Dr. Rich Edwards

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

165 posts in this topic

12. The People Against O’Hara—This is another from the camera of John Alton.  This one really is more a police procedural, but…the way these shots are lit and executed, it not only makes you feel like you are in the location you’re looking at, but also, it makes you feel how you might feel if you were in that location:  here are some examples:  the courtroom is lit in such a way that you draw conclusions about the room-where the window light is coming from, the overhead lights, the skylights, and from the echoing of the sound you get that it’s a very big room.  Nothing was left to chance to bring this world to us.  There’s a scene where daughter and boyfriend are decorating a Christmas tree.  He is near the tree and his face is glowing from the lights, and the additional lighting in the room is merely a soft fill from the room lamps.  There’s a blanket of fake snow on top of the mantle; you almost can feel how soft it is by the way it’s lit.  The scene in the bar: Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien are sitting across from each other in a booth.  Tracy’s back is to the door and windows, O’Brien is facing.  The lighting is fairly high key, not too many shadows.  There wouldn’t have really been the need for any additional fill.  But, there’s a kick light that models just O’Brien’s face, giving it a sort of glow, and it just happened that he was glowing with love and respect for the Tracy character, and trying to keep him on the right path.  Then, the best was when you see Tracy look at the mirror behind the bar.  Not only do we see lots of bottles of liquor, alcohol already established as his downfall, but framed in the middle is the Nordic Seaman that Tracy is contemplating bribing: double downfall.  I couldn’t help but think of this as a prototype at least in father/daughter structure for the Matlock series.  The daughter even resembled Linda Purl.  Do not miss.

 

I got so involved in the technical that I forgot to mention that the heart of it is the psyche of a man at his crossroads.  Which way will circumstances sway him?

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13.  Get Carter—This one surprised me.  It has some noir elements, but unlike the other “neo-noirs,” “LA Confidential” and “Night Moves”, they didn’t seem nostalgic, or “for the sake of”, respectively, but here it synthesized these elements and made them something new, fresh.  Some of it even had that avant-garde quality of auteur cinema.  Cassavetes’ “The Killing of a Chinese Bookie” comes to mind.  There’s one great scene where the camera is fixed on a teenaged girl’s face as the men at her table in this pub are waxing poetic about her recently departed father.  You hear them; you see her.  She’s filling up with tears.  Finally, at the peak of their praise, she spits at them and curses them.  We find out why later.  Then the shot widens and we see them again, shocked at what she has done.  There’s great jazzy music, a lead character played by Michael Caine who has witty repartee and danger, and of course that noir twist at the end that continues to support the theory that the fates will punish you, end you, if you do bad to someone in the world of noir.

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Cornered: I saw a couple parallels to murder, my sweet...they use the window reflection thing but the blackouts in this movie are a little different...not completely black...sparkles. I will say it did keep me guessing...at one point I was completely convinced that "diego" was Jarnac lol I don't think it was anything the movie did in particular...I just got it locked into my brain that it was so. 

 

Crack-Up: I absolutely loved the scene where they talked about abstract art as nonsense. I was like "YES SO MUCH YES" there was also a really nice quote that hit me "Art is an unnatural thing, by definition. It thrives on hypocrisy." 

 

Gilda: I kinda love the relationship between Johnny and Gilda...they insist throughout most of the film that they hate each other. By the end though the dynamic between them changes and it's so slow you don't notice it until one day they just love each other again...it's actually sweet. 

 

The Big Sleep: I've always kinda felt that the filmmakers were relying on the chemistry between bogart and bacall to carry the film. One part I actually love is Marlowe's undercover character when he goes into the bookstore and plays the nerdy academic sort of person...it's so much fun to see Bogart playing a completely different idea. Also the phone call that turned into a prank was kinda epic. The book made a lot more sense...and eddie's wife was a bigger deal in the book...she had a much bigger part in the final sequences. 

 

The Killers: the way the guns lit up the room when the swede was being murdered was extremely memorable...I think because that room had these deep intense shadows and the flashing broke apart the shadows. I felt really bad for him though...not just the being murdered bit because that does suck for sure but the whole thing with his girl...he dreamed about her the whole time he was locked up and she betrayed him after she got what she wanted out of him. 

 

Nobody Lives Forever: Happy endings aren't all that common in Noir..most of the super dark ones don't end well. This one is a happy ending but the body count gets high at one point but there's only really one person who dies that you'll actually feel bad about. 

 

Nocturne: The song is what hits me about this one. It becomes a character of a sort. It was the detective's obsession with that song that solved the murder. 

 

Crossfire: Robert Young looks so old in this one..I'm used to him from the screwball comedies. There were several quotes in this that hit me as being thought-provoking. ""Monty's kind of hate is like a gun" , "Hating is always the same...always senseless." Honestly I felt like this film should be shown in schools...because everything that Robert Young's character says about hatred, the story he tells, all of it hit me in a really profound way. It felt like something people need to hear, if that makes sense. The world is so full of hate, maybe it's important to realize that it doesn't have to be. 

