Dr. Rich Edwards

JULY 3 TCM FILM NOIR DISCUSSIONS FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 14 FILMS

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This is another great lineup of films noir for this July 4th holiday weekend. 

 

Next week's module focuses on themes and characters in film noir, so I hope there is a lot of discussion about the themes and characters in these films.

 

These films were made for a postwar audience dealing with loss and despair--still haunted by the devastation of World War II and awakening to the new fears and horrors of the Cold War. These films were one of the ways filmmakers and the filmgoing public were grappling with and processing their views of their contemporary society and culture in the late 1940s.

 

Here are some of the themes to explore across many of these films:

  • Postwar anxiety and societal malaise
  • Guilt and dread
  • Psychoanalysis and trauma 
  • Criminality and the limits of rational investigation
  • Existential despair
  • The inability to separate truth from lies
  • The role of women in postwar society

In terms of acting and characters, there are many fruitful avenues of investigation:

  • Discuss common characteristics among the lead characters across multiple films
  • Discuss the role of character actors in these films? What are some of your favorite character actors in these films? 
  • Is the acting style different in these late 1940s films from the early 1940s films? If so, in what ways? 
  • Discuss the tensions and contradictions of the femme fatale in many of these films
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JOHNNY BELINDA

 

"They leave the women to take care of the potatoes and the live stock"

 

Prof. Edwards referred to it in the movie guideline on Canvas, and I'm firmly in the 'no, this is not a film noir' corner. 

 

It is an interesting film, and it does address some social, psychological issues. I loved the opening sequence with the voice over explaining the simple, frugal and diligent folks working for their livelihood. It sets up an atmosphere of this being a small, close-knit community working together in harmony. It turns out quickly that isn't quite the case.

 

But this is the set up to a social drama, not a Noir. The biggest issue is the total lack of ambiguous characters. The opposing characters don't leave room for doubt, they're totally evil or completely good. The film has much more in common with early 30s social drama's made by the likes of King Vidor, than anything remotely Noir. 

 

HOWEVER. The scene at the 70 minute mark, with the storm coming in and the subsequent violent confrontation is truly spectacular, and does reflect Noir in a cinematic style. Fantastic composition, lighting and use of sound and music. But because this film and many Noir films use the same style and technique does not put them in the same playing field. 

 

This is not a film noir.

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Good insight. I like how you laid out the themes for the discussions. Lots of noir material to ponder.Some I never would have thought of before I saw them listed here.

 

This is another great lineup of films noir for this July 4th holiday weekend. 

 

Next week's module focuses on themes and characters in film noir, so I hope there is a lot of discussion about the themes and characters in these films.

 

These films were made for a postwar audience dealing with loss and despair--still haunted by the devastation of World War II and awakening to the new fears and horrors of the Cold War. These films were one of the ways filmmakers and the filmgoing public were grappling with and processing their views of their contemporary society and culture in the late 1940s.

 

Here are some of the themes to explore across many of these films:

  • Postwar anxiety and societal malaise
  • Guilt and dread
  • Psychoanalysis and trauma 
  • Criminality and the limits of rational investigation
  • Existential despair
  • The inability to separate truth from lies
  • The role of women in postwar society

In terms of acting and characters, there are many fruitful avenues of investigation:

  • Discuss common characteristics among the lead characters across multiple films
  • Discuss the role of character actors in these films? What are some of your favorite character actors in these films? 
  • Is the acting style different in these late 1940s films from the early 1940s films? If so, in what ways? 
  • Discuss the tensions and contradictions of the femme fatale in many of these films

 

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Johnny Belinda (1948):

 

I really enjoyed Johnny Belinda though I agree the attribution of noir is a little puzzling.

 

Basic Plot: A new doctor in a small town takes an interest in a local farmer's deaf daughter. When she mysteriously becomes pregnant, it is up to the woman, the doctor, and her family to survive amidst the prying local eyes, one of whom is the very man who took advantage of her.

