It’s a TCM Noir-a-thon!
If you’re hankerin’ for a noir fix, you can’t go wrong this week, when Turner Classic Movies serves up 24 hours of back-to-back-to-back noir goodness! Featuring noir veterans Robert Mitchum and Barbara Stanwyck, the dark and shadowy offerings include some of my all-time favorites, including Double Indemnity, as well as such guilty pleasures as Where Danger Lives and His Kind of Woman. All told, there are a total of 10 features that are sure to scratch every bleak and cynical itch and fulfill each dim and dusky need.
Here’s the lineup:
Of all the features during this two-day noir-a-thon, Undercurrent is, I must say, my least favorite. It is notable, however, for featuring Katharine Hepburn’s sole film noir appearance – and it co-stars two of my favorite Roberts: Mitchum and Taylor. Plus, it’s directed by Vincente Minnelli!
Where Danger Lives (1950)
Quiet as it’s kept, this is one of my favorite noirs – not that I’d admit that to just anybody. (So keep it under your hat.) This one not only offers a serviceable noir plot, but it’s got a great over-the-top performance by Claude Rains, a delightfully low-budget acting job by Howard Hughes fave Faith Domergue, and sleepy-eyed Robert Mitchum, who’s literally along for the ride.
His Kind of Woman (1951)
Start with an exotic setting in Mexico, a professional gambler on the run, and a sexy singer posing as an heiress, throw in a sadistic syndicate boss, and season the mix with a pretentious movie star – and you’ve got His Kind of Woman. Under the watchful eye of director John Farrow (Mia’s dad, dontcha know), this one manages to stealthily tiptoe along the line between dark noir and campy fun.
Angel Face (1953)
A personal fave, highlighted by Jean Simmons’s portrayal of a totally twisted sheep in lovely lamb’s clothing. It also has one of the most shocking endings that I can recall in a noir. You won’t forget it, I guarantee.
Double Indemnity (1944)
Have I mentioned lately that Double Indemnity is my favorite noir? Of all time? I can’t get enough of it. That’s why it was the subject of the second annual “giant” edition of The Dark Pages film noir newsletter (a copy of which, incidentally, you can purchase for your very own by clicking here!) But I digress. This film’s got everything a noir should have – flashbacks, voiceover narration, venetian blinds. A kick-ass femme fatale. A murder. A sucker. Money. I love this movie.
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
Another favorite – starring the awesome foursome of Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas (in one of the best screen debuts around). There is so much going on in this film, as the lives of the four principal players intertwine – Stanwyck, in the title role, is powerful, rich, and ruthless; her husband, Kirk Douglas, is a weak-willed alcoholic; gambler Van Heflin is her childhood pal, and as he re-enters her life, he also catches the eye of down-on-her-luck good-time girl Lizabeth Scott. When I tell you there’s never a dull moment, you can take that to the bank.
Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)
I remember this one scaring the pants off me when I was just a wee tyke, catching it on the late, late show, and hiding my eyes when it came to the last scene. Flashbacks galore tell the story of a wealthy, spoiled, bedridden woman who overhears a plot for murder, and as she clings to the telephone as her lifeline to the world, it turns out to be the instrument that tells her more than she ever wanted to know.
Clash by Night (1952)
There’s not a lot of action, not a lot of typical film noir touches, but this character-driven feature is plenty dark – the bleak sensations of cynicism, contempt, hopelessness, and desperation are almost palpable. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a woman who returns to her hometown in an effort to find stability and security – and then throws it away with both hands (and a swift kick). And Stanwyck is more than ably backed up by Paul Douglas, Robert Ryan, and Marilyn Monroe.
Witness to Murder (1954)
The plot is simple – a woman witnesses a murder. Her dilemma? Getting anyone to believe her – or even find the body. It’s a neat little noir, chock full of suspense and an underlying, unceasing sense of danger. And it co-stars George Sanders as one of the nastiest characters this side of the fire escape.
Crime of Passion (1957)
I love this one. It’s one of Stanwyck’s lesser-known noirs, but it’s well worth discovering. In it, she stars as a successful advice columnist who abandons her career to wed a police detective – but her marital bliss turns to misery when she discovers she’s not cut out to be the happy homemaker. Instead of baking pies and hosting bridge parties, she focuses her energies on shoving her hubby up the ladder of success – and, believe me, her ambitions know no bounds.
So that’s it – a noir-a-licious, lip-smackin’ smorgasbord of shadowy features, served up like a thick, inscrutable stew – tune in Wednesday, December 19th, grab yourself a spoon (or a remote control) and give it a taste!
You only owe it to yourself.