Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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My favorite of the first batch--of the ones I hadn't already seen, I mean (The Maltese Falcon is on a higher plain than most movies, period), is Woman on the Run. Simple and streamlined, which is the best way to do it if the characters are deep enough. The bad marriage unfolds as the chase happens, which is the kind of exposition I like because you get drawn in as you get more info. The reporter/bad guy was a real surprise. I didn't figure it out until the movie wanted me to. I thought the hysterical roller coaster ride was a bit over the top, but ok.

 

Of the first batch of films I was most disappointed in Nora Prentiss, which I think puts me at odds with everybody else in the course. I was really looking forward to that one and it just didn't do it for me. It was too long. I couldn't see why she loved the doctor and I didn't believe he'd throw over his family so easily. She was a femme fatale, xcept she was also the moral center. I was expecting her to wind him around her little finger, Of Human Bondage-style. But once she blew up his marriage, she became the good wife. And it did all that for about 30 minutes more than it should have.

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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 :-) :-)

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 :-) :-)

I agree with you about Lawrence Tierney. I know standards of beauty were different 70 years ago, but he was too pasty faced to inspire adoration.

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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.

 

 

While I would agree with you on most points you mentioned, I would like to offer that La Bete Humaine isn't so much mournful as it is a pre-cursor to a type of cynicism that we see in later films noir.  It may be mournful in that Lantier feels trapped by the way his ancestors "poisoned" his current life, but for me as a viewer I saw more of a self-centered quality among all the characters, whether it be for their personal gain or their obsession with their own situations.

 

Yes, in MF, Spade is a smug individual, but isn't he supposed to be?  I thought the adaptation from the original novel captured his capabilities well.  And Huston's passive camera style allowed the focus to go onto the acting and the character portrayal.  This is not to mean that at time the acting wasn't a bit melodramatic, though.

 

Journey into Fear did have that Hitchcock-esque quality to it.  I also saw ideas that would later recycle into Narrow Margin.  It probably was one of the least complex in terms of presentation (compared to M, Stranger on the Third Floor, etc) but the themes resonated film noir all the way.

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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.

Yes, Stranger and La Bete are two totally different films.  La Bete has that energy that you mentioned that comes from fully fleshed-out characters.  There is a story behind them that transcends the situation.  Stranger had characters, but they seemed to begin and end with the situation at hand.  Lorre carried that movie from an acting standpoint.  The tone of the movie seemed to be the compelling angle there.

 

So, I wonder what movie people will think in the next round will combine the powerful character-driven story seen in La Bete with the exaggerated noir visuals like those seen in Stranger.

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While I would agree with you on most points you mentioned, I would like to offer that La Bete Humaine isn't so much mournful as it is a pre-cursor to a type of cynicism that we see in later films noir.  It may be mournful in that Lantier feels trapped by the way his ancestors "poisoned" his current life, but for me as a viewer I saw more of a self-centered quality among all the characters, whether it be for their personal gain or their obsession with their own situations.

 

Yes, in MF, Spade is a smug individual, but isn't he supposed to be?  I thought the adaptation from the original novel captured his capabilities well.  And Huston's passive camera style allowed the focus to go onto the acting and the character portrayal.  This is not to mean that at time the acting wasn't a bit melodramatic, though.

 

Ah, sorry for the confusion. I was speaking of the 1931 version of Maltese Falcon, not the one with Bogart. In the 1941 version, watched for this class, Spade's prickliness seems to come from an overall weariness and cynicism because he's been through the ringer. In the 1931 version he just comes off as a needlessly cruel grinning idiot. At the end of the movie he goes to visit Ruth Wonderly(the Mary Astor character from the 1941 version) in prison to gloat that he got a promotion because of her. In that film she clearly, honestly loves him, and is visibly hurt in this scene. And he just gloats with this big grin on his face. It's really unpleasant. Bogart's performance and Huston's script do a lot to make the character easier to sympathize with.

