Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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They could do a dozen subjects: silents, the 70s, method acting, directors, foreign by country, musicals, actors... There's enough to keep us bust for a decade.

 

Just wanted to add westerns and science fiction too!

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Do I just finished seeing Dark Passage, and analyzing the character of Madge, (a great composition of Agnes Moorehead) find it similar, both in appearance and in its psychology,  to the Mrs Danvers in Rebecca, don't you think so?

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The allusions to the Nazis in "M" were obvious, especially in the boardroom scene. While some of the men are interested in doing real forensic police work, others just want to use the public scare to gain power in it's own right. "What we need are more raids! More identity checks! More home invasions!" Even though those techniques obviously didn't work, they were adding to the fear, and fear is a tried-and-true method of control of the masses. For the Nazis it was the communists (and later, the Jews), in the film the child killer is the metaphor for the Red Menace.

 

I was a bit turned off by the anvilicious ending, but having seen "Metropolis," with it's equally anvilicious moral drop at the end, I realize this was just the style of filming of the time. It's easy to see a lot of silent film tropes carried over into this film. Still, it's interesting how well this film holds up today as a "modern" film; Lang shows he was at the cutting edge of the new cinema.

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High Sierra marks an important change in the police genre, as in the career of Bogart... The protagonist isn´t  the archetypal, gangster , to give rise to a much more human, the character's feelings, wishes, doubts and convictions, will from then on. Roy Earle becomes a hero to the style of the Greek tragedies, it must fulfill his destiny, even if this move it to death in the mount Whitney, death which, for him, is a path of redemption, as he gives it to understand Mary at the end of the film... Roy is now free...

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Several of Friday's offerings in "Summer of Darkness" are favorites of mine, especially STRANGER ON THE THIRD FLOOR (1940) and JOURNEY INTO FEAR (1942), both just dripping with atmosphere. I found JOURNEY's opening sequence unique when I first viewed it around 1971 on local TV, in that it set the tone for the movie just before the credits rolled, much like a TV teaser before the story begins properly. And you have to love how movies like BORN TO KILL (1947) can sum up the main character's mental imbalance with one line of dialogue, this one courtesy of Elisha Cook Jr.'s Marty: "You know, Sam, you haven't been the same since you had that nervous breakdown last year."

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Funny how life can upend our expectations.  I chose Stranger on the Third Floor as the film in the welcome survey that I was most looking forward to seeing in the June 5 lineup, mostly because someone had mentioned it to me years ago as a seminal noir film, and since it was not readily available at the time, I had never seen it.  I had fewer expectations for La Bete Humaine, though I had also never seen that one.  Sufficice it to say I was bowled over by La Bete Humaine, and with the exception of Peter Lorre's scary expressions on the stairs, less impressed by Stranger on the Third Floor.  I found the trope of the almost-married couple at the center of the story and the attempts via their characterization to inject humor or normalcy into the narrative to fall flat.  The film was a bit campy.  But I respect its place in the noir history.  La Bete Humaine, on the other hand, had muscle and energy and powerful cinematography, mise-en-scene, and a surprising plot twist at the end.  It felt performed fully, whereas Stranger on the Third Floor felt merely staged.  The presentation of the day-to-day lives of the couples in La Bete Humaine makes no awkward attempt at humor, though there are small moments of delight.  I would come back to that one again and again.

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wmccormack,  I saw "Nora Prentiss" for the first time last night. Although it stretched credulity a tad bit, I had the same thought as you near the end. The good Doctor's face was indeed changed, but I don't think to the point he was was unrecognizable to his wife of many years. Also, there is the convenient overlooking by the police of the lack of documentation concerning the Doctor's assumed identity. One would think if he had been able to secure all manner of ID and personal items identifying himself as the man whose identity he assumed, he would at least been able to move about fairly openly in NYC, even finding employment in another field other than medicine. This is all easily forgiven, as Ann Sheridan comes across as a hardened woman of the world, but who still sought to steer her lover from his eventual downfall. I didn't see her as a true black hearted vixen, as are so many women in the noir films. There is a kindness to her character, at least I see it that way. The irony is delicious though, being convicted of killing yourself. In the closing scene, I am assuming the dark character following her into the parking lot from the police station was her old admirer, the night club owner? Instead of "High Sierra", I think I would have substituted "The Treasure Of Sierra Madre". Still, a great slate of opening week films.    RJM

