Day Thirty of Noirvember: Parting Gifs

•November 30, 2018 • 6 Comments

They say that all good things must come to an end.

Sadly, that also goes for Noirvember 2018.

It’s been a great ride, though, and I thank each and every one of you who came along with me, and commented on, liked, or read any of my daily posts. You make my blog life worthwhile!

For my final Noirvember post, I’m going out the way I started — with some of my favorite noir gifs. Enjoy!

Strangers on a Train (1951)

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

The Dark Corner (1946)

Criss Cross (1949)

Out of the Past (1947)

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Day Twenty-Nine of Noirvember: My Five Noir Dinner Guests

•November 29, 2018 • 7 Comments

Mmm, pie.

Years ago, in an early edition of my film noir newsletter, The Dark Pages (shameless plug), one of our readers posed a question: “What five film noir characters would you like to have for dinner?” It turned out to be a fun exercise for several of our contributors and subscribers, but I never came up with my own selections. Today’s Noirvember post remedies that oversight.

Mildred Pierce (Joan Crawford) from Mildred Pierce (1945)

She always seemed like a cool chick, industrious and ambitious, creative and smart, even if she did bend over backwards a bit too often for that snooty daughter of hers. She had a kind of wry sense of humor – and you could definitely knock back a couple of shots with her. Best of all, she might make one of her famous pies for dessert!

All the gals dig Sammy Masterson.

Sam Masterson (Van Heflin) from The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

Sam was a rugged kind of guy, who’d probably seen all kinds of things during his travels. I’m pretty sure he made his living as a gambler or something; he used to do this neat trick with a coin. Anyway, I bet he’d contribute lots of interesting stories to the dinnertime conversation. He also was loyal and trustworthy – the kind of guy you’d want in your corner when the chips were down. And he was good looking – that’s always a plus at the dinner table.

There’s no denying that Norma was a little odd. But that was part of her charm!

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) from Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A real, live silent movie star! How awesome would that be? Of course, rumor has it that Norma’s gotten rather…shall we say eccentric…in recent years, but who cares? We’d all be enthralled by her stories of Rudolph Valentino and her other movie pals, and the tales of the way Hollywood used to be. And maybe she’ll bring that hunky writer-boyfriend of hers – I hear they’re living together.

Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) from Laura (1944)

Talk about snarky! Waldo was a walking snark machine – he could rip you to shreds with just a few choice words. I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side, but I can’t deny that he would keep the group in stitches with his expert shade-throwing capabilities.

Just one song, and I’ll be satisfied. I’ll even supply the guitar!

Gilda (Rita Hayworth) from Gilda (1946)

Not only was she drop-dead gorgeous, but there was always a kind of reckless excitement surrounding Gilda – like an aura of constant anticipation of what might happen next. And on a good night, she might be persuaded to serve up a little entertainment after dessert and coffee. Certainly not the strip tease I’ve heard about, but maybe just a nice little tune on the guitar.

Bon appetit!

Who would your five noir dinner guests be? Let us know!

And join me tomorrow for the final day (sob!) of Noirvember 2018!

Day Twenty-Eight of Noirvember: List o’ the Week — Top 20 Noirs on YouTube

•November 28, 2018 • 4 Comments

Cornel Wilde and Helene Stanton (Dr. Drew Pinsky’s mom!) in The Big Combo.

YouTube is great for a lot of things, but I love it best for the film noir movies I can find on it. Today’s Noirvember post serves up my top 20 film noir features on YouTube. It’s a veritable treasure trove, y’all!

Drive a Crooked Road (1954)

The Big Combo (1955)

The Crooked Way (1949)

Shield for Murder (1954)

Sudden Fear (1952)

Kansas City Confidential (1952)

Don’t miss Erich Von Stroheim and Mary Beth Hughes in The Great Flamarion. (Dan Duryea’s in it, too! Score!)

The Great Flamarion (1945)

The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)

City That Never Sleeps (1953)

Scarlet Street (1945)

Impact (1949)

Quicksand (1950)

Human Desire (1954)

Johnny O’Clock (1947)

The Hitch-Hiker (1953)

Pushover (1954)

Pickup on South Street features Thelma Ritter. What more do you want?

