Dr. Rich Edwards

JUNE 19 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS

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This is the discussion topic for the Summer of Darkness lineup for June 19, 2015. For a quick synopsis on each film, please visit the Summer of Darkness Viewing Guide in Canvas: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748/pages/summer-of-darkness-viewing-guide-for-june-19-2015?module_item_id=130636

 

Let the discussions begin! We have a terrific slate of films to discuss. 

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Crack-up,  i really tried with this one.. it  started off well, but for me , it got boring even with claire trevor and herbert marshall

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Crack-up,  i really tried with this one.. it  started off well, but for me , it got boring even with claire trevor and herbert marshall

 

Agreed. At first I thought it was because I wasn't fully awake (I'm on the West Coast).

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Gilda. I love this film, and I've seen it too many times to count. However, I tried the "fresh eyes" approach, and I never realized how much disdain I had for Johnny Farrell. Before I had always viewed him as a type of wise guy, but in reality, he's a total loser who is too big for his britches. Gilda definitely was too good for him. I felt quite a bit of empathy for her as she truly was a good woman yet jilted by her former lover. It really isn't surprising that she reacted as catty as she did.

 

I think I paid most attention to Uncle Pio, and I had a new found respect for him. He definitely is the eyes and ears of the casino and perhaps the only one with a sense of ethics.

 

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I agree Crack-up moved slow. But the cinematography is beautiful in places. The scenes at the railroad station, shipyard, and city skyline we're almost like black and white still photography.

 

Did anyone else think that the scenes on the train were reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode "A Stop at Willoughby"? I wonder if this movie inspired anything about that episode. kymzg on Twitter

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I agree Crack-up moved slow. But the cinematography is beautiful in places. The scenes at the railroad station, shipyard, and city skyline we're almost like black and white still photography.

 

Did anyone else think that the scenes on the train were reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone episode "A Stop at Willoughby"? I wonder if this movie inspired anything about that episode

 

Funny...that was my first thought (A Stop at Willoughby). Perhaps because it was fresh in my mind. Just last week I showed the episode to my students about the concepts of romanticism and irony.

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The Big Sleep. 

One big difference 1946 played up Lauren Bacall . Notice Eddie Mars wife is better looking in 1945 version 

vs the theatrical version.  The first wife was better looking and they switched her to an actress that did not take the focus off Bacall

 

PRE-RELEASE EDDIE MARS WIFE

 

8187556_orig.jpg

 

 

1946 THEATRICAL VERSION EDDIE MARS WIFE

40509_orig.jpg

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Gilda. I love this film, and I've seen it too many times to count. However, I tried the "fresh eyes" approach, and I never realized how much disdain I had for Johnny Farrell. Before I had always viewed him as a type of wise guy, but in reality, he's a total loser who is too big for his britches. Gilda definitely was too good for him. I felt quite a bit of empathy for her as she truly was a good woman yet jilted by her former lover. It really isn't surprising that she reacted as catty as she did.

 

I think I paid most attention to Uncle Pio, and I had a new found respect for him. He definitely is the eyes and ears of the casino and perhaps the only one with a sense of ethics.

It seemed as if Johnny was so focused on her supposed sins that he completely ignored his real ones.

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Anyone who wants a piercing glimpse into the dark and twisted heart of noir needs only look at the tortured love-hate relationship between Gilda and Johnny Farrell.   The obvious attraction...and often unbearable tension...between the two is both wonderful yet excruciating to watch; two fish caught on the hook of each other, unable to tear themselves free and yet equally incapable of absolute surrender to the excess that binds them hopelessly together.

 

Film Noir is full of examples of one character wriggling on the hook of another...more often a guy hopelessly led astray by a wicked femme fatale...but Gilda is one of the few examples of two characters so totally hung up on one another that they willingly embrace self-destruction as the only way to break free.  

