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Dr. Rich Edwards

Daily Dose of Darkness #24: The Square Circle (Opening Scene from 99 River Street)

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-- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

 

This marriage appears to be on shaky grounds as Pauline looks and sounds unhappy with her current situation of having to work because her ex-boxer husband is unemployed.

After the war, good paying jobs were likely hard to find because of the returning servicemen in the post-war years.

 

Pauline, looking bored and upset, sarcastically, agrees with the commentator that something is wrong with Ernie’s eye, suggesting perhaps that she does not see eye to eye (pardon the pun) with his views on their prospects. She complains about how wrong her choices have been and regrets marrying a prize-fighter. Ernie promises to open a business but she tells him the money will not be enough, and that they’ll “starve to death”. Pauline’s frustrations may come from the pressures many Americans faced to keep up with Joneses.

 

For Pauline keeping up may not be enough. She sounds desperate. Conforming to the status quo is no longer an option for her. I believe she wants what she has always wanted: a chance to be a star.

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What an interesting scene indeed! It seems that TV-set becomes a "torturing box", at least to our main character, who seems to be reliving the whole match again; even his right eye is twitching, the living memento of the fight... But there is also a "distancing moment", where he becomes nothing more than a spectator, as if he is just about ready to let go of the past and accept his new path. His wife? Not as much. She is still very much consumed by the bitterness, at least in the presence of her husband. One knows from the very beginning that there will be no happy ending for these two. Having watched the entire film, I can't help but seeing the TV boxing match as a metaphor of Ernie's life in general - a man who is destined to continuously endure the punches thrown by life.

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Karlson opens this scene with us, the audience, alongside the boxers fighting. We're right there up close and personal. We're engaged, and quickly become involved as Karlson takes us even further and stages the scene in a manner by putting us in Ernie's role. As Ernie's opponent throws the punches, we are the ones that take those powerful, blunt blows. The opponent's gloves come fast, one right after the other at the camera. Audiences during this time might have even felt the impulse to dodge the quickness of the opponent's fists. Continuing on with the fight, Karlson shows the brutality of boxing as a sport by filling the frame with Ernie's battered and bloodied face.

 

Around the thirty-five second mark, Karlson slows the scene, and pulls the camera back. We now are watching the fight on a television. We see Ernie sitting closely, watching intently.

 

This is a stark contrast in between television and cinema. The director seems to convey the vastness of film and how it easily and effectively engulfs an audience. Cinema commands our attention. Every aspect from the actors, to the writing and direction, to the larger than life screen consumes a spectator in a way television could not. And Karlson succeeded with his attempt in showing how cinema has no worthy challenger.

 

I found the conversation amongst the supposed "happy couple" very interesting. Both Pauline and Ernie want a great life. Ernie seems genuine. He longs to work hard for his money, and wants to make Pauline happy. Pauline, on the other hand, is all about glitz and glamour. She wants money. Instead of standing by her husband, especially after his boxing career has just ended, she's ready to flee. Suddenly Ernie is no longer the companion she desires. And apparently she's already found another suitor, who has recently presented her with a rhinestone bracelet. Marriage: In good times and bad indeed.

 

The substance of this scene reflects on the struggles in life. In particular, the financial struggles in life, which oftentimes weigh heavily on a relationship. (Although, I stand firmly in my belief that Pauline has probably never really cared anything about Ernie.)

 

The times of the 50's had people trying to adjust to life after the war. Soldiers, especially were integrating back into society. The young draftees having been sent to war at such a young age possibly left them without a particular trade in which they could earn money. This could easily bring about a sense of uncertainty, as is shown in this scene through Ernie having just had his career end. Life in general is difficult enough, but life after a war is something nearly impossible to fathom.

Your comments regarding the contrast between the TV and Film that is communicated are insightful. I would further offer that the audiences in that period were completely familiar with the size and feel of the "big screen"experience but not everyone had a TV so this scene, depicts the sense of being in the action on film and having to sit up close to simply be an observer on TV. The director is subtly or perhaps not so subtly suggesting that TV is not only an inferior medium but the consumer that has not already jumped into the TV market should be in no hurry to do so.

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Other than some of the lighting, I actually don't see any real noir elements in this scene. There's a clear conflict between the couple, but nothing beyond a typical domestic squabble. (Of course, that might escalate to something greater later in the film.)

