Hold on to your hats: it’s a Lupino-palooza!

•June 11, 2014 • 10 Comments

If you like Ida Lupino (and, really, how can you not?), you’re going to have a grand time on Thursday, June 12th – TCM is showing eight movies with Lupino either in front of the camera or behind it. And half of them are film noir! Here’s the low-down on the four shadowy offerings that TCM is airing:

High Sierra (1941)

Lupino plays Marie Gossett, a former dime-a-dance girl who falls hopelessly in love with notorious ex-convict Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart), recently released from prison after an eight-year stretch. Wasting no time in resuming his criminal activities, Earle teams up with a former associate and two minor-league hoodlums to rob a resort hotel in California. On his arrival at the gang’s mountain hideout, Roy is angered to find that one of the men has brought Marie along, but he comes to admire her level-headed, take-no-crap demeanor. And for her part, Marie finds in Roy the man she’s been searching for all her life.

Favorite quote:  “Of all the 14-carat saps – starting out on a caper with a woman and a dog.” – Roy Earle (Humphrey Bogart)

Lupino is a prisoner in her own home in "Beware, My Lovely."

Lupino is a prisoner in her own home in “Beware, My Lovely.”

Beware, My Lovely (1952)

In this feature, Lupino is Helen Graham, a widow who hires an itinerant handyman, Howard Wilkins (Robert Ryan), to help clean the boarding house she operates. Howard appears to be a conscientious worker, but he’s actually mentally unbalanced and soon succumbs to paranoia as he believes that Helen is spying on him. Provoked further by Helen’s bratty niece, who chides him for doing a “woman’s job,” Howard becomes completely unhinged and keeps Helen captive in her house.

Favorite quote: “You don’t know what it means like I do to find myself in the middle of a room, in the middle of a busy street, or in some house I’m working in . . . and wonder where I am, and what I’m doing.” – Howard Wilkins (Robert Ryan)

On Dangerous Ground (1951)

Lupino's character soothes Ryan's savage, cynical beast.

Lupino’s character soothes Ryan’s savage, cynical beast.

Lupino is again teamed with Robert Ryan, who portrays Jim Wilson, an embittered police sergeant who lives alone in a bleak apartment and is frequently provoked to excessive violence by the lawbreakers with whom he comes in contact. After a particularly vicious attack on a murder suspect, Jim is assigned to a case in upstate New York, where he meets Mary Malone (Lupino), a blind woman who comes to feel a kinship with the cynical lawman.

Favorite quote: “You’re feeling sorry for me. And I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. The way you are, I don’t see how you can help anybody.” – Mary Malone (Ida Lupino)

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Lupino directed this feature, which starred William Talman as Emmet Myers, a vicious serial killer who terrorizes a pair of fishing buddies (Frank Lovejoy and Edmund O’Brien) who pick him up on the road. The two are forced at gunpoint to drive to Mexico, and their plans to escape are dashed when they learn that Myers suffers from a paralyzed eye that remains open even when he is sleeping.

Favorite quote: “Nobody ever gave me anything. So I don’t owe nobody.” – Emmet Myers (William Talman)

Catch Lupino in "The Hard Way." You'll be glad you did.

Catch Lupino in “The Hard Way.” You’ll be glad you did.

By the by, if you’ve got some time on your hands and you’d like to know more about the beautiful and multi-talented Ida Lupino, check out this post that I wrote on her a couple of years back.

And one more thing – even though they’re not noir (at least, not to me), I also highly recommend two other Lupino starrers that are airing June 12th – They Drive By Night, starring Humphrey Bogart and George Raft, and The Hard Way, with Joan Leslie, Jack Carson, and Dennis Morgan. They’re OUTSTANDING, and Lupino is a revelation in them both. Trust me. Start making plans now.

You only owe it to yourself.

Happy birthday, Marilyn!

•June 1, 2014 • Leave a Comment

She’s not the first person who comes to mind when you think of film noir femmes, but Marilyn Monroe earned a solid place in the film noir world.

