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Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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Too Late for Tears

 

As I learned from the information in the July 14 Daily Dose, the print quality of the remaining copies of Too Late for Tears were deteriorating, which explains why my borrowed DVD copy was “jumpy”: the sound and picture didn’t always match, the picture jumps as if some frames were missing, some of the shots were almost too dark to see, and small bits of dialogue were missing. I was really disappointed because Too Late for Tears was a great story.

 

In spite of the quality of the recording, I was riveted from the beginning. The opening music and credits over the night-time scene, with the long shot of city lights in the distance, and the dark lonely road along the foreground, let you know immediately that this is film noir. As soon as the credits are finished, car headlights appear on the road, at its farthest point. Then Jane Palmer lets us know what kind of woman she is by grabbing at the car keys while her husband is driving. He says that he has never seen her this way before, but has he ever seen his wife the way she really is?

 

Some fantastic lines and details from this film:

• Jane’s boat ride with Alan: the “cruises to nowhere.”

• Danny Fuller calls Jane Palmer Tiger, which is perfect because she proves to be too much for him to handle. (The film was released in France as La Tigresse. That would have worked for me in the United States!)

• Danny Fuller to Jane Palmer: “If you get that dough and dust with it [the money]. . . .”

• Danny Fuller to Jane Palmer: “That’s better. Don’t ever change, Tiger. I don’t think I’d like you with a heart.”

 

Jane goes over the hotel railing in Mexico holding on to some of the money that she ran away with: what an ending. This was noir from beginning to end, except for the fact that Don Blanchard and Kathy Palmer get together at the end, but that didn’t bother me because they had to wonder if they could trust one another almost from the get-go. Seeing them get over that mistrust was satisfying, even if it wasn’t terribly noir. Too Late for Tears is one of my favorites.

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THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1950 )

RKO RADIO PICTURES

 

This was better than I thought it would be. 

 

We see a couple of character actors here in one of noir’s favorite location.

 

Thomas Gomez, who I last saw in “Key Largo” plays a cruel communist leader named Vanning who coerces Brad Collins (Robert Ryan ) into disrupting labor talks in hopes of shutting down a waterfront. And Later we see him pushing a woman out of a window.

 

What I like about Gomez is that when he delivers his lines, we sense that his mind is still going. He remains in character beyond just saying his lines. I’m not sure I’m articulating my point. But it’s a good quality he brings to his craft.

 

We again see William Talman (Emmett Myers in The Hitch-Hiker) here playing a creepy assassin for the communist group. He has the same familiar evil look when, in cold blood, he runs his car over Don, killing him.

 

Once again Nicholas Musuraca did an excellent job as always. I must say, I was a bit let down that there were not as many scenes of San Francisco as we’ve seen before in other noirs filmed there. I guess Side Streets, with its abundance of exterior urban scenes spoiled me. After the first 10 minutes, we saw very little of San Francisco.

 

P.S. Does anyone familiar with San Francisco recognize the outdoor footage shown in the opening sequence and can they say if it looks the same today?

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THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1950 )

RKO RADIO PICTURES

 

This was better than I thought it would be. 

 

We see a couple of character actors here in one of noir’s favorite location.

 

Thomas Gomez, who I last saw in “Key Largo” plays a cruel communist leader named Vanning who coerces Brad Collins (Robert Ryan ) into disrupting labor talks in hopes of shutting down a waterfront. And Later we see him pushing a woman out of a window.

 

What I like about Gomez is that when he delivers his lines, we sense that his mind is still going. He remains in character beyond just saying his lines. I’m not sure I’m articulating my point. But it’s a good quality he brings to his craft.

 

We again see William Talman (Emmett Myers in The Hitch-Hiker) here playing a creepy assassin for the communist group. He has the same familiar evil look when, in cold blood, he runs his car over Don, killing him.

 

Once again Nicholas Musuraca did an excellent job as always. I must say, I was a bit let down that there were not as many scenes of San Francisco as we’ve seen before in other noirs filmed there. I guess Side Streets, with its abundance of exterior urban scenes spoiled me. After the first 10 minutes, we saw very little of San Francisco.

 

P.S. Does anyone familiar with San Francisco recognize the outdoor footage shown in the opening sequence and can they say if it looks the same today?

I'm with you here: Gomez was excellent, as was Talman. I have to admit though to developing a bit of a crush on the femme fatale of the piece: Janis Carter...if only she had been around to recruit me back in the day!! 

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As usual, I love reading this topic the day after the films air. In particular, I have enjoyed reading the many posts on The Woman on Pier 13. Since I encouraged students to watch the film in my Summer of Darkness viewing guide, I was hoping for the kinds of discussion of the film I am finding here. Great work, and always a pleasure to read these detailed and insightful posts!

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The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

 

Whew!!! That was quite a ride.

 

Absolutely, without a doubt, this is one of the best noir movies ever made.  At least in my humble opinion.

 

Fantastic cast. I understand Stanwyck had a huge say in how she was photographed and that she didn't want anyone upstaging her. Apparantly she made that perfectly clear to Van Heflin when he was rolling the coin over and under is fingers. It bothered her so they only did that one scene. She felt it distracted from her dialogue.

