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FredCDobbs

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

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whoa, my mind is blown.

 

I just imdb'd *Nunnally Johnson* (sp?) the screenwriter/director of Black Widow. Watching Widow, I kept blaming the director for everything that wasn't the screenwriter's fault- the misguided performances, the uninteresting visuals (cinematography aside), the faults in the story...

 

He only directed 8 films, most not too notable, but one- The Three Faces of Eve features a performance by an actress who won the Oscar for her role. I think that is likely more of a testament to the talents of Joanne Woodward than any guidance Johnson may have given, but then again, I wasn't there.

 

He wrote *a lot* of screenplays. He is credited as the only writer for The Grapes of Wrath (!) which is pretty much a perfect script and he also wrote Holy Matrimony and The Dirty Dozen. He was nominated for Oscars for writing Grapes and Matrimony. He also wrote Roxie Hart, which maybe explains how he drew Ginger into the mix.

 

Maybe the fact that he had been so successful as a writer and had a few films under his belt as a director, combined with the fact that he was the writer and director is why Black Widow is such a hot mess...no one dared to question his choices, least of all himself.

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Not me. I find it appalling that Americans think the war started in December of 1941. The filmmakers were complete dolts for that comment.

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Of course, which makes the point further than having an American character at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 saying "World War 2 just started" is completely and utterly ridiculous.

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>I just imdb'd Nunnally Johnson (sp?) the screenwriter/director of Black Widow. Watching Widow, I kept blaming the director for everything that wasn't the screenwriter's fault- the misguided performances, the uninteresting visuals (cinematography aside), the faults in the story...

 

I think you might be right. He wrote and directed BLACK WIDOW, and I think he also produced it.

 

He wrote a couple of b&w noirs in the 1940s, such as MOONTIDE (1942, but he was uncredited), THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW (1944), THE DARK MIRROR (1946), and then THE LONG DARK HALL (1951, made in England).

 

He worked mainly as a writer on several famous films:

 

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0425913/

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

> Of course, which makes the point further than having an American character at Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 saying "World War 2 just started" is completely and utterly ridiculous.

No, that America-centric idiocy doesn't make the point further, it makes a different point, that the filmmakers were in error. You originally claimed "Nobody in 1941 referred to it as "World War 2." That's the point that the Time Magazine reference made invalid.

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

>

I agree, I actually add in his 40s roles as well! I think as he grew older and got more "tough mug/guy" roles, his style really meshed well with those!

 

Anyway, I dug him in BLACK WIDOW for sure! But then again, I love the dude!

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

> Can you stay on-topic on my thread, please. Thanks.

 

With all due respect Fred, I didn't start that particular reference that wasn't "on-topic" so either address your comments to the group who have discussed that point, or just accept that sometimes these things happen. After all, it can be taken that any disagreement with your initial perspective isn't "on-topic" since it contradicts what you have to say. Isn't there enough of that around here already?

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You're right, mark. Raft really matured as an artist and his performances in films become more interesting, assured and textured.

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

> There's also the fact that no thread on a public board is "my thread". If anyone wants ownership of a discussion, they'll have to try to do it with pm's.

I had considered saying like that, but honestly, my primary objection is that I was singled out. But you are right, however it seem to be an ever increasing trend around here for some to insist on controlling the content of a thread. There's one in particular who not only tries to control their own threads with a haughty air of superiority, but also polices the threads of others and attempts to speak for the OP.

 

 

If someone wants that much control, I suggest a blog and a Lonesome Rhodes applause machine.

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I hope the thread does not wind up locked, because this is a good film and there's much fruitful conversation that can come from discussing it. Don't you agree?

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>Why would it wind up locked?

 

Well, I think it is starting to get increasingly off-topic. And I think those that want it to focus on BLACK WIDOW may have something to say about it. End result is possibly arguing and a locked thread.

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I don't believe that it's a particularly good film, for my money, rather run of the mill for the "innocent man accused" type thing that it is. However, that doesn't mean that it shouldn't be discussed. I certainly don't begrudge anyone their own preferences, some films that I enjoy greatly are dismissed by others and it doesn't bother me one bit.

 

But I certainly don't want the thread to be locked just because it swayed a bit, nor do I find that such divergence demeans the subject or the OP. Such course altering is the nature of these exchanges.

 

I don't see the film as the "beginning of the end" for the classic era, merely an attempt at making adjustments to a familiar plot in accordance with technological advances. It would be like saying that NORTH BY NORTHWEST signaled the end because it wasn't done in B&W and in the Academy ratio as were THE 39 STEPS or SABOTEUR, two very similar films in theme.

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You should see the Loretta Young SOTM thread I started. That poor little thing keeps chugging along, at least half the 390 replies are off-topic; yet it has racked up over 11,000 views and Loretta's month has not even started yet!

