Day 17 of Noirvember: Five Noirs on a Island

Three years ago, in celebration of National Classic Movie Day, I participated in a blogathon hosted by Rick over at the Classic TV and Movie Café. The theme of the event was Five Movies On An Island. For today’s Noirvember post, I thought I’d revisit this theme, focusing only on noir features, and with a little twist – I’m not including any of the noirs that instantly come to my mind when making these kind of “best of” lists. This means that you won’t be seeing Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, and The Killing, for example. Instead, I decided to give this a little more thought and include those noirs that I consider to be stellar examples of the era, but films that are my personal second- or even third-tier choices. Here goes . . .

Detour (1945)

This is probably my favorite low-budget noir. Clocking in at just a little over an hour, there’s not a wasted moment in this film – it’s wall-to-wall, non-stop noir, if you will. Almost the entire story is presented in flashback, told to us in voiceover by Al Roberts (Tom Neal), a musician who encounters the “detour” of the film’s title when he hitchhikes from New York to Califonria to join his girlfriend.

Not exactly a match made in heaven.

Why this movie?

Detour is just so raw and so bargain-basement – no frills, no polish. But the story is compelling, and the cast (which is as bare-bones as they come) is perfect, especially Ann Savage who plays Vera, a fellow hitchhiker who causes Al no end of trouble. It’s riveting, from start to finish, as you go along with Al on this wild ride from disaster to disaster.

Favorite quote:

There are so many great quotes in this film. It’s practically overflowing with them. It was so hard to pick just one, but here it is: “Life’s like a ball game. You gotta take a swing at whatever comes along before you wake up and it’s the ninth inning.” – Vera (Ann Savage)

You can’t keep your eyes off of Beverly Michaels.

Wicked Woman (1953)

Another low-budget treat, this one stars Beverly Michaels as the dame of the film’s title. We meet her as she arrives by bus in a dusty town, quickly lands a waitressing job, and then proceeds to steal her boss’s husband and use her wiles to coax meals and money from her admiring neighbor (Percy Helton).

Why this movie?

First of all, Beverly Michaels will never give Bette Davis a run for her money, if you know what I mean. But there’s something about her that’s mesmerizing – you just can’t take your eyes off of her, and she steals every scene she’s in, even if she’s just sitting in a chair reading a magazine. Also, any movie with Percy Helton is just all right with me.

Favorite quote:

“Do you think I’d go out with an undersized runt like you? Don’t make me laugh – I wouldn’t be caught dead with you!” – Billie Nash (Beverly Michaels)

This movie belongs to Joan.

The Damned Don’t Cry (1950)

I watched this movie for the umpteenth time just the other night. I’d intended to just have it on as background noir noise while I worked on a Noirvember post, but I kept catching myself with my fingers frozen on my keys and my eyes glued to the screen. Joan Crawford stars as a woman who transforms from impoverished small-town housewife, to worldly wise working girl, to polished society heiress, only to find herself enmeshed in the world of organized crime.

Why this movie?

Because Joan Crawford.

Favorite quote:

“Don’t talk to me about self-respect. That’s something you tell yourself you got when you got nothing else.” – Ethel Whitehead (Joan Crawford)

The Locket (1946)

I think I loved this movie before I ever saw it. As I mentioned in a Noirvember post last year, it was meticulously described to me by a friend, years before I got a chance to view it, and when I finally did, it more than lived up to the hype. The lovely and underrated Laraine Day stars as a woman whose mental health (of lack thereof) stems from a childhood incident involving the necklace of the film’s title.

Love those flashbacks.

Why this movie?

To borrow a saying from my beloved mother, this film has more flashbacks than the law allows. Not really, of course, but it actually does have a flashback within a flashback within a flashback. And I love it. It sounds complex, which is not unusual in a noir, but it’s not confusing. It’s just good.

Favorite quote:

“When you’re a housekeeper’s daughter, you see the world through a half-open door.” – Nancy Blair (Laraine Day)

Born to Kill (1947)

This movie is chock-full of horrible characters, and I can’t get enough of it. Lawrence Tierney and Claire Trevor star as a conscienceless killer and the woman who knows it and doesn’t care.

This movie’s cast was everything.

Why this movie?

There’s so much about this movie to love. In addition to the outstanding performances turned in by Tierney and Trevor, the supporting cast is like a who’s who of talent; Elisha Cook, Jr., Walter Slezak, Esther Howard, and Isabel Jewell are perfect in their roles and turn this movie into an absolute noir must-see.

Favorite quote:

“As you grow older, you’ll discover that life is very much like coffee: the aroma is always better than the actuality.” – Albert Arnett (Walter Szelak)

Those are my five – what five noirs would you take with you an island? Let me know!

And join me tomorrow for Day 18 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 17, 2019.

10 Responses to “Day 17 of Noirvember: Five Noirs on a Island”

  1. Another great selection. I let out a little “Yay!” as I scrolled down to each new title.

  2. So many gems to chose from, I can’t think of a list, but definitely one with Edmond O’Brien. I can’t imagine being on an island without Edmond O’Brien.

  3. Great choices, especially Detour and Wicked Woman. Love your quotes

  4. Love Detour! I’d also add Double Indemnity, The Killers (1946), Ace in the Hole, and Touch of Evil.

  5. I remember the 5 Movies on an Island blogathon. I thought you were going to look at films noir set on an island, and I couldn’t come up with any! It’s too early in the morning!

    I was wondering when Beverly Michaels would put in her appearance this month.

    My daughter calls Born to Kill “THAT movie!” with wide eyes. Born to Kill will definitely be coming with me to the island. As for the other four: Road House, Cry of the City, The Dark Corner, and Woman in the Window.

  6. PS: The morning coffee is beginning to work. NYC is an island. Lots of noir there. Geesh.

  7. Great list. God, I love Detour. Wrote about it on my blog last year for Noirvember. Masterpiece.

  8. I love all these !!!!!!!!!!!!!

  9. I saw The Locket based on your recommendation, and it’s everything you said it was. Now I’ve got to see “Born to Kill” and “The Damned Don’t Lie” – which I can’t believe I haven’t seen yet, despite my being a huge Joan Crawford fan.

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