TCM Pick for June: Film Noir
With just days to spare, and with apologies for not being more timely, I am tickled pink to recommend Shield for Murder, airing on TCM on June 16th, as my film noir pick of the month. Starring Edmond O’Brien, this feature is one of my favorite “obscure” noirs – in fact, you can read more about here, in one of my earliest posts. It’s one of those noirs that you rarely hear about, and just as rarely get an opportunity to see – so I hope you’ll mark your calendars and make this one a must!
Police detective Barney Nolan (O’Brien) commits a murder and works overtime trying to cover up his crime.
This was kinda hard – there are several scenes that stand out, but I finally chose this one: Detective Nolan is seated at a restaurant bar, trying to drink his troubles away and attempting without success to reach his girl, Patty (Marla English) on the telephone. A blonde (Carolyn Jones) seated nearby sidles over and throws him a couple of lines, including a suggestion on how he can look more tough by shrugging his shoulders and squinting his eyes. Barney’s not interested, but when a cop enters the establishment, he abruptly decides to take the dame up on her offer to move to a booth. Between more drinks, Barney continues his efforts to contact Patty, and when he finally does, he is incensed by the news that she was harassed by a couple of private dicks who have been trailing Barney. Barney promptly makes another call and before long, the two dicks are walking into the bar to meet him. We’re not quite sure what Barney has in mind when he joins the two men at a table and meekly asks one for a light, but we don’t have to wait long to find out – before you can say Jack Robinson, Barney commences to beating the crap out of both men with his pistol. We don’t see the men during the violent thrashing – instead, we’re able to envision the results via the horrified looks and frightened shrieks of the restaurant’s patrons, including a man who never stops munching on his spaghetti even as he seems to be trying to climb into the wall behind him. (Honorable mention to the chase scene/shoot-out at the public swimming pool later in the film. It’s awesome!)
This time, I refused to choose. So I’m offering up two faves:
“Skip the lip. I’m not interested. I’m busy.” Barney Nolan (Edmond O’Brien)
“Let me leave you with this one happy thought, Jack: one day we’ll all be dead.” Beth (Carolyn Jones)
Playing a bit part as a bartender was Vito Scotti – yet another one of those actors whose face is oh-so-familiar, but whose name is completely unknown. Scotti didn’t make a huge splash on the big screen, but it seems like he was constantly on TV for 40 years, from the early 1950s until shortly before his death in 1995 at age 78. One of his better-known film roles was Nazorine, the baker, in The Godfather.
Shield for Murder marked the directorial debut of Edmond O’Brien.
The music was composed by Paul Dunlap, who also wrote the music for two other noirs: Cry Danger (1951) and Loophole (1954).
The film co-starred John Agar, who was married to Shirley Temple from 1945 to 1949.
Watch for this goof: Near the very start of the movie, Barney is walking with his soon-to-be victim into an alley, with one arm slung over the hapless guy’s shoulders. Right after they turn a corner, and just for a couple of seconds, you can clearly see the shadow of a boom mic on the fence behind them.
Several future TV stars can be seen in the film: in addition to Carolyn Jones, who went on to make a splash as Morticia in The Addams Family, the cast included Claude Akins, Richard Deacon (Mel Cooley in The Dick Van Dyke Show), and William Schallert (whose many TV shows included The Patty Duke Show and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and who will turn 90 next month – and is still working!).
The taglines for the film were: “So savage, so stark, so vicious, it’ll make your skin crawl!” and “If ever a picture was crammed with guts, this is it.”
Don’t forget to make an appointment with Shield for Murder on Saturday, June 16th – you’ll be glad you did. Trust me.
You only owe it to yourself.