 

Regarding the commentary on TV, I don't interpret it the same way as Prof. Edwards--that is to say that the director is highlighting its limitations. On the contrary, this scene shows the ability to replay a scene in slow motion to get a more precise look at the on-screen content, which is not something that's available in a movie theatre. Also, the low-angle shots of the boxing match on TV only exalt the TV format. It just goes to show you, interpretations can vary, and they can even have the opposite effect of what might have been intended.

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I'll just say it...I'm not a boxing fan. Having grown up minutes from Colma, CA where boxers punched each other out alongside the headstones of the dead, you'd think I could appreciate the sport. I can remember uncles, aunts, and even my mother talking about going to "the fights." They were an important form on entertainment in an era when most entertainment was still live. They were a place like Shakespeare's theater where all the classes mixed and mingled. Maybe that's the problem with people today, we don't get out and rub elbows with one another - we lack empathy for one another. Yikes, talk about social commentary. Let's get on with the show, as they say.

 

Warning:  off-topic (non-noir) post.

 

Ah, you're talking about the Cow Palace.  I grew up on the Peninsula a bit after the boxing days of the Cow Palace, but I still try to catch the Grand National rodeo each year.  Yes, a barn like no other!

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Compare how the director shoots and stages the boxing scene:  When Karlson is showing the fight "from the stands" it fills the screen.  Everything is "larger than life".  When he show the fight from the television, the camera is from a distance.  It makes the television small and the picture on it even smaller.

 

Discuss the scene's social commentary:  Ernie and his wife both had dreams of "making it big".  Pauline gave up her dream to hitch her wagon to his star.  When Ernie dream was destroyed with the eye injury her hopes went down with his.  They are struggling to make ends meet.  While Ernie wants to build toward a new dream of owning a garage, his wife is resentful.  His new dream isn't big enough for her.

 

Noir elements in this scene:  Especially in the fight scene there are sharp contrasts, low angles and diagonals.  Her character shows pessimism and depression.  His shows stubborn perseverance.

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While Phil Karlson may have been trying to make a statement about cinema's new rival television, as a “baby boomer” for me it is unsuccessful. Really it shows the quality of television. The ability to take something old, here “great fights of yesterday” and review them for an even bigger audience and to slow down the action. In fact that ability is what made television so successful, and how most of us see sports today. Just as an anecdote my son watched a lot of baseball with us, when he was 7 or 8 we took him to his first live big league ball game. His comment about watching on television or in the stadium is classic. He like baseball on television better: “They hit the ball farther on T.V.”

 

The dialog between Ernie and Pauline is fast paced, as we are used to in noir films. He had his shot at the title and lost it. Now he drives a taxi, with hopes of someday owning a gas station. Pauline obviously married him when he was on the way up. Her chances of being a star, were probably less than Ernie's being champ, but she holds it against him saying she “...could have been a star if I hadn't married you...”.

 

Ernie's dreams are small, owning a gas station and settling for the middle class life. Pauline wants none of that. She wants to live big, to have diamonds, hiding the ones she is wearing by saying they are “New rhinestones...” that could have been “...real if I hadn't married a pug.” We can tell by this scene that she is walking out on him, that she has found someone who will give her what she “deserves”. Pauline is the opposite of Robert Ryan's (Stoker) wife in The Set-Up, Julie who would have loved it if Stoker had been the way Ernie is.

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-- Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.

 

The “actual” footage uses extreme close ups, tight upper body shots, all showing Ernie’s anguish as he’s taking a brutal beating.  The TV footage uses mid-range body shots and full body shots, even ringside, thus being distanced from the brutality, while the announcer drones on about Ernie’s defeat.  One is very large and personal, the other very small and impersonal. 

 

-- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

 

Half way through watching the argument between Ernie and Pauline it struck me that you could substitute the boxer Ernie for any soldier returning from the war.  This occurred to me because I was thinking of John Payne’s own experience of being a song & dance man before the war but when he came back from the war he quit doing song & dance and chose grittier roles.  He didn’t look the same before or after, either, and that’s what started me thinking of that comparison.  Ernie’s showgirl wife wants the good life and the trophies she would have gotten if Ernie had been a Champ.  He’s washed up, like she says, and probably headed for a menial job somewhere.  Now Ernie needs to fit into an existence he was not prepared for and his wife wants no part of.  