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Today watched two of Friday's Films Noir.  First, "The Killers" and second "The Letter."  I found a similarity in the films where a man, in love with a woman, overlooks her shortcomings, or should I say her double-cross or murder.  Sorry, but Bette Davis had it all over Ava Gardner.  The Killers typical film noir with the lighting.  The town, Brentwood, NJ, is almost void of a population and a center of town, but we're not there to see the good side of the town.  We witness a murder of a man, who just lay in his bed waiting for the killers, because he did something bad one time. Ava Gardner is the femme fatale who takes him for a roller coaster ride.  The story is mostly flashback to get to the denouement that Ava was a conniving, lying, backstabber - poor Swede, the man who loved unconditionally, went to prison for her, and then died because of her.  The dark side of film making.

 

Then, The Letter, whose opening is described one of the best openings on film.  Agree totally, and as far as I'm concerned the ending practically matches the opening.  The moon high in the sky, fading behind clouds, then reappearing shining on Bette Davis.  In the opening, as you may know, she shoots a man, emptying all six bullets in him; in the closing she is murdered with the moon high in the sky, but oh those Bette Davis Eyes!  Fantastic film.  Low key lighting, dark shadows, sly and cunning assistants, blackmail, it's all there.  Film noir personified. The man who loves too much this time is Herbert Marshall.  After spending all his savings to recapture a letter she wrote to the victim and finding out she loved the guy, he's still willing to forgive her if only she loves him.  Bette, of course, cries - "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed."  Poor cuckolded husband.  

Loved the ending, as her body lays dead outside in the foliage, a party continues inside her house, as though nothing has happened.  So cool!

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Today watched two of Friday's Films Noir.  First, "The Killers" and second "The Letter."  I found a similarity in the films where a man, in love with a woman, overlooks her shortcomings, or should I say her double-cross or murder.  Sorry, but Bette Davis had it all over Ava Gardner.  The Killers typical film noir with the lighting.  The town, Brentwood, NJ, is almost void of a population and a center of town, but we're not there to see the good side of the town.  We witness a murder of a man, who just lay in his bed waiting for the killers, because he did something bad one time. Ava Gardner is the femme fatale who takes him for a roller coaster ride.  The story is mostly flashback to get to the denouement that Ava was a conniving, lying, backstabber - poor Swede, the man who loved unconditionally, went to prison for her, and then died because of her.  The dark side of film making.

 

Then, The Letter, whose opening is described one of the best openings on film.  Agree totally, and as far as I'm concerned the ending practically matches the opening.  The moon high in the sky, fading behind clouds, then reappearing shining on Bette Davis.  In the opening, as you may know, she shoots a man, emptying all six bullets in him; in the closing she is murdered with the moon high in the sky, but oh those Bette Davis Eyes!  Fantastic film.  Low key lighting, dark shadows, sly and cunning assistants, blackmail, it's all there.  Film noir personified. The man who loves too much this time is Herbert Marshall.  After spending all his savings to recapture a letter she wrote to the victim and finding out she loved the guy, he's still willing to forgive her if only she loves him.  Bette, of course, cries - "With all my heart, I still love the man I killed."  Poor cuckolded husband.  

Loved the ending, as her body lays dead outside in the foliage, a party continues inside her house, as though nothing has happened.  So cool!

 

The real victim of Leslie in The Letter is her lawyer,  more so than her husband or even her lover,  the man she killed.  

 

He is simultaneously drawn to and repelled by the murderess. Ambiguous, intensely sympathetic, and thoughtfully realized,  the lawyer seems to express the film's true meaning as his reluctant complicity in Leslie's lie leads him to an implied psychological self-destruction.

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Woman on the Run was excellent. How did this great film ever get "lost"?  The dialogue, the acting, the entire mise-en-scene, was on point. I thought the cinematography was great too - lots of playing around with perspective. And that roller coaster!