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CRACK-UP

 

"Bad bunch, artists" 

 

In line with the lecture it's fun that this Film Noir actually deals with art. Unfortunately, besides the opening shots and opening lecture by Pat O'Brien's character, the film doesn't do too much with it. More scenes inside the museum could have greatly added to the atmosphere,

 

However, there's still plenty to enjoy, for instance the stunning sequences on the train, and - my personal favorite - the exchange between O'Brien and the grumpy station agent at Marlin Station; Sweeping the floor with his broom and verbally sweeping the floor of society: "Bad bunch, artists".

 

Also the climax at the shipyard is pretty amazing, especially the scene where O'Brien (or his stunt double) slides down the rope to escape his adversaries. 

 

Full use of the ship's structure, well lit, and shot from a low angle - you can just make out O'Brien at the top of the frame.

 

CH4hTllVAAAh6kz.png

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CORNERED has always been a favorite of mine, and in recent years more so because it was the vanguard of a trend in films from the U.S. and overseas dealing with the post-World War II situation and related intrigue. Lawrence Gerard's (Dick Powell) manhunt for an escaped French collaborator (Luther Adler) in CORNERED takes him to a shattered rural France still suffering from the effects of the recently-ended conflict and then to glitzy Buenos Aires, a sign the filmmakers were aware of concerns about Nazis and other war criminals finding a new haven in the Americas. This concern is exemplified in the case of the undercover hotel bellhop played by Jack LaRue, who fought fascism in Europe, returns to find it flourishing on his own doorstep and loses his life in a new and less-obvious war. The noir elements are there, showing director Edward Dmytryk had learned his lessons from MURDER, MY SWEET well as he positions his camerawork, lighting and character issues (Gerard's mental distress) to maximum effect. I like to think of CORNERED and THE STRANGER (1946) as postwar world noir, which became more pronounced with BERLIN EXPRESS (1948), filmed in Germany the year before its release and presenting the same war-blasted terrain we encountered (albeit on a Hollywood set) in CORNERED. The locations of BERLIN EXPRESS add a note of underlying despair to the thrilling story, as the international party of aid workers encounter a number of desperate and criminal types in their search for a peace advocate (Paul Lukas) kidnapped by unregenerate Nazis, hiding and plotting in the shadows and darkness of a city in ruins from Allied bombing. Carol Reed's THE THIRD MAN (1949) was probably the ultimate of these postwar norish pictures with a story played out against a Vienna that like the rest of the Continent was trying to re-establish itself. The shadows, nighttime events and overall sense of danger ("One must go careful in a city like Vienna," says one of the underworld types encountered by hero Joseph Cotten) place this outstanding drama solidly in the noir corner. These movies no doubt influenced American writer-producer Sheldon Reynolds with his early 1950s TV success, FOREIGN INTRIGUE, shot on location and dealing with all of the then-current issues such as escaped Nazis, creation of the Iron Curtain and a new kind of criminal element. Reynolds' 1956 color film version of the series is an interesting variation on the show, but doesn't stack up against the gritty, on-the-spot black-and-white realism of one of the program's typical episodes, which offer proof, if any was needed, that Reynolds adopted the noir sensibilities of films like THE THIRD MAN and BERLIN EXPRESS.

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I don't subscribe to a television provider so, of this weeks TCM-aired films, I can only discuss the films The Big Sleep (I've had a DVD copy for years) and Hollow Triumph, a.k.a.The Scar (which is in the public domain). If you haven't already done so, and if you have the time, I absolutely recommend the four optional readings the Professor linked to in Part 3 of 4 of this weeks module, especially the Dashiell Hammett short story "Arson Plus." America's treatment of Hammett and the other people black-listed by the HUAC is one this Nation's most shameful chapters. But, like the stalwart soldier and patriot that he was, Hammett refused to cooperate with the witchhunt. I, for one, will make it a point to find his grave in Arlington National Cemetery the next time I'm up in DC and pay my respects.