 

-- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

 

Camera angles in both boxing fight versions – extreme close up, angled shots, quick cuts for the “actual” footage, and low level shots for the TV footage.   Upheaval of Ernie’s life through losing the bout and what looks like his wife also.  Ernie’s anger at himself and the World for what’s  happened to him (again, the soldier comparison).

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-- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

 

Half way through watching the argument between Ernie and Pauline it struck me that you could substitute the boxer Ernie for any soldier returning from the war.  This occurred to me because I was thinking of John Payne’s own experience of being a song & dance man before the war but when he came back from the war he quit doing song & dance and chose grittier roles.  He didn’t look the same before or after, either, and that’s what started me thinking of that comparison.  Ernie’s showgirl wife wants the good life and the trophies she would have gotten if Ernie had been a Champ.  He’s washed up, like she says, and probably headed for a menial job somewhere.  Now Ernie needs to fit into an existence he was not prepared for and his wife wants no part of.  

 

-- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

 

Camera angles in both boxing fight versions – extreme close up, angled shots, quick cuts for the “actual” footage, and low level shots for the TV footage.   Upheaval of Ernie’s life through losing the bout and what looks like his wife also.  Ernie’s anger at himself and the World for what’s  happened to him (again, the soldier comparison).

 

Great point!  Likewise compare the similarities of Ernie and Pauline from 99 River Street to that of Fred and Marie Derry (Dana Andrews & Virginia Mayo) The Best Years of Our Lives, there seems to be a pattern here! Soldiers beware!  Rosie the riveter has fangs! 

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The words that stick out to me in this clip are “could have”.  Ernie could have been the champion.  Pauline could have been a star.  Whether either of these things actually would have happened is impossible to say, but Pauline and Ernie believe they would.  As a result, neither can get go of the past, and their lives are filled with disillusionment and disappointment.  In the beginning of the clip, we are in the ring with the boxers, living the moment.  The slow motion and the camera pulling back into the television give the sense of a memory, distant but still painful to remember.  Watching the fight on his television, Ernie is reliving his memories.  His wife, understandably, has little patience for Ernie being stuck in the past, but her concern does not stem from love.  She resents Ernie for putting her in this situation where she is both caregiver and breadwinner.  She is straining against the constrictions in her life, and the clip implies that she has begun to look elsewhere for satisfaction.

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The words that stick out to me in this clip are “could have”.  Ernie could have been the champion.  Pauline could have been a star.  Whether either of these things actually would have happened is impossible to say, but Pauline and Ernie believe they would.  As a result, neither can get go of the past, and their lives are filled with disillusionment and disappointment. 

The point you make reminds me of the film "On the Water Front" (1954) and what Terry Malloy says, "I could have been a contender". Pauline pretty much feels the same, as she also had dreams once of being a Star. Before the war, there were many that had such dreams only to see them washed away once the war was over. Perhaps they passed their dreams onto the Baby boomers.

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Daily Dose of Darkness #24: The Square Circle (Scene from 99 River Street)

 

• Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.

The “cinema” portion of the fight is dynamic. The audience is in the middle of the action, taking the shots as Ernie takes the shots. The “television” portion is a slow-motion re-showing that cannot do the same for the television viewer because what the viewer sees is surrounded by a box with dials at the bottom. The voice-over commentary explains that the footage is a repeat (at least a day old?), and the audience may already know the outcome of the fight.

• Discuss the scene’s social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

This scene from 99 River Street is all about the relationship between Ernie and Pauline, between men and women in the early 1950s. Ernie isn’t making any money as a prize fighter. He wants to get enough money together to open a gas station (a career change), but his wife his running out of patience with his ideas. He’s coming up short, and he may already know it. She’s already out working (and cooking and serving dinner, while Ernie sits motionless in front of the television screen). In spite of the fact that she’s working, they still don’t have enough money, according to her (she wants diamonds, not rhinestones). I particularly like the shot of her hand coming in to turn off the television before Ernie is finished watching the fight. Pauline almost literally has the upper hand.

• What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

Fighters in the ring automatically bring physical violence into a film, and quite possibly an element of corruption. Betting and fixing come to mind, although nothing is stated overtly in this clip. The clip does show dissatisfaction in Ernie and Pauline’s marriage and the shifting roles of women and men in the early 1950s. Ernie is already portrayed as a failing fighter, and I suspect it’s all downhill for him—and maybe for Pauline and their marriage, too—from this point onward.

