Day 23 of Noirvember: Top Seven in ’47

If you were to ask a noir fan to name the greatest year for film noir, chances are that the answer would be 1947. Personally, I could also make a case for several other years – 1946 and 1950 come to mind most immediately – but when you take a look at the titles of the noirs released in 1947, you have to admit that it was a most awesome year.

I’ve never attempted to name my top films for 1947, but I thought I’d challenge myself today and pick out my favorite seven features of the year. I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t easy – here are just a few of the gems that didn’t make the cut: Railroaded, Possessed, Body and Soul, Kiss of Death, T-Men, Crossfire . . . and I could go on!

But I won’t keep talking about the movies I didn’t select for my top seven in 1947 – here, instead, are the ones I did!

Out of the Past

I know that many noir-heads consider this film to be the quintessential noir, and although I don’t (Double Indemnity would take that title, for my money), there’s no denying that it deserves a spot on any “best of” list.

Kathie may be the quintessential femme fatale.

What’s it about?

An ex-private dick, turned small-town gas station owner, finds his quest for a simple, quiet life upended after a chance encounter with someone from his past.

What I love best:

Kathie Moffat, brought to life by Jane Greer, is one of my all-time favorite femme fatales. She’s beautiful and intelligent and fun to be with, a rare combination in a fatal femme. You can totally understand why Robert Mitchum’s Jeff Bailey was such a fool for her. She’s also ruthless and fearless, which she demonstrates over and over throughout the film, starting before we even meet her, by shooting her lover and stealing his money.

My favorite quote:

“You know, a dame with a rod is like a guy with a knitting needle.” – Al Fisher (Steve Brodie)

Born to Kill

There are many noirs where the bad guys are really quite palatable – you may hate them, but you love to hate them, like Richard Conte’s Mr. Brown in The Big Combo or Clifton Webb’s Waldo Lydecker in Laura. But Sam Wild, the character played by Lawrence Tierney in Born to Kill, is just plain scary – a complete psychopath without a single redeeming quality. The type of guy who is – dare I say it – born to kill.

Everybody needs a pal like Marty.

What’s it about?

A recently divorced woman is inexplicably drawn to a man who’s not only a murder (and she knows it), but who woos and marries her sister in an effort to improve his lot in life.

What I love best:

I’ve said before that every movie’s better with Elisha Cook, Jr., in it – and that axiom certainly holds true here. In Born to Kill, he plays Marty, the loyal best friend of Sam Wild. He’s the kind of pal that we all need, the very embodiment of the term “ride or die.”

My favorite quote:

“You can’t just go around killin’ people whenever the notion strikes you. It’s not feasible.” – Marty Waterman (Elisha Cook, Jr.)

Desperate

Desperate. It’s a well-done little noir.

No one talks about this movie much, but I just love it. It’s a really simple story (none of your typical complicated noir machinations), there are no flashbacks or voiceovers, and there’s nary a femme fatale in sight. But it’s still a gripping, well-done little noir.

What’s it about?

A truck driver with a new wife and a baby on the way finds himself on the run from local gangsters and police when he’s inadvertently involved in a crime.

What I love best:

There’s a shootout in an apartment house stairwell near the end of the movie that is one of the most noirish things I’ve ever seen. It ends with the death of one of the characters that can best be described as beautifully terrifying. There’s a five-second clip of it below. (If you don’t want to be spoiled, don’t click!)

My favorite quote: “I’m sorry I can’t give you a choice of food, Steve, but it won’t make much difference. You’re not going to live long enough to get any nourishment out of it.” – Walt Radak (Raymond Burr)

The Devil Thumbs a Ride

Lawrence Tierney had a banner year in 1947, with this film and Born to Kill forming a sort of cinematic tag team of psychopathy. This is another film that doesn’t get a lot of attention; it’s certainly no masterpiece, but it’s one of my personal guilty pleasures, and I just couldn’t exclude it from this list.

One dreadful thing after another.

What’s it about?

A traveling salesman gets more than he bargained for when he picks up a homicidal hitchhiker.

What I love best:

A potent feeling of dread is a staple of film noir, and this movie has it in spades. The plot is fairly brimming with one dreadful thing after another.