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I just watched the last 15 minutes of THE KILLERS although I have seen it at least twice before. Believe it or not, this was the first time I FINALLY understood the plot, outcome, and reason for "the killers" to hunt down The Swede. I find many times with some really complicated noirs, I lose track of the players and wind up not understanding the plot once all is said and done. For some reason, watching just the last few minutes of the movie just lit the light bulb for me. I find that trying to follow who's who and who did what in a noir is an exercise in concentration and note taking. I have the same problem with THE BIG SLEEP: I still don't understand that movie although I have watched it at least five times. But at least on that one, I know I'm not alone. Once, during a TCMParty on Twitter, folks actually posted flow charts and diagrams of the characters and their roles in that movie because they found themselves lost, also. Still, I enjoy watching the movies just for the cinematography even if I do lose the plot. Anyone else?

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“The Scar” ~ What’s with this?  I’m rooting at times for the villain?  John Muller is a first-class evil creep.  The problem is Paul Heinreid has such a fine face and elegant manner it is hard to dislike him.  There is another VERY telling factor here.  I cannot EVER remember a villain like the one Heinreid plays in “The Scar” being filmed so conspicuously at times with a “soft” focus!!  A villain in “soft” focus?   What gives?  I am really perplexed.  It seems to go against the rules of moviedom.  Altogether, this is a really good story.  I enjoyed Eduard Franz as Muller’s brother, and Joan Bennett gets just the right edge on her character.  And Bennett DOES look lovely through the cheesecloth. 

 

“The Killers” ~ “The double cross to end all double crosses.” Visually this is a marvelous film noir.  The music is wonderful, too.  I love how Miklos Rozsa makes use of leitmotivs for the characters.  I also love the green handkerchief, which Burt Lancaster carries next to his breast.  It reminds me of the flower Don Jose in the opera “Carmen” carries next to his breast.  Kitty Connelly and Carmen ~ two faithless femme fatales that bring ruin to the otherwise good men who love them.  There are many other fine details in the movie, i.e, the drawing of the big dipper on the jail cell of the “Swede” and his star-gazing cellmate, Charleston; and the band aid behind the ear of Reardon from his beat-up from “Dum-Dum.” Personally, I smiled when I saw the upholstered interior of Big Jim’s car.  I remember my Grandfather’s big Chrysler had upholstery like that. 

 

I did like "The Killers," and I think I may be able to appreciate it even more upon another viewing.  But I don’t think it’s a great movie like “The Letter,” which, as I have said before, I think is perfection.   That leads us to the question of what makes a great movie?  It’s a subjective judgment to be sure, but I think it is the quest for that answer that keeps us movie-going. :wub: 

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That old dude was the best part of the movie.

I liked these lines 

Pat O'Brien:  Am I the guy that was drunk?

Old dude:  Well if you want to get stinkin' that's your business not mine.

CRACK-UP

 

"Bad bunch, artists" 

 

In line with the lecture it's fun that this Film Noir actually deals with art. Unfortunately, besides the opening shots and opening lecture by Pat O'Brien's character, the film doesn't do too much with it. More scenes inside the museum could have greatly added to the atmosphere,

 

However, there's still plenty to enjoy, for instance the stunning sequences on the train, and - my personal favorite - the exchange between O'Brien and the grumpy station agent at Marlin Station; Sweeping the floor with his broom and verbally sweeping the floor of society: "Bad bunch, artists".

 

Also the climax at the shipyard is pretty amazing, especially the scene where O'Brien (or his stunt double) slides down the rope to escape his adversaries. 

 

Full use of the ship's structure, well lit, and shot from a low angle - you can just make out O'Brien at the top of the frame.

 

CH4hTllVAAAh6kz.png

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Cornered (1945):

 

I find I like Cornered. As a Dick Powell film, it wasn’t as good as Murder, My Sweet but it has its merits despite being about fifteen minutes too long.