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"You could have been a star. I could have been a champion." Eddie Driscoll's observation to wife Pauline speaks volumes about the status of their current life together, both working subsistence jobs and living in a small apartment. 99 RIVER STREET addresses itself in this clip to the bind that a lot of aspiring middle class couples of the time were struggling to escape. (And, unfortunately, still true today). Fertile ground for a noir situation in a movie as Eddie and Pauline's mutual dissatisfaction means one or the other will step over the line or betray their partner. The clip reminds us of how youthful success is derailed by things like war, injury or inability to fit into a new way of life. Eddie has a plan to regain some of his former standing and provide a better life for her as a small businessman, but you suspect from this clip alone Pauline won't have anything of it.

 

The contrast between the fight on TV is interesting. High contrast lighting distinguishes the boxing sequence. The interior of the Driscoll apartment is dimmer. As Professor Edwards points out, it's also a contrast of TV and cinema, the latter still able to do things visually that the haste of production that marked video programming at the time could not achieve -- until better-budgeted, hour-long (and beyond) shows became the norm. The fact that GREAT FIGHTS OF YESTERDAY is dependent on film is also true of non-fictional programs of the time. NBC's impressive VICTORY AT SEA of 1952 is a prime example of a series made up entirely of stock footage, narration and a rousing original musical score. Thus, in its early days, TV relied on existing film to fill gaps in the schedule.

 

The rest of the 99 RIVER STREET builds on the humble domestic situation into a tight example of noir and the city at night. It is one of John Payne's best performances in his second noir flick for producer Edward Small, who had made Dennis O'Keefe an icon of the form in the late '40s with T-MEN and RAW DEAL. I'm spoiling things here for those who haven't yet seen 99 RIVER STREET, but if you catch it, please note the depth of Payne's ability as an actor in the scene where he finds Pauline's body stuffed into the back seat of his cab. Eddie's a tough guy but is allowed a moment of shock and grief at the discovery; both are mirrored in his face along with pity, a brief scene representing how things in noir movies can be easily and insanely lost. Just wanted to mention it because the scene replaced the perpetually (and appropriately) angry look Eddie has right from the beginning.

 

 

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The opening that focuses on the scene framed within the TV screen is just that, focused: there is no context, save the announcer who lets us know that this is TV via his commentary.  As the camera pulls back and the scene opens up, with first the man and then his wife in view, we see the TV within a social context, that of the home of the boxer who has been injured.  The camera of the film sees more layers than does the camera of the TV here. The couple's interaction portrays the conflict between breadwinner and person who assumes the man should be the provider, with the guilt being dished out, no sympathy for what happened in the ring.  (That the boxer needs to watch it again is psychologically intriguing.)  The wife's behavior resonates with the character of hard woman of the Film Noir, perhaps, and the rhinestone watchband serves as a sort of foreshadowing, I imagine, or at least a symbol of her need for more wealth than she thinks she will get--though the boxer's dream of a gas station is a realistic (and "American") one).  The exchange is a little painful to watch.

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The cinematic shot is so dark, shows the grim reality of the fight.  The viewer can almost feel each punch that lands on Payne.  The viewer of the TV is removed from all of this, the effect is minimized.  It just isn't the same.

 

This clip reflects on the changing views on importance of social class and the spread of the "haves vs the have nots" mentality.   Castle had married Payne thinking she would be married to a champion boxer who was well known and "looked up to, and would enjoy the perks that came with his title.  Unfortunately, life took another turn. And now she's angry and resentful.  Payne has made some peace with the end of his boxing career, having made plans to buy a gas station.  (He hasn't entirely made peace, though, as evidenced by his watching the film of his last fight. He's still grieving the loss of his hopes and dreams related to boxing.)  But Castle has become more and more bitter.  She is positive that if she had stayed in show business, she would be a big star now, her name in lights, living the flashly, exciting lifestyle that goes with it.  She did not bargain on being the wife of a has been boxer.  She resents working in the florist shop, pinning corsages on women she identifies as above her in financial and social status.  She doesn't want to be married to a gas station attendant, even if he will also own the station.  She feels everyone will look down on him, too, as just another pump jockey.  She craves money, social status, glamour and doesn't want to live without it anymore. She feels she's entitled to it and is going to go after it.  Is that watch really "dime store," worn to make Payne feel badly?  Or is it the "real deal," worn casually by her to let him know that things are changing... What a totally different portrayal of the wife of a boxer from Audrey Totter's character in The Set Up!!!!  Night and day!

