Dr. Rich Edwards

JUNE 26 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS

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Here is the official discussion thread for the June 26th films, beginning with The Postman Always Rings Twice and ending with Blue Velvet. Let the discussion begin!

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The Postman Always Rings Twice" is one of my favorites. Garfield and Turner are great. It is the quintessential fatalism plot. In fact so much so it's almost like a Greek tragedy. Frank and Cora have so many chances to change their fortune but they always choose the wrong path.Cora tries to resist but can't. They fall in love and decide to elope but Cora can't live without the financial security the diner provides so they return to plot a murder. When the attempt is unsuccessful they seem almost grateful they failed making Frank decide to leave. He returns and when the chance comes again to kill Nick they seize it. The wrong choices just keep going on and on.

 

The cinematography reflects these moral highs and lows. The highs have lighter mood, photography and tone like swimming at the beach. In fact the beach often times seems to act as a metaphorical rebirth - a change from one attitude to another. The lows have dark shadows with low key lighting, and night scenes (both murders looked like part of it could have been night on night other parts looked to light ).

 

It seems that despite periods of letting their better selves take over Frank and Cora continued to race towards their inevitable doom. It's not just the postman ringing twice as Frank points out from his jail cell it's the fates weaving an unhappy outcome they are unable to avoid often because of their baser natures. ( of course in Greek tragedy there was zero chance of control)

 

I think it's the up and down of the plot matching the lights and darks of the film that pulls me in. In some ways it has the rhythm of the ocean where the story takes place. It always amazes me that this story can make me care about two people that are essentially murderers.

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I'm glad they showed They Won't Believe Me. I love it just the way it is and the goofy ending. 

What makes it better is  all these women gaa gaa over Robert Young. I don't believe it. haa haa

underated noir.

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I'm glad they showed They Won't Believe Me. I love it just the way it is and the goofy ending. 

What makes it better is  all these women gaa gaa over Robert Young. I don't believe it. haa haa

underated noir.

I had to miss it this time but I agree it's underrated and I loved the ending

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Woman on the Beach, notice the footprints on the beach are raised like a mold of a foot, not indented like they should be... Wouldn't a low budget film just make real footprints.

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I enjoyed They won't believe me.....much brighter lightings do less shadow than other noir films. But the same sucker who dooms himself from guilt and lust for bad women. What great sets and decor. Is that an RKO style or just the movie story to create wealth?

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Working from home today, so I have Summer of Darkness on in the background. Luckily I should be off in time to start with one of my favorites - The Set Up. Also looking forward to seeing The Mask Of Dimitrios and Berlin Express.

 

For those of you not as familiar with Noir, make time to catch the unique filming style used in The Lady In The Lake. Looking forward to reading some posts about this from first time viewers.

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This is live. Leon Ames has just popped up in "Lady in the Lake." After his authorative roll in "The Postman Always Rings Twice" and his massively excellent turn as Judy Garland's papa in "Meet Me In St. Louis," well, I am always hooked by his wit and delivery. B ut the joy of LITL is the warped Audrey Totter. She sends Barbara Stanwyck chills up and down my back every time I see her. Especially in "Tension." Which reminds me, I have a copy of ``FBI Girl`that I will have to watch again. 

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Trying to read the required reading, but Lady in the Lake is so intriguing I can't turn it off.

" Why don't you just be beautiful " .... Lol

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I read the book Lady in the Lake but never saw the film. I really liked the POV technique as we see through the eyes of Philip Marlowe. 

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Working from home today, so I have Summer of Darkness on in the background. Luckily I should be off in time to start with one of my favorites - The Set Up. Also looking forward to seeing The Mask Of Dimitrios and Berlin Express.

 

For those of you not as familiar with Noir, make time to catch the unique filming style used in The Lady In The Lake. Looking forward to reading some posts about this from first time viewers.

This was my first time. It had some interesting shots but way to many talking head shots. As someone on Twitter said it seems to take over the movie. I think Dark Passage did it better. The dialogue is great. It seems you either love or hate the POV. I am going to have to think about it before I decide

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I read the book Lady in the Lake but never saw the film. I really liked the POV technique as we see through the eyes of Philip Marlowe. 

