Dr. Rich Edwards

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

135 posts in this topic

WARNING: These comments are not in keeping with the theme of the class.

 

Johnny Belinda

Odd movie. Lew Ayres is too old for her. 

 

Key Largo

great, great, great, great, great PLUS Claire Trevor's best. Better than in Stagecoach, and that is saying something. 

 

Lady From Shanghai

I sometimes find Orson Welles's motivations shakey. Some of Charles Kane's youthful exuberance just had to carry over into old age a little bit. I don't find money and power sufficient explanation for his total decrepitude. And why did he stick around Vienna hiding in doorways in The Third Man when he shoulda lammed outta there? (And why does Valli stick up for him; what, dead kids don't bother her?) And especially, why does he follow Rita Hayworth, a married woman surrounded by nutjobs, through the canal? It's always money, but it's always something else, too, that he's trying to get at--why do people do the things they do?--and I never thought he ever nailed that down. Maybe that's why the dialog in his movies is opaque, he wants you to know that he can't explain it, either. And maybe part of his answer is sex, and in that case I think he miscast himself. I don't buy him as heedlessly passionate. 

 

White Heat

Jimmy Cagney can do anything, and that's because he had a doting mother. 

 

The Window

Oohh--this was a good one. I hadn't seen this one before. Dopey ending, but so what. I always liked Arthur Kennedy.

 

Shadow on the Wall

Nancy Davis. You can see why she made other plans. 

 

High Wall

Robert Taylor. Never a big fan. He has dracula hair, plus he snitched. 

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To repeat what many others have already said, I'm not at all convinced that Johnny Belinda should be considered film noir. The rape scene certainly has the dramatic high-contract lighting of noir, but elsewhere the cinematography is fairly straightforward. More importantly, this film doesn't have the overall sense of doom that I'm becoming accustomed to seeing in noir films. Yes, a terrible thing happens and the whole town reacts visciously, but in the end Belinda is vindicated, the bad guy is dead, and she gets to live with her child and the adoring doctor. I'd call this a melodrama, less so than a Douglas SIrk film, but still in the same territory. The TCM database notes on the film state that the film examines psychological themes that are found in noir films, but I don't really see the connection.

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Just wanted to rave about Claire Trevor in Key Largo. The scene where she is bullied into singing in exchange for a drink is absolutely harrowing. Its simultaneously engrossing and hard to watch. The sense of degradation and loss that she projects is masterful. I'm hard pressed to think of another film in which a character is so psychologically abused. I wouldn't say Key Largo is one of the films I've been most excited about seeing, but Trevor was fantastic.

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The Big Clock

 

One of the gems I would never have discovered without this course. A terrific film, I really enjoyed it. 

 

I liked the comedic touches in the movie, it lightened the mood after so much existential despair in so many of the movies! But it was definitely Noir in many ways, from the motivation of many of the players and especially in the cinematography. I especially liked the way the film opened panning from one tall building to the taller next one till we get to the peak of the capitalist heap in the publisher's building where the camera stops. 

 

And what a capitalist! It doesn't surprise me that the writer was hauled up in front of the House for Un-American Activities: the film portrays the media mogul as the worst kind of heartless capitalist (find out who left that light-bulb burning and fire him!), and the part is played to scene-stealing perfection by Charles Laughton and his vile mustache! 

 

Is there a better, monstrous, villain in Noir? I loved every scene with Laughton in and to some extent the rest of the cast slightly paled in comparison (though I thought Rita Johnson as Laughton's girlfriend was terrific). Can't help think though that the mores of the day were reflected in the way the film pans out in the end: George ends up with his faithful but rather dull wife (was he really ever that bothered about going on vacation with her if it took him that long to even try hard), the fun girl - who he might well have been a better fit with - is dead (of course, she was a serial adultress), the bad guys are dead, and Colonel Potter is trapped in the elevator. 

 

A movie I'll remember (and buy!) and won't hesitate to recommend! Thanks TCM! 

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I believe there was a reference that Louise was not well off and was always looking for ways to capitalize on any opportunities as when she negotiated and extra $50 for her sketch and the return of the painting that George purchased in order to keep quiet. Her bidding against herself was her wanting to get more money for the painting. Which begs the question - was the antique collector in on it?

I think you're right about Louise not being well off. I haven't seen the movie again, but I do remember that she had several children and no husband "in the picture." (I know -- a pun.) Once this class is finished, I really will have to check out The Big Clock again.