 

The main underlying theme is control. Cover-ups, misgivings, resignation, guilt and ruthlessness all fall in there, too.

 

As a young girl, Martha was controlled by her aunt whom Martha claimed wanted to destroy anything she ever loved. At least Martha stood up to her aunt; at first. Her friend Walter was an obedient son to his stern and manipulative father. Also, early on, Walter was fawning and obsequious to Martha. He had a weak constitution right from the start. There was Sam, another friend of Martha's and Walter's who was sort of on the fringe of all the goings on. Martha had had enough of her aunt's ruthlessness towards her and snapped. Down came the poker on the aunt. Here the story begins.

 

Martha and Walter's marriage appears to be founded upon mistrust. Walter, the D.A., is under the control and watchful eye of Martha because he knows she killed her aunt... this is what binds them together. Because Walter witnessed the murder and helped with the cover-up, he is complicit in the wrongdoing; therefore, he is trapped and more or less resigned to his situation. But he loves her. He hasn't the guts to get out and  becomes a guilt ridden alcoholic because of it all.

 

Martha and Walter may have become complacent with their life but here comes a blast from the past....Sam. Sam split from the house prior to the murder so he doesn't know how it all went down. Martha and Walter don't know that Sam doesn't know what happened..therefore Sam becomes a threat and big problem for both of them. Sam stirs up the pot and ignites the old love of Martha Ivers. Martha attempts to revive the romance but fails even though Sam goes along with her for a while. This may be her first failure in a very long time and she finds it difficult to take. She also has some competition...Toni Marachek, Sam's potential love interest. She is finally losing a slice of control.

 

Sam's reappearance forces Martha and Sam to come to grips with reality.  At the end, Martha is struggling with that and attempts to justify the killing of her aunt by reiterating all the wonderful good she has done with her inheritence.  It is her way of telling the audience that, underneath, she really is a good person...and quite possibly she's trying to convince herself as well. She says her aunt was a vicious and selfish woman who didn't deserve to live. Well, I have to agree, her aunt was a nasty, spiteful old bag. But I would not to have done her in.

 

Jumping to the close of the film: the final suicide scene interests me. I wonder if Albert Camu's statement about suicide applies to Martha's and Walter's suicide "pact". Camu says "there is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide. Deciding whether or not life is worth living......". I assume he means a singular person, alone, coming to that conclusion and subsequently commiting the act. In this instance, Martha assisted Walter in her own death by giving Walter's trigger finger an extra push; so, would that be a suicide in the true sense of the action? Walter then turns the gun on himself and it becomes a suicide pact instead of a murder/suicide..................I think.

 

 

Before Martha and Walter die,  Walter says two things, and I am paraphrasing:

There is a thin line between life and death.

It was no one's fault . It's just the way things are..people want things and it's a matter of how hard and how willing they are to go to get them.

I thought the real irony of the film is that Martha and Walter were so afraid of Sam's blackmailing them because of what he "knew" about the past; and all the time, Sam hadn't even been in the house and never saw Martha kill her aunt.  It was their guilty consciences that finally did them in.  That poor innocent man, hung for a crime he didn't commit.  Justice was finally done.  What is that expression:  The mlls of justice grind exceedingly slow but exceedingly fine........

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I thought the real irony of the film is that Martha and Walter were so afraid of Sam's blackmailing them because of what he "knew" about the past; and all the time, Sam hadn't even been in the house and never saw Martha kill her aunt.  It was their guilty consciences that finally did them in.  That poor innocent man, hung for a crime he didn't commit.  Justice was finally done.  What is that expression:  The mlls of justice grind exceedingly slow but exceedingly fine........

 

The author of the story,  Jack Patrick,  must have read Poe.

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I've never seen Cause for Alarm before.  What an interesting contrast to the films noir we've seen up to now.  The film takes place in the suburbs of some obscure town, and most of the scenes are brightly lit.  Only in the house are there dark shadows, the contrast of light and dark.  The story reflects the feeling of isolation, alienation that was a sign of the times.  Neighbors not really knowing each other, the facade of a "happy home" in place when inside that home a completely different story was shown. 

 

A mentally ill man, bedridden but completely in control, a housewife trying over and over to fulfill her responsibilities as a loving wife, even though the love was dying.  How she struggled to deny that all was crumbling around her!!  How horrible it was for her when her husband started telling her the story of the toy he had as a child.  She thought she was going to hear a lovely story from her husband about his childhood. Instead, he tells her a horrible story of beating the other child, destroying the ship in the bottle rather than giving it to the other child so he could "own" it in his mind forever.  She obviously didn't really know the man she married!  This is underscored by his aunt's comments about the kind of man he had been earlier in life and that, despite his marriage, he was the same rude, cruel man.

 

Her desperation around trying to retrieve that letter was painful, at times.  I just loved the "Twilight Zone" twist when, after all of her failed attempts to get the letter back, it was returned to her because of insufficient postage!!  I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!!  It was a perfect noir point of how fate can step in and change the direction of your life in an instant.  In this case, it was for good, so that two decent people wouldn't be destroyed by a sicko!  But fate isn't always so kind....