 

 

Guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   I intensely dislike Lady in the Lake, and not only because of, IMHO, the failure of such an extended use of first person POV for Marlowe throughout the film.   It squanders really good characters and a really good plot, and because of the first person gimmickry also prevents the use of typical noir devices like shadow, camera angle and lighting to flesh-out Marlowe himself.   Maybe it's just that the first person POV is poorly done here.  

 

I also don't like Montgomery as Marlowe, and think the entire casts suffers from horribly bad acting...especially Nolan and Jayne Meadows.   To me, this is one of the best cases of 'Really Good Book', 'Really Bad Picture'.   

 

Barring the above, I really liked the film (tongue in cheek).  

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Guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   I intensely dislike Lady in the Lake, and not only because of, IMHO, the failure of such an extended use of first person POV for Marlowe throughout the film.   It squanders really good characters and a really good plot, and because of the first person gimmickry also prevents the use of typical noir devices like shadow, camera angle and lighting to flesh-out Marlowe himself.   Maybe it's just that the first person POV is poorly done here.  

 

I also don't like Montgomery as Marlowe, and think the entire casts suffers from horribly bad acting...especially Nolan and Jayne Meadows.   To me, this is one of the best cases of 'Really Good Book', 'Really Bad Picture'.   

 

Barring the above, I really liked the film (tongue in cheek).  

Of all the Marlowe adaptations this is my least favorite as well. It is one of my favorite Chandler novels, but the film is just blahhhh. I've been waiting to see peoples take on the movie and unique filming style.

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Okay so I have seen Out of the Past before, but it's been a long time. One brief interpretation, the first two appearances of Jane Greer are nearly identical right down to the setting and voiceover. First it was stepping out of the sunlight and then out of the moonlight. Considering her white dress attire, it's as though she is the bit of light shining on Mitchum. 

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Of all the Marlowe adaptations this is my least favorite as well. It is one of my favorite Chandler novels, but the film is just blahhhh. I've been waiting to see peoples take on the movie and unique filming style.

 

My favorite Chandler novel is The Long Goodbye and I've not yet seen its film adaptation because I want to preserve my interpretation of the book. I know it was filmed in the 70s and updated to fit that era, which is why I refuse to watch it.

 

Lady in the Lake is my least favorite which is probably why I don't mind the adaptation. Seeing it from the POV shots was like reading the events through the eyes of Marlowe. I'm not saying it was the greatest film, but it was enjoyable.

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Possessed (1947):

 

Possessed was a very interesting picture, it was a noir in the traditional sense of staple content but was more a noir in the stylistic sense: chiaroscuro lighting (beautiful shot and lit), unusual camera angles (particularly oblique angles and experimentation with first person POV), flashback sequences and hallucinations, voiceover narration, and on-location shooting. There were even thematic traces such as the manipulative woman, a hero (or in this case heroine) who makes a fateful decision, and a shade of post-war cynicism (mostly found in Van Heflin's David).

 

Raymond Massey as Dean Graham, Van Heflin as David Sutton, and Geraldine Brooks as Carol Graham proved sufficient and at some times, more than. However, I do believe that Joan Crawford gives one of her best performances in this film.  She often plays women with a certain strength and sometimes an aggression or viciousness, similar to Bette Davis. In this film, she has all these things but also vulnerability, loneliness, yearning, and complete sympathy (also desperation and madness). I see traces of Mildred Pierce (especially in the David-Carol subplot) and also of The Letter.

 

Basic Plot: A traumatized and amnesiac woman is found wandering the streets, and is hospitalized. A careful doctor must decipher her mental state and discover how a detached nurse employed by a wealthy businessman to care for his mentally and physically ill wife found herself in a psych ward with no memory of her previous life.

 

House Style: This is definitely a Warner Bros. film. It is a "gritty urban melodrama" with a fast pace and social conscience.