On the occasion of what would’ve been her 88th birthday, we’re raising our glasses to remember Marilyn and salute her performances in Clash by Night, The Asphalt Jungle, Niagara, and Don’t Bother to Knock.

Salut!

The CMBA “Fabulous Films of the ’50s” Blogathon: The Big Combo (1955)

•May 21, 2014 • 40 Comments

How do I love The Big Combo? Let me count the ways.

Richard Conte. The sexy, jazzy score. The great screenplay by Philip Yordan. The righteous, passionate, intense detective played by Cornel Wilde and his obsession for the character portrayed by his real-life wife, Jean Wallace. The fact that I know about Don Loper, the designer of Jean Wallace’s wardrobe, because of an episode on I Love Lucy. Brian Donlevy’s over-the-hill, hearing impaired hood. The memorable use of shadows and light, courtesy of famed cinematographer John Alton. The impressive supporting cast that included Jay Adler, Lee Van Cleef, Earl Holliman, Helen Walker, Ted deCorsia, and John Hoyt. Oh, and did I mention Richard Conte?

Lt. Diamond is a righteous man.

Lt. Diamond is a righteous man.

The Big Combo focuses on Leonard Diamond (Cornel Wilde), a big city police detective with a dual obsession – he is consumed with a quest to bring to justice a certain mobster known as Mr. Brown (Conte), and he is equally fixated on a certain society beauty, Susan Lowell (Wallace), who just happens to – shall we say, belong? – to Mr. Brown.

Diamond’s efforts to nab Mr. Brown not only endanger his own life but also the well-being of those close to him – but that doesn’t stop this one-track-mind copper. Determined to unearth the one crime for which Brown could be charged, Diamond encounters a medley of shady characters, each of whom provide him with another piece to the multifaceted and deadly puzzle that is Mr. Brown (who, incidentally, is never referred to by anything except Mr. Brown).

Here’s more about the characters in this grim, complex, and fascinating entry from the waning years of the film noir era, and why I simply adore them.

Mr. Brown knows a thing or two about torture.

Mr. Brown knows a thing or two about torture.

  1. Richard Conte wears the character of Mr. Brown like an expensively tailored suit, spitting out his lines as if they’d done something personal to him. And it’s a fitting portrayal. Brown is self-absorbed, vicious, sadistic, and completely devoid of conscience. He demonstrates this in a particularly explicit scene, where he tortures Diamond, who’s been abducted by Brown’s hoods. First Brown blasts the volume in a hearing aid device that he places in Diamond’s ear. Then he forces him to drink hair tonic containing 40 percent alcohol. “Look at the drunken cop,” Brown observes wryly. “Isn’t that a shame.”

    Fante and Mingo: Just friends, right?

    Fante and Mingo: Just friends, right?

  2. Lee Van Cleef and Earl Holliman play Fante and Mingo, two of Mr. Brown’s underlings. I have to mention here that I’ve read from countless sources that Fante and Mingo are gay. I’m not really sure how this conclusion was reached with such certainty – to me, they’re two hoods in the same gang – they’re clearly close friends, practically inseparable, they even sleep in the same room, but that’s all it is to me. I guess I’m just obtuse. In any event, there’s no denying that they’re riveting every time they’re on screen – Van Cleef always cold and implacable, Holliman a little childlike, but a ruthless killer just the same.

    Joe McClure gets no respect.

    Joe McClure gets no respect.

  3. Brian Donlevy’s Joe McClure is the Rodney Dangerfield of the organization – he gets no respect. This characterization is clearly illustrated in scene after scene – in one, McClure objects when Fante charges him a fee for the privilege of working Diamond over. “Didn’t Mr. Brown pay you?” McClure asks. And Fante responds, “You’re not Mr. Brown. For Mr. Brown, I’d snatch a judge from a Superior Court for a chocolate soda.” And later, Brown himself berates McClure after he kills a potential witness, and insists that he relinquish his gun. When he does, Mr. Brown responds: “See what I mean, Joe? Two seconds ago you had this gun in your hand. We’re all alone here. The thought of using it flashed through your mind. But you couldn’t. Yet you didn’t hesitate to use it on Dreyer. Because he was a little man, Joe. Like you, a little man.” You can’t help but feel sorry for the guy.