I really enjoyed this film!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

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The author of the story,  Jack Patrick,  must have read Poe.

I'll bet you are right!!  O Henry had a lot of interesting twists at the end of  his stories, too....

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I thought the real irony of the film is that Martha and Walter were so afraid of Sam's blackmailing them because of what he "knew" about the past; and all the time, Sam hadn't even been in the house and never saw Martha kill her aunt.  It was their guilty consciences that finally did them in.  That poor innocent man, hung for a crime he didn't commit.  Justice was finally done.  What is that expression:  The mlls of justice grind exceedingly slow but exceedingly fine........

Great comment. I got to thinking that if Walter had shot Martha, without her assistance, he would have essentially executed her. It is fitting that he should have turned the gun on himself because he was in it so deeply that he saw no way out. I feel Martha had full control of them both right up to the end.

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It seems this weeks noirs  focused on troubled marriages.  I'm surprised Conflict isnt being discussed much. It had Humphrey Bogart and Syndey Greenstreet. Again there is a problem marriage, Bogie is in love with his wife's sister and Greenstreet seems like a pre-cursor to Columbo. Really great noir

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It seems this weeks noirs  focused on troubled marriages.  I'm surprised Conflict isnt being discussed much. It had Humphrey Bogart and Syndey Greenstreet. Again there is a problem marriage, Bogie is in love with his wife's sister and Greenstreet seems like a pre-cursor to Columbo. Really great noir

I liked Conflict. It was a great example of psychoanalysis being used as a theme in film noir. I liked how Dr. Hamilton turned the tables on Richard by using the Gaslight treatment (from the 1938 stage play and the 1944 movie adaptation called Gaslight) to solve a murder mystery and get the upper hand. Of course, Dr. Hamilton probably wouldn't have used the term Gaslight treatment, but that's pretty much how he got Richard wondering whether his wife is dead or not.

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THE WOMAN ON PIER 13 (1950 )

RKO RADIO PICTURES

 

This was better than I thought it would be. 

 

We see a couple of character actors here in one of noir’s favorite location.

 

Thomas Gomez, who I last saw in “Key Largo” plays a cruel communist leader named Vanning who coerces Brad Collins (Robert Ryan ) into disrupting labor talks in hopes of shutting down a waterfront. And Later we see him pushing a woman out of a window.

 

What I like about Gomez is that when he delivers his lines, we sense that his mind is still going. He remains in character beyond just saying his lines. I’m not sure I’m articulating my point. But it’s a good quality he brings to his craft.

 

We again see William Talman (Emmett Myers in The Hitch-Hiker) here playing a creepy assassin for the communist group. He has the same familiar evil look when, in cold blood, he runs his car over Don, killing him.

 

Once again Nicholas Musuraca did an excellent job as always. I must say, I was a bit let down that there were not as many scenes of San Francisco as we’ve seen before in other noirs filmed there. I guess Side Streets, with its abundance of exterior urban scenes spoiled me. After the first 10 minutes, we saw very little of San Francisco.

 

P.S. Does anyone familiar with San Francisco recognize the outdoor footage shown in the opening sequence and can they say if it looks the same today?

 

I also agree with you about Gomez. I always try to catch a movie if I see his name in the cast even it's usually just a supporting role. I love him in The Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause" when he played a more starring role.

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Tension

 

Great Opening, having Sullivan talk directly to the camera as opposed to the customary voiceover.  He gives you his m.o., lets you know he’ll do whatever it takes to break a suspect. Later, when he begins romancing the ff, Audrey Totter, we’re not sure, is he acting to get her to “break”, or really in it.  There’s even a moment when he’s talking to Basehart through the jail bars where the shadow of the bars begins to fall on both of them.  I began to think maybe he really was going down because of her.  Totter was great, ruthless, sassy, flirting with men, and leaving with them from her husband’s place of business!  Her theme music at first was effective, then later excessive, like her character. D’Andrea, the soda jerk, seemed to have more than a passing interest in Basehart.  Basehart was a little “general” in his nerd portrayal.  Where he really shone was when he got tough as his alter ego, Paul Sothern.  The scene in the beach house—when he came to the realization that killing the wife’s boyfriend wouldn’t do any good; it was she who was the problem.  He nailed that, and satisfied us, who were waiting for him to wake up, as far as his wife was concerned.  There’s a terrifically staged scene where Totter is physically stifling Basehart’s responses as police question them.  She’s sitting on the arm of the chair in which he sits and holding his hand, not in a loving way, in a stifling one.  It personified the “hold” she had on him.  Since this is MGM, there was noir, but MGM house noir.  Even the apartment she called a dump was like Buckingham Palace compared to the hovels depicted in other Studios’ noir.  There was a great scene where Cyd Charisse was hiding in a phone booth in the drug store and she observed the police coming in.  She couldn’t hear them, so we couldn’t hear them.  It was very effective and artful, and noir.  When Sullivan lets Totter know that he knows about her rapsheet: “I got a file on you that goes back further than you’d like to remember and up to where you wish you could forget.”  A fun film.  Great touches.