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, voiceover narration, attempt at documentary realism (opening aerial shots, exposition, location), and some chiaroscuro lighting

 

House Style: (Warner Bros.) Social conscience, documentary realism

 

All the principal actors are fantastic from Jan Sterling (Mystery Street) and Stephen McNally as the McCormicks to the unyielding Agnes Moorehead (Dark Passage) and Charles Bickford (The Woman on the Beach) as the MacDonalds. Lew Ayres as the calm but caring Dr. Richardson is also more than sufficient. Of course, Jane Wyman as Belinda steals the entire show. [Note: First Best Actress win where the character didn't utter a word, since the silent era.]

 

I'm not going to lie, this film doesn't seem like a noir, in the sense of genre or movement (though it was released during the movement in 40s and 50s), but even stylistically, it has shades here and there (pun intended) but not enough to call it a noir. It lacks the content or themes that earn a film that title (i.e. post-war cynicism, amorality, criminality, etc.)

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Johnny Belinda (1948) [sEXUAL VIOLENCE & FILM]

 

Some consider this the first Hollywood film to deal with rape. However, implied rapes also occur as far back as 1926's The Son of the Sheik (though it's brushed off as essentially, "no hard feelings") and even spousal rape in 1939's Gone with the Wind (though that is also brushed off).

 

The earliest case I’ve seen where the rape is more than implied and the psychological consequences are addressed is The Story of Temple Drake (1933), starring Miriam Hopkins (good film, I recommend it). But there have always been those scenes where some skeezy guy tries to compromise the virtue of the damsel in distress, and of course the sex comedies of the 1930s often predicated on misunderstandings over sexual encounters, however sexual violence isn’t commonly displayed.

 

And later, rape would be featured in Peyton Place (1957), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and A Patch of Blue (1965 – another heroine with a disability who is taken advantage of, highly recommended). Once the studio system fully collapses, by the 1970s, tons of films feature rape (and I mean tons) especially in action films, crime dramas, and exploitation films.

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JOHNNY BELINDA 1948  I  disagreed with the introductory comments on the casting of Jane Wyman. Jane was 29 or 39 when she was cast as Belinda. Teresa Wright was less than two years younger. Jane paid her dues at Warner Brothers playing the third or fourth lead in many light comedies. Billy Wilder saw her potential when he cast Jane as Helen St. James Ray Milland`s long suffering girlfriend.She followed this with her performance as Ma Baxter in THE YEARLING 1945. Jane gave a fine performance showing her emotions through her eyes.

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Johnny Belinda (1948) [sEXUAL VIOLENCE & FILM]

 

Some consider this the first Hollywood film to deal with rape. However, implied rapes also occur as far back as 1926's The Son of the Sheik (though it's brushed off as essentially, "no hard feelings") and even spousal rape in 1939's Gone with the Wind (though that is also brushed off).

 

The earliest case I’ve seen where the rape is more than implied and the psychological consequences are addressed is The Story of Temple Drake (1933), starring Miriam Hopkins (good film, I recommend it). But there have always been those scenes where some skeezy guy tries to compromise the virtue of the damsel in distress, and of course the sex comedies of the 1930s often predicated on misunderstandings over sexual encounters, however sexual violence isn’t commonly displayed.

 

And later, rape would be featured in Peyton Place (1957), To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and A Patch of Blue (1965 – another heroine with a disability who is taken advantage of, highly recommended). Once the studio system fully collapses, by the 1970s, tons of films feature rape (and I mean tons) especially in action films, crime dramas, and exploitation films.

Good point. If I'm not mistaken JOHNNY BELINDA is mostly mentioned as the first post-Production code movie to deal with rape. (But like you said, GWTW might beat this one to it). 

 

I'm glad you mention THE STORY OF TEMPLE DRAKE, which if you take a real good look, easily could be categorized as a film noir. Awesome film, highly recommended. 

 

Which brings me to thinking about pre-code films in general, and how they relate to film noir. The production code was enforced in 1934, resulting in many films from 1930-1934 being taking off the shelf by the distributors. Effectively these films disappeared from sight for decades. If I'm not mistaken it's only been the last 20 years or so that a revived interest for pre-code films has taken place.  I wonder how these films were taken into consideration in defining film noir in the early stages. 

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1. Johnny Belinda (1948)

Warner Bros.

 

There were noir techniques used here by director Jean Negulesco, but it never felt like Johnny Belinda was a noir. The focus was always on Belinda (Jane Wyman) and those helping her.

