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Dr. Rich Edwards

JULY 17 TCM FILM DISCUSSION FOR #NOIRSUMMER FOR ALL 13 FILMS

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Another great lineup, and here's your official thread to discuss them all. 

 

If you want just the times and lineup, visit: http://summerofdarkness.tcm.com/#/

 

If you want brief synopses and discussions about each of the 13 films noir, check out the Summer of Darkness viewing guide in Canvas: https://learn.canvas.net/courses/748/pages/summer-of-darkness-viewing-guide-for-july-17-2015?module_item_id=134056

 

Let the discussions begins, from TENSION in the morning to KLUTE well after midnight. 

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I've seen Conflict and it's a nice little film. Robert Mitchum is always fun to watch. Strangers On A Train is really great as well.

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tension: the four eyed guy's wife's runs off and then the boyfriend beats him up. this is noir world so you know it's not over

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Ref:   TENSION
 

Great plot!

 It contains all the noir substance discussed last week:  the “regular Joe” against the more powerful; Audrey Totter as Claire (femme fatale) not accepting her marriage—she even makes a bad guy a (dead) victim.  Barry Sullivan as Lt. Bonnabel is a tricky cop, but in the end is loyal to the truth, a la Sam Spade.

With respect to visuals, the use of black and white on the characters and the set are intriguing.  The bad girl (Totter) is a blonde but dressed in a black swim suit when we are introduced to her.  The good girl (Cyd Charisse) has dark hair and a white blouse when we first see her.  Totter later wears a white coat and drives a light colored car.  Paul Sothern’s apartment hints at a disorientation for the final scene via the black/white squares on the curtains and upholstery.

Big twist at the end — a (somewhat) happy ending in film noir!

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Where Danger Lives

I'm not sure how to feel about this. The plot was predictable and also archetypical. Crazy lady kills old, rich husband and runs away with younger man. I like the idea of Mitchum suffering a concussion to hinder his ability to think logically and allow this woman to take the lead. The unfolding of events, though, was a just a bit too much to be believable. I just wasn't too thrilled about the plot.

 

I actually like Mitchum's portrayal. His playing a doctor is not very believable but as an average Joe that isn't your typical violent criminal was well performed. I really liked his interaction with the neighbor cat. It brought a genuine realness to the character.

 

Faith Domergue reminded me of Jane Russell only with a softer face. For being her first roll, she did pretty well.

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I found "Woman on Pier 13" to be a fascinating historical perspective on the views of communism in the 1950's. Made by RKO Studios when Howard Hughes, a noted anti-communist, was at the helm it is ripe with propaganda. Communist replace gangsters as villains and take part in such practices as extortion, blackmail and murder. This movie also addresses what some people believed was an attempted Union take over. Although not addressed here even Walt Disney felt the Screen Cartoonists Guild had communist ties. When investigated by HUAC however they found there was no evidence of those ties. That's a pretty strong a declaration of innocence considering that for HUAC you were usually guilty until proven innocent.

 

I found it interesting that while portrayed as a criminal element in many venues the movie Key Largo has Johnny Rocco, a gangster, showing disdain for the Communist Party. "... they call me on an undesirable alien. Me. Johnnie Rocco. Like I was a dirty red or something!

 

When I was in college I wrote a paper on the blacklist and always found that period fascinating and sad. Movies such as this helped feed the communist paranoia which cost people their jobs and even their lives. It is important to keep movies like this alive now so we can see the signs of propaganda through the eyes of history and are better able to recognize it when we see it do today thereby preventing things like the communist witch hunt from happening again.

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I found "Woman on Pier 13" to be a fascinating historical perspective on the views of communism in the 1950's. Made by RKO Studios when Howard Hughes, a noted anti-communist, was at the helm it is ripe with propaganda. Communist replace gangsters as villains and take part in such practices as extortion, blackmail and murder. This movie also addresses what some people believed was an attempted Union take over. Although not addressed here even Walt Disney felt the Screen Cartoonists Guild had communist ties. When investigated by HUAC however they found there was no evidence of those ties. That's a pretty strong a declaration of innocence considering that for HUAC you were usually guilty until proven innocent.

 

I found it interesting that while portrayed as a criminal element in many venues the movie Key Largo has Johnny Rocco, a gangster, showing disdain for the Communist Party. "... they call me on an undesirable alien. Me. Johnnie Rocco. Like I was a dirty red or something!

 

When I was in college I wrote a paper on the blacklist and always found that period fascinating and sad. Movies such as this helped feed the communist paranoia which cost people their jobs and even their lives. It is important to keep movies like this alive now so we can see the signs of propaganda through the eyes of history and are better able to recognize it when we see it do today thereby preventing things like the communist witch hunt from happening again.