 

Unlike other noirs which also feature obsession and betrayal, Possession is not about the social injustices faced by the working class or the mingling between everyday people, the elite, the justice system, and the criminal underbelly, but about mental illness. Note: I don’t know if they were trying to develop a femme fatale and then explain her deeds in the form of psychosis, unlike other femmes which are generally not the main character of the story and henceforth, whose motives are boiled down to how she effects the hero. It's not cynical in the post-war "we can't trust anybody" kind of way, but a certain hopelessness found in the increasing madness in a world that was just two years out of the "maddest" war ever fought.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946):

 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Postman Always Rings Twice upon second viewing.

 

Basic Plot: A drifter happens upon a roadside restaurant and finds himself in a love triangle and a murder plot which leads him down a path of no return as he struggles to keep his sanity, his freedom, and the dame he would kill for.

 

Noir Elements: Literary Precursor (James M. Cain), voiceover narration, use of the sensationalizing press, (visual irony ("Man Wanted"), on-location shooting, chiaroscuro lighting, moral taboos (younger women-older men marriage, mariticide, blackmail, and particularly adultery), elements of fate, a femme fatale, and a cynical loner hero doomed for his decisions

 

Cinematography: While the film uses the noir-typical chiaroscuro lighting, there are many scenes of note: camera tracking Garfield's gaze at Turner and the full body shot (you get the sense they're star-crossed lovers just from that opening scene), any lighting of Turner (always white, glowing like a goddess), the dancing scene lit only by the neon sign, the beach scenes (reminds me of the famous scene in From Here to Eternity less than 10 years later), wide-angle close-up shots of Turner and Garfield at the first suggestion of murder (soft faces close to the screen), disorienting cuts leading up the first attempt (Turner through the window, Garfield at the car, outside Nick's window), framing and lighting of the confrontation scene between Turner and Garfield at the courthouse, and so so so many more.

 

Note: All the tragedies would occur at night, it is a noir.

 

"House Style:" (MGM) Big budget and lavish production design (diner property, road scenes), glamourous stars, middle America appearance an urban center, and plenty of moralizing (characters punished, many mentions of fate and condemnation – most of which are not subtle)

 

Note: It's interesting because MGM was known for its attempts to please everyone, particularly the biggest market - the middle class - when making its films. The film received some uproar for the sexual tension and taboo themes though the moralizing more than made up for it.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) [CONTINUED]

 

The performances are all dynamite (though some may accuse Turner of chewing the scenery). Garfield's Frank is sharp and rough and initially predatory. Turner's Cora is manipulative and quick on her feet but also lonely and full of yearning and ambition. She is willing to give away fidelity and fondness for physical attraction and that same ambition.

 

Kellaway's Nick is at first, oblivious, a shrewd cheapskate, and indifferent. It almost feels like he's asking is young hot wife to have an affair with his other young, hot employee. After the first attempt, he becomes more aggressively annoying, assumptive, and sometimes arrogant, we may have felt pity for him but by the time the second attempt comes, we kind of want them to succeed.

 

The other best two supporting performances come from Leon Ames as D.A. Sackett and defense attorney Arthur Keats as played by Hume Cronyn. Cronyn most often plays polished but slimy characters and their courtroom battle of repartee and manipulation of the legal system is brilliant. In dark clothes, the attorney knows his clients are guilty and uses their weakness just as the D.A. in a light-colored suit does, but one is supposedly fighting on the sides of the demons and angels, respectively. But both have their grayer moments: the D.A's coercion of Frank's confession, Keat's dealings with the thug Kennedy, and of course their mutual betting on the outcome of the trial that means life-or-death for Frank and Cora. In the end, Cronyn even admires and respects Cora for her resilience and ruthlessness in making something of herself.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) [LAST ONE]

 

Back to Frank and Cora, reminiscent of Johnny and Gilda (Gilda) as well as Walter and Phyllis (Double Indemnity, also based on a Cain novel). In their first scene, they size each other up. She makes her first move by expecting him to bring her lipstick her but he counters by making her come to him. She wins the first round though by distracting him with lipstick application, making him burn his burgers. He is burning the sign and continues to do even after finding out she's married, seeing her as a worthy opponent. She makes a powerplay by making him paint the chairs but also reveals her ambitions. He attempts to assert dominance by taunting her, questioning her motives for marriage, and kisses her but she takes it right back by cooly reapplying her lipstick (as if it say, "That all ya got?). He's through. He gains her admiration by "selling" the new sign to Nick and reasserts his control by lighting her cigarette. Each time she pushes him then feigns weakness (also coyness and naivete) and pulls away, bringing him even closer and pulling him deeper into her control. That's just the first thirty minutes and this constant back-and-forth for dominance goes on throughout the film, who will have the last word.

