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Film noir runneth over on the schedule lately


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finance, you yourself suggested the term "classic noir" to cover what is considered the "classic" period for noir, roughly 1941-1961. It was a very good idea, because it refers to what most people think of when they hear the term "film noir", and at the same time it leaves the door open to include other films, made either before or after that time period, that contain enough elements to be considered noir, to also be called noir. (Do I win a prize for convoluted sentence structure?)

 

Anyone see *Act of Violence* last night? Or ever?

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Oh, yeah. I love everything about this film -the performances of Van Heflin and especially Robert Ryan are outstanding. Nobody does anguish and fury like Mr.Ryan. There are so many things about *Act of Violence* I like: all the characters, even nice little Janet Leigh, are complex and three-dimensional.The dark secret that Helfin, a respected citizen, harbours, fits the story and the action so well. And the moral and ethical food for thought his past provides is one of the things I like the most -Heflin is undeniably a basically decent person, but he betrayed his fellow prisoners for food. That's how Ryan sees it. Heflin sees extenuating circumstances, claims he was trying to protect his friends. In some ways it's very grey, in others it's clear he did wrong.

My favourite scene in this film and in fact one of my favourites of many noirs is the part where Heflin, feeling pursued and terrified, runs out of the convention building and flees to nowherel he runs and runs, and we are taken on one of the ultimate noir journeys, down spiralling staircases, through twisted and no doubt hostile streets, we feel almost as though we're falling. The cinematography in this is one of the great arguments for the noir style. I don't know why I find it so exciting, but I do.

 

Of course, some might say it's flawed by the presence of Mary Astor. ( Not me, I like her.)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Sep 10, 2010 10:35 AM

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

> I had LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN in mind when I posed my question. I can't think of any other film that is consider a noir (pre-1960) that was in color. Can you?

 

Nicholas Ray's PARTY GIRL (1958) with Robert Taylor, Cyd Charisse and Lee J. Cobb

Sam fuller's HOUSE OF BAMBOO (1955) with Robert Ryan and Robert Stack

NIAGARA (1953)

DESERT FURY (1947) I haven't seen this one, but when I read about it, it's always considered noir.

BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK (1955)

A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956)

 

I recorded ACT OF VIOLENCE last time it was on, and I never saw it, I am going to check it out tonight. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

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LoveFilmNoir, let us know what you think of ACT OF VIOLENCE when you get a chance to watch it. Like MissW, I love everything about it. Thanks for posting some of the color noirs. That would make an interesting theme night for TCM.

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

> I hope you didn't read my post about it. There may have been a few "spoilers".

 

No I didn't (I've been blind posting in this thread because I am behind on my watching!). There are several threads I been looking forward to contributing to but I haven't watched or finished watching the film. I watched THE GREAT MAN'S LADY last night...I wasn't too thrilled and I love both stars as well as the supporting cast. I have a long weekend in doors so I plan to catch up with many titles.

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

> LoveFilmNoir, let us know what you think of ACT OF VIOLENCE when you get a chance to watch it. Like MissW, I love everything about it. Thanks for posting some of the color noirs. That would make an interesting theme night for TCM.

 

I would also add BLACK WIDOW (1954) from Fox. It's a color noir but it is more like a backstage drama/mystery with sound stages and beautiful Technicolor. The cast was all-star: Van Heflin (we love this guy, don't we?!), Gene Tierney, Ginger Rogers, George Raft, and an adult Peggy Ann Garner as the nucleus of the whole story (which I don't really care for all too much). It was written, produced and directed by Nunnally Johnson according to IMDb. I like his work but much of it doesn't really stand the test of time and is rather fluffy. He doesn't really know how to fully utilize some of the talent he was blessed to work with - and I wish he would have adapted more stories from novels. Okay, sorry to get off topic. I think I might have to start a thread on this guy in the Films and Filmmakers forum. :)

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Leave Her to Heaven is definitely the 1940s color noir that sticks out. It even has

enough color for another two or three films. Off hand, the other color noir from the

1940s that I can think of is Rope, which with a wee bit of backing and filling, can

probably be classified as noir. Other than that, it's hard to think of one from the 1940s,

though there could be one. Maybe it was a first impression, but A Kiss Before Dying

seems so 1950s. The pregnant girlfriend problem, but also the clothes and the furniture

in Bob's bedroom. This may be true of many 1950s flicks, but this one seems to scream

it out. Still a pretty decent movie.

 

I've seen Act of Violence a few times, but didn't catch it last night, so my comments are

of a general nature. This would be the perfect film for some wise academic to use as a

metaphor for the communist subversion that so fascinated that era. Ryan is the commie

spoiling Van Heflin's all-American dream. The fact that Heflin has actually done something

very bad skews some of the usual noir themes. It can't be a world of random fate when

one character has acted in such a bad way, and is deserving of what might happen to him.

This is also one of those just when everything is going so good, there's always something

to ruin it movies, which isn't limited to noirs. Everything is going right for Van until his past

catches up with him. But again, it's something he himself brought on.

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I have seen Act of Violence before and I watched it again last night. Great noir.

 

I agree with what you have written but how could you leave out Mary Astor! See was great in this picture and it took guts to play that run down, low life of a gal (but with a heart of course).

 

Van Heflin and Robert Ryan are two actors I really like. While they are not known as well as the major stars and didn't make many movies that were solely written for (around) them (i.e. like Bogie, Wayne, and the other male superstars of the time, Heflin and Ryan were typially teamed with other big named actors or actresses) they really carry a picture.

