim view of human nature. And yet Cross’s paintings were so childlike and vivid, even in black and white. Somehow I remember them as though they were in color, but they weren’t! (His “Self-Portrait” shows Kitty wearing red lipstick and sitting in a light-blue painted chair in real life, I just know it!) Amazing that Fritz Lang was able to accomplish such vivid effects without using color at all.

 

A unique film!  I agree that it is very colorful; despite being black and white.  Fritz Lang did a wonderful job.  Some films impart a

certain colorful aspect where we can only picture these colorful elements.  Joan Bennett, Edward G. Robinson and Dan Dureya were all superb in their roles.

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DARK PASSAGE: New Facade.
After Bogie is rescued by Bacall, a cabbie and a plastic surgeon who all think he's innocent, and after solving the crime he was falsely accused of, he still has to flee to Peru to find life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  

 

A marvelous film -- and as you pointed out, Bogey has to flee to another country despite his innocence.  This is a very cleverly portrayed film.  The plastic surgeon, Tom D'Andrea as the cab driver, Lauren Bacall who believes in Bogey, Agnes Moorhead (his late wife's lethal "best" friend, etc.  All of the key elements are neatly tied up in the end, but we wonder why Bogey cannot wait to be cleared of the crime.  It sounds like he has been wrongfully accused for too long, and justice might never have been served.  (Through noone else's fault, the real killer is no longer in the picture).  The ending is deeply touching!

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WOMAN ON THE RUN: A killer goes out of his way to help a rocky marriage.

 

I recently viewed this absorbing film again.  I had not seen it in years and followed it through to the end with rapt attention.  I wonder if the true killer (which we occasionally see clues to his identity) had fallen for Ann Sheridan's character and therefore aids her regaining her rocky marriage.  A friend of mine saw the film and thinks "Danny Boy" was actually falling in love with the man's wife and wanted her to be happy.  At the end one wonders if she would have ended up with him if he had actually felt compelled to shoot her husband -- and if she innocently turned to him and eventually fell for him because of his kindness to her. Wouldn't it have been awful if she were widowed and turned to the guy who helps her so kindly?  AND if he ultimately married her and then turned on her if she belatedly discovered clues to his guilt.  All of these clues ran through my head while watching.  I thought of the original murder and then the lovely but naive dancer Suzie, who was believed to have jumped through the skylight of the restaurant in a suicidal move.  But of course the splendid policeman (Robert Keith's character) suspects it is not a suicide!  Of course the killer could not risk being exposed.  Dennis O'Keefe and Ann Sheridan, Robert Keith (Brian Keith's dad) turned in great performances.

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A marvelous film -- and as you pointed out, Bogey has to flee to another country despite his innocence.  This is a very cleverly portrayed film.  The plastic surgeon, Tom D'Andrea as the cab driver, Lauren Bacall who believes in Bogey, Agnes Moorhead (his late wife's lethal "best" friend, etc.  All of the key elements are neatly tied up in the end, but we wonder why Bogey cannot wait to be cleared of the crime.  It sounds like he has been wrongfully accused for too long, and justice might never have been served.  (Through noone else's fault, the real killer is no longer in the picture).  The ending is deeply touching!

 

The ending is touching but betrays the noir vibe of the film.    If I was the director I would have ended the film with Bogart leaving Moorhead's apartment after she jumps out the window,  cops spotting him and shooting him dead.   At the same time Bacall comes into the scene and see that dead man on the ground, and the camera pans on her sad face (similar to the one she had for her father, another innocent man that died for a crime he didn't commit).     The End. 

 

Of course Jack Warner would have told me to take a hike because no way were Bogie and Bacall not going to have a happy ending in one of their films.

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