 

I agree that BLACK WIDOW does not signal the end of classic movie making and neither does NORTH BY NORTHWEST.

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I've seen the Loretta Young thread, even participated in it. While I usually like her, I've no qualms with those who don't and if they want to express that, they should be able to do so in the thread just to preserve the need for these forums to invite all perspectives. Otherwise, you or anyone else will end up with thread with lots of views but few responses.

 

However, we are getting off-topic discussing your thread within Fred's and I've already incurred his admonition. ;)

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Oops, I do not want you to have problems with Fred.

 

I do not mind the off-topic posts, as long as they are civil. It keeps a thread hot and on page one. But I still try to add information that is relevant to the original discussion and on topic, even if others are not appreciative of Young's talents.

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Well I'm one that feels Black Widow is good; i.e. I would give it a B- rating. I liked that the All About Eve type of theme was hidden at the start of the picture (i.e. Nancy appeared to be just an eager gal) and we only find out about her true nature via flashbacks.

 

I think the film would of been better if Heflin's character was did do something that wasn't right. e.g. having sex with some gal, but not Nancy. Thus Nancy's scheme to blackmail him would make more sense.

 

So I was glad to see a film I hadn't seen before even if it was a great one.

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FWIW here are a few more of these "color noir" movies to watch for.

 

 

* Inferno (1953, 3-D)

* Niagara (1953)

* Second Chance (1953, 3-D)

* Black Widow (1954)

* Dangerous Mission (1954)

* Dial M for Murder (1954)

* Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

* Hell's Island (1955)

* House of Bamboo (1955)

* I Died a Thousand Times (1955)

* Accused of Murder (1956)

* A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

* Slightly Scarlet (1956)

* The Unholy Wife (1957)

 

 

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> She recently had a nervous breakdown.

 

I thought the nervous breakdown came sometime after *The Left Hand of God*, which was a year after *Black Widow*. Wasn't Tierney out of movies for quite a few years before returning for *Advise and Consent* in the early 60s?

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In the tcmdb synopsis of the film, Peggy Ann Garner is called Peggy Ann GARDNER. She was an Oscar recipient, please get her name right, even if this was not her shining moment.

 

I also mentioned this in another thread, but Osborne referred to her as Gardner TWICE in his intro. He also claimed All About Eve was made "nine years before Black Widow. "

 

Do I even need to point out that All About Eve was not made in 1945?

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I think her breakdown occurred during the filming of THE EGYPTIAN which came right before BLACK WIDOW and THE LEFT HAND OF GOD.

 

 

There definitely is a gap after THE LEFT HAND OF GOD. It is another five years before her television appearance in 1960 on G.E. True Theater.

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AddisonDeWitless, in your Dec 30, 2012 7:42 AM post addressed to me, with the link referencing back to my OP, you said::

 

>In the tcmdb synopsis of the film, Peggy Ann Garner is called Peggy Ann GARDNER. She was an Oscar recipient, please get her name right, even if this was not her shining moment.

 

I didn't write the synopis for the tcmdb. This is the way I spelled the names in my OP:

 

First note the year and the cast: 1954, Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger.

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

> I think the film would of been better if Heflin's character was did do something that wasn't right. e.g. having sex with some gal, but not Nancy. Thus Nancy's scheme to blackmail him would make more sense.

>

> So I was glad to see a film I hadn't seen before even if it was a great one.

>

Well, Heflin's character did assault Virginia Leith, which despite his not being guilty of one crime, does have him committing another. I suppose we're supposed to excuse that since he's that desperate, but somehow it seemed out of character.

 

I somehow perceive that your last sentence was intended to say "wasn't" instead of "was" and if so, I do agree. Although it wasn't the first time that I have seen it in Cinemascope, it's certainly preferable to the time that I saw it many years ago in a pan-and-scan version, although there was one advantage to that method - it did cause some movement.

 

Consider the scene in the police station - the camera lingers as Raft at his desk goes on rattling off questions to Heflin who has Tierney at his side and the framing is such that not only is there no movement, but all we see of Raft is the back of his head. This went on for much too long and while it may have been easier to shoot, it is in no way cinematic and I have to believe that Henry Hathaway or Jean Negulesco would have freshened up the scene by cutting away to other coverage.

 

It may have been that there were budget considerations, or that BLACK WIDOW was only alloted one Cinemascope lens, but this is where the film suffers the most to me, in being so stage bound. Cliches can actually be a pleasure if they're served up well enough, but here the visual presentation lacked punch.

 

Now, I'm not saying that it should have been made five ears earlier, or shot in black-and-white. I can only fairly judge the film by the techniques it used.

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