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misswonderly3

Act of Violence: a great noir

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I think there was some overlap where Schary worked under Mayer. Somehow this film squeaked through. But I doubt Mayer was keen on it. It was probably dumped on double bills. Anyway, glad it was made!

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Yes, funny how I hadnt noticed that before, even with the voiceover.......

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ACT OF VIOLENCE finished filming in August '48 and was released in February '49. BATTLEGROUND began filming in April '49 and finished filming in June '49.

 

I do not know exactly when Schary left RKO and returned to MGM. It is possible that he had some involvement with ACT OF VIOLENCE.

 

What was definitely happening was that Mayer had a few flops in '47 and the New York office (led by Nicholas Schenck) wanted Schary to help them move away from splashy wholesome entertainment to more hard-hitting social message dramas.

 

ACT OF VIOLENCE may have been conceived differently but perhaps Schary had a chance to tinker with it. Several years earlier, Schary was in charge of MGM's B-picture unit and had turned out KID GLOVE KILLER, which starred Van Heflin. So maybe Heflin was cast in ACT OF VIOLENCE at Schary's insistence. Just speculating here...

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Whatever its origins, it wasnt the norm for a MGM picture, although MGM was changing........Very gritty and with an RKO feel........

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swimminginaqua wrote:

 

>Wasn't that a great shot of him running alone down the train tunnel...mentally echoing the "POW tunnel".

 

Oh my goodness, that is so perceptive of you ! I am embarrassed to admit this: I'd never realized that before, never put it together...The tunnel scene in the present, with Frank running desperately along the tunnel, and thinking, remembering, reliving, that tunnel in the past which caused all the torment back in that POW camp, all those years ago.

Joe's escape tunnel.

 

I don't know whether you are remarkably bright (probably) for making that connection, or I'm remarkably dim (probably) for having seen the film at least 4 times and never "getting" that before.

 

Now that's the kind of observation about *Act of Violence* I find fascinating !

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Dont feel too bad MissW., I didnt get it either till now. (LOL)

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:) I love symbolism and film & art are big on that...that one clicked right away and it was so effective of the director to shoot that with the voices. I also like catching a repeat motif in costumes or set decoration that relates to a film..it's fun to discuss film as a whole instead of just "who acted in it".

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I'm with you, 100%, aqua.

I like the "literary"/ analyse the film/ approach to talking about a movie, too.

I'd rather talk about the film, rather than around it.

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Here is a list of crime films that MGM made when Dore Schary returned to the studio after his stint at RKO. Some are more noir-ish than others:

 

SIDE STREET

CAUGHT

THE GREAT SINNER

SCENE OF THE CRIME

CONSPIRATOR

BORDER INCIDENT

BLACK HAND

SHADOW ON THE WALL

CRISIS

MYSTERY STREET

A LADY WITHOUT PASSPORT

DIAL 1119

TENSION

CAUSE FOR ALARM

NO QUESTIONS ASKED

KIND LADY

THE TALL TARGET

THE STRIP

BANNERLINE

THE PEOPLE AGAINST O'HARA

THE UNKNOWN MAN

THE LIGHT TOUCH

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>So MGM did no crime films or noirs prior to Schary's appearance on the scene?

 

Why don't you look it up and tell us. :)

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>So MGM did no crime films or noirs prior to Schary's appearance on the scene?

 

 

I think that MGM's logic was that "Crime Does Not Pay." ;)

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So clore, never mind all that stuff, have you seen *Act of Violence*, and if so, what do you have to say (if anything) about it?

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Here's a user comment that I posted on the IMDb just over 10 years ago:

17 November 2003

In "Seventh Cross" director Fred Zinnemann depicted the isolation of a concentration camp escapee (Spencer Tracy) with MGM studio sets stepping in for actual locations - that would have been impossible at the time. In "The Search" he made use of a ruined Berlin to tell the story of a very young concentration camp survivor - a young boy separated from his mother - using the ruins as a metaphor for the many ruined lives.