    Helen Walker also had a small part in the film.

    Helen Walker also had a small part in the film.

  4. Minor characters in the film are memorably portrayed by Ted deCorsia and John Hoyt – both were only in a single scene and both played men from Mr. Brown’s past who were tracked down by Diamond. deCorsia played Bettini, a shipman who is able to tie Mr. Brown to the disappearance of his first wife. When Diamond turns up at his run-down apartment, Bettini is certain that he’s been sent by Mr. Brown: “I’ve been waiting for you a long time,” he says with an air of resignation. “You look like such a nice young feller. That Brown sure knows how to pick ‘em. I’d never have suspected. . . . Come closer – one shot ought to do it.” And during Hoyt’s brief time on screen, he manages to offer a well-drawn portrait of a hard-boiled antiques dealer, earning praise in the New York Times for his “dandy” performance.

And contributing to the greatness of the film behind the scenes were:

  1. David Raksin, who composed the film’s score. Raksin was known as the Grandfather of Film Music – he wrote the scores for more than 100 movies and 300 television shows, including Laura (1944), Forever Amber (1947), Force of Evil (1948), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), and Separate Tables (1958).

    David Raksin was known as the Grandfather of Film Music.

    David Raksin was known as the Grandfather of Film Music.

  2. Joseph Lewis, the film’s director. Lewis also helmed a number of other noirs, including two of my favorites, My Name is Julia Ross (1945) and Gun Crazy (1950). His nickname was “Wagon Wheel Joe,” a moniker he earned early in his career, when he helmed a number of Westerns for Universal; he had a tendency to shoot scenes through the spokes of wagon wheels, just to liven things up.
  3. Philip Yordan, the screenwriter. Born in Chicago, Yordan had a lengthy career that spanned the early 1940s through 1994. His many credits included House of Strangers (1949), Detective Story (1950), Houdini (1953), Johnny Guitar (1954), and The Harder They Fall (1956). Yordan was responsible such memorable lines as these:
  • “What do you think this is, a homicide investigation? You’re dealing with the largest pool of illegal money in the world! You’re fighting a swamp with a teaspoon.” – Robert Middleton
  • “What is it about a hoodlum that appeals to certain women?” – Cornel Wilde

    "A woman only cares how a man makes love."

    “A woman only cares how a man makes love.”

  • “A woman doesn’t care how a man makes his living. Only how he makes love.” – Helene Stanton
  • Diamond, the only trouble with you is you’d like to be me.  You’d like to have my organization, my influence, my fix. You can’t. That’s impossible. You think it’s money. It’s not. It’s personality. You haven’t got it, Lieutenant – you’re a cop. Slow, steady, intelligent. With a bad temper and a gun under your arm. With a big yen for a girl you can’t have. First is first and second is nobody.” – Richard Conte
  • “I’d rather be insane and alive, than sane and dead.” – Helen Walker
  • “You took my job. You took my hotel. You though you could push me right off the earth. You punk.” – Brian Donlevy
  • “Nothing kills me. I’ll die in Stockholm like my great-grandfather, age 93. I’m not scared of anyone – including you.” – John Hoyt

    "Joe, tell the man I'm going to break him."

    “Joe, tell the man I’m going to break him.”

  • “Joe, tell the man I’m going to break him so fast he won’t have time to change his pants. Tell him the next time I see him he’ll be down in the hotel lobby crying like a baby and asking for a ten dollar loan. Tell him that. And tell him I don’t break my word.” – Richard Conte

Believe me when I tell you there isn’t a dull moment in this film – practically every character with more than a line brings something to the table that you don’t want to miss. It’s got everything – outstanding writing, direction, music, cinematography, acting – all wrapped up in a neat little noir bundle, just waiting for you to tuck it under your arm and make it your own. So what’re you waiting for?

You only owe it to yourself.

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This post is part of The CMBA Fabulous Films of the ’50s Blogathon hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Click the picture at the right to check out the many great posts being presented by CMBA members as part of this event! 

