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misswonderly3

Act of Violence: a great noir

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Just saw it. Again.

 

What a movie ! What a noir!

 

Those scenes where Van is desperately running here and there, drunk and terrified - not just of Joe, but of what he might do to free himself of Joe- have got to be among the most noirish, visually, ever.

 

The final moments of the film, where the three of them - Joe, Frank, and the ominous "Johnny" - all meet at the railway tracks, at night, with the moon half-shrouded in clouds and the wind blowing bits of rubbish along the tracks, and the darkness, and the men's faces - they're noir heaven, at least to me.

 

It isn't as clear as I remember, that Ryan's character is going to relent and make his peace with Frank. In fact, it does show him carrying a gun, ready in his hand.

What would he have done if the evil "Johnny" had not been there too?

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SPOILER BELOW

 

(I tried to put in a lot of white space, the system won't let me do that)

 

 

...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

 

 

 

 

 

"Who's going to tell his wife?"

 

"I will."

 

That's my only knock on the film. Somehow I don't see her being comforted to see him at the door.

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Yes, what a noir. As for the ending; In my post I talked about what if a major star (e.g. Mitchum, Bogie) had played the Van Heflin role. I think the studio would of wanted the Ryan character to relent, kill Johnny and Frank (the major star), wouldn't die.

 

To me the ending is perfect as is.

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Van Heflin was a major star at MGM during this time. When you get cast in movies where your leading lady is Lana Turner, Barbara Stanwyck, Jennifer Jones, Susan Hayward and Joan Crawford-- you are a big star.

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I agree with everything you stated misswonderly. Loved watching ACT OF VIOLENCE again today. One of the very best noirs. Really like Mary Astor and Janet Leigh in it as well. So well acted. My father was shot down over Germany in a B-24 and spent a year in terrible officer POW camps, starvation conditions and forced brutal POW marches westward ahead of the advancing Soviet Army. He would never speak of anything other than to say he would never go hungry ever again like he and others did then. My long dead father was haunted by the POW experience you could tell.

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Van Hefin (one of my favorite actors), wasn't as major of a star as Mitchum or Bogie and that was my point. So I guess we are splitting hairs over what 'major' means as it relates to stars.

 

To me the actresses you list make my point; The movies Van Hefin was in with these female stars were movies were the actress was THE star. e.g. most movies with Stanwyck were Stanwyck films (until later in her career). e.g. I assume in the one film Stanwyck and Bogie did they were both marketed equally. I assume this was NOT the case when Van Heflin was in a movie with the stars you listed.

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I had a feeling you might go that route. By saying Van Heflin was not as big a star as so-and-so. LOL But at MGM, in the late '40s, he was a big star. The studio wanted him to re-sign, but he left to freelance.

 

Marketing is a separate issue, and yes a melodrama will probably be marketed towards female viewers with a female actress.

 

I see misswonderly getting ready to post a comment that we are straying off-topic.

 

:)

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My point about Van Heflin's status as a star and if the ending of Act of Violence is 100% related to how a movie is marketed. As you know studios didn't like their major stars to be in unsavory roles since that could impact how they would market the film and the associated box office take.

 

One classic example is Bogie and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre; critical success but it didn't do well at the box office. Warner wanted to change the ending but Huston was so insistence Warner gave up.

 

An example where a studio compromised the ending is Nightmare Alley with Tyrone Power. I believe the NON noir ending of this film was done because Power was the male lead. My point was that IF an actor of Van Heflin's status was the male lead, the geek would of died in the final scene instead of reuniting with his wife (an ending with hope which isn't true to the noir world).

 

Note Nightmare Alley also had a weak box office take.

 

Again, I'm not knocking Van Heflin, I just view him as a second tier type of star. But as an actor he was right up there with the best.

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Folks...what you're discussing is not interesting to me. I don't care about stuff like that - what stars for which studios had what kind of narrative expectations put upon them.

 

I know, I know, it's of endless fascination to some of you.