Pickup on South Street (1953)

Fourteen Hours (1951)

Detour (1945)

Plunder Road (1957)

And as a bonus, here’re three that I’ve never heard of before, but they looked interesting while I was looking for recommendations for my top 20:

Man in the Dark (1953): Edmond O’Brien and Audrey Totter

Fingerman (1955): Frank Lovejoy and Peggie Castle

Shed No Tears (1948) Wallace Ford and June Vincent

Do you have any You Tube noir recommendations? Share them with the group!

And join me tomorrow for Day 29 of Noirvember!

Day Twenty-Seven of Noirvember: Unlikely Film Noir Folks — Fred Clark

•November 27, 2018 • 5 Comments

The other day I saw a post on Facebook with a picture of Fred Clark that described him as “the immortal film noir actor.” One member of the group responded that “he was never noir,” and a quite a little brouhaha ensued – to which, I admit, I briefly contributed. In thinking about it later, though, I had to concede Clark is almost certainly remembered more for his comedy, including films like The Lemon Drop Kid (1951), How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), and The Solid Gold Cadillac (1956), as well as a featured role on TV’s The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show.

But for my money, Clark deserves just as much credit for his noir appearances – he was seen in five features from the era in a three-year span, from 1947 to 1950: The Unsuspected (1947), in which he played a crafty homicide bureau chief; Ride the Pink Horse (1947), portraying a hard-boiled mobster with a hearing impediment; Cry of the City (1948), playing another homicide detective; White Heat (1949), where he was what one critic called a “powerfully sinister” fence for stolen bills; and Sunset Boulevard (1950), in which he was seen in a small but memorable part as the studio exec who shoots down William Holden’s idea for a screenplay.

In Cry of the City.

Born Frederic Leonard Clark in 1917 in Lincoln, California, this versatile performer initially planned to pursue a medical career and enrolled as a psychology student at Sanford University. All that changed in his senior year, though, when Clark appeared in a school production of Yellow Jack and, after his graduation, landed a scholarship to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. After several years playing roles in a number of Broadway plays, stock productions, and repertory theater, Clark caught the attention of famed director Michael Curtiz, who signed him to a personal contract. Clark’s first feature for Curtiz was both his first feature film and his film noir debut, The Unsuspected.

Over the next couple of decades, Clark stayed busy, eventually dividing his time between film and television work. On the small screen, in addition to his Burns and Allen gig, Clark was seen in such series as The Twilight Zone, in which he played a crook who finds a camera that predicts the future (remember that one?), and The Beverly Hillbillies, where he had a recurring role as Dr. Roy Clyburn.

Sadly, Clark left us all too soon in December 1968, after entering the hospital for treatment of a back spasm. While there, he developed a liver ailment and died three weeks later. He was just 54 years old. But he left us with a delightfully versatile body of work – whether he was portraying a cantankerous funny man or a ruthless villain, Fred Clark showed us that he had the stuff.

Do yourself a favor, and check out one of his movies!

And join me tomorrow for Day 28 of Noirvember!

Day Twenty-Six of Noirvember: Happy Birthday, Adele Jergens!

•November 26, 2018 • 4 Comments

When they nicknamed Adele Jergens “The Eyeful,” they weren’t just whistlin’ Dixie.

Born on November 17, 1917, in Brooklyn, New York, Adele Louisa Jurgens didn’t start out with her sights set on the big screen. The tomboyish Adele was the youngest of four children and the only girl, and was focused on being a newspaper reporter – but her parents had other ideas.

“They wanted me to become a dancer and actress,” Jergens said. “It didn’t take me long to find out that my parents were right.”

After years of working as a model and a showgirl, Jergens got her big break in the early 1940s while understudying Gypsy Rose Lee in Star and Garter on Broadway. When Lee missed a show and Jergens stepped in, her performance attracted the attention of a Columbia Studios talent scout and before long, she was under contract to the studio. All told, her screen career spanned less than 15 years, but during that time, she made her mark in the realm of film noir, with featured roles in four first-rate features.

The Dark Past (1948)

Here, Jergens played one of several vacationers at a lakeside cabin who are held hostage by a psychologically damaged prison escapee, portrayed by William Holden. Jergens’s character, Laura Stevens, is a cheating wife whose disdain for her spouse turns to admiration when he stands up to their captors.