 

Noir films tend to focus on the villains, usually criminals or shady characters up to no good and/or the detectives, investigators and the concerned ones looking for them.

 

The cinematography was excellent with several crisp images. One in particular reminds me of

“The Searchers” where the camera is inside a cabin looking out through an open door at the characters. We see sun shining on the landscape beyond ,while the characters stands (or sits) in partial shade.

 

Also at the 1:05 “ish” mark we see a theatre-like setting. Dr. Robert Richardson (Lew Ayres) stands on the stairs on the right side of the frame as he talks to Belinda’s parents on the left with a well lit kitchen in the foreground between them. The contrast of light and dark with shadows cast, makes a memorable image.

 

Overall I find it a very good movie about good people in a poor community trying to deal with a very difficult situation in a humane and sensible manner. Not a noir story.

 

But I may stand corrected. Looking forward to the posts on this film.

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The Lady from Shanghai, I think this has to be my favorite Orson Welles film.  I can watch this one any day over Citizen Kane

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I have always loved Key Largo but never saw it as a film noir until now. It is evident in the cinematography such as the deep focus shots, use of shadows ( especially using the palm tree leaves like other filmmakers used blinds), crowded shots sometimes with the help of mirrors etc.

 

It is also very evident in the storyline. I always liked the metaphor for the storm mirroring the tension and angst of the characters. Frank (Bogart) is the poster child for existential despair. He doesn't feel like he fits in anymore and doubts his conviction for making the world a better place.

 

As the story continues Frank begins to find himself and is culminated when he gives Gayle Dawn a drink. It's great how he hands her the drink and then is slapped by Rocco but then tells her you're welcome as if nothing had happened.

 

Edward G Robinson and his gang are wonderful as the quintessential gangsters with virtually no redeeming qualities.

 

I always enjoyed this movie and considered it a psychological drama/gangster movie. I guess I was too impressed with the amazingly beautiful hotel to see it as a film noir. Kymzg on Twitter

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The Bribe feels alot like Robert Taylor's version of To Have and To Have Not and Ava is Kitty again

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The Lady from Shanghai  (1947):

 

NOTE: I warn anybody watching this film to look-up the production problems, it explains just about everything.

 

In the first minute of Welles's narration, I thought: "This must be a joke." Welles's Irish accent followed by the comical fight scene kept me scratching my head. I never stopped scratching. The Lady from Shanghai is a film of marvel, of confusion and visual beauty that it’s almost if not consumingly hypnotic down to the last frame.

 

Basic Plot: An Irish sailor finds himself in a love triangle involving a defense attorney and his wife. When he is offered an unusual deal, he spirals further into a world of manipulation and murder. [NOTHING ABOUT THIS PLOT IS BASIC]

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, directed by Welles (Citizen Kane, The Stranger), voiceover narration, chiaroscuro lighting, on-location shooting (San Francisco, Morro Bay, Sausalito, New York, Acapulco), interesting cinematography, femme fatale, and one amoral man swept up into a world where one decision may foretell his death

 

First, I must say that the original 155-minute version Welles created may make more sense than this 92-minute release version, but we’ll probably never know.

 

This is a visually beautiful film, and I don’t think Rita Hayworth has been shot better (even in Gilda). As a blonde, she is even more mesmerizing and the close-ups (which were added later against Welles’ original intent) give her even more to time to shine. The on-location shooting in Acapulco is breathtaking with its heat and humidity, everyone in white or sailor’s outfits or bathing costumes. Welles running through the streets of San Francisco or stoically walking alone away from the funhouse, Hayworth sunbathing or in wide-angle close-up in her interactions with Welles, Sloane’s Arthur in extreme high or low angle, the chase through the Acapulco village and the aquarium confrontation, every scene (like The Stranger) is a visual exercise.

 

Every performance is solid, even when we don’t know what’s happening. Bug-eyed Arthur is at once weak and emasculated when he’s drunk but then also tall and cruel, and Elsa plays the good girl, trapped, brilliantly, then also manipulative, crazed, and in fear of a painful, lonely death. They remind me of Bennett and Bickford in The Woman on the Beach. Anders and de Corsia as Grisby (who may be insane and have a sweat gland problem) and the gap-toothed, sleazy Broome provide welcome company for this band of cutthroats and users. Amidst all this evil is our hero, Michael, played by Welles as tall, brave, and brooding with a shark monologue that is noticeably haunting, and physicality that is swift yet comical in its delivery.

 

There is more to say about this film, but it’s one where you have to see it to believe it.

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The Lady from Shanghai  (1947) [sYNOPSIS – SPOILERS]

 

Synopsis: Michael O'Hara (Orson Welles), a seasoned Irish sailor, meets Elsa Bannister (Rita Hayworth) one evening in Central Park as she is almost robbed in her carriage. There is an instant attraction, but she is married to famous criminal defense lawyer Arthur Bannister (Everett Sloane). She offers him a job, but he turns her down because a married woman would be too much trouble.

 

Upon Elsa's suggestion, Arthur seeks out Michael for a job on his Mexican yachting expedition, as a sailor and Elsa's bodyguard, which he accepts against his own better judgment. Also on the trip is Arthur's law partner Grisby (Glenn Anders) and a private detective hired by Arthur to watch his wife, Broome (Ted de Corsia). Michael and Elsa hesitantly begin an affair on the trip, but without money, he doesn't think Elsa will go away with him. Towards the end of their trip, Grisby offers Michael $5,000 to pretend to murder him, which he refuses.

 

When they return to San Francisco, Michael, desperate to buy Elsa's freedom from Arthur, agrees to the unusual deal which Grisby claims is to get away from his wife, collect his own partnership insurance, and disappear. On the intended night, Broome confronts Grisby about his plot, though he thinks Michael intends to kill Arthur and wants a payoff, but Grisby shoots him. Broome stumbles to Elsa's and explains what happened.

 

Meanwhile, Grisby takes Michael towards a crowded boardwalk where he is supposed to fire some shots, pretend to be firing at targets for practice as Grisby speeds away on his boat, and turn in a signed confession to the police claiming he murdered Grisby. Grisby would then be declared dead but without his corpse, Michael would supposedly not be charged with murder. To establish a witness to their association, Grisby crashes the car into a truck, talks to the driver, and again has Michael flee the scene. From then on, all goes according to plan.

 

However, Michael calls Elsa and instead talks to Broome who tells him Grisby is actually going to kill Arthur. Rushing to Arthur's office, he finds the cops, Arthur, and Elsa there as Grisby has been murdered with Michael as the prime suspect. Arthur agrees to take on his case, revealing that Grisby couldn't have retrieved the money after his death, and upon Elsa's conversation with Michael prior to his trial, it is further revealed that Grisby wasn't married.

 

In a farcical court scene filled with sleazy and unpredictable lawyers and gross, bloodthirsty, and interrupting jury and audience, Michael is poorly defended and distrustful of Arthur. When a verdict is reached, Arthur reveals that he himself killed Grisby and with Elsa's abettance, causes a diversion in the crowd, taking pills. He knocks out his guards and escapes the courthouse with another crowd of jurors as cover, fleeing to a Chinatown theatre. Elsa finds him in the theatre but Michael finds the gun who killed Grisby in her purse when hiding from police. With the pills kicking in, he passes out during the performance and Elsa, who really killed Grisby who she hired to kill Arthur, and her men take Michael to a funhouse where Elsa pleads her case before Arthur shows up.

 

In their confrontation, Arthur claims that he sent a letter to the D.A. revealing Elsa's guilt. With the mirrors causing confusion, Elsa and Arthur shoot each other. Leaving Elsa in writhing pain to die alone, Michael walks off into the streets, more cynical and more experienced.

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The Bribe (1949):

 

The Bribe is a decent noir with a few good scenes and performances, and an okay but predictable plot with an "explosive" ending attempting to prop it up. Not great but serviceable.

 

Basic Plot: A federal investigator travels to Central America to stop a war-surplus smuggling racket. As he determines his friends and enemies, he finds himself in a love triangle, putting him in more danger as he fights the clock to bring in the racketeers and get the woman he loves.

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, Rozsa score, voiceover narration, femme fatale, flashback sequences, few interesting camera angles (first person POV, close-ups, blurred vision, ending), urban (exotic) location, chiaroscuro lighting, post-war cynicism and activity, and a seemingly amoral hero (something about going undercover demands amorality)

 

House Style: (MGM) Big stars (Taylor, Gardner, Laughton, Price, Hodiak), big budgets (over $1M even though it's clearly shot on a backlot), and middle class appeal (characters are essentially good or evil and punished accordingly)

 

Almost the whole cast is merely satisfactory. Taylor is a great smoker and equally talented at listless stares, but his oily nature makes him implausible as a cop (at least for me). Gardner isn't given enough meat to really chew for the character, not like Kitty Collins (though she has quite the entrance). It'd be like if Hayworth's Gilda was played the whole film as it is in the last thirty minutes, sweet and sad, no fire.

 

Price is good as the scheming Carwood as is Hodiak's drunk Tug (his monologue definitely stands out). Even Martin Garralaga as Pablo, Emilio's father, gives as good as he gets in his few scenes. Laughton's Bealer is the only more than sufficient performance, similar to Walter Slezak in Cornered. He is slimy and manipulative, playing all the angles with that dog face, "pie-shape," and bad feet.

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okay the bribe is like noir mismash, that fishing scene was a rip from to have and to have not, that being said this is still very watchable

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love your synopsis. orson welles bad irish accent and that bad fight and the whole movie works, even though all of it is just...just.. you have to see it to believe it, crazy camera angles, Bannister- he can be pages of analysis, the scheme, i go back and forth, but maybe this is orson welles best film

The Lady from Shanghai  (1947):

 

NOTE: I warn anybody watching this film to look-up the production problems, it explains just about everything.

 

In the first minute of Welles's narration, I thought: "This must be a joke." Welles's Irish accent followed by the comical fight scene kept me scratching my head. I never stopped scratching. The Lady from Shanghai is a film of marvel, of confusion and visual beauty that it’s almost if not consumingly hypnotic down to the last frame.

 

Basic Plot: An Irish sailor finds himself in a love triangle involving a defense attorney and his wife. When he is offered an unusual deal, he spirals further into a world of manipulation and murder. [NOTHING ABOUT THIS PLOT IS BASIC]

 

Noir Elements: Literary precursor, directed by Welles (Citizen Kane, The Stranger), voiceover narration, chiaroscuro lighting, on-location shooting (San Francisco, Morro Bay, Sausalito, New York, Acapulco), interesting cinematography, femme fatale, and one amoral man swept up into a world where one decision may foretell his death

 

First, I must say that the original 155-minute version Welles created may make more sense than this 92-minute release version, but we’ll probably never know.

 

This is a visually beautiful film, and I don’t think Rita Hayworth has been shot better (even in Gilda). As a blonde, she is even more mesmerizing and the close-ups (which were added later against Welles’ original intent) give her even more to time to shine. The on-location shooting in Acapulco is breathtaking with its heat and humidity, everyone in white or sailor’s outfits or bathing costumes. Welles running through the streets of San Francisco or stoically walking alone away from the funhouse, Hayworth sunbathing or in wide-angle close-up in her interactions with Welles, Sloane’s Arthur in extreme high or low angle, the chase through the Acapulco village and the aquarium confrontation, every scene (like The Stranger) is a visual exercise.

 

Every performance is solid, even when we don’t know what’s happening. Bug-eyed Arthur is at once weak and emasculated when he’s drunk but then also tall and cruel, and Elsa plays the good girl, trapped, brilliantly, then also manipulative, crazed, and in fear of a painful, lonely death. They remind me of Bennett and Bickford in The Woman on the Beach. Anders and de Corsia as Grisby (who may be insane and have a sweat gland problem) and the gap-toothed, sleazy Broome provide welcome company for this band of cutthroats and users. Amidst all this evil is our hero, Michael, played by Welles as tall, brave, and brooding with a shark monologue that is noticeably haunting, and physicality that is swift yet comical in its delivery.

 

There is more to say about this film, but it’s one where you have to see it to believe it.

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love your synopsis. orson welles bad irish accent and that bad fight and the whole movie works, even though all of it is just...just.. you have to see it to believe it, crazy camera angles, Bannister- he can be pages of analysis, the scheme, i go back and forth, but maybe this is orson welles best film

 

I'll probably rewatch it in a few years. It's like a French fillm, you are a bit baffled by it but it's so stylistic that you're wondering if as a viewer, if you're slow to understand or if it's the most brilliant film ever made or is it just a mass of confusion driven by director and expertly-done visuals. Believe it or not, but the University of Minnesota has a mimeography of Welles' 152-page script (http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/mss004.xml) so if I'm ever in Minnesota for whatever reason, I know the first thing I'll go looking for is this.