The Power-Mad Blogathon: Blood and Sand (1941)

•May 4, 2014 • 19 Comments

When I heard that Lady Eve’s Reel Life and They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To were hosting a one-day blogathon in honor of Tyrone Power’s 100th birthday, I wanted in. But Power, whose screen career started in the late 1930s, just missed the pre-Code era, and his great noir offering – Nightmare Alley (1947) – was already taken. What to do?!?

I decided to go out on a (very shaky) limb and select Blood and Sand (1941). Although it’s in Technicolor and set in Spain, I thought I could make a case for this film having a few noir-like aspects to it. As it turned out, it had even more than I’d hoped. The film tells of the rise and fall of a famed bullfighter, Juan Gallardo (Power), whose life both inside and outside of the ring is destroyed by a beautiful, cold-hearted woman. Plus it features Rita Hayworth, one of the iconic femmes of the noir era. Shadowy enough for you? Let’s explore more of this noirish non-noir.

We are first introduced to Power’s character as a young boy, played by Rex Downing (you might also recognize him from Wuthering Heights, where he played Heathcliff as a child). A full 25 minutes pass, in fact, before Tyrone Power makes his first appearance on screen. Meanwhile, the feature provides a leisurely and thorough representation of the character of Juan Gallardo, showing his impoverished beginnings as the proud son of a bullfighter who was killed in the ring, and introducing the characters in his circle – his childhood love, Carmen Espinosa (Linda Darnell); his embittered, longtime rival, Manolo dePalma (Anthony Quinn); his loyal friend-to-the-end, Nacional (John Carradine); and the bombastic critic who quotes himself incessantly, seeming to start each sentence with “I, Curro . . .” (Laird Cregar).

Poor Linda.

Poor Linda.

The film follows Juan’s gradual rise to fame and fortune in the bull ring, which is complemented by his happiness at home with his devoted wife, Carmen. But at the peak of his success, he encounters and is entranced by Dona Sol (Rita Hayworth), the beautiful niece of the town’s wealthiest landowner; according to one character, “There’s nothing in the world that she can hold onto for long – nothing. When she was a little girl, she used to tire of all her toys and throw them away while they were still new.”

Juan and his faithful friend, Nacional.

Juan and his faithful friend, Nacional.

Once he falls under the spell of Dona Sol, Juan’s life seems to go into a tailspin – his wife leaves him, as does his assistant (J. Carrol Naish) and his manager (Pedro de Cordoba) – he’s even abandoned by his sister and her husband. As he sinks ever lower, Juan neglects his training and even begins drinking; his longtime friend, Nacional tries to warn him: “You were born to very little, like the rest of us. But one thing you had that was real and pure – you were a born killer of bulls, a matador! She took it away from you. Now when you face the bull with a sword, you’re drained, empty. There’s nothing left of you but fear.”

Like real friends usually do, Nacional spoke the truth. But in case you’ve never seen this picture, I won’t spoil it for you. Suffice it to say that, despite the film’s Technicolor appearance and its decidedly non-urban setting, the ending of Blood and Sand is a pure tribute to noir.

Power and Darnell in The Mark of Zorro.

Power and Darnell in The Mark of Zorro.

And if that isn’t enough, here are a few more “Power-Mad” tidbits for you…

Blood and Sand was directed by Rouben Mamoullian, who helmed a wide variety of first rate features during his career, including City Streets (1931), Queen Christina (1933), Golden Boy (1939), and The Mark of Zorro (1940) which, incidentally, also starred Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell.

This feature marked the fourth and final screen teaming of Tyrone Power and Linda Darnell. The two had previously appeared in Daytime WifeBrigham Young, and The Mark of Zorro.

Lynn Bari had good taste.

Lynn Bari had good taste.

Lynn Bari was one of the many actresses considered for the part played by Rita Hayworth, Dona Sol. Bari, who wound up being cast as Tyrone Power’s sister, later admitted that she had a huge crush on the actor. (Who didn’t?)