 

I also did a study of this era after reading Arthur Murray's play, The Crucible. During the Red Scare, many films tackled this theme either overtly as in Woman on the Pier 13, which was originally entitled I Married a Communist, or very subtly where a film was the allegory for HUAC led witchhunts.

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Cause for Alarm: This is not noir, this is Loretta Young needing to tell Barry Sullivan, get your fake sick butt out of bed AND she should have grabbed that letter out of the mailman's hand!

 

Anyway I can watch  this movie over and over again, one of my favorites!

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My apologies to the course members for the  grievous error in my post about STRANGERS ON A TRAIN. How could I have forgotten that PSYCHO (1960), not THE WRONG MAN (1957), was Hitchcock's last movie in black and white? Probably because I was thinking solely noir and not horror, a rare occasion with me.

 

Also, appreciated selection of the reading from Arthur Lyons' DEATH ON THE CHEAP because I have the book. My wife, who's more tech savvy than I (and that's saying a lot), was able to download the reading on post-World War II America to an e-reader, which made for easier reading. I found his interpretation refreshingly frank and informative.

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I also did a study of this era after reading Arthur Murray's play, The Crucible. During the Red Scare, many films tackled this theme either overtly as in Woman on the Pier 13, which was originally entitled I Married a Communist, or very subtly where a film was the allegory for HUAC led witchhunts.

 

 

I think the difference in an overtly propagandistic film like Woman on Pier 13 is that it wasn't so much an allegory of the HUAC witch hunts as it was intended by Howard Hughes as a nudge; like a burgermeister, armed with torch and pitchfork in a Thirties horror film.   

 

Hughes was as phobic about "Commies" as he was about germs, and one of the first things he did when getting control of RKO was to purge the studio of anyone even remotely suspected of leftist leanings.   

 

But Woman on Pier 13 is plush with noir elements: set design, shadows and lighting very typical of RKO noir productions, a femme fatale, and even its denouement, to say nothing of a fine cast, led by Robert Ryan and the always wonderful Tomas Gomez.   You could probably shoot almost the exact same film substituting any mundane crime for the communist angle.   The absence of propaganda might actually have made a better film.      

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Saw THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1949) many years ago on public television and was amazed at how it played like a gangster flick -- well, that was one view of minions of Moscow at that time. I could see how Howard Hughes pushed this one into production, both topical and a representation of his abhorrence of Communism. While watching a PBS documentary on RKO with my dad, he asked me if Orson Welles was responsible for the studio's collapse in the mid-'50s. I told him Hughes had more to do with it because on the two occasions he owned it, he ran it into the ground. (My father, no slouch at picking movies, was alternately fascinated and repulsed by Welles, due n part no doubt to his frequent appearances on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, which dad caught before the 10 p.m. news in New York).

 

Actually, RKO wasn't the first to enter the anti-Red bandwagon. In 1948, Fox issued THE IRON CURTAIN (Dana Andrews as a Soviet embassy clerk who defects while on assignment in Canada) and Republic released THE RED MENACE, the latter similar to WOMAN ON PIER 13 in dealing with a disillusioned veteran (Robert Rockwell) who joins a local CP cell, and is threatened with death when he and another member (Hanne Axman) want out. They flee Los Angeles, stopping long enough to unburden themselves on a friendly small-town sheriff everyone calls "Uncle Sam," who reassures the couple they are safe. Like Thomas Gomez's Red leader and William Talman's hit man in THE WOMAN ON PIER 13, the local Communists in THE RED MENACE are a brutal bunch. It just didn't have the noir touch, although Republic was capable of doing so, as one will witness in its MOONRISE of the same year.

 

Anti-Communist movies may not have been successful as entertainment, but that didn't apply to television, where the trials and tribulations of undercover Red Richard Carlson in I LED THREE LIVES, dubbed one of the most overtly political programs on the tube, lasted for three seasons (1953-56).

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It's been a long time since I saw "Cause for Alarm" which was nice because I had forgotten most of it I could stay in suspense. I like the way they use the staircase as a separation between Ellen and George - she basically lived downstairs and he basically lived in his bedroom. They also used the stairs banisters and its shadows to represent a cage like atmosphere. The mirrors seem to show that their relationship was now a reflection of what it once was.

 

In relationship to historical perspective it makes me wonder if this wasn't an oppositional allegory for the HUAC witch hunts as mentioned by ThePaintedLady. Perhaps I'm only seeing it in comparison to the propaganda filled anti-communist (probably driven by Hughes) "Woman on Pier 13", but a movie based on someone afraid of being wrongly accused could be a subtle and cautionary comment. Just a thought, am I reading too much into it?

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I feel the need to point out that in the video lecture this week, that The Best Years of Our LIves is identified as an MGM film. Best Years was Samuel Goldwyn's masterpiece. He is probably spinning in his grave to think that MGM might be getting credit for it.

