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FredCDobbs

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

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IMHO, Ginger's one and only noir was TIGHT SPOT. She was terrific, too,in that film, lousy in this one.

 

Tight Spot is certainly Ginger's best noir film (and best noir role), but while I'm not sure if Twist of Fate qualifies as a pure noir, she wasn't bad in that one, either.

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

> This implies that any film made before CinemaScope and Technicolor must have been made in the dark ages, though by most calendars, 1940-whatever is still part of the 21st century.

No, 1940-whatever is still part of the 20th Century.

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>though by most calendars, 1940-whatever is still part of the 21st century.

 

The 1940s were part of the 20th Century. We are in the 21st Century now.

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With CinemaScope Zanuck had a new way to market product. Directors like Nunnally Johnson with a background in the theatre could really take advantage of the new staging possibilities.

 

Personally, I think CinemaScope aids noir, because it creates gaps between the characters, schisms of unrest and increases the isolation and alienation they experience, even in the same room. As for the use of Technicolor in this genre, we can experience a greater sense of temperature. Our characters can now really get overheated on screen and a good director and cinematographer will take advantage of this.

 

Edited by: TopBilled on Dec 28, 2012 8:53 PM

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I felt that Ginger Rogers gave the worst performance in this movie. Her attempt to play a catty women just fell flat. Someone like Eve Arden would of been 100 times better; Arden would of made the catty comments sting and be funny at the same time.

 

True, but then asking Ginger Rogers to match Eve Arden's humor and acid tongue is like asking a middleweight to knock out a heavyweight. You're talking about one of the great and unfortunately forgotten comic actresses of the 20th century.

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I am glad that TIGHT SPOT has been mentioned. Now I do call that one a genre hybrid. It's a reworking of the gangster picture, and it has noirish elements. RKO's remake of THE RACKET with Bob Mitchum and Lizabeth Scott is another one of these. The studios were trying to recycle the gangster picture and they were breeding it with noir and creating these new film children.

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> {quote:title=finance wrote:}{quote}IMHO, Ginger's one and only noir was TIGHT SPOT. She was terrific, too,in that film, lousy in this one.

Agreed, agreed, agreed. (but her hair and wardrobe are waaaaaaaaaaaaaay better in Black Widow. )

 

Edited by: AddisonDeWitless on Dec 28, 2012 5:21 PM

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>We? Some of us, such as myself, are still living in the mid-20th century.

 

That's just great. I'll meet you at Times Square early in the morning on January 1, 1950. :)

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I like Van Heflin, although he runs (like most stars) the full gamut from great to so-so in terms of performances, and he was often miscast- bad luck he managed to overcome sometimes ( Madame Bovary ) and other times notsomuch ( The Three Musketeers ) And he's one of those genre-crossing stars who could do (and did do) ALL SORTS of pictures, and he's a *very rare* supporting player who successfully transitioned to leading status over time- no small feat seeing as how he was not traditionally handsome in Gable, Cooper or Taylor terms and not as BIG an ACTOR! as Cagney or Barrymore and their like.

 

That said, I liked him very much *until* I saw Johnny Eager, the film for which he won the 1941 Best Supporting Actor Oscar earlier this year on TCM (was it during SUTS?)

 

It's not a good film and it's not a good performance. Maybe it's just the fact that everything about it has aged so badly. I could barely watch it. It is "Soap Opera Acting 101"

 

And now, everytime I see a film where his (sometimes drunken) character persists in high-fallutin', quasi-intellectual, thoroughly unnatural extemporizing and ham-fistedly pretentious dialogue (prime example: Black Widow ) I think "oh, poor guy, they were making him do Johnny Eager. "

 

That Oscar can be a curse, no doubt.

 

Of course to be fair, the bit works sometimes ( Possessed comes to mind) but more often than not, it doesn't.

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> {quote:title=AddisonDeWitless wrote:}{quote}I like Van Heflin, although he runs (like most stars) the full gamut from great to so-so in terms of performances, and he was often miscast- bad luck he managed to overcome sometimes ( Madame Bovary ) and other times notsomuch ( The Three Musketeers ) And he's one of those genre-crossing stars who could do (and did do) ALL SORTS of pictures, and he's a *very rare* supporting player who successfully transitioned to leading status over time- no small feat seeing as how he was not traditionally handsome in Gable, Cooper or Taylor terms and not as BIG an ACTOR! as Cagney or Barrymore and their like.