 

99 River Street

 

Terrific cinematography here.  Scorcese must have gotten some ideas for “Raging Bull” from this.  The fight footage was brutally frank for its time.  A scene when Keyes and Payne were on some stairs in the alleyway behind the theatre—the geometrics of it, glistening just beautifully for its own sake.  All the climactic scenes at the dock. One beautifully conceived shot after another.  They could’ve just filmed this; instead they “painted” it.  Visual scenic eye candy.  Bravo.  The story is fun; it has a strong beginning then founders a bit until a very effective Brad Dexter amps things up.  I don’t want to offend any Evelyn Keyes fans out there, but I’ll let it go with she and Peggy Castle should’ve switched parts.  Some of the contorted faces Miss Keyes made, even in that endless one long take monologue where she’s supposed to be acting convincingly, were pretty much laughable, I'm sorry to say.  She did most of her acting with her eyebrows, through most of the film.  She didn’t seem to really know what she was doing.  She kept "pushing", with the old-school "theatrical" approach. She would’ve been more effective in the smaller part of the wife.  Giving credit where credit is due though, she did have a great seduction scene with Brad Dexter in a waterfront bar where she lit the unlit cigarette that was in her mouth from the lit cigarette that was in his mouth. Very explicit implications here, and soooo film noir.  Peggy Castle knew what she was doing as an actress.  She was grounded, never a false moment.  A more modern style.  Enjoyable “B” entry with spectacular visuals.

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The Woman on Pier 13

 

The Red Menace Lives!  The strong message here is:  this group takes care of its own!  And I don’t mean in a good way.  "Hotel California" time!  The setup seemed standard noir.  Man marries new wife who knows nothing about him.  Old flame shows up to stir the pot. Janis Carter kills as the ex.  Sexy, classy but accessible, and she’s great with the snappy sabre-toothed dialogue.  It goes "la-dee-da" for while, then we find out the husband has a “past.” Robert Ryan carries the thing.  He’s always good. Larraine Day is serviceable; Jane Wyatt must’ve been busy that weekend.  This is a black and white film that is just that, black and white.  Good guys, bad guys.  Tallman plays another dirt bag in this one.  One horrifying thought—more than one of these “commies” ran concession stands at an amusement park, at the time a center for Americans to gather.  Talk about a suggestion of malignancy!  Paranoia abounds in this.  Artistically, it’s similar to “99 River Street” in that the end sequence has some very ambitious, completely effective lighting/camera setups.  This is a case of where the elements of noir lift a film to a level higher than its subject matter. 

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RE: Woman On Pier 13 - Now I know the origin of the phrase "Card Carrying Commie" ;)

Yes! I recall that expression along with just plain Commie, The Red Menace, Pinko and Better Dead than Red.

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Strangers on a Train

 

Before SOAT, Hitchcock was in a bit of a slump.  He hadn’t had a big hit in a while, although I think “Stage Fright” is a very fun film—maybe his British entries weren’t considered, I don’t know.  He knew he had to have a hit, so he pulled out all the stops on this one.  Yes, even playing on the red paranoia of the time.  To show the antagonist on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, literally a “blot” on it, heavy stuff!  Robert Walker owns this film with a masterful performance. Every element fits and contributes.  Every single casting choice, from Miriam’s two “boyfriends” all the way up to Farley Granger is completely effective.  All of the parts contribute to the whole. Robert Gist, as Hennessey, the detective, is given a full character treatment.  Even Ruth Roman, whom some think was not right, is right because she’s different from Guy, comes from a different world. In a standard “noir” film, it’s the detective’s story, about how he solved the crime, what happens to him, the outcome revealed at the end.  In this Hitchcock noir, we know all.  The detectives are on the outside of it.  For the audience there are no real secrets here.  Additional pieces of intel come by us, like the intro of Bruno’s mother, played so brilliantly by Marion Lorne, gives us an insight into his life.  Patricia Hitchcock does a great job at comic relief and when it comes down to it, rocks the drama.  She, too, is cinched in at the waist, a younger, more adventurous version of her older sister.  So much has been said of this film regarding its noir-ness in the posts; the concept of “doubles” as in drinks, instruments, tennis matches, Jekyll/hyde (good and evil).  The customary randomness of their circumstance is at play here: they literally bump into each other.  Evil at an amusement park, which appears in a number of noirs, “The Woman on Pier 13, Nightmare Alley, “ and others.  Although why a cop would shoot blindly into a crowd of families on a carousel, I don’t know, but the climax must be served!  There are two “freeze frames” in this film.  One when Farley Granger is just inside the door of Bruno’s mansion, and the other of the Great Dane. I think Hitchcock uses these freeze frames to let us take a breath before the action continues; a second to think about what has just happened or what is about to happen.  He did the same thing in “Rebecca,” with a freeze of Mrs. Danvers, the expanse of sunlit drapes behind her as the ocean roars on the soundtrack.  I’ve read that the dog didn’t attack Guy because he’s the other half of Bruno, the dog “knows” him.  Plus when the tension breaks and the dog licks Guys hand, it’s done in a weird kind of otherworldly slow-mo. Continuing with the red scare theme; as was the case in “Pier 13”, there is good and evil here, black and white; no gray.  Bruno even tries to throw a child off the carousel because the child is playfully hitting him.  His evil knows no bounds.  Guy takes the time to break from subduing Bruno to safely, carefully, deposit the kid in a carousel bench.  Guy risks his own life to save the child.  It is made clear to us that Guy never wanted to leave Miriam until she asked him for a divorce.  Then he gets famous and she gets pregnant by someone else and she changes her tune.  Guy is blameless.  The script makes sure we know that.  Bruno is crazy.  The script makes sure we know that, too.  His mother reminds him that he once had “plans to blow up the white house.”  Back to casting—even the man who ran the Tunnel of Love concession stand.  This actor brought so much to his part, creating the right amount of tension, contributing to the feel of the thing.  I just gave a quick look again to make sure it was the Jefferson Memorial and just even in fast forwarding I saw so much imagery:  Miriam’s blouse in the record store was loose and maybe a little “not fresh” and a cut to Anne, and her blouse was almost stiff and form-fitting, just back from the dry cleaner; the deep focus /rear projected shot of Bruno in the foreground on the phone and his parents arguing in the background—he was doing precisely the thing they were arguing about: a crazy escapade; the Hitchcock “murder as beauty” shot of Miriam’s death filmed through her glasses; Bruno calling Guy out, informing him that he had murdered Miriam—they are standing on opposite sides of a large barred gate with shadows cast on both of them—a foreshadowing of prison for them?—or a personification of the individual “prisons” they both already inhabited: Guy by Miriam, Bruno by his father; the shadow of Bruno and his boat overtaking Miriam’s as in “M” where the shadow overtakes the girl by the poster, and this is coupled with a bloodcurdling scream so you gasp for a second, then the scream aurally segues into peals of delighted laughter.  A real mind-bender!  I could go on forever.  This is another one of those movies that when you ask the question "Why do we go to the movies?”  The answer is “to see artful, entertaining, thrilling, intelligent, transporting stuff like this! “