 

Basic Plot: Laurence Gerard, a recently discharged member of the Royal Canadian Air Force, returns to war torn France via London to investigate the death of his French wife, whom he had only been married to for three weeks. In pursuit of revenge against the Vichy government that had condemned his wife to death, in the form of an unidentifiable official Marcel Jarnac, he travels to South America to satisfy his blood lust, mingling with Nazi collaborators, refugees, and anti-fascist fascist hunters.

 

Cornered exemplifies the harsh, post-war cynicism represented to some degree in most films noir. It has elements of documentary realism especially in the use of newsreel projections and the recreation of war-torn England and France. Some of the more formalistic elements are seen in the use of gunshots as form of a psychological torment for Powell (even though he was not present at his wife’s death) as well as when Powell’s vision blurs as he beats Jarnac. Other noir traits included the chiaroscuro lighting, exotic locales, rough and dirty look, the sharp dialogue, feelings of tension and inevitability (especially in the claustrophobic and realist train station scene), the fatalistic nature of the hero (he doesn’t have anything to lose), and the theme of moral ambiguity (i.e. Nazis vs. Nazi collaborators vs. nations that protect collaborators).

 

The performances were great from Powell as Laurence Gerard, Walter Sleziak as Melchior Incza, and Luther Adler as Jarnac. However, the plot was so complex and convoluted and the political tone served more as a red herring. It was all about the single-minded pursuit of some base fulfillment whether that be Gerard’s revenge, Incza’s greed, or Jarnac’s dream of self-importance and gradual world domination.

 

Overall, quite good!

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I saw Dick Powell last week in Murder, My Sweet, and enjoyed his performance as Philip Marlowe very much.  Of course, I realized that there is a lot of disagreement about his being a good choice for the role of Marlowe.  Well, then I read The Big Sleep and today for the first time saw Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe.  And now I have to agree that Humphrey Bogart is a much better choice for the role. Not to say that Dick Powell did a bad job.  It's just that Humphrey Bogart seemed much more believeable in the role. He was perfect, with all of the attributes and mannerisms.  What clinched it for me was the scene in The Big Sleep when Marlowe (Bogart) was beaten up in the alley by those two thugs.  I couldn't help thinking that if that had been Powell's Marlowe, he would have been in the hospital for a week.  Bogart's Marlowe was able to take the beating and go on, something that wouldn't have been believeable to me with Powell's Marlowe.

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Gilda (1946):

 

Like every other film I had previously seen, upon rewatching with fresh eyes in this “Summer of Darkness,” it has improved immeasurably from The Glass Key to The Maltese Falcon – as has Gilda.

 

Basic Plot: An American expatriate (Johnny) living in Buenos Aires is offered a fresh start by a German refugee who runs an illegal gambling joint. However, after rising to second-in-command, the woman who turned him into the ruthless and cynical man he had become comes back to his life, now married to his boss. As forces from the criminal underworld and national law enforcement come to a head, Gilda and Johnny’s unique love-hate dynamic results in hatred, cruelty, and manipulation from which they may be unable to return.

 

Gilda’s formalistic noir elements include the setting in an exotic locale (that being Nazis in Argentina, similar to Cornered), the chiaroscuro lighting (such as the use of shadow in conveying Ballin's increasing paranoia and the prominent use of blinds), voiceover narration, musical accompaniment, and sharp dialogue (lots of great burns). The more thematic noir elements consist of post-war cynicism (the war is mentioned once in passing, just as it's ended and with little reverence),  psychological conflict, a femme fatale, and the presence of a rough and ordinary hero transformed and eventually brought down by his cruelty, hubris, and poor decisions. Furthermore, there are also hints of the role of fate and doom as seen with Gilda's superstition (i.e. “Mame” lyrics, fear of karma, curses, and wearing black on her wedding day) and Johnny's and Ballin's emphasis on luck. Lastly, there is the representation of extreme emotions, such as lust, hate, cruelty, and misanthropic superiority (Ballin's "little stupid people” rant).