 

And as for La Bete Humaine; I'd say it's not really cynical, in the end. There's no dramatic irony to the tragedies that befall the characters. Its overall outlook on life is not nihilistic or world weary. The film has sympathy for it's characters and tries to understand their emotional lives more than most film noir would. Sure the characters are self centered, but truly all people are. The only characters who could be considered 'evil'(for lack of a better word) are Roubaud and Severine, who plot and scheme to murder and steal. But Lantier, despite his psuedo-scientific malady, is genuinely a nice guy. A bit of a loner, but good at his job and well liked. The events of his story come out of genuine love for Severine, as ill-conceived as that love is.

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I agree with you about Lawrence Tierney. I know standards of beauty were different 70 years ago, but he was too pasty faced to inspire adoration.

I agree completely. This guy had about as much sex appeal as  alfred e newman. He was more tall, blonde and robotic rather than tall, dark and sexy. Robert Taylor must have been busy making the great Johnny Eager. Now HIM, I could consider doing bad things for.

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Ah, sorry for the confusion. I was speaking of the 1931 version of Maltese Falcon, not the one with Bogart. In the 1941 version, watched for this class, Spade's prickliness seems to come from an overall weariness and cynicism because he's been through the ringer. In the 1931 version he just comes off as a needlessly cruel grinning idiot. At the end of the movie he goes to visit Ruth Wonderly(the Mary Astor character from the 1941 version) in prison to gloat that he got a promotion because of her. In that film she clearly, honestly loves him, and is visibly hurt in this scene. And he just gloats with this big grin on his face. It's really unpleasant. Bogart's performance and Huston's script do a lot to make the character easier to sympathize with.

 

And as for La Bete Humaine; I'd say it's not really cynical, in the end. There's no dramatic irony to the tragedies that befall the characters. Its overall outlook on life is not nihilistic or world weary. The film has sympathy for it's characters and tries to understand their emotional lives more than most film noir would. Sure the characters are self centered, but truly all people are. The only characters who could be considered 'evil'(for lack of a better word) are Roubaud and Severine, who plot and scheme to murder and steal. But Lantier, despite his psuedo-scientific malady, is genuinely a nice guy. A bit of a loner, but good at his job and well liked. The events of his story come out of genuine love for Severine, as ill-conceived as that love is.

In that case Lantier stands out from the cynicism around him.  True, there is no dramatic irony to the tragedies around the characters, but everyone seems to be angling for something, except (as you said) Lantier.  Roubaud and Severine do represent the extreme, and Severine's seductiveness plays on Lantier's good nature (he is really trying to not become his ancestors but feels trapped by them -- thus the mournfulness you mentioned before).  Outside of Lantier the world is more cynical -- even his engineer friend talks about multiple affairs and how he views a woman's responsibility.  I would not go so far as to apply 21st-century American values to a 1940s French film, but that type of sexism has been around a long time.  

 

Lantier's love for Severine may be genuine from his point of view, but we do have a wider understanding.  While not dramatically irony to the point of tragedy, we are privy to the extent that Severine and Roubaud will go.  That is what I meant by "cynnical."  You make some excellent points.  We may be splitting hairs here.

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I missed most of TCM's June 5th programming mainly because Friday evening I was at the Carolina Theatre in Durham which, coincidentally, was showing The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past.  :-)  The Maltese Falcon is one of my top five favorite films (of all types).  And Out of the Past continues the marvelous noir archetype of cynical, cool private eye, so marvelously portrayed by Robert Mitchum.

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I missed most of TCM's June 5th programming mainly because Friday evening I was at the Carolina Theatre in Durham which, coincidentally, was showing The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past.  :-)  The Maltese Falcon is one of my top five favorite films (of all types).  And Out of the Past continues the marvelous noir archetype of cynical, cool private eye, so marvelously portrayed by Robert Mitchum.

 

Both The Maltese Falcon and Out of the Past are two of my favorite films.  Great well  made films.   One major difference between the two detectives is that Jeff becomes smitten with the Femme Fatale to his determent while Sam keeps his distance and therefore lives on.      Yea, Jeff does catch on but too late to escape his past. 

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Greetings fellow film noir students! It's great reading what everyone thought of the first batch of films. Here are the ones I watched:

 

M: 8/10

Very atmospheric,a little slow in spots, but involving to the very end. Fritz Lang does not disappoint!