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I think the difference in an overtly propagandistic film like Woman on Pier 13 is that it wasn't so much an allegory of the HUAC witch hunts as it was intended by Howard Hughes as a nudge; like a burgermeister, armed with torch and pitchfork in a Thirties horror film.   

 

Hughes was as phobic about "Commies" as he was about germs, and one of the first things he did when getting control of RKO was to purge the studio of anyone even remotely suspected of leftist leanings.   

 

But Woman on Pier 13 is plush with noir elements: set design, shadows and lighting very typical of RKO noir productions, a femme fatale, and even its denouement, to say nothing of a fine cast, led by Robert Ryan and the always wonderful Tomas Gomez.   You could probably shoot almost the exact same film substituting any mundane crime for the communist angle.   The absence of propaganda might actually have made a better film.      

 

Oops, I forgot to give an example of a film that can be an allegory to a witchhunt. I can see how it reads that I was talking about WoP13, but that was not my point. Rififi is an example of a film that could be an allegory since the director was himself blacklisted.

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Ref:   TOO LATE FOR TEARS

I was fortunate enough to see Too Late For Tears, restored by the Film Noir Foundation* (in a double bill with Gun Crazy) at Noir City Kansas City, hosted by Eddie Muller* a few months ago. 

Dan Duryea is absolute superb!    Grab popcorn and a soda-pop or a hot-dog and a beer and sit back.  Don't miss this one.


* Bravo & Thanks ...

 

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Comments later, but I can tell you the DVR is working overtime today! Looking forward to some gems this weekend.

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I didn't enjoy Strangers on the Train that much when I first saw it, but it really grew on me on a re-watch, and I'm liking it even more right now. Very strong thematic use of the motiff of doubles, doubling, and doppleganger's right from the start, but complicated by the light/dark and good/evil that's also going on. 

 

And a great performance/villain by Robert Walker as Bruno Anthony. A playful twist on the femme fatale perhaps?

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Visually speaking, that sequence where Bruce seduces/stalks Mariam through the amusement park and then through the tunnel of love and onto the "smoocher's" magic isle and we see the murder reflected and partialled distorted by the glasses on the ground....perfect. Probably my favorite section of the film. Despite packing in the suspense, you still get some of Hitchcock's sly humor. The boat Miriam rides in is called Skippy (she likes to jump from man to man, from her husband, to at least one of the two guys in the boat, and she's looking back and has noticed Bruce, perhaps wanting to skip over.) Meanwhile, the boat Bruce is riding in is called Pluto. I don't want to over-read this, as I'm not positive what common perceptions of the astrology of Pluto were in 1951, but I'd always heard growing up that people thought it was a frozen or ice planet, signalling that Bruce is actually cold toward her attraction.

 

It didn't occur to me until now, but the Tunnel of Love, amusement park setting, and boat ride remind me of the Batman comic "The Killing Joke," which seems clearly influenced by this part of the movie. edit: My mistake, though, the Killing Joke is also influenced and has an amusement park as well, I was thinking of another mid 80s Batman comic--The Dark Knight Returns where Batman and Joker square off in the Tunnel of Love.

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Oops, I forgot to give an example of a film that can be an allegory to a witchhunt. I can see how it reads that I was talking about WoP13, but that was not my point. Rififi is an example of a film that could be an allegory since the director was himself blacklisted.

 

Ahhh...Rififi...totally different, and a wonderful film.   I completely agree re Dassin's use of it as allegory, sort of from the opposite POV of what Kazan did with On the Waterfront.      

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One thing that is even more striking about Strangers on a Train now because of this class is it's how it portrays the police. The paranoia of the 50s has moved over into a distrust of law enforcement. Guy initial decision of not just turning Bruno and telling what has happened comes across as at least somewhat rational and as not un-motivated stupidity demanded by the plot. Furthermore, iwithin the world of this story it's perfectly reasonable, numerous characters comment on or admit that Guy's story wouldn't come off well  when filtered through the police's process. So they don't advise him to just go in, tell them everything he knows, and that everything will turn out okay. The police don't seem infallible at all--they devote a huge amount of resources to pursuing the wrong suspect. (This is definitely a theme in Hitchcock that I've seen, though I'm ashamed to admit I still need to watch The Wrong Man.)