 

Onto narrative and performances, shall we. Ford and Hayworth are just magnificent. When Johnny starts out, he's nothing but rough and ordinary, from his cheap clothes to his messed up, oily hair. As he rises in influence, he is well-dressed and polished but by the end, he has devolved back into cheapness as he revels in his own torment. His cynicism is evident in the complete indifference with which he treats the war (the end of it is just thrown in there). He is an enforcer and a cheater, and his is a descent into ruthlessness and vivid harshness. Hayworth is perfectly cruel and vindictive, knowing just what buttons to push in order to destroy his psyche by (1) destroying his self-confidence by galavanting with other men and (2) destroying his only relationship of actual loyalty by putting that wedge between him and Ballin. When they meet, Johnny can barely restrain himself and their hate is electric (just as Ballin prophesied it would be).

 

I like to think that in the case of Gilda, love and hate is not a spectrum, both on the edge, but a circle. Just a centimeter away from love is hate. And that is the line they ride.

 

For supporting characters, though George Macready was fine as Ballin as was Joseph Calleia as Obregon, Steven Geray as Uncle Pio often stole the scenes he was in. Geray, also in previous films viewed (Cornered, Deadline at Dawn), reminded me of a Maugham character – on the outside like he knew all this was going to happen (he himself predicted that the arrival of Gilda would be "interesting").

Lastly, I would like to speak to the moral ambiguity of this film. Every person in this film is gray, from the former Nazis profiting off a cartel while taking refuge in South America, to the Argentinian government turning a blind eye to this activity, to Obregon who decides not to report Ballin's second death, to Gilda who used sex, implied sex, and mind games to torment everyone around her, to Johnny, already cynical but who becomes more ruthless than Ballin could have ever predicted. By the end though, everyone's washed their hands so to speak. Uncle Pio gets away with stabbing a man in the back, Obregon catches the cartel, and Gilda and Johnny return to the people they were when they were first together, unfettered by the cynicism and vindictiveness than drove them to the extremes that very nearly killed them both.

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??I recorded Gilda and am watching it right now. I like the opening scene where the guy is playing dice and cleans everybody out.

I almost forgot to watch the movies of course I'm recording them on my DVR.

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Anyone who wants a piercing glimpse into the dark and twisted heart of noir needs only look at the tortured love-hate relationship between Gilda and Johnny Farrell.   The obvious attraction...and often unbearable tension...between the two is both wonderful yet excruciating to watch; two fish caught on the hook of each other, unable to tear themselves free and yet equally incapable of absolute surrender to the excess that binds them hopelessly together.

 

Film Noir is full of examples of one character wriggling on the hook of another...more often a guy hopelessly led astray by a wicked femme fatale...but Gilda is one of the few examples of two characters so totally hung up on one another that they willingly embrace self-destruction as the only way to break free.  

This is the first time I've ever seen Gilda and their love/hate relationship was  so well played out on screen.  I have to say that I was totally surprised by the ending.  First, I thought either Gilda or Farrell would wind up dead at one or the other's hands or by Gilda's husband's hands.  Then I never expected Uncle Pio to save them by stepping in and killing her husband.  And for Farrell to step up and try to take the blame for the killing to save Uncle Pio.  And then for the police inspector to explain away everything so that Gilda and Farrell could have a fresh start!!  (What a romantic at heart!!)  Quite an ending to such a dark tale!!

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Professor Cameron taught me that if you want to write like Joan Didion, you start by learning how to write like George Orwell.

 

I think that if you want to act like Marlon Brando, you start by learning how to act like Glenn Ford.

 

Really enjoying GILDA on TCM.

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Nocturne: I really like George Raft in this role. Wooden acting works here! Plus who ever heard of a detective who lives with his mom??

This film has one of the best openings!

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Before taking this course I would watch movies just to watch them and now I look at movies in a different light.

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