 

You are right that Heflin's character is undeniably a basically decent person and thus it was sad (but necessary), that he had to meet his fate at the end of a gun.

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I don't know if I agree with the statement below:

 

"The fact that Heflin has actually done something very bad skews some of the usual noir themes. It can't be a world of random fate when one character has acted in such a bad way, and is deserving of what might happen to him".

 

Many of the male lead characters in noir have actually done something bad. For example, Jeff in Out of The Past. The guy was hired to find a gal and instead he goes away with her. But I guess the key here is 'very bad'. What Jeff and other noir leads have done is typically only 'sort of bad' and thus they don't deserve the fate of death (the typical noir fate), but due to events or a femme fatale that is what they get.

 

I don't know if I agree that Heflin's character deserved what he got. But that is what makes the movie good. We are pushed to feel for Heflin and to view Ryan as the evil one. If we were in Ryan shoes and had to experience what he did, then we would agree that Heflin got what was coming to him.

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Often the leading men in noirs are lured into things in a random way that eventually

leads to their demise. While Bob was wrong by going off with Jane Greer, he was

hired by a decidedly shady Kirk Douglas, and at the time it doesn't seem all that

bad. Of course Jane turns out to be a truly femme fatale. Walter Neff happens

to meet Phyllis by chance and gets involved in her murder scheme. One of the most

obvious victims of blind fate is Edmond O' Brien in D.O.A. It's by the merest of

happenstance that he gets involved in something that leads to his death. Van Heflin

already has quite a bad act on his conscience that leads to the pursuit by his former

friend, Robert Ryan. That's makes thing different from these other noir "heroes," who

are more victims of chance, in varying degrees, than Heflin.

 

One of the best parts of the movie is that one can understand both Heflin's and Ryan's

point of view. The question of right and wrong is not as simple as in some other films.

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With regards to Out of the Past; Before taking the job Mitchum does ask Douglas why he wants Greer found and Douglas says only for the money: i.e. he doesn't want her found because he wants to kill her. It is clear Mitchum wouldn't of taken the job if finding the gal would lead to violence towards her but we are left with the impression that Mitchum's partner would have taken the job regardless. Thus the initial Mitchum error in judgement is only because he falls for the charms of the gal (and who can blame him after seeing Greer!), and not because of greed.

 

Yes DOA is a great example of a noir 'hero' getting in a pickle because of happenstance and not because of his actions. Angel Face with Mitchum is another example. The femme fatale bring Mitchum down but the only bad thing Mitchum did in that movie was fall in love with a head case women.

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I've probably forgotten some of the plot details of Out of the Past, though I do

remember that Bob's partner was pretty sleazy. Yes, it's hard to blame Bob for

being taken with the charms of Jane Greer and running away with her. For the

most part, he's a fairly good guy who got in over his head, and like many noir

males, fell too hard for a dame. Not to take anything away from Jane, and

I suppose it was a plot necessity, but I thought Bob's blonde girlfriend, though

she might not have been as exciting, was pretty fine herself.

 

Jean Simmons was also hard to resist, but Mitch should have stayed away from that

mansion on the hill. Some guys never learn.

 

I saw Cutter's Way many years ago and don't remember too much about it, but it

was definitely a good movie. I hope TCM will show it one of these days

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I noticed that WHITE HEAT is listed in the noir encyclopedia. Would you say that it's a noir or gangster film? I would say gangster film. A lot of good guys, not much moral ambiguity, not much darkness and shadows, Cagney as star, etc...... Incidentally, I took a close look at the noir encyclopedia, and it appears that Mitchum starred in more noirs than any other actor, about 15 by my count.

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Well, Mitch is the Man.With that world-weary demeaneur, who else could pull off noir like he could?

 

Now, let's not get into "to noir or not to noir" again. Ok, *White Heat* is leaning more towards gangster than hard core noir. But - this was made in 1949, at least 10 years after the traditional "gangster" movie era. It has a very different feel to it. Although the old gangster movies were about crime and "bad"people, they never presented as dark or disturbing a vision of the world as the crime/aka noir films made after 1940. A traditional gangster film of old would never have had that (literally) painful scene near the beginning, in which one of Cagney's unfortunate gang members gets horribly burned (burnt?) by the train's steam. He's in terrible pain, he's not going to be able to function as a part of Cagney's gang anymore, and they just leave him to die.

 

Something else I don't think would have been in an older gangster film: the bit where Cagney shoots into the trunk of the car, in order to "let in a little fresh air" for the poor guy imprisoned in it. It's awful, but it's also actually kind of funny. I'm afraid I always laugh when it comes to that scene.

 

Finally, we have "Top of the World, Ma!" What a fantastic, almost apocalyptic image. Cody defying everyone from the top of the oil silos (or whatever exactly they are) as they burst into flame. To me, one of the differences between noir and an ordinary gangster film is the use of strange settings, often that look like they're in the middle of nowhere. Can't get much more "no man's land" than that ending to *White Heat*.

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According to the book Film Noir by Silver Ward White Heat is a noir more than just a gangster picture because it has 'a visual character appropriate to the (noir) cycle', 'the tone of individual scenes is alternately stark, humorous, violent, brooding and finally, prowerful" and "the strategy of inducing the audience to accept a psychotic protagonist,,, is intuitively modern".

 

The book mentions the conventional sequences but these are offset by "the darker scenes, which focus on the Cody, Verna, Big Ed and Ma and which are the core of the narrative".

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