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Stranger on the 3rd Floor


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...I've always liked that word, it's a fun word to say.

 

About writers as characters in film noir: it's occurred to me that it really is a noir sub-genre in a way, because one of the overall themes of noir is alienation , or at least someone being outside looking in, an observer. This is an attribute we often ascribe to writers, both reporters / journalists and novelists.

What's interesting in noir is that these people who usually spend their lives slightly apart from the world, looking on, will suddenly and uncontrollably get caught up in a situation in which they are no longer observers but participants. They are no longer on the outside, objective and safe. Because of either circumstances or some weakness of their own, they become involved. Involved in a noir vortex of passion or power struggles or guilt etc.

 

In *Sunset Boulevard* and *In a Lonely Place*, it's an involvement of their own making, William Holden through sheer laziness and weakness ( *Sunset* ) and Bogart through rage ( *In a Lonely Place* )

With the reporter character in *Shock Corridor*, it's his own arrogance.

I haven't seen enough of the other films to take this any further; although I have seen *Sweet Smell of Success*, it was a while ago and I can't remember its details well enough to include in my theory.Although I"m pretty sure newspaper reporting and arrogance have some part to play in it.

 

*Stranger on the Third Floor*: the main character is a reporter -a writer - who at first is uninvolved, just a witness, as well as a reporter (being a witness in a well-publicized murder trial also will not hurt his career as a reporter). As he considers his role in the accused's death sentence, he becomes more and more involved in the investigation of what may have really happened, even imagining he himself as a defendant whom no one believes.

 

So writers as characters in noir something to ponder? Any other ideas?

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Jul 19, 2010 3:40 PM

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These are very good points about writers in crime stories. In general, a lot of fiction features writers as main characters. Why? Because writers understand that life. Are they going to write about car salesmen? Iron workers? They'd have to do research!

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> {quote:title=redriver wrote:}{quote}

> These are very good points about writers in crime stories. In general, a lot of fiction features writers as main characters. Why? Because writers understand that life. Are they going to write about car salesmen? Iron workers? They'd have to do research!

 

You are right. Also, when they have to do research, it has to be very thorough and able to tie into their creative abilities. I don't think every writer has the ability to do research-based writing, some have to only write about what they know.

 

I would never write a fiction book about the daily work life of a surgeon because I don't have the mental capacity to read like someone in med school to write a book.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> That's it. I must be a moron for not remembering the term "oxymoron". Even an ox would have remembered that.

 

Tastiest oxymoron: jumbo shrimp

 

Most oxymoronic of all oxymorons: reality television

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> {quote:title=redriver wrote:}{quote}

> I'd write about a guy who loves his dog, has a bit of a temper and eats way too much pizza!

 

And while it may seem like a simple guy enjoying the simple pleasures of life....a great piece of fiction be it noir, drama, or comedy can be made from this.

 

noir: while out walking his dog, short tempered private eye RedRiver stumbles upon a dead body of a local bookie. He notices a fresh pizza stain on the guy's shirt and grease and sauce on his hankie and it leads him to every greasy pizza joint and mom and pop Italian eatery. Hounding waitresses, roughing up mob connected proprietors, and being 2 steps ahead of the police who constantly tell him to "stay out of it or I'll have your license"

 

drama: A man returns from war injured, he loses hope in life and stays confined to his house with his dog, watching TV and ordering pizza. One day while taking his dog out (just for a walk, remember, dogs don't pee or poo in classic movies!) he meets his lovely neighbor, who is still waiting for her husband to come home....it is later learned that he is killed in battle. Through the dog and pizza dates, the man and woman bond and they married

 

comedy: a man leaves his dog on the porch of a beautiful woman who begins to bond with the dog. A week later he puts up flyers in the neighborhood that his dog is missing. He eventually meets the woman, and they fall in love....with several comedic episodes in between.

 

See, redriver, your everyday life equals endless possibilities to a writer! :)

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Re: Waldo Lydecker (or Lydo Waldecker, as I like to call him ) broadcasting from his bathtub: aside from other impracticalities, wouldn't there also have been a chance of him being electrocuted?

 

Also with respect to Laura, C. Bogle wrote:

 

"Whenever I watch Laura, I can't help but think of the old high school triangle of

the football captain, the head cheerleader, and the wimpy nerd, now grown up.

You know the nerd is going to lose every time. "

 

But the difference is, usually the nerd is supposed to be heterosexual. Waldo comes across, at least to modern audiences, as a closeted gay. His fascination with Laura is asexual, more like the fascination Pygmalion had for Galatea, as someone who created a work of art and became obsessed with it (or her). Clifton Webb's performance as the obnoxious arrogant urbane columnist is one of the most enjoyable aspects of Laura. But I'll never believe he desired her the way the nerd desires the cheerleader.

 

SPOILER:( although I suspect almost anyone who would read this has already seen *Laura*. Still, you never know) It's interesting that the writer in this story is also the murderer. That occurs in at least one other noir I can think of, SPOILER *Beyond a Reasonable Doubt*

 

In both stories, the journalist/reporter becomes part of the investigation of a murder that he himself has committed. He is both on the outside looking in, to all appearances with objectivity, and inextricably involved. This situation is especially twisted and strange in the case of *Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.*

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Yes, one wrong move with the microphone and it might be a "watery grave" for old Waldo.