>

> That said, I liked him very much *until* I saw Johnny Eager, the film for which he won the 1941 Best Supporting Actor Oscar earlier this year on TCM (was it during SUTS?)

>

>

> It's not a good film and it's not a good performance. Maybe it's just the fact that everything about it has aged so badly. I could barely watch it. It is "Soap Opera Acting 101"

>

>

> And now, everytime I see a film where his (sometimes drunken) character persists in high-fallutin', quasi-intellectual, thoroughly unnatural extemporizing and ham-fistedly pretentious dialogue (prime example: Black Widow ) I think "oh, poor guy, they were making him do Johnny Eager. "

>

>

> That Oscar can be a curse, no doubt.

>

>

> Of course to be fair, the bit works sometimes ( Possessed comes to mind) but more often than not, it doesn't.

>

 

You are right on target. I think his greatest performance was as Joe Starrett in SHANE, lousiest AND MOST ANNOYING as Jeff Hartnett in JOHNNY EAGER.

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I really wasn't asking Rogers to match Arden, but instead pointing out how Rogers wasn't right for this role and also that Rogers wasn't a good enough actress to pull off the role.

 

 

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Caution, SPOILER ALERT BELOW, LOL

 

I finally got to watch this whole movie *Black Widow* and have to say that i did like it, but not that I thought is was a real noir movie. If you stick with the movie after about 45 mintues you can see some of the parts starting to fall into place, and by the end can almost guess who did the "murder".

 

Ginger Rodgers to me did believably as a bitchy star, over her prime but still full of herself, and her tag-along husband was also somewhat believable, although perhaps they should have picked a younger man for the part which would have made the ending more believable. This change alone could have made a big difference in how the movie is perceived.

 

The worst part for me was Peggy Ann Garner who played Nancy Ordway, she was far too ordinary for all this fuss to be done over IMO, not a femme fatale by any means.The only case that could be made for using her was so it didn't give away the killer to easily, as a young Marylin Monroe type bomb would never be killed by one of the men and that would make the movie too easy as a murder mystery.

 

If this movie had been done in B&W I still don't think it could be a top film noir given that most of the characters are too honest. Yes there is a lot of speculation but the cops are both honest, the Denver family was, and many of the other outside characters were.

 

Anyway I am glad they did this one in color as it does look better,you could add a million shadows to this movie and it wouldn't have helped it any. Overall a very good movie but not a real noir, if you take the loose definition of noir then yes, it is an interesting one in transition perhaps away from the real greats.

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>I guess that I presumed that I saw it on FMC as I did receive that channel back then. It still would have been preferable to have that one air first, at least to my eyes anyway since the Tierney content was greater.

 

It is very possible that THE LEFT HAND OF GOD did air on FMC, too. Perhaps someone knows...?

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

> It is very possible that THE LEFT HAND OF GOD did air on FMC, too. Perhaps someone knows...?

 

 

 

It had to be FMC as the timing on my spreadsheet list of viewings does not coincide with the TCM airing in December 2009. I saw the film in early 2008, although that was hardly my first time. FMC was the only non-commercial channel that I had in 2008 that aired letterboxed films other than TCM. I keep such notes on my list, but maybe I should go back to add the source. It just seemed unnecessary to me as about 85% of my movie viewing on TV for the last five years is on TCM.

 

My list starts on January 1, 2008 and I've watched 3,318 movie telecasts since then, with 298 of them being seen more than once in the same time frame.

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*The studios were trying to recycle the gangster picture and they were breeding it with noir and creating these new film children.*

 

This doesn't seem right. At this time (the mid 50s), noir was just then being defined as such by the French. What we know as noirs were known as Crime Dramas by the studios, and many of these had all along incorporated elements of the gangster pics. They weren't breeding anything, but hoping these genres would continue to appeal to those movie audiences they still had.

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I am glad you mentioned the fact that the term 'film noir' really did not come into vogue until later.

 

The gangster picture had really been used continuously since the advent of talkies. It was hybridized in several noteworthy ways. For instance, the Warners melodrama NORA PRENTISS incorporates many gangster elements, yet it is told from the woman's point of view.

 

Something like TIGHT SPOT does seem like a reworking of earlier stories, but again it is now told with the woman as central character.

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It reminds me of watching PEARL HARBOR the other day and during the attack in Hawaii one of the characters is on the phone and says "World War 2" just started. I laughed out loud. Nobody in 1941 referred to it as "World War 2." A bad anachronism in that film. A real howler I thought.

