Happy blogiversary to me — 3.0! (Or is it 2.1?)

•June 23, 2014 • 9 Comments

On June 23, 2011, Duke University’s Kyrie Irving was the number one pick in the NBA draft.

Actor Ted Shackelford, Gary Ewing of Knots Landing fame, celebrated his 65th birthday.

And I hit “PUBLISH” for the first time on this blog, launching Shadows and Satin!

Can you believe it’s been three whole years? I can’t. But time flies when you’re having fun. (And fruit flies like a banana.)

Writing this blog has been — in the words of Don Cornelius — a stone gas! And it’s a pleasure to take the opportunity, once again, to thank Dark Pages Senior Writer and Speakeasy blog author, Kristina Dijan, who encouraged me to start it in the first place. My most sincere thanks, also, to anybody who has ever read a single word I’ve ever written here.

Ever.

To celebrate my three-year blogiversary, I am continuing my tradition of offering you a great quote from one of my favorite actresses — this time, it’s Jean Harlow, from Hold Your Man (1933):

“You wouldn’t be a bad looking dame, if it wasn’t for your face. “

By the way, if you haven’t seen this pre-Code gem, check it out.

You know why.

The Billy Wilder Blogathon: Famous Couples of Noir — Chuck and Lorraine in Ace in the Hole (1951)

•June 22, 2014 • 14 Comments

They were two of film noir’s most unsavory characters – and that’s saying something.

Charles Tatum (Kirk Douglas) and Lorraine Mimosa (Jan Sterling) were like two ships that pass in the night – and then turn around and crash into each other. In Billy Wilder’s dark and uncompromising 1951 feature Ace in the Hole (also known as The Big Carnival), Tatum and Mimosa enter the Film Noir Hall of Fame as one of the era’s most dysfunctional couples.

In Ace in the Hole, Tatum is an unethical newspaper reporter whose view of his profession is expressed early in the film: “I didn’t go to any college, but I know what makes a good story,” he says. “Bad news sells best. Good news is no news.” Determined to work his way back to the “big time” after being fired from 11 newspapers, Tatum is finally presented with the ideal opportunity – while working on a small New Mexico publication, he happens upon Leo Minosa (Richard Benedict), a curio shop merchant trapped in an old Indian cavern. After learning that rescuers can free Minosa within a day’s time, Tatum works in concert with the corrupt local sheriff (Ray Teal) to effect an operation that will take at least a week, providing him the chance to write a daily series of widely read articles.

Meet cute?

Meet cute?

Tatum’s other partner in crime is Leo’s slovenly wife, Lorraine, who initially plans to use her spouse’s accident as a chance to leave him. Tatum convinces her to stay, using her status as a “grieving spouse” to spice up his acclaimed stories. Charles and Lorraine first meet as he’s on his way to the cavern; Lorraine is walking along the road and he picks her up in his car. Even though she reveals that her husband is trapped in the cave, she doesn’t seem very troubled: “Dumb cluck,” she grouses, “everybody keeps telling him, ‘Stay out of that place, stay out of there.’” In fact, rather than centering on any sort of concern for her spouse, Lorraine’s entire conversation instead reflects her cynical nature and her complete dissatisfaction with her life. When she’s asked if it’s true that Indians lived in the cavern 450 years ago, Lorraine responds, “I wouldn’t know. I haven’t been around that long. It only seems that long.”

From the start, the relationship between Tatum and Lorraine is a contentious one – and one in which each sees the other for exactly what they are. In the scene where Lorraine shares her plans to leave town, she tells Tatum that it’s actually her second attempt – the first time, she made it all the way to Kansas before her husband caught up with her. As Tatum watches her take the last $11 out of the shop’s register, he chides her for abandoning her husband in his current state: “Nice kid,” he remarks. “Got a little jump on him this time, huh? Can’t run after you – not lying there with those rocks on his legs.” But Lorraine isn’t fazed; she knows that Tatum’s top priority is his career – certainly not the safety and well-being of her husband. “A lot you care about Leo,” she rejoins. “I’m on to you – you’re working for a newspaper. All you want is something you can print. Honey, you like those rocks just as much as I do.”

The site of the accident turns into a circus-like atmosphere.

The site of the accident turns into a circus-like atmosphere.

Before long, in response to Tatum’s moving stories, a throng of curiosity-seekers and reporters from around the country descend on the area. As time wears on, the rescue site takes on a circus-like atmosphere – hence, the title – complete with carnival rides, balloons, concession stands, and even a theme song (“We’re Coming Leo”). Tatum, the only reporter allowed access to Leo inside the cavern, becomes a celebrity, and just as Tatum had predicted, Lorraine starts raking in the cash as her curio shop/diner becomes a hub for the swarm of visitors. She next turns her sights to Tatum – paying him a visit in his room, she expresses her gratitude to him for convincing her to stay, estimating that she should pull in more than a thousand dollars before the first week is out. But she soon finds that Tatum is not of a mind to join her celebration. When he tells her to stop smiling (“Your husband’s stuck under a mountain. You’re worried sick. That’s the way the story goes.”), Lorraine playfully challenges him to “make [her]”. And he does, delivering a double-cheek slap that leaves her silent and stunned.