That's what I meant when I said it was fortunate he wasn't broadcasting from the tub. I would

also feel sorry for the poor person who came across the body. A skinny minny all shriveled up

after so much time in the water. It wouldn't be a very pretty picture.

 

I think Mr. Lydecker's sexual identity is somewhat ambiguous. He does seem to be interested

in Laura as a creation of his making, and he has to watch over her carefully to guarantee there

is no backsliding into "commonness" and "vulgarity." But I also think there is at least some hint

of a physical interest in Laura, even if it is secondary. I'd have to watch the movie again to see

just how much of that there is. Hmmm, maybe he's a shotgun hidden in the antique clock type

of guy. I agree that Waldo, however annoying some of his obvious snobbery is, puts Dana Andrews

and Vincent Price ( the ingratiating class president perhaps) into the shade for the most part.

 

Nowadays, and maybe even back then, the guy who is so interested in how the police are doing

and what's the latest news about the case, becomes suspect.

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I think Lydecker was envious of Laura, would have like to have been her, and was living vicariously through her. And, I agree that he saw her as his creation, or at least he felt he was molding her.

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Yes, I think he was, in a way, living through her, and he must have considered himself

her creator. I suppose, if one wanted to take the gay theme further, he was interested

in the Dana Andrews character through her, but I wouldn't go that far. He clearly has

a dislike for the detective. I still think there's at least some physical desire for Laura

on the part of Waldo, however muted and futile it is, but it would really be necessary

to see the film again to sort things out.

 

In at least some versions of the Pygmalion story, the statue is turned into a flesh and

blood woman and they are married and have...well you get the idea.

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I really will have to watch *The Sweet Smell of Success* again, all I can remember is that Burt Lancaster was pretty hard-edged. I have it on video somewhere...

 

*Laura*: interesting how this early noir keeps coming up. It is one of my personal favourites, even though in many ways it doesn't fit the typical noir stereotype. But we've all gone through the "what is noir" discussion mill to go there again, for a while. I should think.

 

Anyway, *Laura* is another of those noirs that has a lot of comedy in it, or at least humour. The Vincent Price/Judith Danvers team is hilarious. And watching Vince, one can't be blamed for thinking there may be more than one unopened closet in the film. I find a lot of this movie quite funny - and not in an ironic, " I'm laughing at it " way. I think Preminger intended some scenes, anyway, to be funny.

 

ps -Judith *Anderson* . not Danvers.

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The writing is exceptional. Fast, clever, and streetwise, it looks as much like a play as a movie; was, in fact, scripted by Clifford Odets. But I like a good play. I like this movie.

 

Finance,

 

In STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND, reporters are called "winchells"!

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Am I right in my recollection of *The Sweet Smell of Success* that , even more than most noirs, in fact, more than most movies in general, a prevailing feeling of malevolence,of nastiness, pervades the film?

Don't get me wrong,that doesn't mean I wouldn't want to watch it again; doesn't even necessarily mean I wouldn't like it. But the main thing I remember about *Sweet Smell of Success* was this mood of ill nature, ill will. Cynicism and misanthropy so strong, you can almost smell it (couldn't resist.)

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Webb definitely gave Laura an extra boost that likely raised it above being

an average noir. I guess I get so focused on Webb, I forget that others in

the movie lend some humor to it. Even stolid Dana Andrews gets off some

good lines, usually by cutting down Waldo a peg or two.

 

Lancaster was a real s.o.b. in that one. I don't mind calling Sweet Smell a

noir, it certainly has many of the elements, but I've always considered it more of

an expose of the dirty little secrets where the media and show biz interact. However

nasty they are, well they're only gossip columnists.

 

P.S. You must have been dreaming of Manderley.

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>>And watching Vince, one can't be blamed for thinking there may be more than one unopened closet in the film. I find a lot of this movie quite funny - and not in an ironic, " I'm laughing at it " way. I think Preminger intended some scenes, anyway, to be funny.

 

 

Yes, Price and Webb practically have a catfight over Tierney and meanwhile Judith Anderson comes off as more masculine than either of those two males. It had to be intentional.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}

> They intentionally made the characters untra-nasty to make up for the glaring lack of real violent crime in the film.

 

It worked. It takes strong writing to pull this off, and it worked. Just like no murder was committed in *Sweet Smell of Success*, and it still works for noir audiences. Again, relying on a strong script.

 

I feel like the last kid to be picked for a kickball team...I have not seen *Stranger on the Third Floor* yet. Is it available online at all?

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LoveFilmNoir wrote: "I feel like the last kid to be picked for a kickball team...I have not seen Stranger on the Third Floor yet. Is it available online at all? "

 

 

LoveFilmNoir,baby, I don't know if it's available to download from the net, but I'm fairly sure it's available to rent on dvd. You might have to find a noir-friendly movie rental store. At least, I'm pretty sure I've seen a copy kicking around in Canada.Maybe the rights are different in the U.S. of A.

 

Actually, I just realized that if you go back to the original post on this thread, there's some discussion of its availability.

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