Side Street (1950)

Jergens was in only two scenes in this film, but she played the pivotal role as a hard-boiled dame who blackmails her much-married former lover, only to be murdered by her current attorney boyfriend (Edmon Ryan). The blackmail money is later stolen from the attorney’s office by a young mail carrier, portrayed by Farley Granger, who’s desperate for an income boost in order to care for his pregnant wife.

Armored Car Robbery (1950)

In this feature, Jergens was a standout as showgirl Yvonne LeDoux, who’s married to a small-time hood (Douglas Fowley) while carrying on an affair with bigger-time hood (William Talman). Playing a character described as “a lot of woman,” Jergens sashayed off with every scene she was in.

Try and Get Me (1950)

This grim tale of mob violence stars Lloyd Bridges and Frank Lovejoy as Jerry Slocum and Howard Tyler, two luckless criminals who get in way over their heads when they decide to kidnap a wealthy member of the local community. Jergens played Velma, Jerry’s money-loving girlfriend who wanted more out of life than what she could afford on her hairdresser salary – and didn’t care how she got it.

In her personal life, Jergens was linked with such stars as Franchot Tone, Victor Mature, and Al Jolson, but her “Mr. Right” was her co-star in 1949’s Treasure of Monte Cristo, Glenn Langan, who appeared in such featuers as Dragonwcyk (1946) and The Snake Pit (1948), and is perhaps best known for playing the title role in The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). After a whirlwind courtship, Jergens and Langan were married in October 1949, had a son, Tracy, and remained married until Langan’s death in 1991.

When you get a chance, keep an eye out for “The Eyeful” – she’ll give you something to look at.

And join me tomorrow for Day 27 (sniff!) of Noirvember!

 

Day Twenty-Five of Noirvember: Favorite Femme Fatales – Part 2

•November 25, 2018 • 9 Comments

Today’s Noirvember post is the second in my series of favorite femme fatales – those deliciously devious dames that I just can’t get enough of.

My top femme was Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944). Number two on my hit parade of deadly dames is none other than Kathie Moffat in Out of the Past (1947), which tells the tale of an ex-private dick whose past comes back to hit him square in the face – complete with the dame he loved and lost. Kathie Moffat, played by Jane Greer, is that dame. (Keep an eye out for spoilers ahead!)

One of things I like about the character of Kathie Moffat is the fact that she’s discussed at length long before we see her. We first hear of her when her lover, Whit Sterling (Kirk Douglas) hires two private detectives – Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) and his partner Jack Fisher (Steve Brodie) – to find her. Whit’s got two good reasons for trying to track her down: (1) she shot him and (2) she stole a cool 40 grand from him.

“I just want her back,” Whit says, explaining that the money isn’t important. “When you see her, you’ll understand.”

Jeff saw her coming out of the sun. And that was all she wrote.

And he does. (We all do.) Along with Jeff, our first glimpse of Kathie is in Mexico, where Jeff has trailed her. Jeff is seated in a café, La Mar Azul, as he does every day, drinking beer and half-dozing. “And then I saw her,” Jeff tells us. “Coming out of the sun. And I knew why Whit didn’t care about that 40 grand.”

It’s easy to see why Jeff falls for Kathie – she’s not only beautiful, with a quiet but palpable sensuality, but she also seems to have a sweet, sensitive side, an earnestness coupled with a little-girl quality that inspires a man’s protective side. It’s not until later that we scratch the surface and discover the femme fatale underneath.

Kathie’s true nature is revealed when Fisher tails Kathie and Jeff to their wooded hideaway in California and Kathie coolly – and totally unnecessarily – fatally shoots Fisher as he and Jeff are duking it out.

Kathie was a take-charge kind of a gal.

“You wouldn’t have killed him,” Kathie matter-of-factly explains. “You would’ve beaten him up and thrown him out.” In other words, Fisher had to go, and Kathie wasn’t taking any chances on Jeff’s ability to carry out the task. As always, she saw an opportunity and she took matters into her own hands.

There’s only one point in the film, in fact, where Kathie appears to be less than completely in control. It’s near the film’s end, when Whit is forced to realize what Jeff has known for quite some time – that Kathie is a lying, manipulative murderess. He slaps her face (and a more authentic movie slap you may never see) and delivers a somber, chilling threat:

“You’re gonna make every exact move I tell you. If you don’t, I’ll kill you,” Whit tells her. “And I’ll promise you one thing: It won’t be quick. I’ll break you first. You won’t be able to answer a phone or open a door without thinking, ‘This is it.’ And when it comes, it still won’t be quick.”