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The Woman on Pier 13

 

The Red Menace Lives!  The strong message here is:  this group takes care of its own!  And I don’t mean in a good way.  "Hotel California" time!  The setup seemed standard noir.  Man marries new wife who knows nothing about him.  Old flame shows up to stir the pot. Janis Carter kills as the ex.  Sexy, classy but accessible, and she’s great with the snappy sabre-toothed dialogue.  It goes "la-dee-da" for while, then we find out the husband has a “past.” Robert Ryan carries the thing.  He’s always good. Larraine Day is serviceable; Jane Wyatt must’ve been busy that weekend.  This is a black and white film that is just that, black and white.  Good guys, bad guys.  Tallman plays another dirt bag in this one.  One horrifying thought—more than one of these “commies” ran concession stands at an amusement park, at the time a center for Americans to gather.  Talk about a suggestion of malignancy!  Paranoia abounds in this.  Artistically, it’s similar to “99 River Street” in that the end sequence has some very ambitious, completely effective lighting/camera setups.  This is a case of where the elements of noir lift a film to a level higher than its subject matter. 

I agree with your analysis of this movie. Laraine Day's role as the trusting wife to Robert Ryan is reminiscent of her character in Hitchcock's Foreign Correspondent where she portrays the innocent and unsuspecting daughter of her fifth-column agent father, Herbert Marshall. Along with Ryan, I thought Thomas Gomez and William Talman were the glue that held the story. I can understand, according to the comments in our Viewing Guide, that the Woman on Pier 13 was not well received. I grew up with the Communist threat. Largely my family was concerned but didn't talk about it too much "in front of the kids". It wasn't until later when I realized what an impact Communism had on the country and how it permeated the American way of thinking. The Better Dead than Red theme is certainly prevelant as is pointed out in the Viewing Guide.

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It seems this weeks noirs  focused on troubled marriages.  I'm surprised Conflict isnt being discussed much. It had Humphrey Bogart and Syndey Greenstreet. Again there is a problem marriage, Bogie is in love with his wife's sister and Greenstreet seems like a pre-cursor to Columbo. Really great noir

 

Yes, troubled marriages were on the menu this week,  a common thread running through Tension, Conflict, Too Late For Tears, 99 River Street, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, etc.,  

 

One film not on Friday's schedule, but which could easily have belonged and was in fact shown on TCM earlier in the week, was Pitfall, a 1948 noir from Regal Films, directed by Andre De Toth, and starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, Jane Wyatt and Raymond Burr.  

 

In ways, Pitfall was something of a flip-side view from most of the others; especially 99 River Street as far as the portrayal of the American male is concerned.   In 99 River Street Ernie is something of a failure, being assaulted from all sides by his inability to get a taste of the fabled American Dream.    Conversely, in Pitfall, John Forbes (Dick Powell) has seemingly succeeded in achieving that dream.   He has a good, well-paying job for an insurance company, a beautiful, dutiful wife, great kid, nice home in suburbia, and yet he's restless, bored, stifled.  