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Woman on the Run was excellent. How did this great film ever get "lost"?  The dialogue, the acting, the entire mise-en-scene, was on point. I thought the cinematography was great too - lots of playing around with perspective. And that roller coaster!

 

With regards to your question;  Universal.    

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I've been thinking about Stranger on the Third Floor (which I watched at 5am this morning) all day. An odd film really in many ways: did I read somewhere it's often called the first film Noir in US cinema? 

 

Anyway, I did like the lighting (the light through the blind slats used so effectively) and some of the more experimental ideas in the dream sequence, and, of course, Peter Lorre was as terrifically creepy as ever..which brings me to my thought: he was innocent!

 

Lorre's character never actually came out and said he killed the men until he too was dying (did he actually know what he was agreeing to?), he just didn't want to "go back" to the institution.

 

 

Actually, he does explicitly state that he committed the murders. When he's talking to Jane and she asks about the man who was murdered he says 'oh, he said he was going to report me. I had to kill him. What's the matter?'

 

I agree there's no objective proof the cop sees, but we as the audience are very clearly told Lorre committed the murders. Also, it's likely the knife would still be on him, so that would be another piece of proof.

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Woman On The Run was so enjoyable to watch. Killer dialogue and no wonder Ann Sheridan wanted to do the movie, she has a great part, she is the movie, Simple but engaging story, all those great San Francisco locations photographed so well. Really well directed, lean and mean with no fluff at 77 minutes. The Film Noir Foundation saved a great little noir!

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"Born to Kill" I thought was the highlight of the films suggested this week. What a gem. Lawrence Tierney was perfect for the role. A well acted film. 

 

Two observation from this week's films: 1947 may have been a big year for film noir also Warner Bros. along with R.K.O. may have made most of them. That's how it appeared to me.

 

I saw more films these past two days than I thought I would. I may be getting addicted to film noir. Whoa

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Woman on the Run was excellent. How did this great film ever get "lost"?  The dialogue, the acting, the entire mise-en-scene, was on point. I thought the cinematography was great too - lots of playing around with perspective. And that roller coaster!

 

Wasn't the roller coaster brilliant? Trapped and absolutely nothing she could do about it. I don't like roller coasters either, so it was doubly scary imagining myself in that situation. Beautiful "travelogue" of San Francisco, as another poster put it. What a great movie! And as a bonus, it had roles for Asian actors where they weren't required to use accents. The only disappointment to me was that Ann Sheridan wears the same outfit the entire time. I love the clothing of that period. What a shame!

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Actually, he does explicitly state that he committed the murders. When he's talking to Jane and she asks about the man who was murdered he says 'oh, he said he was going to report me. I had to kill him. What's the matter?'

 

I agree there's no objective proof the cop sees, but we as the audience are very clearly told Lorre committed the murders. Also, it's likely the knife would still be on him, so that would be another piece of proof.

Funny, I must've completely missed that one line...so much for my theory!! 

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Loving the course already: watching some great films, meeting some new actors and directors, can't wait to watch my next film! 

 

 

Just watched Born to Kill. Lust, murder, adultery, deception...no-one was coming out of that one unscathed! 

 

I thought Claire Trevor was wonderful (I think I have a new favorite!), you could almost see her changing emotions flickering across her face as she fought to stay in control. Esther Howard was a hoot as the landlady, some great scenes for her. The only actor I found unconvincing was Lawrence Tierney - the Homme Fatal, if you like - I can't quite see why so many women found him so irresistible in this movie, he seemed to really have one note: angry! 

 

One great biblical line quoted by the detective, struck me as a perfect summation of Noir:

 

"And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her." 