Kathie’s off her game for the first time. And the last.

For the first time – the ONLY time – Kathie looks genuinely frightened. Terrified, in fact. But like the true femme fatale she is, she’s not defeated. The next time we see Whit, he’s dead on the floor, and Kathie is packed and ready to hit the road. We don’t know exactly how she killed Whit, but there’s no doubt that he’s a goner, and there’s even less doubt about Jeff’s future if he doesn’t go along with her plan. Ultimately, Kathie doesn’t make it to her planned destination (darn those road blocks!), but you can’t deny that she came awful close.

Emphasis on “awful.”

Join me tomorrow for Day 26 of Noirvember.

Day Twenty-Four of Noirvember: The 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival (Part 4)

•November 25, 2018 • 6 Comments

Nancy Olson during her appearance at TCMFF 2018.

For today’s post, I’m doing double duty – my daily Noirvember celebration and the next installment of my year-long coverage of the 2018 Turner Classic Movies film festival!

I was delighted this year to have the opportunity to see and hear the lovely Nancy Olson, who starred with William Holden and Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard. She’s been at the TCM film festival before, but conflicts had caused me to miss her. I was determined not to let anything stop me this year.

Evans and Livingston in the singing scene that made it into the film.

Prior to the festival’s screening of Sunset Boulevard, Olson (her name is actually Nancy Olson Livingston now) was interviewed by singer and past TCM Guest Programmer Michael Feinstein, who opened the event by showing a clip from a number that was cut from the film. Titled “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues,” the song was performed by composers Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (who also wrote and performed “Buttons and Bows,” a portion of which was in the final version of the film). The duo sang “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues” in the same scene that Buttons and Bows was performed – at the New Year’s Eve party thrown by Artie Green (Jack Webb), then-fiancee of Olson’s character, Betty Schaefer. With references to studio head Sam Goldwyn, gossip maven Hedda Hopper, and producer Dore Schary, the song contained such lyrics as: “Though I’m terrific, my talent is immense, guess I’ll only get in pictures by paying 80 cents.” Word is that the number wound up on the cutting room floor because Paramount execs weren’t happy with all the “inside” references.

Olson was a 20-year-old college student when she was discovered by a Paramount talent scout.

Olson, who was introduced by Weinstein to a rousing ovation, informed the audience that she was a 20-year-old Theater Arts student at UCLA when a Paramount scout saw her, invited her to do a screen test, and signed her to a seven-year contract. After appearing in a film with Randolph Scott, where she played a half-breed Indian, Olson returned to school, but before long, Billy Wilder expressed an interest in her for Sunset Boulevard. Olson said she read the script and “it was amazing.”

“Billy Wilder seemed to be very interested and curious about me. He’d ask about my classes, my parents,” she said. “I think what Billy Wilder wanted most was for me to be me. My nickname in college was Wholesome Olson. Edith Head kept coming up with a wardrobe for me, but it wasn’t right for the character. Finally, Wilder told me to just wear my own clothes. He wanted me to just simply be me – Wholesome Olson.”

Olson praised Sunset Boulevard for “telling the truth” about Hollywood and movie stars.

“They were designed to be larger than life. They are a commodity – they are hyped to sell,” Olson said. “And then when they become a certain age, they’re no longer interesting – they’re thrown away.”

Olson thought William Holden was ideally cast in Sunset Boulevard.

The actress also shared that her co-star William Holden was not the first choice for the role of Joe Gillis. Initially, the part was offered to Montgomery Clift, who accepted but later changed his mind. As it turned out, Holden was perfect for the role.

“Holden went to the army, got kind of lost, started to drink too much, his marriage was falling apart. He was a desperate human being,” Olson recalled. “And so was Joe Gillis. [Holden] also had that incandescent quality that movie stars have.”

In her 20-minute interview with Feinstein, the then 89-year-old Olson displayed an enviable vitality and vigor, not to mention a strong will and a razor-sharp memory. She is a true treasure, and I’m so gratified that I got the chance to see her up close and personal. I’ll never look at her Betty Schaefer the same again!

Join me tomorrow for Day 25 of Noirvember (and stay tuned for next month’s installment of my look at the 2018 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival!