Shadowy and Satiny Picks: What to watch on TCM in July 2022

Picking this month’s Shadowy and Satiny TCM recommendations was a veritable cakewalk. There are a number of top-notch film noir and pre-Code features on the docket for July, including Dinner at Eight, Red-Headed Woman, Laura, and Gilda, but I didn’t think twice about these once I saw that Act of Violence (1949) and Journal of a Crime (1934) were scheduled. It was a no-brainer!

Shadowy Pick: Act of Violence (1949)

The stars of this noir alone ought to be enough to tell you that it’s a must-see: Robert Ryan, Van Heflin, Janet Leigh, and Mary Astor. And this isn’t one of those cases where a film falls flat despite a high-powered cast; you can bet your bottom dollar that Act of Violence is worth your time.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Frank Henley isn’t as he appears.

The story centers on two men: Frank Enley (Heflin), a successful businessman, family man, and WWII hero, and Joe Parkson (Ryan), who spent time with Enley in a wartime prison camp. Parkson is searching for his ex-comrade, but he doesn’t want to talk about old times over beer and cigars; he’s on a vendetta. Turns out that Enley was responsible for some reprehensible acts while he was a prisoner of war, and Parkson is tracking him down to kill him.

WHO ELSE?

In addition to the talented quartet mentioned above, Act of Violence features numerous performers whose names you may not know but whose faces may be instantly familiar: Phyllis Thaxter (The Breaking Point, Blood on the Moon), Berry Kroeger (Gun Crazy, Cry of the City), Taylor Holmes (Kiss of Death, Nightmare Alley), Connie Gilchrist (Letter to Three Wives, Little Women), Will Wright (The Blue Dahlia, They Live By Night).

Robert Ryan terrorizes Janet Leigh in an effort to find her husband.

TRIVIA TIDBITS:

MGM’s Little Women was released the same week as Act of Violence; the two films had four performers in common: Janet Leigh, Mary Astor, Connie Gilchrist, and Will Wright.

The screenplay was by Robert L. Richards, who also wrote the screenplays for Johnny Stool Pigeon (1949) and Winchester ’73 (1950).

SATINY PICK: Journal of a Crime (1934)

As soon as I saw this film on the schedule, I knew I wanted it for my July Satiny pick, but for a while it looked like it wasn’t meant to be, because I couldn’t find my copy! I must have looked for 30 minutes, but to no avail, and I finally gave up and selected another film. Fortunately, I decided to give my search one more try and this time I found it! And I can’t tell you how glad I was. I really, really like this movie – you won’t find anything else like it in pre-Code; it’s got a unique plot, absolutely on-fire dialogue, and a twist at the end that you’ll never see coming.

Francoise turns on the charm in an effort to keep her husband from giving her the air.

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

Ruth Chatterton stars as Francoise Moliet, whose playwright husband Paul (Adolphe Menjou) is having a not-so-secret affair with the star of his latest play, Odette Florey (Claire Dodd, who is so good at playing a bitch that I wonder what she was like in real life). When Francoise realizes that Paul plans to leave her, she pulls out all the stops to prevent this action, from fast-talking her hubby so he can’t get the words out, to asking Paul’s personal lawyer and family friend to intervene on her behalf. When all else fails, she turns to that tried-and-true solution: murder.

WHAT ELSE?

This ain’t exactly a match made in heaven.

Usually I do “who else?” in this spot, but this time, I just wanted to share one of my many favorite quotes in this film. It’s from Francoise, delivered at a dinner party where the conversation has turned to crimes of passion: “A woman – or a man – may have a deeper motive for killing than jealousy or even love. A human being could kill because she herself has first been killed. Before she kills, the other two – the victim and her accomplice – must have killed her soul. Murdered it. A soul that then murders in its turn.”

TRIVIA TIDBITS:

The film’s prolific director, William Keighley, would go on to helm a variety of films including G-Men (1935), The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942), and The Street with No Name (1948). He was assigned to direct The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), but he was replaced by Michael Curtiz after a couple of weeks of shooting; reportedly, the action sequences lacked intensity and filming was behind schedule.

Adolphe Menjou started his career in 1914 in silent films. His last film appearance was in 1960, in Disney’s Pollyanna.

Act of Violence airs on TCM on July 6th, and Journal of a Crime can seen on TCM on July 13th. Do yourself a favor and tune in to catch both of these gems.

You only owe it to yourself.

~ by shadowsandsatin on July 1, 2022.

4 Responses to “Shadowy and Satiny Picks: What to watch on TCM in July 2022”

  1. Ohhh–Act of Violence is a GOOD pick. It’s never mentioned anywhere despite being riveting, and it takes on a subject rarely discussed in film (even to mention its bare bones risks spoilage). It’s also one of those focused scripts which, if you’ve ever been involved in its kind of chase, was surely written by someone who experienced threat and danger firsthand.

    As for Journal of a Crime, I’ve also heard it referred to as “proto-noir.” Color me hooked!

    • I love your spot-on insights about Act of Violence, Blair. And I hope you got a chance to see Journal of a Crime! If you did, I’d love to know what you thought of it.

  2. Thanks for the tips! TCM’s virtual calendar is often difficult to navigate and honestly I really preferred the paper one, but thanks again for the noir heads up.

    • My pleasure, Lynn! I often mourn the loss of the TCM Now Playing Guide (I’m glad I saved my last one as a souvenir). It uses a lot of pages, but I print mine out every month — it’s a lot better than trying to slog through the site.

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