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thanks, i'll look at that when i can, comparing that bad irish accent to the bad acting in the lady of the lake, it's clear welles was a genius

I'll probably rewatch it in a few years. It's like a French fillm, you are a bit baffled by it but it's so stylistic that you're wondering if as a viewer, if you're slow to understand or if it's the most brilliant film ever made or is it just a mass of confusion driven by director and expertly-done visuals. Believe it or not, but the University of Minnesota has a mimeography of Welles' 152-page script (http://special.lib.umn.edu/findaid/xml/mss004.xml).

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Johnny Belinda. (Some spoilers)

 

My first inclination would have been to agree with those who have concluded that "Johnny Belinda" should not be considered a noir film. The viewer is so drawn to the warmth of Belinda and the doctor, that it is easy to overlook the noir treatment given to desperate desire and willful wrongdoing on the part of many characters in the film. However, on watching for a second time, the noir elements come through more clearly.

The cinematography in the film is clearly influenced by the noir movement. While Belinda is bathed in light through most scenes in the movie, other characters are often filmed in deep shadow.

Common film noir elements are often used in the film. Of particular note are the scene in which Belinda's father sits framed in a doorway cleaning the rifle that Belinda will later use to shoot Locky. Other examples are the storm which anticipates Locky's visit to the farm, the mise en scène at the town meeting, and the scenes at the cliff side.

Perhaps this film marks a shift in style requiring a broader definition of film noir. I have no problem broadening my definition.

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a whole lotta spoilers ahead!

The Bribe: It was watchable, but that was a noir mismatch, Ava's opening was just like the Killers, Robert Taylor was doing his Bogie impression, The Boat scene was ripped from To Have to Have and to have not and there were traces of Gilda at the end, then Ava did a Phyliss Deitricson(sp?) speech.

I have to watch again to see if I catch anymore..

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a whole lotta spoilers ahead!

The Bribe: It was watchable, but that was a noir mismatch, Ava's opening was just like the Killers, Robert Taylor was doing his Bogie impression, The Boat scene was ripped from To Have to Have and to have not and there were traces of Gilda at the end, then Ava did a Phyliss Deitricson(sp?) speech.

I have to watch again to see if I catch anymore..

 

Hey, that is funny!     Yea,  The Bribe clearly is MGM attempt to join the party.    Still Vince Price and Charles Laughton are fun to watch even if Laughton borders on campy.     

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“The Lady from Shanghai.”

 

Interesting screenplay and wonderful cinematography.  The scene in the hall of mirrors is a classic. 

 

I didn’t understand the short bleached hair on Rita, but I guess Orson wanted a completely different look for her.  During the courtroom scenes, I was actually thinking of Marlene Dietrich in “Witness for the Prosecution.”  I wonder if Hitchcock was influenced by those scenes?  Unlike “The Lady from Shanghai,”  however, I think “Witness for the Prosecution” is a  GREAT movie, however and wherever Hitchcock got his inspiration.

 

But Orson?  He is the weakest part of this movie.  His pathetically atrocious Irish accent disfigured the whole work.  Why Irish?  Ok, he wanted a big boob for Michael, and I guess in a very obnoxious way Orson felt Irish fitted some kind of perverted stereotype.  But if he wanted someone Irish for Michael, he should have found an Irish actor with a true Irish accent or at least an actor who could do one.  I have never seen (or heard) Orson Welles so embarrassingly awful.  Again, why did he cast himself when he wasn’t up to the job?  He might have looked the part, but didn’t he listen to his dialogue on the daily rushes?  Couldn’t he hear how absolutely phony he sounded?  :wacko:

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Some thoughts on Johnny Belinda:

 

Interesting title. At first glance, not having seen the movie, we might think that the story is about someone named Johnny Belinda, but there's no one in the movie with that last name. Rather it's a first name chosen by the mother and the mother's own name name. In a small way, the film ends with a breaking free from an extreme masculine, paternalistic, society.

