TCM is Going Film Noir Nutty!

TCM is going film noir nutty, y’all!!

If you like film noir (and, really, would you be reading these words if you didn’t?), you’ll want to tune into TCM on Friday, June 19th – the lineup is practically bursting at the seams with shadowy goodness. Or badness, as the case may be. You can literally tune in any time of the day and treat yourself – just take a gander at this awesome list:

Did I forget to mention that Jean Hagen is in the cast? Bonus!

Side Street (1950)

Farley Granger and Cathy O’Donnell star as Joe and Ellen Norson, a young, newly married New York couple living with Ellen’s parents and expecting their first child. To add to their adulating challenges, Joe has recently lost his gas station job and is trying to make his increasingly desperate ends meet by working part-time as a mail carrier. When he’s presented with the opportunity to abscond with a packet of free money, Joe takes it – but this is noir, so you can probably guess that this was not the best idea.

Directed by Anthony Mann, this feature is the second to star Granger and O’Donnell. The first, They Live By Night, will be airing later in the day.

Trivia tidbits:

The film also stars James Craig, who was compared throughout his career to Clark Gable.

Filmed on location in New York City, the movie is believed to contain one of cinema’s earliest car chases.

This was Anthony Mann’s final noir.

Stanwyck’s face is noir.

Clash by Night (1952)

After a longtime absence, Monterey, California, native Mae Doyle (Barbara Stanwyck) returns to her home, and finds herself torn between Jerry, the salt-of-the-earth fisherman (Paul Douglas she knew as a young girl and Earl, his bitter and cynical – but never boring — best friend (Robert Ryan).

This feature was helmed by Fritz Lang and is perhaps the un-noiriest of his noirs. There are some, in fact, who don’t consider it noir – but I do. So there.

Trivia tidbits:

The film also features Marilyn Monroe, who was hailed by one critic as a “gifted new star,” and later that year won the 1952 Look Magazine Achievement Award for Most Promising Female Newcomer.

Clash by Night was based on a Clifford Odets play of the same name which played for three months on Broadway with Tallulah Bankhead as Mae, Lee J. Cobb as Jerry, and Joseph Schildkraut as Earl. Also in the Broadway cast was Robert Ryan, in the role of Mae’s younger brother that was played by Keith Andes in the movie.

Dead man walking.

D.O.A. (1950)

This classic opens when businessman Frank Bigelow (Edmund O’Brien) enters a police station (the shots beneath the opening credits track his labyrinthine journey to the office of the Homicide Division) and announces that he’s there to report a murder – his own. We’re then launched into a movie-long flashback that shows how Frank came to this ignominious end, and his efforts to find out why.

The film’s director, Rudolph Maté, started his career as a cinematographer and was responsible for the photography on such gems as Dodsworth (1936), Stella Dallas (1937), My Favorite Wife (1940), and Gilda (1946). He holds the record for receiving the most consecutive Oscar nominations for cinematographer, on Foreign Correspondent (1940), That Hamilton Woman (1941), The Pride of the Yankees (1942), Sahara (1943), and Cover Girl 1944).

Trivia tidbits:

O’Brien’s girlfriend and secretary is played by Pamela Britton, who may be recognized by today’s audiences as Lorelei Brown, the landlady on TV’s My Favorite Martian. Britton died of a brain tumor at the age of 51.

The screenplay was written by the team of Russell Rouse and Clarence Greene, who won an Oscar for developing the story for Pillow Talk (1959), and also penned the screenplays for The Well (1951), New York Confidential (1955), and one of my favorite noirs, Wicked Woman (1953) – which starred Rouse’s wife Beverly Michaels.

Lana Turner was the perfect Cora Smith.

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

A drifter (John Garfield) falls for Cora Smith (Lana Turner), the wife of the owner of a roadside diner and, together, they murder the woman’s husband. But the story doesn’t end there.

Director Tay Garnett wasn’t known for his noir pedigree – his only other noir was the 1951 Loretta Young starrer, Cause for Alarm. His other films were more varied fare, such as China Seas (1935), Bataan (1943), The Valley of Decision (1945), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1948).