 

Hollow Triumph: I was a bit confused. The announcer dude said hollow triumph and my dvr said hollow triumph but the film itself said it was called "the scar" It had that same "running when no one is after you" thing that Tomorrow is another day had but with much darker consequences. It also kind of reminded me of a movie, I think it was called "Dead Ringer" where a woman killed and replaced her twin sister. 

 

Mystery Street: The part of this that stuck with me was how stupid the landlady was...she tried to blackmail someone she knew was a cold blooded killer and invited this person into her apartment. How dumb can you get? You don't threaten a murderer...

 

Border Incident: This one didn't feel dated at all. The sad fact of the matter is illegal immigration still happens in much the same way on a daily basis. Sure, I doubt there is a "murder canyon" today but the idea of criminals being paid to ferry illegals across the border is absolutely something that never stopped. 

 

The People Against O'Hara: It's easy to forget when you see a sting operation in just about every cop movie out there that it is a dangerous thing to do. The idea that this lawyer would basically trade his life for the chance to save this young man, his client, was very poignant I felt.  

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I just watched "Border Incident" for the first time. WOW!!! John Alton and Anthony Mann, what a team. The setups and cinematography are absolutely breathtaking! Thank you, TCM and Prof. Richard Edwards, for bringing and recommending to us this remarkable, classic film noir!

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Cracked Up

 

Phew, my faith in RKO took a knock with this one. A film that made me think I'm someone up for a more limited definition of Noir: apart from some noir-ish cinematography and a little voice-over I'm not really sure I saw much else for me to think of this as a relative of such fair as Detour, The Killers, etc. Perhaps it was because of the unreliabilty of the narrative of the protagonist...nope, I'm struggling here. 

 

Not a great or particularly enjoyable film for me, I have to admit: I found Pat O'Brien a completely unconvincing star for this movie, and I thought Claire Trevor was terribly under-used here - a complete waste of such a talent.  

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Cracked Up

 

Phew, my faith in RKO took a knock with this one. A film that made me think I'm someone up for a more limited definition of Noir: apart from some noir-ish cinematography and a little voice-over I'm not really sure I saw much else for me to think of this as a relative of such fair as Detour, The Killers, etc. Perhaps it was because of the unreliabilty of the narrative of the protagonist...nope, I'm struggling here. 

 

Not a great or particularly enjoyable film for me, I have to admit: I found Pat O'Brien a completely unconvincing star for this movie, and I thought Claire Trevor was terribly under-used here - a complete waste of such a talent.  

 

Well don't give up on RKO.  (ha ha).    To me they did make the best noirs of the era but hey all of them can't be first rate.   

 

But yea,  more of Claire Trevor elevates any film.  

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WEEK 3:

 

CORNERED (RKO): Shadow Boxing.

Garard (Dick Powell) chase the Nazi who killed his wife to Argentina (a Nazi refuge).  Jarnac's face is obscured by shadow to emphasize how other anti-fascist will be waiting in anonymity to fight American imperialism.

 

CRACK-UP (RKO): Narcosynthetic Narcosynthetic Train Wreck.

Noir staples of exploring madness via flashback and the subjectiveness of art.

 

GILDA (Columbia): Thin (Curvy) Line Between Love and Hate.

Gilda's and Farrell's infedelity lead to their benefactor's apparent death. A spurned Gilda plays the femme fatale but no amount of low-key lighting can keep Hayworth from lighting up the screen.

 

THE BIG SLEEP (WB): Smartest man in the theater.

Great Bogie-Bacall chemistry. In Faulkner fashion, it's hard to follow the first time through. Seven deaths: some insoluble but others show various ways of facing it. 

 

THE KILLERS (Universal): Feline Fatale

The Swede blames himself for letting himself be setup by Kitty, a femme fatale, and is willing to face the ultimate music.

She urges her husband to sacrifice his soul for her by swearing on her innocence. Played round-the-clock when movies were made to be seen more than once.

 

NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (WB): Boy Cons Girl Story..

Fitzgerald is the femme fatale not because she's bad but because she's so innocent that Garfield can't play her for a mark.

 

NOCTURNE (RKO): Shoot the Piano Player.

Propaganda advocating police abuse and sharing cases with your mother. No one could accuse George Raft of over-acting.

 

CROSSFIRE (RKO): Anatomy of a hate crime.

A nuanced study of anti-Semetism that raises the question of how much better we are than the enemies we defeated in WW2.

 

HOLLOW TRIUMPH or THE SCAR (Eagle-Lion): Distinguishing Feature.