 

The Letter: 9/10

 

I'm a little biased because I love Bette Davis,but I had not seen this one before. Starts out so simple,but then it takes a few really interesting twists and turns. Didn't see the ending coming,that's for sure!

 

The Maltese Falcon: 10/10

 

This might be my favorite film noir ever. Love the atmosphere,the dialogue,and the performances. It's not just a Bogart showcase. The supporting cast made it a true ensemble piece. Bogart is and always will be Sam Spade to me. This is the movie that dreams are made of.

 

L.A. Confidential: 10/10

 

I hadn't seen this one in forever,but what a great trip dow film memory lane it was! Early Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey (stellar as always),newcomer Guy Pearce,James Cromwell,and of course Kim Bassinger in an Oscar-winning performance. I also really liked Danny Devito as the sleazy tabloid writer. The crime story is thoriughly involving (I'm tempted to go back and read the book it's based on). The way it all ties together at the end kind of reminded me of another great film noir: Chinatown. Two other things of note: Jerry Goldsmith's score really added to feel of mystery and a sense of the period,especially his use of brass. Finally,credit Dante Spinotti for the beautiful cinemtography. Great film! Was glad to see it again after all these years.

 

What was your favorite film from week one?

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L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

 

It had a mass murder, corruption, crooked cops, drugs- all you need for an exciting film noir.

 

Great performances by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. I advise you to pay attention to the names (who's who).

 

My ranking of June 5 films I saw:

 

1. Maltese Falcon

 

2. Born to Run

 

3. Dark Passage

 

4. Johnny Eager

 

5. L.A. Confidential

 

6. The Letter

 

7. Woman on the Run

 

8. Nora Prentiss

 

Looking forward to this week's lecture on Podcast and to learning more on these films.

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L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

 

It had a mass murder, corruption, crooked cops, drugs- all you need for an exciting film noir.

 

Great performances by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce. I advise you to pay attention to the names (who's who).

 

My ranking of June 5 films I saw:

 

1. Maltese Falcon

 

2. Born to Run

 

3. Dark Passage

 

4. Johnny Eager

 

5. L.A. Confidential

 

6. The Letter

 

7. Woman on the Run

 

8. Nora Prentiss

 

Looking forward to this week's lecture on Podcast and to learning more on these films.

 

L.A. Confidential is a great neo-noir (if not the best).   

 

I'm sure you meant to say Born to Kill.    Born to Run is what every gal that meet that guy in the film wish they were able to do!

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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?

I agree.  And Mrs. Danvers went a step further: she burned down the house!

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last night i got a chance to view M. Thought it was good. Nice to go over the first few min. I thought after the scene we just saw was silent and deadly because its all just so innocent at first then without seeing any violence we know he had killed the little girl. I thought it was rather inventive that the man put an M on the guys jacket. Almost like the scarlet letter. The end had a meaning that is true even today watch your children closer then ever!

 

Tonight i am going to try to watch the letter and the man on the third floor

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While I would agree with you on most points you mentioned, I would like to offer that La Bete Humaine isn't so much mournful as it is a pre-cursor to a type of cynicism that we see in later films noir.  It may be mournful in that Lantier feels trapped by the way his ancestors "poisoned" his current life, but for me as a viewer I saw more of a self-centered quality among all the characters, whether it be for their personal gain or their obsession with their own situations.

 

Yes, in MF, Spade is a smug individual, but isn't he supposed to be?  I thought the adaptation from the original novel captured his capabilities well.  And Huston's passive camera style allowed the focus to go onto the acting and the character portrayal.  This is not to mean that at time the acting wasn't a bit melodramatic, though.

 

Journey into Fear did have that Hitchcock-esque quality to it.  I also saw ideas that would later recycle into Narrow Margin.  It probably was one of the least complex in terms of presentation (compared to M, Stranger on the Third Floor, etc) but the themes resonated film noir all the way.