Trivia tidbits:

Watch for the scene where Cora’s husband (played by Cecil Kellaway) arrives home drunk. When he approaches the door of the diner, he’s smoking a cigarette. Seconds later, when he enters, the cigarette is gone.

Postman was remade in 1981, starring Jessica Lange and Jack Nicholson. Lana Turner wasn’t impressed. “They are such fools to play around with something that’s still a classic, she said. “I’m a little heartsick. Jack Nicholson just isn’t John Garfield. The chemistry we had just crackled. Every facet [was] so perfect.”

The 1981 version was actually the fourth filming of the James Cain novel which served as the source material. The first was Le Dernier Tournant (1939) in France, followed by Ossessione (1943) in Italy.

(Shameless plug alert) Visit allthatnoir.com to purchase the Giant Dark Pages newsletter all about The Postman Always Rings Twice.

The perfect crime.

Kansas City Confidential (1952)

An embittered former Kansas City policy captain (Preston Foster) blackmails three felons to carry out his meticulously planned armored car robbery. But when ex-con Joe Rolfe (John Payne) is falsely accused of participating in the crime, he determines to hunt down the real perpetrators.

Director Phil Karlson helmed a number of noirs during his career, including 99 River Street (1953) and Hell’s Island (1955), both starring John Payne; The Phenix City Story (1955); and The Brothers Rico (1957). He struck it rich (literally) in the 1970s when he directed Walking Tall (1973), a wildly popular feature starring Joe Don Baker as real-life sheriff Buford Pusser – Karlson owned a large part of the picture.

Trivia tidbits:

Co-star Coleen Gray fondly recalled her experience with Payne: “Before I worked with him, I didn’t find him appealing,” Gray said in 2001. He seemed to have a pout – I just thought he was a spoiled pretty boy. When I worked with him, I found that he had a good sense of humor – he was very nice. A gentleman. He was a much deeper person than I’d thought – interested in philosophy and all manner of things.”

Reportedly, director Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film Reservoir Dogs was inspired by Kansas City Confidential.

Raymond Burr plays one of his best bad boys in Pitfall.

The Pitfall (1948)

An insurance agent (Dick Powell), bored with the sameness of his humdrum suburban life, finds more excitement than he bargained for when he falls for a local model (Lizabeth Scott). He not only finds himself entangled with the woman’s jealous ex-boyfriend, but also with the obsessive private eye (Raymond Burr) who’s just a few nuts short of a Snickers bar, if you know what I mean.

The Pitfall was directed by Andre DeToth, a one-eyed Hungarian native perhaps best-known for directing House of Wax (1953). He also helmed another first-rate noir, Crime Wave (1954).

 Trivia tidbits:

DeToth was the second husband of actress Veronica Lake. The two were married in 1944 after a whirlwind romance and had two children. They divorced in 1952.

About 41 minutes into the movie, Dick Powell’s character goes to visit Lizabeth Scott at her job. He parks his car on the street, near the May Company, a popular Los Angeles department store located on Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax. Closed for business in 1993, the building was converted into the home of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures which, after numerous delays, is now slated to open in December 2020. The items in the museum’s collection will include the typewriter used to write the screenplay for Psycho (1960) and the tablets from The Ten Commandments (1956).

Marilyn was luminous in Niagara.

Niagara (1953)

A couple (Jean Peters and Casey Adams – later known as Max Showalter) celebrating a delayed honeymoon find more than romance at a Niagara Falls cabin lodge – their neighbors just happen to be a two-timing woman and her possessive, murderous husband, played by Marilyn Monroe and Joseph Cotten.

Director Henry Hathaway was best known for his westerns, including the uber-popular True Grit (1969), but he was no slouch in the noir department – he helmed six features from the era, including Kiss of Death (1947), Richard Widmark’s debut in which his maniacal character pushed a wheelchair-bound woman down a flight of stairs.

