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Noir City: Chicago (7/31-8/6)

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*The Lady From Shanghai* July 31; August 4


Orson Welles, 1948, 86m


Welles? dazzling and dizzying adaptation of Sherwood King?s novel If I Die Before I Wake takes the classic femme fatale tale to globe-spanning lengths and hallucinatory heights. Hard-luck Irish seaman Michael O?Hara (Welles) eagerly tumbles into the net of gorgeous and mysterious Elsa Bannister (Hayworth) only to find himself caught in the murderous conspiracies of her viperous cohorts. Welles took Columbia?s money and improvised a brilliant, chaotic 155-minute noir epic, which the studio pruned to 86 feverish minutes. What remained was one of the most startlingly inventive crime films released by a Hollywood studio in the 1940s.


*Framed* July 31; August 4


Richard Wallace, 1947, 86m


In this rarely-seen piece of prime pulp, taciturn everyman Glenn Ford barrels his broken-down truck into a rural Northern California town and is quickly engulfed in a tangle of adultery, embezzlement, and murder. Janis Carter is the long, tall drink of delicious poison he can?t resist, a frosty exemplar of the forties? film noir femme fatale. Barry Sullivan is his usual sly self as the not-so-unwilling cuckold. The script by Ben Maddow (The Asphalt Jungle) hits all the notes originated by James M. Cain, and has a fiendishly good time playing with them.


*Double Indemnity* August 1; August 5


Billy Wilder, 1944, 106m


The ne plus ultra of film noir. James M. Cain?s follow-up to his seminal 1934 novel The Postman Always Rings Twice made it to the screen first, thanks to the savvy showmanship and creative ?lan of Billy Wilder, who was determined to out-do Hitchcock in suspense?while testing the limits of Hollywood?s Production Code. This classic tale of ill-fated lovers who plot murder for lust and profit was nominated for seven Oscars, lighting the fuse for the explosion of mordant murder dramas that erupted in Hollywood during the postwar years. From Chandler?s stinging dialogue to John Seitz?s stunning cinematography to Mikl?s R?zsa?s driving, doom-laden score to the archetypal performances of the three leads, Double Indemnity has been often imitated but never equaled.


*The Prowler* August 1; August 5


Joseph Losey, 1951, 92m


Joseph Losey?s greatest American film, from a script by legendary blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, is resurrected in all its bleak splendor in this 35mm restoration by the UCLA Film & Television Archive, funded by the Film Noir Foundation. Desperate, materialistic cop Webb Garwood (Heflin) stalks a lonely, affluent Los Angeles housewife and decides to win her love in time-honored noir tradition: by knocking off her husband. Intense performances by Heflin and Keyes drive this daring Cain-style tale of adultery, which is daring and disturbing for its time. This is a don?t-miss-it opportunity to see one of the rarest?and most unusual?of all films noir, one not available in any broadcast, video, or digital media format.


*The Killers* August 2; August 6


Robert Siodmak, 1946, 105m


This landmark in the Hollywood noir movement takes the famous 1927 Ernest Hemingway short story as the jumping-off point for a crime saga often called the Citizen Kane of film noir. Like Kane, it starts with a death and backtracks through interweaving stories to reveal the lust, lies, and betrayal that caused a man to welcome his own execution. At the center of the whirlwind of double-crosses are white hot stars-to-be Lancaster and Gardner?perhaps the sexiest pairing ever in a film noir. Presented in a restored 35mm print with remastered soundtrack, finally doing full justice to Mikl?s R?zsa?s lush, haunting score.


*The Breaking Point* August 2; August 6


Michael Curtiz


Hemingway?s To Have and Have Not had already been filmed at Warner Bros. in 1944 as a fanciful vehicle for Bogart and Bacall, but star John Garfield convinced the studio to let him re-adapt the novel five years later. Serving as de facto producer, Garfield created, with director Curtiz, a more faithful adaptation?and one of the great, if unjustly neglected, masterpieces of noir. In perhaps his finest performance, Garfield plays fishing boat skipper Harry Morgan, a desperate man in the throes of a mid-life crisis whose acceptance of a nefarious operator?s ?easy money? brings heartbreaking results. The entire cast is pitch-perfect, with Patricia Neal (the tart-tongued ?other woman?) and Phyllis Thaxter (Morgan?s devoted wife) particular standouts. Don?t miss a chance to see this ultra-rare classic.


*Chicago Syndicate* August 3


Fred F. Sears, 1955, 83m


A rarely-seen example of 1950s-syle ?expos? noir,? purporting to show the inner workings of American organized crime. Dennis O?Keefe plays a ?forensic accountant? enlisted by the cops to go undercover in the gang of local crime boss Arnie Valent. Luckily for us, Valent is played by Paul Stewart, one of the greatest portrayers of cinematic sleazeballs: He loves his mama, but other women beware! Chanteuse Abbe Lane is his moll (her real hubby, bandleader Xavier Cugat, performs) and Allison Hayes (The Amazing 50-Foot Woman!) is a sexy dame bent on revenge. The story may be predictable, but the on-location tour of 1955 Chicago is absolutely priceless.


*Call Northside 777* August 3


Henry Hathaway, 1948, 111m


The first Hollywood film shot on location in Chicago is a ?semi-documentary? dramatization of the famous local story of Joseph Majczek, wrongly convicted of killing a policeman in 1932 and sentenced to life in prison. In the retelling, jaded newspaper reporter P.J. McNeal (Stewart) takes up the cause of convict Frank Wiecek (Richard Conte) after the con?s washerwoman mother spends her life savings trying to clear her son. Today, Call Northside 777 plays more as an elegiac ode to the vanished old-school newspaper business than as a true film noir, but either way it?s a terrific film?especially for Chicagoans eager to see a big screen version of the city, circa 1948.

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