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White Heat

It was not until about halfway into this film that I saw film noir elements. It was when Cagney showed signs of mental illness. A mother complex, severe headaches, etc. The film temperament changed from the ordinary to film noir. 

 

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Scene of the Crime

 

A Realist procedural by and large, it showed a bunch of police investigative techniques that would have been as fascinating to audiences in 1949 as they are to fans of shows like CSI today. I liked the way Van Johnson's character would explain procedures and give tips (such as the best way to approach an informant) to his new rookie partner, but it never got in the way of moving the plot forward at a rapid clip.

 

I thought it had a great trampy femme fatale too (are all the best ones blond?), Lili, played by Gloria DeHaven, who had the best line in the entire movie: when carted away by the cops, she's told they'll throw the book at her and she replies, "the book...there's a crime on every page for me!".  

 

I liked it. 

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White Heat: A couple pivotal scenes really hit me on this one...The one where Cody is at the lunch table in jail and he hears his mom is dead, that sort of crying noise he makes is one of the most frightening sounds I've ever heard...and he's smashing down on the plate at the same time...it's a cross between desolation and rage in a way where neither appears to be given the full strength. But the blend between them is horrifying. Then Cody's final sequence...when he is shot and the background music vanishes, so all you hear is the gunshots and that joker-from-batman laughter...it's chilling. Cagney's work in this film is the stuff of nightmares in those two sequences...absolutely terrifying...but it really shows what a fantastic actor he was...that more than 50 years later his performance still has the power to frighten. 

I wish White Heat had focused even more on the theme of insanity. I agree that the scene when Cody hears that his mother is dead and the final sequence are chilling, but I don't know if it's enough to make me see the film again.

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White Heat

I never was a huge fan of James Cagney, and White Heat didn’t really change my mind. I was very interested in seeing the movie because of Edmond O’Brien, and in that regard, I wasn’t disappointed. I thought Edmond O’Brien, as the undercover agent, was one of his best roles.

 

The theme of insanity runs throughout the film:

• Cody’s “crisis”; he describes it like having a red-hot buzz saw in his head. (Migraines?)

• Cody suffers another crisis in prison; he doesn’t want any doctors.

• His second crisis in prison occurs when he hears that his mother is dead. He throws food, jumps onto the dinner table, punches prison guards. The next time we see him in the film, he’s wearing a straightjacket in small prison room.

• Diagnosis by prison doctor: Cody is violent, homicidal. He’s committed to an institution.

• He escapes. While he’s in hiding, he admits to Pardo (Edmond O’Brien) that he talks to his dead mother. Given Cody’s history, this should be a warning sign.

• When Cody is cornered by the police, he starts to refer to himself in the third person. Even his fellow gang member doesn’t want to follow him to the top of the oil tank.

• Cody kills himself by shooting into the top of the oil tank and starting an inferno.

• We learn in the film that his father and brother were committed to an institution.

 

Too bad the film didn’t investigate this theme in more depth. Maybe it would have felt more like a film noir to me. Reading some of the earlier posts about White Heat made me appreciate it more, but I don’t know that I’ll seek it out for a second viewing.

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The Window (1949)

 

Great movie that I didn’t see during the class, and I’m glad I did see it recently. I was on edge right away because the movie opens with Tommy Woodry, the main character, playing dead and acting physically hurt. When he reaches for the gun, I assumed he found a real one. But then he starts calling out to his friends, and the tone of the movie lightens up a little bit—for a little while.

 

The on-location scenes place the viewer right in Tommy’s urban neighborhood. The chase through the abandoned tenement building was suspenseful, although the abandoned building looked more like a set to me. But the wooden stairs crashing down looked real enough. That shot must have been spectacular in a movie theater with a big screen: The point of view was from under the stairs and the pieces come crashing down from overhead.

 

I noticed that some of Tommy’s problems didn’t necessarily come from the tall tales he tells. Adults are more likely to believe adults than children, it seems to me, and Tommy was no exception in this script. The police detective believed Tommy’s mother and not Tommy about the Kelersons, although the detective did go up to the Kelersons’ apartment to pose as a repair estimator and snoop around, just to be on the safe side (so adults are capable of telling tall tales, too). The patrol officer didn’t believe Tommy when he shouted out the window of the cab for help and said that the Kelersons weren’t his parents. The ending, when the parents finally believe that Tommy was telling the truth all along, seemed a bit saccharine to me, but after all that poor kid went through (knocked unconscious, perched on a railing five stories up in a staged “accident,” almost falling from a loose beam), I felt like the film needed a happy ending.

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