 

Ernie's frustrated, angry and bitter because he can't get a bite of the dream, and John feels trapped and unsatisfied having tasted it.    Ernie's wife, Pauline (Peggy Castle) is bored and wants more than he can give her, and she cheats on him.    John's wife, Sue (Jane Wyatt) is perfectly content as homemaker and housewife.   Ernie and Pauline are childless, John and Sue have a cute son loved by both parents.  

 

Making Pitfall even more of a contrast to 99 River Street and many of the unhappy relationships in this week's lineup is the fact that it really doesn't feature a prototypical femme fatale.   Lizabeth Scott's role as Mona in Pitfall is the diametrical opposite of her role in Too Last For Tears.    She's not a true spider woman, so doesn't so much as tempt or seduce John as simply connect with him.   He's the transgressor, and conceals the fact he's married from her at first, but when she finds out she breaks things off.   Throughout the film she's trying to aid, help and shield him, and comes across as a very sympathetic character; stalked by an ex-detective, now P.I. (Raymond Burr) who's done work for John and his insurance company in a claim involving Mona and her boyfriend, now in jail for fraud.  

 

In the end, both John and Mona are ultimately victimized by the menacing Burr, whose role reminds one of Laird Cregar's really creepy portrayal of detective Ed Cornell in the wonderful noir, I Wake Up Screaming.  Mona's somewhat treated like a femme fatale in Pitfall, and suffers the fate of one in the end, but she's more victimized and put in danger by John and Burr than the other way around.   

 

These two tracks are alternating currents of a common theme running throughout many noirs --- those deprived of the American Dream and those left dissatisfied having attained it.   You begin to wonder whether noir is highlighting the darker greed, avarice and insatiable appetites lurking inside us all, or is it warning us that we're pursuing the wrong dreams?   Or is it both? 

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John Payne/Phil Karlson collaborations: 99 River Street, Kansas City Confidential and The Crooked Way. In all Payne just a guy trying to make a living --whether being barred from the boxing ring with a cut eye and driving a cab, or trying to re establish himself as a florist driver after getting out of prison, or trying to find himself after getting amnesia in the war. Karlson has great BW photography and lighting in all of these films. His close ups of Payne show the sweat, the gritted teeth, the turned under upper lip and the clenched fists. Not a lot of dialogue and it's not necessary because the camera on the actor's face and body tells us what he is going through: rage & uncertainty. He's a kind man in all 3 films, until pushed beyond his endurance. After the struggles which are forced upon him, he survives, becomes kind again and is rewarded by getting the girl. The casts and photography in each of these films make them compelling to watch. Wish there had been more. But the Payne/Karlson collaboration came near the end of the Films Noir. Pity

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You picked up on something that I hadn't noticed about Where Danger Lives but was pointed out by Alain Silver and James Ursini on my borrowed copy of the DVD: Farrow's use of long scenes that are shot without any cutting. You are quite right: The actors never feel staged. It was so good that I didn't even notice it until someone else pointed it out. Another reason could be that Farrow's technique allowed me to feel like I was following along with Jeff, bumbling along and discovering the details the way that he did.

A follow up to the theme of what is noticed or not in viewing films, a few years back, I had the opportunity to read a screenplay (There Will be Blood) made available online in advance of the movie opening. I read the script and envision how certain scenes could be shot. Upon watching the movie I noticed that I never gave thought on actors moving around. My appreciation for the art of directing increased.

 

In the film Manhattan, director Woody Allen shows us a wide view of The Dalton School from across the street. There is plenty of activity with dozens of students exiting. The scene lasts about 35 seconds and then cuts away. No dialogue. No other action. It took a second viewing (this time on DVD) to notice something I missed the first time.

 

Standing inconspicuously on the left is Isaac (Woody Allen). My attention is on the students exiting. I’m waiting for something to happen and I miss Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) exiting the school, seeing Isaac and walking away from the frame. The camera never moves; it keeps focus on the exit/entrance. This has nothing to do with story as there was no mention of he seeing or picking her up after school. I believe that the intention of the director was to have the viewer become a spectator- to allow him or her to choose what to focus on individually. As like the characters in the film, not everyone sees the same things they’re presented with. As if to say- sometimes we are blind to what is in front of us.

 

Ever since I find myself paying close attention to any subliminal messages that directors may be sending.

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A follow up to the theme of what is noticed or not in viewing films, a few years back, I had the opportunity to read a screenplay (There Will be Blood) made available online in advance of the movie opening. I read the script and envision how certain scenes could be shot. Upon watching the movie I noticed that I never gave thought on actors moving around. My appreciation for the art of directing increased.

 

In the film Manhattan, director Woody Allen shows us a wide view of The Dalton School from across the street. There is plenty of activity with dozens of students exiting. The scene lasts about 35 seconds and then cuts away. No dialogue. No other action. It took a second viewing (this time on DVD) to notice something I missed the first time.