In "Act of Violence" Zinnemann returns to the aftermath of war - this time telling of two prisoner-of-war camp survivors, one of whom was a Nazi collaborator, the other one a vengeful fellow prisoner who takes it upon himself to track down and kill his former friend. Cinematographer Robert Surtees makes great use of Los Angeles' seedier parts of town - I was reminded of how his son Bruce Surtees made similar effective use of San Francisco in "Dirty Harry" - this is noir at its best, not only in cinematic terms, but with those "only come out at night" characters you expect in a top notch thriller.

Mary Astor is most effective as the barfly (couldn't make her a prostitute, though it is more than obvious) - and after her performance in the garish "Desert Fury" it's nice to see her in black-and-white again. We first meet her in a pub in which Van Heflin runs for sanctuary, the lighting there has us admiring the way she has held up, but when we move to the harsher lighting of her apartment (the lamp hanging on a cord is unshaded), we realize that the first impression was too kind. It's a magnificent performance - perhaps the best that I've seen of her.

Barry Kroeger, whose altogether too infrequent appearances included such noir classics as "Cry of the City" and "Gun Crazy," makes the most of his few moments as an underworld "enforcer" who would be quite willing to kill Ryan for a price. While Ryan seems to be a man who is on the verge of violence at any second, barely able to restrain himself, Kroeger is even more chilling. His calm, rational demeanor puts him in a different class of predator - he's good at what he does and he's used to doing it, like Alan Ladd's character in "This Gun For Hire" we can be sure that when committing murder, he feels "Fine, just fine."

Janet Leigh appears as Heflin's wife - it's an early turn for her, and while it is a most stereotypically written "wifey" role, she invests it with all that she has, but the ending is such that we have to wonder just how she will react. Right before that we have a taut scene with Heflin about to confront Ryan while Kroeger is watching. The tension is almost unbearable, all done through editing and camerawork and not one line of dialogue.

Zinnemann would continue to look at war's effects on those who came home in "The Men" as well as "Teresa" and in "Hatful Of Rain" - the man may be among the most unheralded of classic film directors, but his resume includes Oscar winners such as "High Noon" and "A Man For All Seasons" as well as such nailbiters as this film and the original "Day of the Jackal."

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clore: that was wonderful. What fine writing. Thank you so much.

 

I kind of wish these boards had more of that kind of thing (see post below), specific comments talking specifically about a movie, and maybe not quite so much of what I call "talking around" movies.

 

Of course, many of us, including me, cannot hope to write at the level of our friend here. But that's ok.

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Thank you so much for the kind words. It is easier to write a review of a film that impresses me than on one that doesn't. I guess I don't want to spend that much time in thinking about it.

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A quick glance at MGM's pre-ACT OF VIOLENCE 1940s releases has revealed that the only recognizable (to me) crime films or noirs were 1947's LADY IN THE LAKE, and 1942's KID GLOVE KILLER and GRAND CENTRAL MURDER (both Bs). Wasn't JOHNNY EAGER an MGM film? I didn't notice it on the list.

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JOHNNY EAGER was indeed an MGM release.

 

Edward Arnold did two B-pictures at MGM in the '40s that were crime films: EYES IN THE NIGHT and THE HIDDEN EYE.

 

LADY IN THE LAKE was one of the big flops of '47 that started to turn the tide against Mayer. Robert Montgomery soon left the studio and fled to Warners for a film with Bette Davis, then to Universal where he signed a multi-picture deal.

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Yes, I 2nd Miss W's compliment. There isnt a weak link in this movie (in any category)..........It's too bad TCM couldnt have scheduled this film in prime time so more people could have seen it (dont remember it ever getting a primetime slot in the times I've seen it).......

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Hibi, if I were one of those TCM guest programmers (you know, the ones from the lowly masses who entered that contest) I might have pushed for *Act of Violence* for my prime time selection (although I had a lot of other ideas too...But Canadians were not allowed to participate.)

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LOL. That doesnt seem right. I wonder why?

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>Canadians were not allowed to participate.

 

I did not realize that. How unfortunate. They should have a separate contest for you folks. Is it against Canadian law?

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I don't know the reasons behind it, but I do know that every time TCM has some sort of contest (not just the "programmer" one, but others, like "win a trip to the TCM festival !" etc.), Canadians are not eligible to apply.

 

Yet they send me the emails about it ! Aargh !

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