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FredCDobbs

Black Widow (1954), beginning of the end of the classic era

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>He told a film scholar that Cinemascope was overused by the studios and that comparing film to classic painting, only one real masterpiece from the Renaissance period could be said to frame subjects the way Cinemascope does: The Last Supper. Lang claimed that everything else is more effective when it shows subjects up close and intimately

 

Lang was right. Can you imagine "M" in Technicolor and Cinemascope??

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Wow, such negativity. The initial post was only one person's opinion and not everyone agrees with it and the OP was very open to feedback that disagreed with said opinion. That is the purpose of a forum like this.

 

Edited by: jamesjazzguitar on Jan 27, 2013 3:51 PM

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> {quote:title=FredCDobbs wrote:}{quote}It's on now.

>

> Is is a noir? Is it not a noir? Is it a Techicolor noir? Is it a neo-nor?

>

> Is the old-time cast noir?

What I love best about it? RAFT baby! :) I lub-a-dub-dub George Raft, any chance I can get!

 

Dig it!

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Wow.

 

Nope, no no noir that one.

 

I was so hopeful, since the online promo is in glorious black and white.

 

I immediately lost that hope on hearing Ben pronounce 'shot in Cinemascope', and sure enough, blech.

 

I *know* I've liked Heflin in some of his other movies, but mayhaps the color film annoyed him? :) Because I know he annoyed me.

 

Turned it off, toot sweet.

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I love all these old noir actors, and Raft is always a treat. :)

 

I can just see the discussion in the studio head's office before this film was made:

 

"Ok, we're gonna make a big noir, with some big names in it, but THIS one will be up to date and MODERN! It will be shot in Technicolor and Cinemascope!"

 

Some of the people in the room mumble to themselves, ("Technicolor and Cinemascope?? Dang, how will we light that?? We are going to have to build some very wide sets and long couches, and plan for the actors to be very far apart and yell at each other from across the set.")

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I felt that the initial post and subsequent posts have been unfairly negative about this film. The original poster also slammed RACHEL, RACHEL in another thread, but I am not holding that against him. And if I remember correctly, he once made a thread about PEYTON PLACE saying the same kinds of negative things. There is a pattern, and it is usually directed at women's films which I think is alarming.

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>There is a pattern, and it is usually directed at women's films which I think is alarming.

 

So you think BLACK WIDOW is a "women's film"??

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Ginger is headlining it with help from Tierney and Garner. Heflin and Raft do seem to be playing roles that support her storyline in this film. So yeah, I would called this a woman's noir. I would also call most of the films that Ida Lupino did in this genre woman's noir, too.

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>So yeah, I would called this a woman's noir.

 

Black Widow, a "woman's noir"?? With Van Heflin in the lead??

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Concur about Ida Lupino . . . "They Drive By Night" (1940) would not have been as good as it was with only Bogart and Raft without Lupino.

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>"They Drive By Night" (1940) would not have been as good as it was with only Bogart and Raft without Lupino.

 

She's a top member of the cast. Remove Bogart and Raft, and what have you got?

 

Some movies are movies for everyone, men, women, etc.,

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Check the credits on the IMDB or the TCM Database. Van Heflin is second-billed. Ginger is the star of this baby. This is her film.

 

Now in THE PROWLER, he is the lead, and Keyes is basically supporting him, though she is given a lot to do. In BLACK WIDOW, it's the other way around. Ginger is clearly driving the narrative, and while Heflin is given plenty of on-screen business, he is second fiddle to her.

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>. . . and even Ann Sheridan is no shrinking violet.

 

Sure, this is is film for everyone, except maybe little kids. Remove top members of the cast and you've got no movie. :)

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Watch JENNIFER. Howard Duff is valuable to the film as the male lead, but Ida is Jennifer and she is the whole film. Most of Ida's films from 1940 forward have her in the driver's seat, regardless of genre.

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>Van Heflin is second-billed. Ginger is the star of this baby. This is her film.

 

Ginger Rogers was a very minor character in this film. On the screen for just a few minutes. Van Heflin was the overall star of this film and he was on the screen the most.

 

This was not a "women's noir".