 
 
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Funny how life can upend our expectations.  I chose Stranger on the Third Floor as the film in the welcome survey that I was most looking forward to seeing in the June 5 lineup, mostly because someone had mentioned it to me years ago as a seminal noir film, and since it was not readily available at the time, I had never seen it.  I had fewer expectations for La Bete Humaine, though I had also never seen that one.  Sufficice it to say I was bowled over by La Bete Humaine, and with the exception of Peter Lorre's scary expressions on the stairs, less impressed by Stranger on the Third Floor.  I found the trope of the almost-married couple at the center of the story and the attempts via their characterization to inject humor or normalcy into the narrative to fall flat.  The film was a bit campy.  But I respect its place in the noir history.  La Bete Humaine, on the other hand, had muscle and energy and powerful cinematography, mise-en-scene, and a surprising plot twist at the end.  It felt performed fully, whereas Stranger on the Third Floor felt merely staged.  The presentation of the day-to-day lives of the couples in La Bete Humaine makes no awkward attempt at humor, though there are small moments of delight.  I would come back to that one again and again.

I agree with your assessment of "Stranger on the Third Floor" as being too campy in spots, especially during Elisha Cook Jr.'s murder trial.  The judge is in la-la land and one of the juror's falls asleep.  That's a different movie, a comic who-dunit perhaps! Not here. I agree also with it's, for the time, innovative noir elements, but felt that there was more "comic relief" than necessary.

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Loving the course already: watching some great films, meeting some new actors and directors, can't wait to watch my next film! 

 

 

Just watched Born to Kill. Lust, murder, adultery, deception...no-one was coming out of that one unscathed! 

 

I thought Claire Trevor was wonderful (I think I have a new favorite!), you could almost see her changing emotions flickering across her face as she fought to stay in control. Esther Howard was a hoot as the landlady, some great scenes for her. The only actor I found unconvincing was Lawrence Tierney - the Homme Fatal, if you like - I can't quite see why so many women found him so irresistible in this movie, he seemed to really have one note: angry! 

 

One great biblical line quoted by the detective, struck me as a perfect summation of Noir:

 

"And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her." 

Yes. Claire Trevor was quietly great in everything she did.  Broke my heart when she sang for a desperately needed drink in "Key Largo."

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Woman On The Run was so enjoyable to watch. Killer dialogue and no wonder Ann Sheridan wanted to do the movie, she has a great part, she is the movie, Simple but engaging story, all those great San Francisco locations photographed so well. Really well directed, lean and mean with no fluff at 77 minutes. The Film Noir Foundation saved a great little noir!

The more I think about Woman on the Run, the more I appreciate it -- I really have to see it again. The ending, with the ride on the roller coaster, is fun to watch and really adds to the tension. I did have some questions about this film (Why didn't anyone recognize a famous gangster posing as a journalist? Didn't Frank wonder, even for a moment, that his wife was in on the gangster's plot?), but like I said, I'll have to see it again and follow the plot more closely. I think it's a great movie.

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Woman on the Run was excellent. How did this great film ever get "lost"?  The dialogue, the acting, the entire mise-en-scene, was on point. I thought the cinematography was great too - lots of playing around with perspective. And that roller coaster!

Playing around with perspective: I especially like the scenes where Eleanor Johnson (played by Ann Sheridan) is walking around San Francisco with the gangster/reporter looking for her husband. The only lines of their conversations we hear are Eleanor's, told in voiceover. Very effective. Underscores the point that Ann Sheridan is the star playing the vital lead.

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I cancelled my cable subscription last year, so I unfortunately missed the marathon. However, by scrambling around a handful of sources(hulu, netflix, amazon prime, youtube, the library, my own collection) I was able to watch a few of the films. More are on their way, but i still haven't seen a lot of this week's selections. Capsule reviews below:

La Bete Humaine- The film is more mournful and elegiac than most of the noir films that continued it's themes. But surprisingly, it also isn't miserable. Renoir makes room for light and happiness in the lives of his characters. From the clear bond of friendship and comaraderie between Lantier and Pecqueux, to Lantier's speech about the pleasures of watching the world from a moving train. The movie may be barreling towards disaster, but the journey there is enjoyable.