My favorite quote:

“I’m glad to have company. I hate driving alone.” – Jimmy Ferguson (Ted North)

Nora Prentiss

I’ve loved this movie since the first time I saw it. I was blown away by the story and captivated by the performances. Plus, it’s got Ann Sheridan in the title role. Period.

What’s it about?

A doctor with a wife and two children falls in love with a nightclub singer and turns his life upside down to be with her.

The plot of Nora Prentiss is everything.

What I love best:

The plot is unlike any other noir that I’ve seen – it’s just so unique and inventive, with a great noirish twist at the end.

My favorite quote:

“I could never prove my innocence. You know that. They’d never believe me. If a man commits one crime, it’s easy to suspect him of another.” – Richard Talbot (Kent Smith)

They Won’t Believe Me

This movie has a perfectly framed flashback that comprises the greater part of the movie, and when it comes to perfect noir endings, this film has one of the best.

What’s it about?

A philandering husband falls in love with a co-worker and finds himself falsely accused of her murder.

My favorite Robert Young role.

What I love best:

My introduction to Robert Young was in Marcus Welby, M.D., a popular hour-long television show from the 1970s in which Young played the title role. It wasn’t until a few decades later that I discovered Young’s classic movie career, and They Won’t Believe Me contains my favorite Robert Young performance. His Larry Ballentine is charmingly appealing, but he’s really a pretty awful person – a serial philanderer, not to mention a liar and a thief. But Young’s portrayal evokes your sympathy and somehow gets you on his side.

My favorite quote:

“She looked like a very special kind of dynamite, neatly wrapped in nylon and silk. Only I wasn’t having any. I’d been too close to one explosion already. I was powder shy.” – Larry Ballentine (Robert Young)

Odd Man Out

Unlike every other movie on this list, I’ve only seen Odd Man Out once, just a few months ago. The fact that out of all the first-rate noir features that were released in 1947, I chose this film as one of my top seven, is a testament to just how good this movie is. Incidentally, it stars James Mason – that’s pretty much all you need to know.

It’s just good. That’s all.

What’s it about?

A group of Irish revolutionaries attempt a robbery, but one of them is injured during the getaway and finds himself the subject of a citywide manhunt.

What I love best:

The overwhelming sensation of doom that covers this film almost from the beginning is absolutely riveting. I watched Odd Man Out over a span of several days, and there was something about it that stayed with me – I found myself thinking about it and looking forward to be able to get back to the story – I was fairly itching to find out what would happen.

My favorite quote:

“I believe in everything we’re doing, but violence is getting us nowhere.” – Johnny McQueen (James Mason)

What are your favorite noirs from 1947? Let me know!

And join me tomorrow for Day 24 of Noirvember!

~ by shadowsandsatin on November 23, 2019.

7 Responses to “Day 23 of Noirvember: Top Seven in ’47”

  1. I am so glad you mentioned Railroaded! What a fantastic job you do here, always… thank you for keeping these wonderful films, characters and actors alive.

    All the best and kindest regards,

    Daphne Ireland (daughter of John)

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    • What an honor to have you visit my blog, Miss Ireland! Your comment has made my entire week. (I read it to my mother yesterday!) I hope you’ll be pleased with tonight’s guest post of my blog, which is about another one of your father’s films, Open Secret (1948). Also, I’m not sure if you knew, but I devoted a chapter to John Ireland in the book I wrote (many) years ago on the actors of film noir. I’d be honored to send you a copy if you’ll send your mailing address to me at thedarkpages@yahoo.com. Thank you again for your very kind comments!

  2. As a 6-year-old girl I saw a movie that I never forgot. It was set in a car at night with a male hitchhiker in the back seat and a blonde woman in the front passenger seat. That movie gave me the strangest feeling.
    Last year I found it, and it was The Devil Thumbs a Ride.

    The Devil Thumbs a Ride captures the strange feeling of 4 a.m. better than any movie I’ve ever seen.

    For a long time my definition of film noir was ‘ the world is dark and dangerous, and you’re on your own’.

    After seeing The Devil Thumbs a Ride as an adult, I’ve revised my definition to ‘the world is dark and dangerous, you’re on your own, and it’s 4 a.m.’

  3. Odd Man Out is a fine film. In these most strange times, writing and reading is the best distraction. My latest review. Welcome to follow for more. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Dark Waters and Parasite reviews up amongst others. monthlycritic.wordpress.com/2020/03/20/the-invisible-man/

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