Trivia tidbits:

Niagara is the first film in which Marilyn Monroe had top billing. It was also her first Technicolor film. And it was the first of three blockbusters in which she starred in 1953 – the other two were Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire.

Anne Baxter was originally cast in the part played by Jean Peters, and Henry Hathaway wanted James Mason for the Joseph Cotten role.

Widmark was outstanding.

Night and the City (1950)

Harry Fabian (Richard Widmark), a small-time con man always in search of the next get-rich-quick-scheme, suffers from what one character calls “a highly inflamed imagination, coupled by delusions of grandeur.” He’s certain that he’s hit pay dirt when he worms himself into the good graces of a veteran Greco Roman wrestler, and plans to take over London’s local wrestling game. But you know what they say about the best-laid plans…

Between 1947 and 1950, director Jules Dassin helmed four straight first-rate noirs: Brute Force (1947), The Naked City (1948), Thieves’ Highway (1948), and Night and the City (1950). After being subpoenaed by the House Un-American Activities Committee and refusing to testify, he was blacklisted and moved to Paris where, in 1955, his best-known film, Rififi (1955), was released.

Trivia tidbits:

Actor Mike Mazurki played a featured role as a wrestler – in real life, was a professional wrestler for several years under the moniker of “Iron Mike.”

Widmark was universally hailed for his performance; in a typical review, the critic for Variety wrote that the actor delivered “one of his finest portrayals, lending absolute conviction to his role of the hustler who betrays everybody he has any dealings with.”

Granger and O’Donnell were the perfect couple.

They Live By Night (1948)

A trio of convicts breaks out of prison and continue their criminal pursuits, but the youngest of these – Arthur “Bowie” Bowers (Farley Granger) – falls for the niece (Cathy O’Donnell) of one of his comrades and is determined to go straight.

They Live By Night is the first of the day’s two films directed by Nicholas Ray, who reportedly contributed to the film’s screenplay.

Trivia tidbits:

Ray’s second wife was actress Gloria Grahame. The two were married for four years. Eight years after their 1952 divorce, Grahame married Ray’s son, Tony.

According to Farley Granger, the movie’s release was delayed for two years. “Dore Schary left RKO to go to MGM and Howard Hughes came,” Granger recalled. “He saw the film and hated it. Hated it. Because it had no tits and ass in it. He shelved it, and it sat there for two years. Finally it opened in a little theater in London and got terrific reviews. That just shows you how things can get screwed up [in Hollywood].”

The salad days.

In a Lonely Place (1950)

Humphrey Bogart stars as Dix Steele (love that name), a hot-tempered screenwriter who is suspected of murder when a young hatcheck girl is killed shortly after leaving his home. His alibi is provided by Laurel Gray (Gloria Grahame), his attractive neighbor, and before long, the two fall in love. But what’s love got to do with it?

Although Nicholas Ray directed his then-wife in Lonely Place, the marriage of Ray and Grahame was unraveling.

Trivia tidbits:

Nicholas Ray also directed Humphrey Bogart in the 1949 noir Knock on Any Door, and Gloria Grahame in the 1949 noir A Woman’s Secret.

The film’s producer, Robert Lord, insisted that Gloria Grahame sign a contract which stated that Ray “shall be entitled to direct, control, advise, instruct, and even command my actions during the hours from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., every day except Sunday. I acknowledge that in every conceivable situations his will and judgment shall be considered superior to mine, and shall prevail.” In the contract, Grahame was also not allowed to “nag, cajole, tease, or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence [Ray].”

Break out your VCR, set your DVR, take a mental health day or just settle yourself on your sofa – but don’t miss Film Noir Friday on June 19th!

You only owe it to yourself.

 

~ by shadowsandsatin on June 18, 2020.

One Response to “TCM is Going Film Noir Nutty!”

  1. Whoa! That contract between Gloria Graham and Nicholas Ray, for her to not use her feminine wiles to distract or influence him. And what were his “behaviour” clauses in this contract, I wonder?

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