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Otto Preminger's noirs


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"Fallen Angel "starring Dana Andrews and a stunning Linda Darnell is my top pick.Every man who had any kind of a role, in the film, and some who had just a " glance " of a part fell for femme fatale Linda even Percy Kilbribe. "Where the Side Walk Ends" another Preminger noir features Dana Andrews as a tough cop who is redeemed by Gene Tierney.

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Preminger has made some great films, notably "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1950) and "Angel Face" (1952).

 

There are lots of people who will wax on about "Laura" (1944), but I personally think that film has a lot of problems. Clifton Webb (this was his first film) was great though. His not so subtle homosexual toned cat fights with Vincent Price are the best features of the film.

 

As far as Gene Tierney goes, I think her best role was in "Leave Her to Heaven" (1947). Beautiful 3-strip technicolor Noir. She also had a nice although MUCH smaller part in "Night and the City" (1950).

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"Laura" is a movie I have slightly mixed feelings about as well. At worst, though, it's an interesting failure. And I agree, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price are wonderful. It's one of those movies that I need to watch again - I suspect a rewatch might change my mind about it.

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"Laura" is a movie I've only seen once. It was good, but I lot many other films noir better.

 

I guess the problem I have with the movie is that I've read all these arguments over who really directed it, Preminger or Mamoulian, and whether Laura should end up with Mark or Shelby, and then when I saw the movie, I couldn't see what all the spilled ink was about. "Laura" isn't bad, but it doesn't arouse me to any passion about it.

 

I know it it post-noir, but I much prefer "Bunny Lake Is Missing."

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Still, it has to be admitted that "Laura" was a sensation in 1944. When I went to see it at a museum back in the Eighties, I mentioned it to my aunt, and she immediately brightened up and said that she made a dress like Gene Tierney's for her high school dance that year and then found that several other girls did the same. Perhaps a lot of that is due to the music and hit song though.

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The 13th Letter(1951) is a noirish Preminger film closely based on Cluozot's French Le Corbeau. Preminger's version is set in Quebec, (shades of I Confess), and focuses on the claustrophobic relationships of a doctor (well played by Michael Rennie) who begins to be the focus of a series of poison pen letters. I haven't seen this some time, but remember the psychological tension being quite ominous, with good performances by Linda Darnell and Charles Boyer. Wish that FMC would unearth this gem to air sometime.

 

Btw, Whirlpool (1949) is being shown again on Fox Movie Channel on Mon., Feb 26th at 8am ET and on Thur., Mar. 1st at 7:30am ET.

 

If you enjoy the depiction of psychiatry on film, you might enjoy perusing the thread, "Physician Heal Thyself?" from a couple of months ago--here's a link to that discussion:

http://forums.tcm.com/jive/tcm/thread.jspa?messageID=

7822884

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  • 8 months later...

I agree that FMC should show this (The 13th Letter), and definitely be released by the Fox Noir series. BTW, does anyone know if classic Fox noirs on Criterion DVD, Pickup On South Street, Night and the City and Thieves' Highway might be released as part of the Fox Noir series? The Criterion DVDs are expensive, if not out of print.

 

Message was edited by: Arturo

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  • 1 month later...

Hey Ken123, I finally caught up with this "essential" Otto Preminger noir, Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950), on a dvd! You've only been telling me about it for 2 years!

 

It was most enjoyable, and was especially savory after relishing Preminger's Fallen Angel (1945) recently. I was particularly taken with the silent moments given to Dana Andrews in this film. His expressive face with that thousand yard stare comes in handy when he realizes that he's fallen into a spiral from which he may never return. This weariness of the soul is most touching during the sequence when Andrews sits up throughout the night until dawn comes, smoking and thinking, without a word of dialogue.

andrewstierney.jpg

 

Dialogue, (at least some of which is from the pen of Ben Hecht), is pretty good here, especially when spouted by character actors such as Ruth Donnelly, Robert F. Simon (who's uncredited!), and the marvelous Tom Tully. There's one extended sequence between Andrews and his alienated partner Bert Freed and Freed's wife, Eda Reiss Merin (also uncredited!) about borrowing money that is probably a model of how to suggest a complex life and a dynamic among characters economically on film.

 

Possible Spoilers Below

My only quibble: Gene Tierney, who's always lovely to see, but...her character behaves preposterously.

For instance, in one sequence she's riding the bus with Andrews, who's trying to help her for his own duplicitous reasons. She tilts her lovely chapeaued head flirtatiously toward a haggard Andrews and starts cooing that "You're an amazing man. You know something? I could just kiss you. Right here."

 

Tierney then goes on blithely to explain that the notoriety of the police case she's become involved in has led to her employer giving her the boot. Now, she's playing a character who has, until very recently, been part of a stressful marriage to a troubled, battle-scarred war hero who knocked her around and bled her dry of money. Her father is languishing in The Tombs awaiting arraignment on murder charges against someone and she's already mentioned to Andrews that she and her old man haven't a sous, thanks to her hubby. Oh, yeah, and her hubby (Craig Stevens, who's good in a brief but effective part), has just turned up floating in the East River. So she's a very recent widow under tragic circumstances, her old man may be going to the chair, and she can't pay the rent.

 

Now, I like an optimistic girl with stamina and bounce, but some things just wouldn't glide off this character's hide this easily, do you think?!! The ending tries for some optimism that preceding events don't justify either, but it's always tough to send an audience out of the theatre realizing that the characters they've just observed and felt for might wind up locked into an even lonelier life than before. I just think I would've appreciated a stronger note of ambiguity about the possible future for Andrews and Tierney. Otherwise, this is a fine noir, full of long, dark nights, wonderfully seedy and oh, so cramped apartments, rooms, and rat holes.

 

Interestingly, Neville Brand also appears as a knave who actually has a cooler head than the creepy hoodlums around him, one of whom, significantly, is Gary Merrill, a few months before All About Eve changed his life and career forever. Gary looks like a road show Sky Masterson with poor hygiene habits to me.

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Hi Ken,

I liked Eddie Muller's commentary quite a bit, though I could've lived without his 11th or 12th mentions of the parallels between the plot of this film and his first novel. I wasn't interested in Mr. Muller's literary career that much, but his appreciation and knowledge of the film's script, actors, settings and Preminger's work was a plus.

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  • 2 months later...

I finally saw The 13th Letter this weekend, as part of an Otto Preminger festival at the Amercian Cinematheque. Overall, better than what I was led to believe, and LInda was very beautiful in her scenes. Hope it comes out soon on DVD as part of the Fox Film Noir series.

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Moira, nicely reasoned arguments about SIDEWALK's scripted weaknesses. I've wondered what conversations occurred before she spoke those lines - as you said, the heaping of tragedy on her, and NOW losing her job - well, I just think a few billion other people might have acted a tad differently. I wonder if Tierney said, "No, I don't want to be downbeat and realistic" or if she preferred to look happier?

 

Or was it Preminger's call? Did the writers insist on this strangely written set of lines?

 

Well-pointed argument there, Moira. Thanks.

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  • 1 year later...

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