 

This is one of a few noirs we seen in this series that takes place in a rural, rather than urban, setting. This isn't the anonymous big city; here, everyone knows everyone else, attends the same church, goes to the same town meetings. The seams of gossip small-mindedness and finally violence lie below the surface.

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The Bribe and Key Largo

I love Key Largo and have seen it many times. I've never seen The Bribe before, but I enjoyed it largely due to Vincent Price and Charles Laughton.

 

I was struck by the two different takes on the theme of existential despair. Frank in Key Largo seem completely lost and saddened by his lack of direction and inability to fit into the post war world. Rigby in The Bribe seemed more cynical. He had a job but it was just a job. He tried to hide any sorrow with a facade of not caring. For example he used the excuse of his wife cheating on him to justify him now sleeping with married women. Rigby and Frank at some point reach an epiphany where they find their true better selves again.Both movies portrayed how a person might deal with the feeling of displacement. Both movies also take place near the ocean. An excellent place for symbolic rebirth.

 

I was also interested in the different takes of the villains. Rocco and his gang were menacing from the beginning in the typical tough guy way. Carwood became menacing as we learn more about him but he was threatening in a suave almost businesslike way. Murder was just a business to him. Beaker and Hintten we're not menacing all but instead just seem to be greedy and need the money. Perhaps these diverse representations were intended to be depictions of America not wanting to step back into the gangster era (Rocco) and also the growing distrust of big business (Carwood).

 

Two more great movies!

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“The Lady from Shanghai.”

 

Interesting screenplay and wonderful cinematography.  The scene in the hall of mirrors is a classic. 

 

I didn’t understand the short bleached hair on Rita, but I guess Orson wanted a completely different look for her.  During the courtroom scenes, I was actually thinking of Marlene Dietrich in “Witness for the Prosecution.”  I wonder if Hitchcock was influenced by those scenes?  Unlike “The Lady from Shanghai,”  however, I think “Witness for the Prosecution” is a  GREAT movie, however and wherever Hitchcock got his inspiration.

 

But Orson?  He is the weakest part of this movie.  His pathetically atrocious Irish accent disfigured the whole work.  Why Irish?  Ok, he wanted a big boob for Michael, and I guess in a very obnoxious way Orson felt Irish fitted some kind of perverted stereotype.  But if he wanted someone Irish for Michael, he should have found an Irish actor with a true Irish accent or at least an actor who could do one.  I have never seen (or heard) Orson Welles so embarrassingly awful.  Again, why did he cast himself when he wasn’t up to the job?  He might have looked the part, but didn’t he listen to his dialogue on the daily rushes?  Couldn’t he hear how absolutely phony he sounded?  :wacko:

 

I actually like Rita as a blonde...a lot, and I think her performances in Gilda and The Lady from Shanghai are among the very best of her career; playing against type and reputation.   Playing a femme fatale really suited her.   Orson's close-ups of his estranged, soon-to-be ex-wife are arguably among the finest of any star in the history of film...similar to the way Von Sternberg could nail a close-up of Marlene.  

 

Agree that Orson's accent is disconcerting.   Here's one of the finest voices any actor of any period has ever possessed and he goes out of his way to squander it in an affectatious Irish accent that I imagine is intended to be lyrical, almost musical, in the way that say the contemporary Scottish actor, Iain Glen, is.   But I also find that Orson's accent is less disturbing the more times you hear it. I've seen The Lady From Shanghai numerous times, and I no longer stumble over it the way I used to.   (I always felt that Orson's poor accent in Lady was the rough equivalent of Brando's curious southern accent in Sayonara.)  

 

In an odd sort of way, you could claim that Orson squandered two great assets  --- his wife's famous red hair and his own commanding voice --- in making this film.   Who knows if that was deliberate.      

 

That having been said, and despite its many flaws and production problems, I find Lady a fascinating film, and one of the better 'nest-of-vipers' noirs ever made.    Typical of a Welles film, the camera angles, use of wide lens in closeups, and lighting are top notch and, the fun house mirror scene is one of the finest climaxes ever shot.   Supposedly, much of the fun house scene was cut, against Orson's wishes, and is believed lost, but his wonderful, if brief, homage to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and German Expressionism remains intact.      

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