What I find far more entertaining is to just discuss the damn film - the story, the characters, the cinematography, etc.

 

Now, what you guys (ok, james and TB, but I think some others too) want to talk about is fine. But maybe you could start a thread devoted to that particular topic.

 

Now, every time I do this I get accused of trying to "control" the thread(s). Ok, I certainly don't want to be accused of that.

 

Discuss this (to me) boring stuff here if you want, as long as maybe you throw in a token observation or two about the actual film.

 

As for Van Heflin' s character's death: it absolutely had to happen. Frank, no matter how much remorse he felt for what he'd done, had to pay for it.

And it's better that he died at Johnny's hand than Joe's.

 

By the way, I don't have difficulty imagining Joe telling Frank's wife of his death.

I think Joe by that time really had transformed. And perhaps if he told

her with the clearly sane and sympathetic Ann by his side, Edith would understand. It might even help put "closure" on it all for her, more so than if an impersonal police officer informed her.

Also, Joe's decision to tell Edith of her husband's death signals that Joe is taking responsibility for what he has done. He did not kill Frank, but he had threatened to, and if it weren't for him, if he hadn't been stalking and threatening him, then Frank wouldn't have died. So Joe is acknowledging that in some way Frank's death is his fault.

 

Edited by: misswonderly on Mar 27, 2014 7:00 PM

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misswonderly,

 

What we are discussing is relevant to the film. Let's say you are right, and that Frank has to die. Then, that limits the kinds of actors who can play it, because of studio politics and the whole issue of marketing.

 

I suppose jamesjazzguitar is on to something, suggesting that if someone like Clark Gable had been cast, then even if Frank should have died, he would not have died. In which case, it would have had an unsatisfactory ending, at least for you, and it would not be a film you love so much.

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I'm talking about the ending of the movie Act of Violence. You're the one that mentioned this and I piggy backed on that. OK, you don't find it interesting. YES, this type of post comes off as controlling. How else should one interpret it?

 

e.g. Discuss this (to me) boring stuff here if you want, as long as maybe you throw in a token observation or two about the actual film.

 

'if you want'??? Damm right we will!

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Fine, it's relevant in a way.

 

But if you ignore the casting and just think about the story-line, it's kind of a side issue.

 

I'll probably make a lot of people here mad, or maybe they'll just be shocked at my heresy, but I've never really been interested in all that studio/star stuff (hey, alliteration !)

 

Don't get me wrong, I love movies. Just not all the paraphernalia around them.

To me, it's like, if you were discussing a book, a novel, talking as much or more about the publisher as the novel itself.

 

Anyway, Clark Gable would have made a terrible Frank Enley. I like him and all, but it's not the sort of role I see him in (and not just because the character dies.)

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Topbilled, thanks for understanding the point I was trying to make related to the movie Act of Violence. As for your Gable comment; I understand you were just throwing out a name of a major star and not actually making an actual casting suggestion.

 

To me casting is a key element to movie making. Start with a great story and screenplay, than chose the actors that fit.

 

To me Act of Violence has great casting. Ryan and Van Heflin were great actors and each was at a similar star status at the time, which allowed the production to be true to this great noir story. Add to this the unique casting of Mary Astor and one has a great movie.

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I guess we all look at movies in different ways.

 

When I watched ACT OF VIOLENCE again this afternoon, I was particularly tuned into Astor's work since the focus has been on her lately as Star of the Month.

 

I was surprised that she had very little make-up on. In some close-ups we can see that on her left cheek, she has some kind of scar or maybe it is acne. It is definitely some very unflattering blemish on her skin. And this is a film made at MGM, one of the top studios in terms of glamour.

 

I really loved how Astor was allowed to play this seedy type of character in a more 'real' sort of way. It helps me get into the story when the characters look like I would expect them to look, especially in noir where they should be hard and rough.

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>Topbilled, thanks for understanding the point I was trying to make related to the movie Act of Violence. As for your Gable comment; I understand you were just throwing out a name of a major star and not actually making an actual casting suggestion.