Tyrone Power’s mother was played by Alla Nazimova, an actress whose career began in the silent era. She leased a mansion on Sunset Boulevard known as “The Garden of Alla,” bought the property in 1919, and converted it into a hotel in 1927. She eventually sold it, and by 1930, it had been purchased by Central Holding Corporation, which changed the name to the Garden of Allah Hotel. Nazimova rented a villa in the hotel beginning in 1938, and lived there until her death in 1945.

The young Carmen was played by actress Ann Todd, who played Tyrone Power’s little sister the year before in Brigham Young.

If you’ve never checked out Tyrone Power’s performance in Blood and Sand (1941), put it on your list of must-sees. You only owe it to yourself.

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This post is part of The Power-Mad Blogathon, hosted by Lady Eve’s Reel Life and They Don’t Make ‘Em Like They Used To. Visit either of these sites to check out the many great posts of being presented as part of this event! 

 

It’s a Wrap! The Great Villain Blogathon

•April 27, 2014 • 5 Comments

Originally posted on SPEAKEASY:

darth

as Christopher Walken would say, Wow.

Wowie. Wow Wow Wow.

The Great Villain Blogathon has far exceeded anything we expected.

View original 318 more words

The Great Villain Blogathon: Day Six

•April 26, 2014 • 5 Comments

Thrills!

Chills!

And even more villainy!

This is the last day of The Great Villain Blogathon, and it’s chockful of bad guys, bad girls, and more bad deeds than you can shake a stick at! Check out the awesome posts offered up today – you only owe it to yourself:

Robert Montgomery in Night Must Fall at Nitrate Diva

Anthony Perkins in Psycho at Tales of the Easily Distracted

Professor Fate in The Great Race at Silver Scenes

Robert Ryan in Billy Budd at Motion Picture Gems

Raymond Burr in Rear Window at Two Heads are Better Than One

Al Pacino in Devil’s Advocate at Frisco Kid at the Movies

Our Gang

Butch and The Woim in the Our Gang Comedies at Forgotten Films

Olga Baclanova in Freaks at The Midnight Palace

Kathy Bates in Misery, Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity, and Christoph Waltz in Inglorious Basterds at Film Nerd Blog

 

Danny Huston in The Proposition at Ramblings of a Cinephile

Ming the Merciless in the Flash Gordon movies, part 3 at Secret Sanctum of Captain Video

Alain Delon in Purple Noon at Random Pictures

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity at Backlots

Clark Gable in Night Nurse at Shadows and Satin

And stay tuned for tomorrow’s wrap-up post!! You’ll be glad you did!

The Great Villain Blogathon: Clark Gable in Night Nurse (1931)

•April 26, 2014 • 13 Comments
This ain't no Rhett Butler.

This ain’t no Rhett Butler.

Some random observations:

1. A last name is not an essential requirement to be a villain.

2. Neither is a moustache.

Case in point – Nick the chauffeur, played by a moustache-less Clark Gable in Night Nurse (1931). But more about Nick in a moment.

This pre-Code gem stars Barbara Stanwyck as Lora Hart, a night-duty nurse charged with the care of the two young daughters of a dipsomaniac socialite. She soon discovers that the girls’ neglectful mother is the least of their troubles – their very lives are in danger from none other than (duh duh DUH!!!) Nick, the chauffeur.

The role of Nick is a pivotal one, but it’s not very big. In fact, it’s not until a half hour into this economical, 72-minute feature that Nick is even mentioned – but, boy, what a mention! During a conversation that Lora is having with her two charges, Nanny (Marcia Mae Jones) and Desney (Betty Jane Graham), the girls share that they used to have a third sister, but she was “runned over.” Desney dramatically offers that she was “all cut – cut in lots of places.” The girls didn’t see the accident, Desney explains – instead, it was described to them by Nick (duh duh DUH!!!). When Lora asks the girls if Nick is their father, they vehemently respond in the negative: “Nick’s not like Daddy – Daddy was a nice man. [Nick] is a horrid man, isn’t he, Nanny?” Desney says, and her sister starts to sob, seemingly unable to even speak of Nick’s evil deeds. “Nick scares us . . .  he says the most awful things.”

I'm Nick. The chauffeur.

I’m Nick. The chauffeur.