 

This was a "crossover noir", crossing over from the old days of 4:3 B&W noirs to Technicolor and Cinemascope noirs, and this photographic style marked the beginning of the end of noirs.

 

The real "stars" of this film were Technicolor and Cinemascope.

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Sorry, Fred, that is your opinion, and you can keep repeating it, but I think you are wrong.

 

The fact is that Zanuck had Ginger billed first. He made this film after she agreed to sign on and do it. She is the one we remember when the film ends and the lights come up. It is a Ginger Rogers film, blessed with the talents of other actors, some of them icons in their own right, that have agreed to take on the other roles in the story that are credited beneath Miss Rogers.

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Fred,

 

I usually do not pay much attention when you write about your past, but haven't you told others that you worked in journalism? I have a degree in journalism and I worked in broadcasting. You cannot use an opinion and tell someone else this is the way it is, when that is only your opinion. Surely you understand that you have to back it up with fact. The fact is that Ginger is top-billed in this production. If it were a play, her face would be on the poster outside the theatre, and her name would be listed first in the playbill. She is the star, whether you like it or not. She plays the central character, because the story hinges on her character's actions.

 

I have a feeling that you want to support your own claims that she is an over-the-hill actress at this stage in her career and that she is playing minor roles, when that simply is not the fact. Usually, Zanuck billed her first in these movies she made at Fox in the 1950s, and there were quite a few of them. Cary Grant and Clifton Webb are the only ones who are ever billed over her.

 

In OH MEN! OH WOMEN!, she is top billed over David Niven and Tony Randall. In TEENAGE REBEL, she is top billed over Michael Rennie. In WE'RE NOT MARRIED, she is top billed over Marilyn Monroe and Fred Allen. In BLACK WIDOW, she is top billed over Van Heflin, Gene Tierney and George Raft. A fourth-billed George Raft is in no way, shape or form the lead of this picture.

 

Meanwhile, during this time, she freelanced at Paramount. And guess what, no surprise, she is top billed over William Holden and Paul Douglas. At Columbia, a year after BLACK WIDOW, she is top billed over Edward G. Robinson. Yeah, her career was far from over. She was still the number one draw in most of her films in the 1950s. Not bad for an over-the-hill has-been, which of course she wasn't.

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>You cannot use an opinion and tell someone else this is the way it is, when that is only your opinion.

 

Black Widow does mark a sudden change in Hollywood film style for a murder mystery, with a film noir type cast but shot in Technicolor and Cinemascope. That marks a major transition from 4:3 and B&W noir type films to brightly lit Technicolor and Cinemascope wide-screen film murder mystery type films. It is an attempt to mix the old noir cast with the new photographic style, and it marks the beginning of the end of the old true noir style movies.

 

It was different for the changeover to color and wide-screen for Biblical films. For example, Samson and Delilah (1949) could have easily fit into the modern wide-screen world of 1950s Hollywood. But no a noir film with an all-noir cast.

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It is an ok film. I like the film.

 

My OP just pointed out that this is a significant crossover film, from old style film-noir, to new style Technicolor and Cinemascope, because of its obvious old-time noir cast, yet its brightly lit wide-screen image, with unusually long couches in the unusually wide apartments.

 

I'm just used to seeing these guys and these girls much closer together and more hot and steamy, and in shadows, in old-style 4:3 B&W films.

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Well I agree with you (Fred), here. I don't view Black Widow as a 'women noir' since the plot revolves around the Heflin character. It is he that is suspected of murder. So it isn't just that he has the most screen time but also that the entire story revolves around him and his actions. i.e. the fact that he let this very strange and then evil young women (as seen from the perspective of the viewer) into his life.

 

I also like the film and found it interesting but I also understand why it doesn't 'work' as well as it should for the reasons you point out.

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While I generally agree with Fred's thesis that this is a "cross-over noir," that is clearly a subjective judgment.

 

The fact that Heflin is the main character, that is the LEAD character, is objectively observable, just by watching the film. It matters not how successful Ginger Rogers' agent was in negotiating top billing for her in this film, or others you mention. She is clearly a secondary character in the film, arguably less important than the lower-billed George Raft.

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