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By the way, speaking of this title, there is a thriller from the 1980s with the same name, starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell. I wonder if folks consider that a neo-noir...?

 

 

That's the one I thought it was. The house it was set in is here up the coast in Puako on the Big Island of Hawaii. It's used for events and weddings, and is the most magnificent place you can imagine. On the ocean, with a lava rock wall that surrounds it on three sides that I've heard cost several hundred thousand. Just the wall. The estate was built by Maurice Sullivan, who owned the Foodland chain of grocery stores. Worth seeing the movie just to look at the house.

 

 

I didn't think it was a neo-noir. Just a weird picture.

 

 

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Also, you once again call the cast noir actors which gives short shrift to their work in other genres and art forms. They were highly trained versatile performers working across a broad spectrum of film, stage, radio and television media.

 

 

 

Yes, they were. I liked them, and it was worth seeing the movie just for the privilege of watching them on screen, regardless of the plot. May I digress a little?

 

I've always been an admirer of Ginger Rogers' varied talents, but none so much as the way she wore clothes. I watched "Weekend at the Waldorf" about seventeen times over the years just to look at her in that divine wardrobe.

 

This movie was nicely done, I thought, for its limitations. And that big black hat Ginger wore! Her profile was pure gold photographically.

 

When she got old she got lumpy, but in her prime she was amazingly slender. Lots of tennis, as I recall. One of her husbands (Bergerac) said he couldn't stand having lunch with her. He would eat, but she'd sit there with a lettuce leaf.

 

Reginald Gardiner was always a favorite of mine. I could watch him forever. Loved him in Christmas in Connecticut. Van Heflin was a friend of a friend of mine, and I'd watch him for that reason sometimes. One of his best, I thought, was "Grand Central Murder" ... that's my story and I'm sticking to it. That one was more noir than this one.

 

I never knew George Raft to be accused of acting, which is fine, because I never expected much of a performance from him. He just had to stand there and look good, and that was enough for most of us. I was surprised when, at a point where he was declared to be a pretty depraved type and therefore not welcome in England, he said he'd never had a drink in his life. Maybe that was the trouble ... no, I'm being facetious. Anyway I LIKED him in this movie. I really did. I watched him all the way through it and thought, Man, that is one handsome dude.

 

Gene Tierney seemed so placid in this you'd think she was sedated. Maybe she was.

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> {quote:title=Filmgoddess wrote:}{quote}It reminds me of watching PEARL HARBOR the other day and during the attack in Hawaii one of the characters is on the phone and says "World War 2" just started. I laughed out loud. Nobody in 1941 referred to it as "World War 2." A bad anachronism in that film. A real howler I thought.

Good point, Filmgoddess.

However, another glaring error-one which I'm afraid shows how America-centric you guys can be- is that World War ll did not begin in December 1941, it began in September, 1939.

The later date is just when the United States became involved. (as I'm sure you know.)

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Dec 29, 2012 2:40 AM

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

>

> It reminds me of watching PEARL HARBOR the other day and during the attack in Hawaii one of the characters is on the phone and says "World War 2" just started. I laughed out loud. Nobody in 1941 referred to it as "World War 2." A bad anachronism in that film. A real howler I thought.

For the record, Time magazine was the first to dub the 1939-45 conflict as World War II; from the 11 September 1939 issue:

bq. "Some of the diplomatic juggling which last week ended in World War II was old-fashioned international jockeying for power." \ http://www.wordorigins.org/index.php/site/comments/world_war/

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Fred, I would tend to agree on some points. I liked THE BLACK WIDOW, and to me, Raft can do no wrong, I totally LOVE him!!! :) But I am a bit wary of color noir...I know it's a prejudice and some have been cited in this thread, but they generally don't work for me on the same level as most black and white flix do, at least in terms of qualities I get from those. Now, some have other qualities which make them worthwhile viewing experiences (I'd rank THE BLACK WIDOW up on that list!), but, to me at least, there is something qualitatively different about them on a certain level. :)

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I tend to like Raft in some of his 1950s roles more than his earlier more famous film turns. I especially think he plays well off Edward G. Robinson in A BULLET FOR JOEY.

 

As for Ginger, she still looks fabulous in a 1971 guest spot on Here's Lucy. I want to see what she looks like in those 1980s appearances she did on Love Boat and Hotel. The storyline for the Hotel episode looks particularly fascinating-- she plays a phony psychic who has been recruited for a sting operation. I am going to try and see if I can buy it on ioffer. It would be interesting to see what kind of Nolan Miller designs she's wearing.

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