 

Yes, it was just an example.

 

As for Van Heflin, he liked to play against type on occasion. In AIRPORT, which comes at the end of his film career, he plays a villain. People say that Helen Hayes is the scene stealer in that movie, but I think Van Heflin comes awfully close to stealing it, too. He was willing to take roles where he didn't get the girl, or where he died at the end, because to him, a great role in a great movie was what it was all about. He lasted a long time in an industry where people usually don't last and easily made the transition from leading man to sought-after character actor.

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Well, on this we can agree.

I too was fascinated by Mary Astor in this. Her appearance, yes, so unglamorous and almost frumpy, compared to the earlier pretty (even in her mother roles) Astor.

I respect her for her willingness to play such a role.

I also found the character itself quite interesting. How come she was so interested in Van? Was she a casual part-time hooker looking for a potential customer? Did she see what a mess he was, and feel genuine compassion for him? Or was she initially just looking for "kicks"?

 

The whole segment of the film with her, Taylor Holmes, and Berry Kroeger, plying Frank with drinks and trying to find out what his problem is, has an unsavoury, nightmarish quality to it. I love it when Frank rushes outside (to clear his head?) for a minute, and finds himself in a seedy back yard full of rotting planks and garbage. And just next to those railway tracks, too.

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Yes, I actually just watched it awhile ago and I thought it was great. I never heard of it before but it sounded interesting (anything to do with Veterans & WWII I want to watch) and Janet Leigh stars in it. It pulled me in right away with the growing suspense...the shadows, the patterns of the walls...really visual & internal emotion, not fast, snappy talking. And, then that neat Craftsman bungalow...I'm a big fan of set design & sure enough it turns out to be the amazing duo of Cedric Gibbons & Edwin B. Willis. In the beginning of the film with the new housing development (which I am assuming is real & that they shot on location...anyone know if that is right? I couldn't help but think, "those brand new Calif houses are actually older than mine...and mine is considered old!"

Anyway, I had to look up the info and saw it is directed by Fred Zinnemann which now makes me want to see another interesting sounding film he directed, "The Seventh Cross" (about WWII Nazi Germany).

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Thankfully, the DVR came through and recorded all of it! I watched it again last night. I think initially Mary sees Van as a pick up or maybe a trick (its left up in the air what exactly she does for a living, but one assumes she's a prostitute) but she quickly feels sorry for him. I feel she comes out the winner in the end, as Van takes off and leaves his checkbook with her. Want to bet she made out the check for more than the initial hundred?

 

Loved the photography, lighting and camera angles. So, well, noirish! I love that early shot of Ryan waiting across the street for the parade, as the camera follows him walking across the street, the viewer realizes the camera is inside the drug store filming through the window as you see him walk in. Little touches like that make the movie. And that one segment was filmed in Bunker Hill (where you see the Angel's Flight cable car going up....)

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I think by this time Dore Schary had taken over MGM. I couldnt see L. B. Mayer greenlighting a film like this. Or letting Mary look that way.....

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Yes, I think its clear in that scene that Ryan's character has changed and is taking responsibility for his actions. There is a look of compassion on his face. I have no problem imagining that scene either.

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Schary may have been Director of Production at MGM by the time this film was greenlighted, but Mayer was still his boss until 1951. If Mayer had wanted to squelch this film , he could have.

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>I think by this time Dore Schary had taken over MGM. I couldnt see L. B. Mayer greenlighting a film like this. Or letting Mary look that way.....

 

That's what I would think, too. But a quick check of Schary's credits at the IMDB show that his first MGM production was 1949's BATTLEGROUND, a property he brought with him from RKO. William H. Wright was the producer of ACT OF VIOLENCE. Mayer was forced out at MGM in 1951.

 

What is probably happening with ACT OF VIOLENCE and its gritty look is that the studio realized that they had to compete with RKO in this area-- thus, their borrowing Robert Ryan.

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