 

Stranger on the Third Floor- I'm going to be unpopular here, but I did not like this one. At least not for the first half, anyway. I found the characters to be too smug, their attempts at humor too cheesy, their actions to be slightly unrealistic. I know this is the film that really codified all of noir's elements into one picture, but leaving that aside, I did not like it. And then Peter Lorre shows up, and there's that awesome dream sequence, and suddenly the movie has a dramatic momentum. I think I gave this a 3 out of 5, which is a base line of enjoyment for me. It's brief, so I might watch it again in the future and reevaluate.

 

The Maltese Falcon- I'd seen the Maltese Falcon several times before, so took the opportunity to watch the previous two versions of the film. The first version, pre-code so with more sexual innuendo and clearer suggestion that Kaspar is gay, was not very good. Sam Spade is just a smug d-bag through the entire film. He has no charm and really treats the women in this one horribly. All with this horrible 'aint I cute?' sitcom smile on his face. The 1936 version, Satan Met A Lady, changes a lot of the elements and turns it into almost a screwball comedy, and is much more successful. I plan on rewatching this one at a later date.

 

Journey Into Fear- This one seemed almost like Hithcock-lite, a template for a Jimmy Stewart/Wrong Man picture. But also really entertaining. But then I always enjoy Joseph Cotten and Orson Welles. Not a lot to say about this one. A simple story expertly told.

 

Johnny Eager- From a purely entertainment standpoint, this may have been my favorite. It isn't as moving as La Bete Humaine or as twisty as The Maltese Falcon, but it was just pure fun from start to finish. It belongs in any discussion of the influences on Oliver Stone, Martin Scorcese, or Abel Ferrara. Johnny is just such an on-top-of it guy that I loved watching him get the upper hand every time it looked like he was out, and I dreaded the end, knowing that films of this period couldn't really let bad guys get away with it. I loved the twist that it was his good deeds that tripped him up in the end, and not his many crimes.

 

Woman on the Run- A great, great find. Another one that didn't really grab me at the beginning, but once Anne Sheridan showed up I was hooked. A fun take on the noir film as the exploration of a crumbling marriage, with an amazing finale on a roller coaster. The only complaint I have is that we learn all about her husband's secret life, but a lot of the blame for the failure of their marriage seems to be left on Anne Sheridan's shoulders. She's constantly the wife who just didn't care enough about her husband's life, or take his art seriously. I would have liked to hear her side of things as well, because that sort of dysfunction works both ways.

 

Extra Credit: Scarlet Street- A wrote a long review on my blog for this one, because I found it impossible to talk about without getting into the finale in detail. If you haven't seen it yet(it's on youtube, since it's public domain), I can't recommend it enough. Check it out.

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Yes. Claire Trevor was quietly great in everything she did.  Broke my heart when she sang for a desperately needed drink in "Key Largo."

Have you seen her interviewed on tcm when she says they kept putting her off of rehearsing the scene and that she was surprised and unprepared when they shot it, so that's all her real nervousness in that song. It's the showstopper in that movie. She's the best part of Key Largo. I love her in Stagecoach, too.

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Old Lady Kraft was my favorite in Born to Kill... She loved Laurie and the Bottle :-)

I also couldnt see why all the ladies went crazy over Laurence Tierney, he was rude, mean, and wasn't that handsome. Maybe I'm missing something, wouldn't be the type I'd go for, but I suspended belief for the movie. I guess he had the girls like jerks factor going for him :-) :-)

 

Loving the course already: watching some great films, meeting some new actors and directors, can't wait to watch my next film! 

 

 

Just watched Born to Kill. Lust, murder, adultery, deception...no-one was coming out of that one unscathed! 

 

I thought Claire Trevor was wonderful (I think I have a new favorite!), you could almost see her changing emotions flickering across her face as she fought to stay in control. Esther Howard was a hoot as the landlady, some great scenes for her. The only actor I found unconvincing was Lawrence Tierney - the Homme Fatal, if you like - I can't quite see why so many women found him so irresistible in this movie, he seemed to really have one note: angry! 

 

One great biblical line quoted by the detective, struck me as a perfect summation of Noir:

 

"And I find something more bitter than death: the woman whose heart is snares and nets, and whose hands are fetters. He who pleases God escapes her, but the sinner is taken by her." 

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