In another scene, Tatum orders Lorraine to attend a religious service for her husband, and Lorraine drawls, “I don’t go to church. Kneeling bags my nylons.” But Tatum isn’t as immune to Lorraine’s charms (such as they are) as he would like to believe. Before long, he summons Lorraine, ostensibly to chide her for spending too much time with the other reporters. But Lorraine takes the conversation in a different direction, musing on her future once she leaves New Mexico and moves to New York, and envisioning an encounter with Tatum there. “Maybe you’ll buy me a couple of drinks. Maybe you’ll even take me out for a big evening. You won’t be ashamed of me. I’m going to buy me a new trousseau – I’ll look real swell.” In response, Tatum derisively suggests that she “wash that platinum out of [her] hair,” and then grabs a handful of her locks and pulls her in for one of the cruelest, least tender kisses I’ve ever seen.

The first kiss: it wasn't pretty.

The first kiss: it wasn’t pretty.

The relationship between Tatum and Lorraine – as well as the efforts to rescue Leo – continues to spiral out of control, but I’m not going to give anything else away. Just keep in mind that Ace in the Hole is film noir.

Don’t count on a happy ending.

Other stuff:

Billy Wilder not only directed the film, he was also the producer and wrote the screenplay, along with Walter Newman and Lesser Samuels.

The song “We’re Coming Leo” was written by the songwriting team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, who were responsible for a number of popular songs of the 1940s and 1950s, including Buttons and Bows and Que Sera Sera. Wilder reportedly told the men to write “the worst song you can, with bad rhymes and everything else bad.”

In addition to the well-known “baggy nylons” quote, Ace in the Hole is rife with standout lines. Two of my other favorites are these:

Tatum: “I can handle big news and little news. If there’s no news, I’ll go out and bite a dog.”

Lorraine: “I’ve met a lot of hard-boiled eggs in my life, but you – you’re 20 minutes.”

The film was inspired by the real-life case of Floyd Collins in Kentucky.

The film was inspired by the real-life case of Floyd Collins in Kentucky.

After the release of the film, Billy Wilder was sued by actor Victor Desny (who can be seen in uncredited roles in such films as The Snows of Kilimanjaro and The Story of Three Loves). Desny claimed that he’d contacted Wilder’s secretary in 1949 to propose a film based on the real-life story of Floyd Collins, who was trapped in a cave in Kentucky in 1917.  Wilder’s attorneys claimed that Desny had not developed a formal story submission, and that because of the historical nature of the Collins case, it was not protected by copyright laws. The case eventually reached the California Supreme Court, which ruled that Desny’s oral submission was legitimate, and Wilder’s attorneys paid Desny $14,350.

In an interview depicted in the film, the first man to visit the site of the accident (played by Frank Cady of Petticoat Junction fame) states that he is an employee of the Pacific All-Risk Insurance Company. This is the name of the company that employed Walter Neff in Double Indemnity (1944), which was also directed and co-written by Billy Wilder.

The film didn’t do well at the box office – audiences may have been put off by the unremittingly grim story. However, critics hailed the performances of both Kirk Douglas and Jan Sterling. The reviewer for Motion Picture Herald wrote that Douglas “enacts the heel reporter ably, giving it color to balance its unsympathetic character,” and in the New York Times, Bosley Crowther described the actor as “full of the arrogance and the cruelty of the desperately insecure.” Sterling’s performance – which won her the National Board of Review Award as best actress of 1952 – was hailed by Crowther, who wrote that she “fills with venom the role of the victim’s trampish wife,” and the critic for Newsweek, who claimed, “The surprise of the film is Jan Sterling’s petulant, uneasy characterization of Minosa’s wife, Lorraine. Miss Sterling has been drab and desperate on screen before this, but with Ace in the Hole she becomes a star.”

You can find Ace in the Hole on DVD, as well as various sites on the internet. Check it out, if you haven’t already – and if you have, isn’t it time you dusted off your copy and gave it another look?

You only owe it to yourself.

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This post is part of the Billy Wilder Blogathon, hosted by Aurora over at Once Upon a Screen, and Kelley at Outspoken and Freckled. Visit either of these sites to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this event!

The 1967 in Film Blogathon: Wait Until Dark

•June 20, 2014 • 17 Comments

If Wait Until Dark (1967) had been filmed 15 years earlier, and in black and white, it would likely have been considered to be film noir. Wait until dark, indeed.

Starring Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin and Richard Crenna, this thriller shows a few short hours in the life of a blind woman whose life is turned upside down by three hoods who are searching for a heroin-stuffed doll they believe she has hidden in her apartment. The film starts out at a leisurely pace as it slowly – and somewhat cryptically – introduces the main characters and sets the stage for the action to come. But once it gets rolling, it doesn’t let up.