 

Standing inconspicuously on the left is Isaac (Woody Allen). My attention is on the students exiting. I’m waiting for something to happen and I miss Tracy (Mariel Hemingway) exiting the school, seeing Isaac and walking away from the frame. The camera never moves; it keeps focus on the exit/entrance. This has nothing to do with story as there was no mention of he seeing or picking her up after school. I believe that the intention of the director was to have the viewer become a spectator- to allow him or her to choose what to focus on individually. As like the characters in the film, not everyone sees the same things they’re presented with. As if to say- sometimes we are blind to what is in front of us.

 

Ever since I find myself paying close attention to any subliminal messages that directors may be sending.

I actually don't believe the messages are subliminal--unless they are appearing so fast on the screen that it is impossible for the naked eye to notice them, but I don't think that's what you mean here. I remember learning in college that the film viewer should never take for granted any detail in a shot, scene, or sequence. If the director is doing it right, everything placed before the camera means something to the plot, the story. That doesn't mean details never appear by accident, but decisions are always made about what to keep and what to delete. I also learned this as part of my literature courses because the same could be said for novels--really any art form. But sometimes a work of art, such as a film, is so rich that the help of others pointing out missed details and offering interpretations is a big help. That's what I am finding about so many noir films. I want to see so many of the films in this course again because so many taking the course have contributed so much. It's been great!

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Where Danger Lives

 

It was interesting not only that this movie uses mental illness in its femme fatale but also how the subject was handled. It seems that this is another example of Hollywood using psychology as a theme in film, but with more sympathy than I remember seeing in other films from the 1950s. Neither Jeff nor the viewers see this aspect of Margo right away. But once viewers hear about her condition on the radio (viewers know it before Jeff does), Margo becomes frantic, pulls a gun out of her purse, is frightened when someone knocks on the door. The earlier signs (her lying, her waking from a dream screaming) become much clearer, but not until this moment, at least for me. I found myself completely engrossed in the story the way that it was told: from Jeff’s point of view.

 

Jeff’s character has the most subtle transformation. His physical condition is worsening, but it isn’t until he and Margo are close to the border with Mexico that he finally sees that Margo is a pathological liar, that she’s had many men, that she’s hatched this plan a long time ago because she has a stash of her husband’s money waiting in Mexico. He also realizes that she’s the one who killed her husband because the husband was still breathing when Jeff went to the bathroom to wash his face in their house.

 

The ending seemed rushed. Margo tries to kill Jeff, is shot by a police officer, and dies. Jeff recovers from his concussion, and Julie Dawn is waiting for him outside his hospital door. Julie Dawn is a forgiving sort: Her man leaves her and takes off with one of his patients, and still she welcomes him back. I’m not sure I believe this ending either. For me, the ending was the weakest part of a great story. The twists and turns of the plot kept me guessing!

 

My borrowed copy of the DVD for Where Danger Lives included some commentary by Alain Silver and James Ursini. They made the point that Howard Hughes was infatuated with Domergue; he even designed her clothes. That explains why I thought her gowns didn’t suit her role as a femme fatale. Hughes should have let the wardrobe experts design her gowns!

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Strangers on a Train

 