Another five minutes pass before Nick makes his entrance. Lora is napping in her room when an inebriated, tuxedo-clad gent shows up at her door and tells her “a lady needs [her] assistance.” He shows her to a nearby room, where the girls’ mother, Mrs. Richey (Charlotte Merriam), is passed out on a bearskin rug. Lora places the unconscious woman on a chaise lounge and starts to undress her, but she’s interrupted by an attack by the drunken tuxedo guy. Lora fights valiantly, tussling with the man on the floor. Suddenly, the door to the room opens and a man enters – at first, we only see his polka dot pajama bottoms, slippers, and Oriental-themed silk robe as he crosses the room, lifts the man up, gives him two punches, and unceremoniously shoves him into a chair. Before Lora can express her appreciation for his gallantry, the man brushes off her thanks, barking at her to give Mrs. Richey a “stomach wash.” (Incidentally, I didn’t know what the heck this was – after a little research, I concluded that he’s referring to a “gastric lavage,” also known as a stomach pump, through which the stomach’s contents are suctioned out, followed by a rinsing with a saline solution.) (You’re welcome.) Lora refuses, insisting that a doctor’s orders are needed for such a procedure, but the man roughly grabs her wrist as a convincer, and snatches the phone from her hand when she tries to make a call, telling her that he is giving the orders. And when Lora asks what gives the man this authority, he responds, “I’m Nick. The chauffeur.” (duh duh DUH!!!) Lora emits a most appropriate theatrical gasp, but she still makes a grab for the telephone, prompting Nick to land a blow square on her chin, knocking her cold.

What an introduction!

Is this a villain, or is this a villain? (This is a villain.)

Is this a villain, or is this a villain? (This is a villain.)

Despite getting her clock punched, Lora stays on the job, but before long she realizes that the girls are growing more and more ill, especially Nanny. Finally, Lora discovers that they are being deliberately starved to death, and she learns from the housekeeper that Nick is in cahoots with the crooked doctor on the case in an effort to gain control of the girls’ trust fund. Shortly after Lora learns this news, Nick makes his second appearance, surfacing as Lora is trying to revive Nanny by giving her a milk bath. Lora doesn’t bite her tongue, telling Nick that she knows what he’s up to and that he’ll be charged with murder if Nanny dies. When Nick realizes that the housekeeper has spilled the beans about the trust fund, he takes her into another room and beats her, then forces Lora to remove Nanny from the milk bath. When another doctor shows up to help, with plans to give Nanny a blood transfusion, Nick puts the kibosh on that notion: “You’re not the doctor on this case . . .  I’d run along if I was you,” Nick tells him – just before he knocks him across the room. When Lora jumps into the fray, Nick pushes her into a wall, but he doesn’t get the chance to finish the job – just in the nick of time (if you’ll pardon the expression), in steps Mortie, a bootlegger pal of Lora’s. With his hand in his pocket obviously concealing a gun, Mortie, shall we say, escorts Nick from the premises. And that’s the last we see of Nick. Literally. One of the film’s last scenes shows an ambulance arriving at the morgue – one of the attendants remarks that “some guy got taken for a ride” and remakes that he was wearing a chauffeur’s uniform.

It wasn’t until I watched Night Nurse for this post that I realized just how little Clark Gable was actually in this film. He was only in three scenes and in one, he was only seen eavesdropping on Lora’s telephone conversation. Still, he was a looming presence, made even more so by his strapping physique and aggressive, intimidating manner. And Gable was the perfect actor for the role. As director William Wellman wrote in his autobiography, Gable was “one of the most despicable heavies imaginable, and he did it with such savoir faire that he became a star.”

If you’ve never seen Clark Gable in Night Nurse, you’re in for a treat. And if you’ve seen him, do yourself and give this film another watch. You’ll be glad you did.

And you only owe it to yourself.

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This post is part of The Great Villain Blogathon, hosted by Ruth at Silver Screenings, Kristina at Speakeasy, and yours truly. Click on Barbara Stanwyck in the picture on the right to check out the many great posts of villainy being presented as part of this event! Or else!

 
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