TCM Pick of the Month: Film Noir

Lana Turner and John Garfield practically set the screen on fire in "Postman."

Lana Turner and John Garfield practically set the screen on fire in “Postman.”

TCM is fairly bursting at the seams with first-rate films noirs and pre-Codes in January – so many, in fact, that I just can’t select a single film of the month! Instead, I’m selecting two days on which TCM is airing a series of must-see noir and pre-Code features. So mark your calendars and fire up the DVRs, you’ve got some watchin’ to do!

Today’s post centers on my film noir pick – I’m choosing Monday, January 6th as the don’t-miss day for features from this shadowy era. In back-to-back-to-back fashion, TCM is airing the following four outstanding examples of film noir:

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

One of my all-time favorite noirs, and one that I’ve seen more times than I can count, The Postman Always Rings Twice stars Lana Turner and John Garfield as Cora and Frank – lovers who’ll stop at nothing to be together, even if it means bumping off Cora’s amiable hubby.

Favorite quote: “Stealing a man’s wife, that’s nothing – but stealing a man’s car, that’s larceny.” – John Garfield

Trivia tidbit: Watch for this goof in the first scene after Frank and Cora open their new beer garden. Frank is seen waiting on customers and is carrying a tray with three filled glasses on it. The glasses are obviously glued to the tray, as Frank is carrying the tray at such an angle that the glasses would otherwise fall off.

Robert Mitchum gets more than he bargained for when he hooks up with this dame in "The Locket."

Robert Mitchum gets more than he bargained for when he hooks up with this dame in “The Locket.”

The Locket (1946)

In this film, Laraine Day stars as Nancy Blair, whose beauty masks the fact that she is psychologically unbalanced. The film is notable for its unusual structure, which features a flashback within a flashback within a flashback.

Favorite quote: “When you’re a housekeeper’s daughter, you see the world through a half-open door.” – Laraine Day

Trivia tidbit: The set that serves as the home of Mrs. Willis, where young Nancy lives with her housekeeper mother, is the same house that belonged to Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains) in Notorious (1946).

The Reckless Moment (1949)

Joan Bennett stars in this feature as a mother who becomes the living embodiment of maternal self-sacrifice when she covers up a crime committed by her daughter. The cast also includes the great James Mason.

Favorite quote:  “It was my way of doing something that made everything wrong.” – Joan Bennett

Trivia tidbit: The Reckless Moment was produced by Walter Wanger, who was married to Joan Bennett from 1940 to 1965. In 1951, Wanger shot Bennett’s agent and friend, Jennings Lang, and then turned himself into police, announcing, “I’ve just shot the son of a bitch who tried to break up my home.” Lang made a speedy recovery and publicly forgave Wanger, who was later sentenced to four months in jail.

Lady in the Lake (1947)

The plot of this film focuses on private detective Phillip Marlowe, who is hired by the editor of a crime magazine to find the wife of her boss. Directed by Robert Montgomery, the entire film is seen from Marlowe’s viewpoint, and features the always-awesome Audrey Totter, who passed recently.

Favorite quote:  “So you’re a story writer, too, hmm? The detective business must be on the skids. What are you trying to do, elevate yourself?” – Audrey Totter

Robert Montgomery's face is only seen in mirror reflections in "Lady in the Lake."

Robert Montgomery’s face is only seen in mirror reflections in “Lady in the Lake.”

Trivia tidbit:  The first-person camera technique used in Lady in the Lake is known as the “subjective camera.” It had previously only been used for the first few minutes of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1931. It was used again in Dark Passage (1947), released the same year as Lady in the Lake, but only for about a third of the film. (The subjective camera was used throughout Lady in the Lake.)

Stay tuned for my pick for TCM’s pre-Code day!

~ by shadowsandsatin on January 5, 2014.

6 Responses to “TCM Pick of the Month: Film Noir”

  1. I’ve seen “Lady in the Lake,” and found it unsatisfying for a host of reasons. You must have a different opinion.

    • Hi, Fred — yes, I definitely have a different opinion. The first time I saw Lady in the Lake, I didn’t care for it, but I gave it another chance (Robert Montgomery, Audrey Totter, and Lloyd Nolan deserved it!). I’ve seen it several times since, and like it more every time.

  2. Oh boy! January looks like a VERY good month for noirs. Thanks for the heads up – I definitely DO NOT want to miss “The Locket” with Robert Mitchum.

  3. Karen, you’ve gotten some marvelous film noir goodies for 2014! I own LADY IN THE LAKE (gift from my sweet hubby), and I already have THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, so I’m much obliged to you for this reminder! I’m gonna have to catch up with THE LOCKET, too; what I’ve seen of it was fascinatingly wild and crazy!🙂 Swell choices, my friend! Enjoy the New Year!

  4. I find Lady in the Lake to be an interesting though not entirely successful picture. It amazes me that the Louis B. Mayer helmed MGM, the studio with the most conservative aesthetic, green lit this film to be made it was to be made. Some parts of the first person camera direction work, especially the scene where Marlowe goes up the stairs and finds the dead body in the shower. The eerie choral music enhances that scene as well. And I like changing the story to Christmas as Xmas can be a lonely and sad time especially if you’re single and alone in a large city. It can lead to a noir mood. However the first person camera limited what sets could be used so the part of the story in which the body is discovered in Lake was unable to be depicted. Some of the actors overdo in playing to the camera, including Audrey Totter early on in the film, though she settles down as the story progresses. The scene where Marlowe crawls out of the ditch and to a payphone is very slow moving and bring the movie to a near dead halt. And Jayne Meadows is miscast–surely MGM had another potential femme fatale on their contract list–was Patricia Dane still around? She could have done something with the part. But still there are elements of the film I really like–besides what I already mentioned–I like the scenes at the Bay City Police Station and the scene where Marlowe visits the elderly couple as well as the scenes at Totter’s apartment. And Iike the bits where we see Montgomery’s face in a mirror or a compact. However I’m not crazy about his performance–he’s not awful, but I find his tough guy mannerisms to be very affected. I think he was much better as a smoothie playboy in his 30s movies opposite the likes of Norma Shearer and Joan Crawford then as Phillip Marlowe, though he effectively delivers some good smart ass remarks. But whatever its merits and shortcomings, it can’t be denied that Lady in the Lake is a very interesting film.

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