 

Payne, of course, is stunned and hurt by her attitude and rejection.  He's been working on plans to build a new life for them despite his own disappointment and sorrow.  It's like he's seeing her for the first time but he can't believe what he's seeing.  He has lost his boxing career and now realizes that he's losing his wife as well.  And you just know there's trouble ahead for him....

 

The clip is definitely filmed in the noir style.  The darkness, the contrast of light and shadows, the closeups, etc.  And Payne's anguish about his losses combined with Castle's bitterness and determination to regain the lifestyle she thinks she's been cheated out of spells doom for them both!!

 

 

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I love that as Ernie watches himself being punched on the television, his head snaps over to the right, as if he's being hit again, as if he can still feel the blow.

 

Pauline is obviously not happy, but it's hard to blame her too much. Her husband literally sits with his back to her, watching himself on the TV. He dismisses her dreams (of stardom) as being foolish, and then reminisces about his own aspirations (fighting champion). The dinner she has made is unappreciated. The way that he says "You were a showgirl" has a casual contempt to it that makes Pauline's anger much more understandable. Her social rise and fall depends on his success (something she cannot control), and he's telling her that she was never worth that much in the first place.

 

There have been quite a few plots in this course that involve the nagging wife character or the woman who has dreams above her station. It's probably important to remember that achieving financial independence as a single woman was not the easiest thing in the world. In fact, even today one of the reasons frequently cited by domestic abuse victims as to why they don't leave their abusers is the fact that they are financially dependent on them. It's unsurprising that some of the women in that passive role (waiting for hubby to bring home the paycheck), might go looking for alternatives.

 

To me, the transition from big screen to TV reflects what is happening to Ernie. He goes from a larger than life position (vying for a title), the literally looking at a smaller (diminished) version of himself. Like a memory, his defeat is shrinking and as an almost-ran, he will be forgotten. Ernie's defeat is a rude awakening for both him and his wife--an awakening that you can tell they won't survive as a couple, as neither of them seems to be coping with it in a healthy way.

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Regarding the live boxing match vs. TV recording. Both productions have the same angled shots, but that's where the similarities end. In the live match, we rarely get a full body shot. Instead, the boxers are shown close-up as if the viewer is the boxer himself taking all the shots. We also see more of Driscoll's pained reactions in the live match particularly when he's hit off his feet. Contrast with the television production, and there is no close up shot. To supplement this, we see close up shots of Driscoll viewing a recording of the match. He moves as if he were actually in the ring. His right eye twitches when the announcer mentions something wrong with the eye.

 

Social Commentary - male vs. female. There's something to be said about the social expectations of a wife and husband. During the war, women took off the apron and worked in the factories to help in the war effort. This, in some way, masculinizing women as taking charge and maintaining control. At war's end, women were forced out of these jobs and back to housekeeping. Many women complied, but there were still those who enjoyed the independence and the value of their hard work. Thus the creation of the battle of the sexes. In many post-war noir films, there seems to be this battle between husband and wife over who has control of the relationship. More often than not, it is the woman who is in control. We've seen this in the last three Daily Doses. Scott, Stanwyck, and Castle taking control. Sounds like a win for women's lib; however, these women usually have a tragic ending. So what exactly, then, is the director's message about women? The mentality still exists today. A woman who demonstrates power and control is often perceived as a -itch. Working moms are perceived as abandoning their domestic responsibilities in favor of a paycheck. 

 

Noir Elements: Plot: Sparing match (boxing and between spouses), fall from grace, internal conflict, femme fatale. Technique: camera angles, documentary/commentary, light and shadows, close ups.

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Week 7 "99 River Street"

 

-- Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.  Picture this film projected on the big screen.  We’re in a movie theatre watching this bigger than life fight scene, with its screen-filling close-ups and rockem sockem sound effects.  It takes up 100% of the screen.  We’re in it.  He falls on the mat.  We’re on it.  We maybe even add our own voices to the shouting, groaning, screaming already blaring from our theatre's speakers as we see the close-up of Payne on the ropes.  The sound is big full, rich.  We hear the punches; we hear the crowd. We hear him try to breathe through his nose after he is hit.  We can almost hear the blood spurt when his eye gets split. We clutch our forehead.  We hear the announcer loud and clear through a loudspeaker in the fight auditorium.  There are no distractions here. It's breathtaking.