Before SOAT, Hitchcock was in a bit of a slump.  He hadn’t had a big hit in a while, although I think “Stage Fright” is a very fun film—maybe his British entries weren’t considered, I don’t know.  He knew he had to have a hit, so he pulled out all the stops on this one.  Yes, even playing on the red paranoia of the time.  To show the antagonist on the steps of the Jefferson Memorial, literally a “blot” on it, heavy stuff!  Robert Walker runs this film with a masterful performance. Every element fits and contributes.  Every single casting choice, from Miriam’s two “boyfriends” all the way up to Farley Granger is completely effective.  All of the parts contribute to the whole. Robert Gist, as Hennessey, the detective, is given a full character treatment.  Even Ruth Roman, whom some think was not right, is right because she’s different from Guy, comes from a different world. In a standard “noir” film, it’s the detective’s story, about how he solved the crime, what happens to him, the outcome revealed at the end.  In this Hitchcock noir, we know all.  The detectives are on the outside of it.  For the audience there are no real secrets here.  Additional pieces of intel come by us, like the intro of Bruno’s mother, played so brilliantly by Marion Lorne, gives us an insight into his life.  Patricia Hitchcock does a great job at comic relief and when it comes down to it, rocks the drama.  She, too, is cinched in at the waist, a younger, more adventurous version of her older sister.  So much has been said of this film regarding its noir-ness in the posts; the concept of “doubles” as in drinks, instruments, tennis matches, Jekyll/hyde (good and evil).  The customary randomness of their circumstance is at play here: they literally bump into each other.  Evil at an amusement park, which appears in a number of noirs, “The Woman on Pier 13, Nightmare Alley, “ and others.  Although why a cop would shoot blindly into a crowd of families on a carousel, I don’t know, but the climax must be served!  There are two “freeze frames” in this film.  One when Farley Granger is just inside the door of Bruno’s mansion, and the other of the Great Dane. I think Hitchcock uses these freeze frames to let us take a breath before the action continues; a second to think about what has just happened or what is about to happen.  He did the same thing in “Rebecca,” with a freeze of Mrs. Danvers, the expanse of sunlit drapes behind her as the ocean roars on the soundtrack.  I’ve read that the dog didn’t attack Guy because he’s the other half of Bruno, the dog “knows” him.  Plus when the tension breaks and the dog licks Guys hand, it’s done in a weird kind of otherworldly slow-mo. Continuing with the red scare theme; as was the case in “Pier 13”, there is good and evil here, black and white; no gray.  Bruno even tries to throw a child off the carousel because the child is playfully hitting him.  His evil knows no bounds.  Guy takes the time to break from subduing Bruno to safely, carefully, deposit the kid in a carousel bench.  Guy risks his own life to save the child.  It is made clear to us that Guy never wanted to leave Miriam until she asked him for a divorce.  Then he gets famous and she gets pregnant by someone else and she changes her tune.  Guy is blameless.  The script makes sure we know that.  Bruno is crazy.  The script makes sure we know that, too.  His mother reminds him that he once had “plans to blow up the white house.”  Back to casting—even the man who ran the Tunnel of Love concession stand.  This actor brought so much to his part, creating the right amount of tension, contributing to the feel of the thing.  I just gave a quick look again to make sure it was the Jefferson Memorial and just even in fast forwarding I saw so much imagery:  Miriam’s blouse in the record store was loose and maybe a little “not fresh” and a cut to Anne, and her blouse was almost stiff and form-fitting, just back from the dry cleaner; the deep focus /rear projected shot of Bruno in the foreground on the phone and his parents arguing in the background—he was doing precisely the thing they were arguing about: a crazy escapade; the Hitchcock “murder as beauty” shot of Miriam’s death filmed through her glasses; Bruno calling Guy out, informing him that he had murdered Miriam—they are standing on opposite sides of a large barred gate with shadows cast on both of them—a foreshadowing of prison for them?—or a personification of the individual “prisons” they both already inhabited: Guy by Miriam, Bruno by his father; the shadow of Bruno and his boat overtaking Miriam’s as in “M” where the shadow overtakes the girl by the poster, and this is coupled with a bloodcurdling scream so you gasp for a second, then the scream aurally segues into peals of delighted laughter.  A real mind-bender!  I could go on forever.  This is another one of those movies that when you ask the question "Why do we go to the movies?”  The answer is “to see artful, entertaining, thrilling, intelligent, transporting stuff like this! “

I am beginning to gnaw on the various comments about Ruth Roman as Anne Morton. I was one that was bothered by her casting. I do appreciate the Hitchcockian subtleties and opposites thing. I thought Anne to be stiff and too high tone for Guy even though she was sympathetic towards him and loved him.  She did, however, have the courage to confront him about his involvement in Miriam's murder. That leads me to the next level of their relationship. Guy says to Detective Hennessy that he would eventually like to go into politics. Was he using Anne to achieve his goal? And would Anne be able to stand up to Guy if he got tough? Because he certainly let Miriam have it while they were in the record shop...he lost his temper; even grabbed her and shook her. Not something I would expect from a supposedly relaxed and easygoing type of guy (?). Divorce does that I suppose. Just my thoughts.

Also, a bit of trivia: you may already know this, but Marion Lorne had a recurring role as Aunt Clara in Bewitched.

And the fellow who crawled under the merry-go-round, in order to stop it, actually worked there as an operator and volunteered to do this stunt. According to Wikipedia, Hitchcock said that if the man had gone one inch, up or down, the movie would have become a horror flick.

Looking forward to more of your posts.

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I am beginning to gnaw on the various comments about Ruth Roman as Anne Morton. I was one that was bothered by her casting. I do appreciate the Hitchcockian subtleties and opposites thing. I thought Anne to be stiff and too high tone for Guy even though she was sympathetic towards him and loved him.  She did, however, have the courage to confront him about his involvement in Miriam's murder. That leads me to the next level of their relationship. Guy says to Detective Hennessy that he would eventually like to go into politics. Was he using Anne to achieve his goal? And would Anne be able to stand up to Guy if he got tough? Because he certainly let Miriam have it while they were in the record shop...he lost his temper; even grabbed her and shook her. Not something I would expect from a supposedly relaxed and easygoing type of guy (?). Divorce does that I suppose. Just my thoughts.

Also, a bit of trivia: you may already know this, but Marion Lorne had a recurring role as Aunt Clara in Bewitched.

And the fellow who crawled under the merry-go-round, in order to stop it, actually worked there as an operator and volunteered to do this stunt. According to Wikapedia, Hitchcock said that if the man had gone one inch up or down the movie would have become a horror flick.

Looking forward to more of your posts.

You bring up great points.  Did they meet at a country club?  Did she approach him?  He her?  She would not hurt his political career, certainly.  I'd like to think that he had so much history with Miriam that she drove him to the point of (temporary) insanity.  I don't think Anne would give him reason, but if he did act out I'm sure she would stand up to him, and if not, there's always daddy!  She is a bit high brow for him.  Frankly, he works better with Babs.  She has the same upbringing but since she's a little younger is less stuffy than older sis.  Courageous carousel operator! 

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