Who are the players?

Susy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn): Blind for about a year, and newly married, she is struggling to acclimate herself to her new world – she takes classes at “blind school” but she relies on a teenage neighbor for help, and seems determined, most of all, to become the “world’s champion blind lady” that her husband expects her to be.

Sam Hendrix (Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.): Although he’s absent through most of the film, Sam is the linchpin that sets the entire film in motion, as the coveted doll is given to him by a stranger at the airport.

Alan Arkin is AWESOME in this film.

Alan Arkin is AWESOME in this film.

Roat (Alan Arkin): The sadistic, sardonic, and thoroughly evil ringleader of the quest for the missing doll. He blackmails a couple of con men – Mike Talman (Richard Crenna) and Sgt. Carlino (Jack Weston) – into helping him in his nefarious effort.

Gloria (Julie Herrod): Susy’s neighbor and helper, she turns out to be more assistance than Susy could have dreamed.

Things I Love:

When we first meet Gloria, she is bratty and sullen; we’ve already been told that she resents Susy and has a crush on Susy’s husband. Early on, in fact, she throws a complete tantrum, dashing pots and pans and utensils to the floor after a confrontation with Susy. But Gloria later shows herself to be a steadfast source of strength as Susy’s life becomes a nightmare and her apartment a prison. The relationship between the two is quite touching and is a highlight of the film.

Jack Weston, a bad guy? You bet.

Jack Weston, a bad guy? You bet.

It’s fascinating to see Jack Weston in a bad guy role – I’m far more accustomed to seeing him in such lightweight fare as Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and The Incredible Mr. Limpet. He does a bang-up job as a conscienceless hood – so much so that you’re almost glad when he gets his – shall we say – comeuppance.

Alan Arkin was a revelation in this film – I believe that this is my favorite Arkin performance. His Roat not only dons a couple of unique and masterful disguises in his effort to spin a web that will attract the sought-after doll, but he also tosses off some of the picture’s best lines.  In one scene, when he’s telling his co-conspirators about the woman who’d betrayed him, he grouses, “She was trespassing, Mike, poaching. Going into business for herself. Bad news. Things like that go on, what d’ya have? Anarchy. No discipline, no sense of order. Bad news.” And late in the film, he shares with Susy that Talman and Carlino were out to get him: “Did you know they wanted to kill me? I did. I knew it even before they did. They were awful amateurs, and that’s why you saw through them.”

In the film, Arkin’s character mentions Hammacher Schlemmer, that fun store with all of the awesome gadgets. There used to be one in downtown Chicago near my job, but it disappeared several years ago. And I confess that I never knew how to pronounce the store’s name until I heard Alan Arkin refer to it. (Thanks, Alan!)

That's one of Arkin's characters on the left.

That’s one of Arkin’s characters on the left.

Alan Arkin played three different roles in the film – Roat, Roat Jr., and Roat Sr. All three received mention in the credits. Real telephone numbers were used in the movie – not those generic 555 exchanges. It’s a small thing, to be sure, but yet another reason why I love this movie.

One of my favorite scenes shows Susy’s breakdown when she realizes that her telephone line has been cut. She starts to completely lose it, but then she suddenly gives herself a figurative slap in the face, pulls herself together, and instead of allowing herself to wallow in victimhood, she starts taking steps to fight back. It’s an awesome thing to see – you’ll want to cheer.

I’m no fan of scary movies, but I have to hand it to Wait Until Dark for serving up one of the scariest movie moments I’ve ever seen – you know, one of those unexpected, jump-two-feet-out-of-your-seat moments. Trust me – it’s a good one.

Other Stuff:
The film was based on a play by Frederick Knott, who also wrote the 1952 Broadway hit Dial M for Murder.

Hepburn and her producer/husband, Mel Ferrer.

Hepburn and her producer/husband, Mel Ferrer.

The movie was produced by actor Mel Ferrer, who was married at the time to Audrey Hepburn. The two were divorced the year after the film’s release. Audrey Hepburn was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her performance. She lost to Katharine Hepburn in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

In my memory, I always associate this movie with See No Evil, a 1971 release that starred Mia Farrow as another blind woman in peril. It was pretty good, but I always felt that Wait Until Dark was the far superior film.

Henri Mancini wrote the music for the film’s title song; the lyrics were penned by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, who also wrote the words to Buttons and Bows, Que Sera Sera, Silver Bells, and Mona Lisa (and the theme song for the TV show Mr. Ed!).

If you’ve never seen this film, or if it’s been a while since you gave it a watch, do yourself a favor and check it out – until I started on this post, I hadn’t seen it in more than 30 years, and believe me, it still packs the same punch! You won’t be sorry.

This post is part of the 1967 in Film Blogathon, hosted by The Rosebud Cinema and Silver Screenings. Visit either of these sites to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this event!

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.

* * * * * * * * * *

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! 

 

 
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