 

The scene cuts to the TV screen.  There are no more fight sounds.  The announcer now sounds very tinny coming through the TV speaker.  We then begin to see Payne’s head as the picture zooms out.  The fight now takes up about 50% percent of the screen and is not quite as sharp.  We’re suddenly detached from it.  There are distractions in the room, Payne himself.  It pulls our focus. "Let's eat dinner and watch it."  For the audience sitting In the movie theatre, this switch must have been a palpable difference: TV vs. the movies.  It’s a subtle reminder that no matter what, there’s nothing more “involving” than seeing a film in a theatre with a big screen: "A Practical Demonstration," as it were!  What’s truly interesting is when the camera turns around and shows Payne and Castle watching it; the crowd’s screaming suddenly becomes audible on the soundtrack.  Is he remembering it?

 

-- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).  He could’ve been a boxing champ.  She could’ve been a star.  He’s driving a taxi and she’s working in a florist.  What’s the message here?  Don’t follow your dreams?  Be happy with what you’ve got? 

 

-- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance? Wife as femme fatale just crushes every suggestion.  She literally turns the TV off, physically shutting off his dreams.  The lighting seems diegetic, the set simple.  The music comments closely on the action.  Is her wristwatch real, or costume jewelry as she says?  Maybe there’s a triangle in the offing.  Jealously, disillusionment, hopelessness.

 

Note: I've changed my opinion from this morning's post on Canvas-I misread the question, but I still think he could've dumbed down the TV image more!

 

 

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The Curator's note states that "In an almost humorous contrast, director Phil Karlson seems to be slyly commenting on the limitations of television in the 1950s. In comparison to the vigorous action we have just witnessed, our first glimpse of television is in slow motion, as if TV literally can't keep up with cinema's dynamism."

My reaction was the opposite of yours. I think the television version was superior to the cinematic version precisely because it mixes slow motion with dynamic action. The television version acknowledges "we'll go back and give you that knockdown again in slow motion." The implication here is that the knockdown had just been shown in dynamic motion, and now the television version is giving the viewer something that cannot be seen without the aid of technology - a slow motion review of what has occurred, so that the viewer can better understand what has just happened. Then, the tv version goes back to dynamic motion.

 

In my opinion, this makes the tv version superior to the filmed version. I understand that movie producers felt that television was a competitor, but I don't think this clip shows tv in a bad light versus cinema. Just the opposite, actually. 

It was fun to see the diminishing horizontal white bar when the tv was turned off. I had forgotten about that.

I was thinking the exact same thing. The announcer during the real fight fight said I did not see the blow that cut the eye of Driscoll' and then suddenly we get to see it again in slow motion. Once you have instant replay its a whole new ball game, literally and figuratively.

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Karlson, in regard to how he shot the scene to intentionally contrast TV and movies, seems to be saying that TV **** and movies rock. As we view the part of the fight shot like a movie, we are right there in the middle of the action, seeing close-ups of the injuries sustained and the facial expressions (thus the emotions) elicited by those injuries. When we are watching it on the TV, we are outside and below the ring, with figures doing stuff in a boxing ring as a spectator would would see, and it's not very compelling.

 

The pieces of social commentary I noticed were:

  • Purty wimmins is golddigging hoz.
  • Men are screwed by this, and by a society that uses them for all they are worth, then spits them out into the gutter, pointing and laughing.
  • Regular folks gots no chance 'cuz times is hard.

The the noirest things I saw were the TV camera's angle as it shot the aftermath of the fight, the bitter alienation of the fighter, and (obviously) the greedy, blonde, dangerous dame of a wife.

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Like some people I saw the TV references in almost the opposite manner. To me it was acknowledging the threat TV posed to movies: the slow-mo replay, the instant commentary and analysis, and the very fact that TV could come into your home all day every day and you not having to go out and pay to see it. 

 

I did notice one shot in the fight sequence though  that TV couldn't manage then: over the shoulder as one fighter punched down into his opponent's face...almost as if we were in the ring with them, the referee's pov perhaps. 

 

The social aspect of the film harkened back to that perennial clash between couples over Money and status: he coulda been a champ, she coulda been an actress. Instead she's bitter that she's stuck in a crummy apartment with a washed-up "pug" whose sole ambition is to run a gas-station...for that she gave up a career? And he doesn't see that she might want a career instead of being a dutiful housewife. It's a Noir recipe that is destined to not go well from this point. 