Muller/Bartok is scarred but noone notices that he's changed and his killers didn't know where his scar was.  But even Muller didn't remember which side Bartok's scar was on after following and photographing him.

 

MYSTERY STREET (MGM-Alton): Bones.

Forensic crime procedural. Compelling Mann-Alton project.

 

BORDER INCIDENT (MGM-Alton): A must watch (for Donald Trump).

Every frame of John Alton puts Ansel Adams (and Donald Trump) to shame.

 

PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA (MGM-Alton): Wheels of justice.

Well-paced criminal court case with an alcoholic lawyer.

 

GET CARTER (MGM): What's it all about, avenging?

A gritty, viscerally and visually pleasing, color neo-noir Using architecture and stairways instead of black and white shadows to frame subjects and create striking diagonals.

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The Killers

 

I didn't watch this when TCM aired it as it was scheduled to be shown - paired with another Robert Siodmak movie, The Spiral Staircase - at Columbus's glorious Ohio Theatre today (19 July), but I read the hype and the comments in the Daily Dose and have to admit that I was disappointed. It was Noir through and through with (multiple) flashbacks, voice-overs, an investigator, a femme fatale, night shots, shadows, and of course an ending (and beginning) where all the bad guys got their just deserts. However, I felt it was just too choppy: every scene generated a new flashback and ultimately I felt that the whole thing didn't really flow well as a result. 

 

I had expected more Burt than we got, and less Edmond O'Brien - actually, I didn't know he was even in the film let alone being the real star - and I was distinctly underwhelmed by the supposed attraction of Ava Gardner. Still, it was a good way to spend the afternoon; the film just didn't quite live up to my expectations. 

 

The Spiral Staircase though, I really enjoyed: a Gothic thriller perhaps more than an out-and-out Noir but it was a terrific little movie with some excellent Noir touches. I especially liked the scene when the killer murders Blanche and all you see is a huge patch of shadow filling most of the screen with the dying victim's hand extending out of it from either side. I'd highly recommend this film.

 

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Gilda

 

I finally got around to watching this and have to admit the whole thing left me cold! Sometimes these big films come with such high expectations that the only possible outcome is disappointment and this was the case for me here (case in point, I watched "Tension" afterwards, a minor film I'd never even heard of previously and I loved it!.

 

And was it really a Noir, I found myself wondering? Sure, it had a voice-over and was mainly set at night (but then, what night-club does roaring business during the day?), but there was none of the feeling of impending doom, or of events spiraling out of control, which seems to be the hallmark of so many Films Noir...unless you count the life of Mundson, whose life does go to pot as soon as the femme comes on the scene, but then he's not the protagonist.

 

Glen Ford, with his genial, chipmunky, face for me wasn't the actor to play Johnny Farrell (it has to be Bogie, no?) and I really couldn't detect any chemistry with Rita Hayworth. As for the latter, perhaps she would have pushed the code boundaries with her performance in the famous song scene, but I didn't really feel much about her as a character either way.

 

Ah well, I've watched it now: Gilda...check!

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Cornered

 

After seeing the movie Suddenly and hearing the characters in that film discuss their views on war and violence, I decided to see another postwar movie. Cornered was a good choice (I happen to like Dick Powell). I hadn’t seen this one, and I was impressed with Powell’s perfomance.

 

Laurence Gerard is discharged in London, and it’s assumed that he will be returning to his home country of Canada. Instead, Gerard he makes his way to war-torn France, which is in ruins, because he wants to discover who is responsible for his wife’s death. I wondered if this part of the movie was actually filmed in Europe because the landscape looked bleak. Gerard gets filthy pretty quickly looking for evidence of his wife’s killer, which turns out to be Marcel Jarnac. Gerard then tracks Jarnac’s wife to Buenos Aires (which is Gilda country).

 

Gerard has war flashbacks. During the last one in the film, he accidently kills Jarnac. He says of it, “I got a little kill crazy.” He is also despondent over his wife’s death. She was a Resistance fighter and he believes that someone betrayed her.

 

The subway station meeting later in the film between Gerard and Madame Jarnac was fantastic. The noise of passing trains interrupts their conversation. Lighting and sound worked together to give the impression of trains passing them on the platform.

 

After killing Jarnac and the police arrive, Gerard uses a knife handle to bring Madeleine Jarnac’s face forward and says to her, “Take care of yourself.” He says that she’s French, and she’s all right. It felt like a tip of the hat to the French Resistance, which worked hard during World War II to bring down the Nazis. Then he throws the knife and it lands in a piece of paper next to the head of Jarnac, who is dead on the floor.

 

Cornered is another example of a film noir that shows the confusion of the postwar world. The dislocation after the war is something that everyone is forced to deal with. And Nazi intrigue continues because so many of them escaped to other parts of the world. I had a little trouble following all the intrigue, but I would love to see Cornered again.