La Bete:  the husband was horrible to his wife.  He sends her to her "godfather" to smooth over a bad situation for him at the railroad and then beats her because she did it.  Talk about mixed messages!  There are so many complicated overlapping relationships in this piece, it's very rich in so much.  I must look at it again.  From an acting standpoint I missed Lantier's "trigger." It seemed he started to strangle his victims for no apparent reason.  Or was that just his malady: unpredictable? Please help me out on this.  I'm sure there's an answer I just missed.  Maybe I blinked when a subtitle explained it.

 

Sam Spade is smug, but Humphrey Bogart brings so much humanity to his work, it's impossible not to root for him.  Plus he handles his monologues really well.  They are verbose, but he's so good at it, that they never become sing-songey, and you just want to applaud his spectacular delivery of each one! 

 

"Journey into Fear" was a really pleasant surprise.  Yes, I agree it had a Hitchcock-esque style; it looked and felt like some of his British films from the 1930s: The 39 Steps, The Lady Vanishes, Rich and Strange, etc.  It was compelling from the beginning, had just the right touch of comic relief without turning the thing into a burlesque, and had a great ensemble feel created by the "Mercury Theatre" actors.  I found this one to be a little gem. 

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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.

Thanks for the info.  I'll look for that interview. Showstopper indeed!  I've seen her in "Stagecoach." Great also.  She was never afraid to play a "woman of ill repute" because she always gave it heart. A greatly-skilled actress.

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I have been on vacation since Thursday, but today watched Born to Kill on TCM Watch.  I loved it.  Claire Trevor carries the show and makes it work, despite the robotic presence of Lawrence Tierney.  I felt she conveyed quite well that her character was drawn to the darkness of Tierney, not really his looks or sexual appeal.  She had a marriage lined up to rich guy, but was unsatisfied - she craved the walk into the darkness.  As Nietzsche said, if you stare long enough into the abyss, you find yourself in it, looking up.  And Claire Trevor found herself there, with disastrous consequences.  In a way this movie made me feel like a voyeur, because my fascination with this dark film might be seen as a refracted echo of Trevor's fascination with the Tierney.  And isn't that essence of a great film noir?

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Dark Passage

 

Vincent Parry (aka Allan Linnell) says to his friend, George Fellsinger the jazz musician, about Madge (played by Agnes Moorehead): “Maybe someday she’ll get run over or something.” My favorite line in the movie. One of the other characters described Madge as someone who was only happy when she was making other people unhappy. It was very satisfying to know that Vincent (and we) learned that Madge killed his wife and his friend, even if he couldn’t prove it in court. I found myself hoping that Vincent and Irene would make it somehow, and I enjoyed that part of the movie.

 

Dark Passage was filmed in 1947, and the filming seemed a little more sophisticated than previous film noir. One thing was filming from the first-person POV. I personally didn’t like it as a storytelling device, but I could see that it was an attempt to try something that was pretty new. But what I really noticed were the scenes of San Francisco and of the prison behind the opening credits. They set up the location and the mood very clearly for the viewer from the very beginning, which is a bit different from earlier films, where the viewer often sees the list of the cast of characters against a painted background and music playing.

 

The movie was filmed in great locations, in general. By the way, was Irene’s apartment building with the lighted elevator shaft a real one or a set built for the movie? I noticed both the exterior and interior shots, and wondered about her financial situation before the blackmailer pointed it out to Vincent.

 

My borrowed DVD of Dark Passage came with a Bugs Bunny cartoon short called “Slick Hare.” Very funny. I remembered parts of it from seeing it on television when I was a child. The DVD also included a special feature called “Hold Your Breath and Cross Your Fingers: The Story of Dark Passage.” Informative commentary about bringing the story to the screen and about the political climate in the United States at the time. Worth checking out.

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La Bete:  the husband was horrible to his wife.  He sends her to her "godfather" to smooth over a bad situation for him at the railroad and then beats her because she did it.  Talk about mixed messages!  There are so many complicated overlapping relationships in this piece, it's very rich in so much.  I must look at it again.  From an acting standpoint I missed Lantier's "trigger." It seemed he started to strangle his victims for no apparent reason.  Or was that just his malady: unpredictable? Please help me out on this.  I'm sure there's an answer I just missed.  Maybe I blinked when a subtitle explained it.