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We open up as spectators at the fight.  The world surrounding the boxers is complete darkness.

 

We're below the action, it would be ringside seats but we're even closer to the action than that.  Medium closeups as the fighters exchange blows.  Ernie's eye gets cut?  A dirty trick by sailor?  That's never revealed.  

 

Having to protect the eye throws Ernie off and he's knocked to the ropes.  We get an extreme closeup of our man on the ropes.  That's where we find him as we transition from spectators at the fight to Ernies apartment where he's watching a replay of the fight on television.

 

The fight on television is in slow motion.  Is it because we are savoring the violence? Is it because Ernie is in a dream-state reliving the moment that changed his life?

 

Cut to a medium shot of the room.  It's a small space; maybe a two room apartment.  Ernie wife is screen left seated at the dining room table in semi-darkness.  They're in the same room but completely separate. 

 

The exchange between Ernie and Pauline is contrition and cruelty.  Pauline is dissatisfied with the life Ernie's able to give her and has no faith in his future.  She thinks she could have been a star.  Ernie thinks he could have been "the champ" now his dream is to own a gas station.  Pauline's criticism and cruelty is unrestrained.

 

This is rough stuff.  Failure, rancor, disappointment and despair.  Ernie is emasculated.  Pauline has all the energy and it's expressed in resentment.  She doesn't have time to deal with him or his pipe-dreams.  She has to go to work.

 

-- Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.

 

The curator's notes quoted the TCM database saying Karlson was contrasting the speed of cinema with the small slow television.  Maybe that's what was meant.  I thought instead we were seeing the difference between being at the fight and reviewing the fight on TV.  More to the point I think the slow motion indicated Ernies dream-like state as he reviewed his mistake in his mind asking himself where he went wrong.

 

- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

 

Oh man.  Ugly.  He failed.  A man's not supposed to do that.  What kind of man, what kind of American is he?  Their lives are mean and cramped.  He has a dream, limited as it may be, and Pauline excoriates him even for that.  She has to go to work and wear cheap jewelry instead of the real stuff a successful man would give her.  Depressed defeated man, resentful woman.  Bad stuff.  Could lead to poor decision making.

 

-- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

 

Stylistically the film makes use of close-ups, extreme close-ups and low angle shooting during the fight.  The ropes act as foreground obstructions.  The fighters fight against a sea of darkness.

 

During the apartment scene Ernie is in foreground right, highlighted.  Pauline is in darkness and the apartment is oppressive.  

 

​In substance we have a story unfolding in what looks to be an urban setting.  Maybe a small city. There's a man who has been defeated, is trapped and has no legitimate means of getting out of his situation.  Setting the foundation for bad things to happen.

 

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-- Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.

The cinematic portion of the fight coverage uses multiple angles, low angles (ringside POV), closeups, and almost first person POV. At times it seems that Sayler Brackson is boxing the camera. The we see the TV coverage of the knock-out in slow motion. There is only one camera angle, no closeups.

 

-- Discuss the scene's social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

Both Ernie and Pauline wanted to make it Big, with lots of money and fame. Pauline thought she could have been a famous actress and Ernie saw himself as the boxing champion.

 

-- What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

The kitchen table scene has many film noir elements. The bright light at the back wall is very noticeable, there are shadows on the wall. The dining table area is fairly dark. We also see closeups of Pauline's and Ernie's faces. Ernie is worried about the new watch he sees on Pauline. The question is, is she plating around.

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• Compare and contrast how director Karlson shoots and stages the boxing scene as a contrast of styles between cinema and television.

 

Karlson provides the visceral thrill of a cinematic POV in the boxing ring, only to pull back to a view of the boxing match on television. The effect is distancing. I felt it immediately when that scene was shown on TV in the boxer and his wife's dingy room.

 

• Discuss the scene’s social commentary in the interactions between Ernie (John Payne) and Pauline (Peggie Castle).

 

Their interaction reflects the anxiety men felt at that time about their ability to "make it big". This desire is fueled by women's desire to be with a man who can provide her the best. At least, that's the view taken at the time. This, in itself, shows how materialistic and clingy women were viewed during the highly conventional 1950s.

 

• What are some of the noir elements in this scene, either in terms of style or substance?

 

The visceral thrill of being in the ring, the hard luck circumstances of the couple, the disdain with which Castle treats Payne, and the overall message that life isn't fair are all noir elements in the scene.

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