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The People Against O'Hara

 

Catching up with films I missed but have on DVR, I finally came around to watching this. It was okay, I guess...I can see why Eddie Muller concentrated so on the visual aspect of the film, because certainly the plot itself was a little creaky. Would any real life attorney throw so much away on sheer blind belief in O'Hara, when so much evidence (soooo much evidence) pointed to the accused's guilt, and even the dumb lummox himself would not do anything to help his own case? 

 

Sad to say they telegraphed Spencer Tracy's demise in the movie with his late phone call to his daughter, but - in true Noir style - I suppose he had to die because he made that one bad decision (trying to buy the evidence of the witness), and that's just not something that escaped unpunished in Noir's early years! 

 

It was good to see (and a little unexpected) a female cop offering to help out at the end, and especially as someone on the operational end of a weapon, it's a shame though they didn't make it a little more revolutionary and letting her save the day. Instead we only got: "oh, there's a dame coming this way" and then it all kicking off with her as a bystander. 

 

 

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. . .

 

The Big Sleep is an old favourite but on re-watching it I wondered to what extent it can be classified as film noir. Sure it has many of the features but at its core it is soft-boiled rather than hard-boiled.  I have just listened to the Out of the Past podcast on it and find myself agreeing with Shannon Clute's view that the film is weakened by the extent that it departs from the Chandler source novel in order to highlight the star quality of Bogart and Bacall. It's still a great movie but maybe not a great noir.

 

. . .

 

I have not yet listened to the podcast for The Big Sleep (1946), but I have seen both film versions, including the 1978 version with Robert Mitchum, and I would have to say that the 1978 version is a better film. It follows Raymond Chandler's book rather closely. The director Michael Winner discusses his approach to writing the screenplay on the commentary to the DVD. Does a lot of insider gossiping, too, which actually got a bit tedious, but his thoughts about his writing of the screenplay were great.

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I have not yet listened to the podcast for The Big Sleep (1946), but I have seen both film versions, including the 1978 version with Robert Mitchum, and I would have to say that the 1978 version is a better film. It follows Raymond Chandler's book rather closely. The director Michael Winner discusses his approach to writing the screenplay on the commentary to the DVD. Does a lot of insider gossiping, too, which actually got a bit tedious, but his thoughts about his writing of the screenplay were great.

The 1944 \45 version of The Big Sleep is more gritty than the general US release re-shot as a result of Bogie and Bacall getting married.     

 

While the 1946 film is one of my favorites the B&B romance angle does make the film less noir,  as well as the fact that Carmen isn't the killer of Regan.      Imagine if Bogie and Bacall were cast in Out of the Past after they were married.  The studio would have insisted they both live and run off together instead of the noir ending with both Mitchum and Greer dead.   

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The 1944 \45 version of The Big Sleep is more gritty than the general US release re-shot as a result of Bogie and Bacall getting married.     

 

While the 1946 film is one of my favorites the B&B romance angle does make the film less noir,  as well as the fact that Carmen isn't the killer of Regan.      Imagine if Bogie and Bacall were cast in Out of the Past after they were married.  The studio would have insisted they both live and run off together instead of the noir ending with both Mitchum and Greer dead.   

 

I hope I didn't give the impression that I dislike the 1944/45/46 version(s) of The Big Sleep. I do like them. Choosing between those versions and the 1978 version is like asking me to choose between William Faulkner/Raymond Chandler and Raymond Chandler/Michael Winner! Michael Winner (he directed the 1978 version and wrote the screenplay) wins because he stayed so close to Chandler. And then there's Robert Mitchum, who I believe can really give Humphrey Bogart a run for his money. And I really liked the London setting.

 

I think you probably know by now how important the writing is for me. But choosing between Faulkner/Chandler and Chandler/Winner is like trying to choose between a peanut butter cup and mint chocolate chip ice cream . . . why can't I have both?!

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I hope I didn't give the impression that I dislike the 1944/45/46 version(s) of The Big Sleep. I do like them. Choosing between those versions and the 1978 version is like asking me to choose between William Faulkner/Raymond Chandler and Raymond Chandler/Michael Winner! Michael Winner (he directed the 1978 version and wrote the screenplay) wins because he stayed so close to Chandler. And then there's Robert Mitchum, who I believe can really give Humphrey Bogart a run for his money. And I really liked the London setting.

 

I think you probably know by now how important the writing is for me. But choosing between Faulkner/Chandler and Chandler/Winner is like trying to choose between a peanut butter cup and mint chocolate chip ice cream . . . why can't I have both?!

 

I understood where you were coming from.    I took the conversation in a somewhat different direction related to major studio stars and how even in noir films studios would tend to protect the image of those stars.   e.g. Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley.   If Fox's number one male star wasn't in the lead the film would have likely ended with the no hope for the geek.

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