 

Sam Spade is smug, but Humphrey Bogart brings so much humanity to his work, it's impossible not to root for him.  Plus he handles his monologues really well.  They are verbose, but he's so good at it, that they never become sing-songey, and you just want to applaud his spectacular delivery of each one! 

 

The husband in La Bete Humain, Roubaud, did not know that his wife was having an affair with her godfather. It was once he found out that he became so enraged. As for Lantier's trigger, it doesn't appear that he has one. Unless it's times of great stress or passion. He attacks the first girl just as their getting really intimate, and then attacks Severine as he's getting ready to kill Roubaud. In my opinion those unpredictable attacks make Lantier the 'Human Beast' of the title. People try to direct him to their will, to tame him, but he can never be trusted to act against his nature. It means something different in the book, apparently, but in the film I don't think there's any specific thing that brings it out.

 

And Sam Spade being smug; I was speaking of the 1931 version of the film which stars Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade. His portrayal is miles away from the world weary cynicism of Bogart. Cortez just comes across as a sleazeball.

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The only one I've gotten to see so far was Scarlet Street, but it struck me as a tragedy rather than noir. A lonely man gets cheated by a scam artist and his girlfriend (who has issues of her own) and it ends rather badly. Really sad story, imo.

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Greetings fellow film noir students! It's great reading what everyone thought of the first batch of films. Here are the ones I watched:

 

M: 8/10

Very atmospheric,a little slow in spots, but involving to the very end. Fritz Lang does not disappoint!

 

The Letter: 9/10

 

I'm a little biased because I love Bette Davis,but I had not seen this one before. Starts out so simple,but then it takes a few really interesting twists and turns. Didn't see the ending coming,that's for sure!

 

The Maltese Falcon: 10/10

 

This might be my favorite film noir ever. Love the atmosphere,the dialogue,and the performances. It's not just a Bogart showcase. The supporting cast made it a true ensemble piece. Bogart is and always will be Sam Spade to me. This is the movie that dreams are made of.

 

L.A. Confidential: 10/10

 

I hadn't seen this one in forever,but what a great trip dow film memory lane it was! Early Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey (stellar as always),newcomer Guy Pearce,James Cromwell,and of course Kim Bassinger in an Oscar-winning performance. I also really liked Danny Devito as the sleazy tabloid writer. The crime story is thoriughly involving (I'm tempted to go back and read the book it's based on). The way it all ties together at the end kind of reminded me of another great film noir: Chinatown. Two other things of note: Jerry Goldsmith's score really added to feel of mystery and a sense of the period,especially his use of brass. Finally,credit Dante Spinotti for the beautiful cinemtography. Great film! Was glad to see it again after all these years.

 

What was your favorite film from week one?

Was able to catch M, Woman on the Run, Nora Prentiss, and Dark Passage.  Hard for me to rank these as I liked aspects of each.  Movies well done.

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Born to Kill: loved the intro by the TCM Host and what he had to add after the film was over! Lawrence Tierney was so MAD and ANGRY throughout the entire film! Made it hard to believe that any woman would have been attracted to such a character during this era because virtually no charisma was portrayed. Great film though!

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The ending of Fritz Lang's "M" (1931) with the 'underground' citizens conducting their own court was something very unexpected, for me. The scene really makes you think of just how flawed the judicial system can be. This story goes beyond the time and place it was made in.

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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.

 
The movie insists on Ann's discoveries of her husband's secret life, but, as the movie proceeds, she leaves many hints at what led to their distancing from one another... At various occasions, she explains how she tried to get him to try to make a living out of his painting, to which he responded very negatively. His doubts and self-consciousness certainly made him a difficult person to live with.
I wouldn't say the blame is on either of them, but instead we are led to see how many disputes led to a situation where there was no need for arguments anymore...
 
Edit : Sorry, Working Dead, but it seems I deleted your name as a source when I tried to partially quote your text...
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The only one I've gotten to see so far was Scarlet Street, but it struck me as a tragedy rather than noir. A lonely man gets cheated by a scam artist and his girlfriend (who has issues of her own) and it ends rather badly. Really sad story, imo.

Well,I hope you at least got to see the restored version by Keno,and not that garbage they have on YouTube.

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