 

Additionally, the police's pursuit of him, once he flees, comes off as reckless, overconfident, and very gungho. They insist that Guy must be the murderer when pursuing him in the amusement park, and the witness has to literally tell them that they are wrong and the man he saw was. The calamity with the merry go round carousel only gets out of control because one of the policemen following Guy accidently shoots the merry go round operator at the lever. But why was he shooting at Guy to begin with? He was shooting at Guy's back. Guy appeared unarmed and non-threatening. He was running. Yes, he was a murder suspect, but as we hear on the way the police have no real evidence implicating him which is why they let him travel to the amusement park hoping to get the evidence. They still haven't gotten that evidence or even have any idea of what it is until after the shooting and the disaster unfold. But they decide to go the Mike Hammer route of shoot first and ask questions later. (Which, incidentally, makes it seem all the more ridiculous and arbitrary that the police captain says that Guy can't search or look through Bruno's pockets at the very end. What? All of a sudden now he's concerned about due process, constitutional rights, and proper search procedure?) In this way,the film seems  like a forerunner to Welles' Touch of Evil, as well as fitting with the 50s period's subtle moves away from the 1940s strong police dragnets like you see in Detour or They Live by Night. Though the movie is much less dark, more commericial/box office friendly than many other noirs, it's treatment of the police is much more in line with what we've seen in Noirs like Armored Car Robbery, The Big Heat, and The Hitchhiker.

 

Plus, the only reason the true killer is ever caught and brought to justice, so to speak and very loosely at that, is because of his own pathological obsession and anger over Guy not being willing to do his part of the criss-crossed murder pact. I also got a bit of an impression that police arne't done with the investigation. Maybe the rest of their investigation is meant to seem as proper procedure, but there's definitely some subtext that Guy still may be in trouble with them and he's not off the hook yet.

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Visually speaking, that sequence where Bruce seduces/stalks Mariam through the amusement park and then through the tunnel of love and onto the "smoocher's" magic isle and we see the murder reflected and partialled distorted by the glasses on the ground....perfect. Probably my favorite section of the film. Despite packing in the suspense, you still get some of Hitchcock's sly humor. The boat Miriam rides in is called Skippy (she likes to jump from man to man, from her husband, to at least one of the two guys in the boat, and she's looking back and has noticed Bruce, perhaps wanting to skip over.) Meanwhile, the boat Bruce is riding in is called Pluto. I don't want to over-read this, as I'm not positive what common perceptions of the astrology of Pluto were in 1951, but I'd always heard growing up that people thought it was a frozen or ice planet, signalling that Bruce is actually cold toward her attraction.

 

It didn't occur to me until now, but the Tunnel of Love, amusement park setting, and boat ride remind me of the Batman comic "The Killing Joke," which seems clearly influenced by this part of the movie. edit: My mistake, though, the Killing Joke is also influenced and has an amusement park as well, I was thinking of another mid 80s Batman comic--The Dark Knight Returns where Batman and Joker square off in the Tunnel of Love.

 

What I also found interesting was that, according to Wiki, Pluto the Disney character is one of the "sensational six" of Disney characters: Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck and Goofy.  Yet Disney's Pluto is the only one of the so-called sensational six who is not dressed as a human.  Frozen, ice planet and the only Disney character of the main six (at the time) not dressed as a human . . . hmmmm.  I think you are definitely onto something.  

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I just finished watching Strangers on a Train for the thousandth time.

 

Something new pops up each time I see it. The movie is replete with interesting and engaging topics. It's like digging into the box of caramel corn to retrieve the prize. You never know what you'll get. That's what makes a great film.

 

I need time to digest it all now that I have seen the movie from a different view point. Perhaps, then, I will comment some more.

 

However, I do want to say that I have always had a problem with the casting of Ruth Roman as Anne Morton. She seems mismatched to Farley Granger's Guy Haines. From the bit of research I did, I read that Patricia Highsmith, the author of the novel, was disappointed in the casting of Ruth Roman and was, also, not happy that Guy's profession had been changed from an architect to a professional tennis player.

 

I have racked my brain to come up with someone else who might replace Ruth Roman as Anne, but, alas and alack, I cannot.

 

I should like to read Strangers on a Train and compare it to the movie. Now that Patricia Highsmith is on my radar I am anxious to get started reading her novels. The literary precusor!! Always a plus in my opinion.

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Turned on TCM first thing this AM and was immediately engrossed in Tension.  So glad I remembered that I had set the DVR so I could turn it off and enjoy the whole film this afternoon!  :D

 

This is the best I've ever seen from Audrey Totter.  Her first scene in the pharmacy is amazing.  The hamburger, which she doesn't eat.  The pie, which she doesn't eat.  Caressing the soda jerk's hand.  The way she purrs her lines.  You just know she's so bad that this is gonna be good.

 

She carries her performance throughout the film.  Claire is not a character that I would normally consider to be believable.  She's just over-the-top enough to be too much.  But Totter carries it off.  I wanted to smack her the first time she spoke condescendingly to Warren.  I wanted to yell at Warren and tell him he was better off without that dame.

 

Femme fatale - Thy name is Claire Quimby.

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