Day 18 of Noirvember: Top 5 in ’49

This ain’t no Lily Munster.

Last week, while compiling my list of favorite noirs for each year, I ran across several years that had multiple features that I love. One of these was 1949, which is fairly overflowing with first-rate films from the noir era. Today’s Noirvember post shines the spotlight on my top 5 faves from 1949.

Criss Cross

What it’s about: Burt Lancaster stars as Steve Thompson, who finds himself caught in a triangle of passion and murder involving his ex-wife, Anna (Yvonne DeCarlo), and her new spouse, Slim Dundee (the always great Dan Duryea), a gambler with underworld connections. When Steve becomes involved with Anna again, he tries to cover up the affair by teaming up with Slim for a bankroll heist – which ultimately ends in disaster.

Why I love it: For my money, Criss Cross is a near-perfect noir. There’s nothing I don’t love about it. Lancaster makes a perfect love-struck sap, Duryea is the perfect oily villain, and DeCarlo is one of noir’s baddest bad girls. Plus, it’s got all those noir characteristics you know and love – flashback, voiceover narration, plenty of light and shadow, and an uncompromising ending that’s one of the era’s best.

Did I forget to mention that Susan Hayward is in House of Strangers, too? Bonus!

House of Strangers

What it’s about: Edward G. Robinson plays Gino Monetti, the patriarch of an Italian family. A bank owner known for his questionable practices, Gino is the father of four boys (three of which work in the bank for meager salaries), but he reserves his favor for only one, Max (Richard Conte). Max is an attorney who takes the rap when his father is arrested for his illegal banking practices, but upon his release after seven years in the pokey, he vows to pay back his siblings who failed to step up on their father’s behalf.

Why I love it: Richard Conte. I mean, seriously – this dude could perch on a stool and recite his ABCs and I’d give him a standing ovation.

Talk about disillusioned!

The Set-Up

What it’s about: In what was arguably one of the best roles of his career, Robert Ryan stars as Stoker Thompson, an aging boxer described as being “one punch away from being punch drunk.” Taking place in real-time on a single night, the film focuses on Stoker’s upcoming match and his confidence that he will win, his unawareness that his crooked manager (George Tobias) has accepted a payoff for him to take a dive, and his long-suffering wife’s inner struggle over whether to continue supporting her spouse’s seemingly fruitless dream.

Why I love it: It’s not your everyday, garden variety noir – no femme fatale, no flashbacks, no everyday Joes turning to a life of crime because of some sexy dame – but it’s chock-full of flawed characters and it’s cloaked in a smothering blanket of desperation and disillusionment. What more can you want from your noir?

If looks could kill.


What it’s about: Claire (Audrey Totter) and Warren Quimby (Richard Basehart) are a definite odd couple – Warren is the unassuming, bespectacled night manager of a drug store, and Claire is his easily bored, expensive perfume-loving spouse who spends her nights stepping out with other men while claiming to be at the picture show. Eventually, Claire gets fed up with her dull hubby and leaves Warren for local moneybags Barney Deager (Lloyd Gough). When Warren tries to win her back, Barney feeds him a hearty knuckle sandwich, which inspires Warren to come up with a scheme for the perfect murder.

Why I love it: Because Audrey Totter.

Jane Palmer ain’t got time for that.

Too Late for Tears

What it’s about: Lizabeth Scott stars as Jane Palmer, whose primary focus in life seems to be her obsession with keeping up with the proverbial Joneses. When a suitcase filled with cash is mistakenly tossed into her car, Jane thinks she’s finally got it made, and when her husband (Arthur Kennedy) insists on turning the money over to the cops, Jane proves that she has other ideas.

Why I love it: I’m a Lizabeth Scott fan from way back, but I think her Jane Palmer is my favorite role. She dominates the film with her sociopathic, self-centered, stop-at-nothing-including-murder set of values. She’s the BEST.

So that’s my top five noirs from 1949. And I have just talked myself into having a personal 1949 marathon film fest at my house today. I’m off to grab a vat of popcorn and hunker down for some shadowy goodness (or badness, as the case may be). Join me, won’t you?

And join me tomorrow for Day 19 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 18, 2017.

9 Responses to “Day 18 of Noirvember: Top 5 in ’49”

  1. Great selection! My mouth’s watering (tho not for the popcorn, because I don’t like popcorn . . . crackers and smelly cheeses will have to suffice instead). And, at least here in NJ, it’s a day made for being stuck in front of t’telly.

  2. Excellent. And I feel the same way you do about Richard Conte and Lizabeth Scott.

  3. Well, I am a convert and scrambling to catch up! Thanks for all the great writing, Karen.

  4. Oh yes please, can we join you for the noir marathon! What a five- some!
    Here in Glasgow, it’s mighty cauld!

  5. Lizabeth Scott’s stunning good looks, husky voice, and look of world weary intelligence basically made her steal every scene she was in. Scott is as watchable as Bogie! Double pow! when they appeared together in “Dead Reckoning”!

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