 

Note: Cora herself is a Lady Macbeth type like if she had seduced Banquo or Banquo's young strapping son Fleance to murder Macbeth instead of her husband.

 

I've never seen a film where black and white are used in such consistent and thorough visual metaphors, such as what I mentioned about Keats and the D.A. earlier. Cora is considered the villain throughout the film but where white almost 85 percent of the time (from her uniform to her swimsuit to her jail outfit to her fancy clothes) while Frank wears dark clothes most of the film.

 

For example, when Cora and Frank first try to leave, she is wearing white and for a moment, she thinks she can live with just love. Then her white clothes get dirtied while Frank, in his darker, dirtier clothes as a an experienced hitcher, doesn't care. In the heat and dirt, Cora is revealed and ends up turning back. Her darker side is realized when the first words in the plot to kill Nick are uttered (bringing out Frank's darker side).

 

She also wears dark clothes in her vulnerable, late night confession to Frank that she plans to kill herself before ranting in full fury about her lack of future, and when she comes back from her mother's deathbed – now softened and sweet (pregnant?). When Cora and Frank get back from their fatalistic swim, at the very end, Cora in white no longer means manipulation and evil but vulnerability, goodness, and fresh starts. With her towel on her head, she reapplies her lipstick and looks like a nun.

 

Shakespearean/Noir Elements: Plenty of superstition (Nick's deal, "in the cards"), use of weather as foreshadowing (Santa Ana winds, extreme heat in the wake of Frank and Cora's affair, storm the night the sign falls down), and Cora's "suicide attempt" (who stabs themselves to death anymore?)

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The most original film this morning has to be Lady in the Lake. 

 

Robert Montgomery was a clever fellow. He was good in comedic (June Bride) and dramatic (They Were Expendable) roles. He could do  foreign accents (Night Must Fall), and thugs (Here Comes Mr Jordan). But mostly, as an actor, he was a sophisticated leading man. Montgomery was also an actor/producer in film and television. He sang in early films as an MGM star!

 

So in his first film as director, Montgomery stepped behind the camera and stayed there, appearing in reflections, as the film is shown entirely from his point of view. I like the film for its innovation, but the first time I saw it, I was disappointed because Montgomery is one of my favorite leading men. Tall, slim, handsome and elegant, with a cultured voice, he could deliver sophisticated dialogue and reparte so well. We don't get to see him much as Philip Marlowe and I think he could have made a bigger impact in the role if he had used the personal point of view more sparingly in the film. As it stands, as far as Marlowe is concerned, I rank them in this order: Dick Powell, Robert Montgomery, and Humphrey Bogart. (Bogart is just not a favorite leading man of mine).

 

Of course, Montgomery had a great sense of humor, crediting the character of Mrs. Kingsby as "Ellay Mort" or "elle est mort" ("she is dead" in French).

 

As far as a film noir, I think it is obvious that this in an MGM effort, with high key lighting and high production values. MGM photographed its stars in a way to make them look beautiful and pleasing to the audience. The nod to noir is in slanted shadows that are never too menacingly dark or corrupting to the high production values of the film. Studio chief LB Mayer didn't want to see any ugly, degenerate looking actors in his movies. He made movies that middle class American audiences wanted to see, and he was right for almost three decades.

 

 

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Guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder.   I intensely dislike Lady in the Lake, and not only because of, IMHO, the failure of such an extended use of first person POV for Marlowe throughout the film.   It squanders really good characters and a really good plot, and because of the first person gimmickry also prevents the use of typical noir devices like shadow, camera angle and lighting to flesh-out Marlowe himself.   Maybe it's just that the first person POV is poorly done here.  

 

I also don't like Montgomery as Marlowe, and think the entire casts suffers from horribly bad acting...especially Nolan and Jayne Meadows.   To me, this is one of the best cases of 'Really Good Book', 'Really Bad Picture'.   

 

Barring the above, I really liked the film (tongue in cheek).  

- I would have to agree with some of Van Hazard's points.  I read the book long go and think it is very good.  However, the 1st person POV in the film was clever, but more breaks from it would have increased its impact.  I didn't like Montgomery as Marlowe either--but, I think Nolan would have been an excellent choice for Marlowe in this particular picture.

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Act of Violence (1949):

 

Act of Violence is a great noir thriller!

 

Basic Plot: Frank Enley, a successful contractor, doting husband and father, and veteran , is living a peaceful life in a small southern California town. But when a former soldier from Frank's outfit appears in town with every intent of murdering him and finishing his vendetta, two men's fateful decisions and survivor's guilt will prey on them one Memorial Day weekend.

 

House Style: (MGM) Glamourous stars, high budget and production value (over $1M)

(Surprisingly risk content for MGM)

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, chiaroscuro lighting (like every single scene), urban settings, post-war cynicism (one decorated and one forgotten veteran face survivor's guilt), emigre director (Polish Fred Zinnemann's comment on the film: "[this project is the first where I've] felt comfortable knowing exactly what I wanted and exactly how to get it"), and heroes grappling with a choice that could spell their doom

 

Note: I think daylight only features in the film twice (Frank's fishing trip and morning after in Pat's apartment). This city is nothing but abandoned streets and tunnels, dark houses, shadowy convention centers and stairways, dank bars and backrooms, and night chases. Every place is lit by only one light. Feels more like a horror film.

 

Note #2: Other moments of subtle post-war lingerings include the opening scene as Joe, the veteran, is pushed out of the way so the Memorial Day parade can go through. Not so subtle traces also feature the constant mention of Joe's limp (he is very self-conscious about that) and the mention of army hospitals, insanity, and prison camps.

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Act of Violence (1949) [CONTINUED]

 

Every performance hits just the right note. Janet Leigh (Edith Enley) as the sensitive and resilient wife struggling to maintain her happy home, Mary Astor (Pat) as the jaded prostitute who doesn't want to get wrapped up in a murder plot, and Phyllis Thaxter (Ann) playing Frank's desperate girlfriend make up the great female performances. Other supporting characters include Berry Kroeger as the thoroughly slimy hitman Johnny and Taylor Holmes as the manipulative and money hungry Gavery, who sets Johnny on Frank.

 

However, aside from Leigh, Robert Ryan's strong and silent veteran Joe Parkson and Van Heflin's guilt-ridden Frank Enley are what sell the show. Ryan doesn't say much, though he often doesn't, but the sound of his limping leg sliding across the floor, his few moments with Ann, and his monologue about the death of his men say everything and his gun and determination will make up the rest.

 

Van Heflin gives a performance (almost or as good as his turn in Johnny Eager). His guilt is palpable as it builds from his initial paranoia (represented by the shadow now entering his once brightly lit home) in finding out Joe is looking for him to his confession to Edith to his mental breakdown as he wanders the streets of Los Angeles, deciding whether to kill himself. The formalistic elements, already in motion with the constant chiaroscuro lighting, begin to play hard in Van Heflin's audio flashbacks and descent into a drunken mess.

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I really enjoyed THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME, but, I was disappointed that TCM showed an abbreviated 80 minute version, rather than the 95 minute run listed in most sources (including the TCM DB).  A 105 minute slot was slotted, so I assumed the run time listed in the NOW PLAYING guide was in error.  I see the film is on the schedule again in September - let's hope the entire 95 minute film will be shown.  I know that Turner Home Entertainment released the 95 minute version on VHS and Laserdisc in the 1990's, so we know that a print exists.

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Saw "Out of the Past" for the first time and I was very impressed. I loved the dialogue and the noir "feel". This movie demonstrate an effective use of the motifs we've been talking about in class. I especially liked the way that Mitchum's face was lit as he was revealing his story in the car during a nighttime drive. When he starts out his face is only half lit (was that a kick light?). As the story progresses and they flashed back to him his face is lighter until at the end when daylight has come and his story is complete . At that point like the details of his past his face was completely revealed To make the circle complete the story ends, for Mitchum, in a car at night. A great movie

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