The Classic Movie History Project Blogathon: Barbara Stanwyck and Film Noir

•June 27, 2015 • 49 Comments

Barbara Stanwyck wore many cinematic hats.

This talented thespian first made a name for herself in a series of pre-Code gems, including Night Nurse (1931), Ten Cents a Dance (1931), Forbidden (1932), and the granddaddy of them all, Baby Face (1933). She was also a presence in such dramatic fare as Stella Dallas (1937) and Golden Boy (1939); romantic comedies including Breakfast for Two (1937), The Lady Eve (1941), and Christmas in Connecticut (1945); westerns like The Furies (1950), Cattle Queen of Montana (1954), and The Violent Men (1954); and hybrids like Meet John Doe and Remember the Night (1940) that mixed together comedy and romance, and tossed in a generous dollop of drama for good measure.

But, wait – there’s more! You didn’t think I’d forgotten about film noir, did you? (Well, DID YOU??)

Not a chance. For it was in film noir, in my humble opinion, that Stanwyck – metaphorically speaking – wore the biggest, baddest brim of them all, starring in no fewer than seven features from the era. Her characters in these films ran the dramatic gamut, from full-out femme fatale to helpless, frustrated victim, with lots of fascinating and unforgettable personas in between.

Let’s take a look back in time, at the deadly dames and shadowy sisters that Stanwyck brought to life in the 1940s and 1950s, shall we?

Phyllis certainly knew how to turn on the charm.

Phyllis certainly knew how to turn on the charm.

Double Indemnity (1944)

Stanwyck’s initial foray into the realm of noir was in the person of Miss Phyllis Dietrichson, in what I can say without reservation is my favorite noir, Double Indemnity. Initially, Stanwyck was reluctant to accept the part of Dietrichson, whom the actress labeled “an out-and-out, cold-blooded killer.” But director Billy Wilder talked her into it (thank goodness!) and she went on to offer up one of noir’s deadliest femmes.

The plot: Double Indemnity centers on a painstakingly constructed and impeccably executed plot by Phyllis and her insurance salesman lover, Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), to kill Phyllis’ husband and collect the proceeds from his life insurance policy. Like the best laid plans of mice and men, though, the scheme doesn’t turn out quite like this duo intended.

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “I never loved you, Walter – not you or anybody else. I’m rotten to the heart – I used you, just as you said. That’s all you ever meant to me.”

Other stuff:

  • For her portrayal of the murderous Phyllis, Stanwyck earned her third Academy Award nomination. She lost to Ingrid Bergman in Gaslight.
  • Critics unanimously hailed Stanwyck’s performance; Howard Barnes of the New York Herald Tribune called her “vibrantly malignant and attractive,” and the reviewer for the Citizen News stated that Stanwyck “will chill your blood. Hers is a difficult assignment enacted with rare skill.”
Martha Ivers was nobody to play with.

Martha Ivers was nobody to play with.

The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)

After portraying Phyllis Dietrichson, Stanwyck obviously no longer harbored any qualms about playing “out-and-out” killers, because her next noir femme was certainly no Mary Poppins. This first-rate feature starred Stanwyck in the title role, with ample support from co-stars Van Heflin, Kirk Douglas (in his film debut!), and Lizabeth Scott (who is featured, incidentally in a special tribute issue of The Dark Pages newsletter – shameless plug!).

The plot: The murky circumstances surrounding the death of her wealthy aunt come back to haunt Martha Ivers, who is married to one witness to the 20-year-old crime – who is now the alcoholic district attorney – and is reunited by fate with the other – an itinerant gambler. Throw a world-weary drifter into the mix, and you’ve got yourself a movie!

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “Now, Sam – do it now. Set me free, set us both free. . . . Oh, Sam, it can be so easy.”

Other stuff:

Like most critics, the reviewer from the Hollywood Reporter raved about Stanwyck’s performance, announcing: “No one but Barbara Stanwyck could have gotten all she does from the part of Martha Ivers. Elusive fascination was required and what Miss Stanwyck does with her assignment is not to be readily defined. Whatever it is is unforgettable.”

Leona's phone was her lifeline. Sorry.

Leona’s phone was her lifeline. Sorry.

Sorry, Wrong Number (1948)

Based on a radio play, Sorry, Wrong Number is one of first noirs I remember seeing – long before I knew what noir was. All I knew was that it scared the poop out of me. And also that I watched it every single time it came on TV. (Apparently, I wasn’t the only one frightened by this flick – Stanwyck herself said that the terror she depicted in the bedroom scenes is what caused her hair to turn prematurely gray.)

The plot: Leona Stephenson, a possessive, imperious heiress confined to her bed because of a heart condition, overhears a telephone conversation between two men discussing a woman’s murder – and gets more than she bargained for when she tries to find out more about the plot.

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “When I want something, I fight for it. And I usually manage to get it.”

Other stuff:

  • As usual, Stanwyck was lauded by critics. The reviewer for Time stated that she “makes the most of the pampered, petulant, terrified leading character,” and Cue’s critic claimed that she’d given the performance of her career.
  • Stanwyck earned her fourth Academy Award nomination for her performance, and before the ceremony, she told the press: “[It’s] not that I wouldn’t like to have an Oscar, but I’ve lost three times before and it’s hard to get your expectations up and not win. It’s bad luck to discuss it.” Apparently, it didn’t matter if she discussed it or not – she lost again, this time to Jane Wyman, who portrayed a deaf mute in Johnny Belinda. Afterward, Stanwyck commented: “If I get nominated next year, they’ll have to give me the door prize, won’t they? At least the bride should throw me the bouquet.” (Incidentally – and shockingly – Stanwyck never did win a competitive Oscar. The Academy did award her an honorary Oscar in 1982, though, to honor her outstanding body of work.) (It beats a blank, as my mom would say.)
Thelma knew her way around a front seat.

Thelma knew her way around a front seat.

The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

In addition to the uncommon (and often misspelled) spelling of the title character’s last name, this film contains a number of surprises that serve to keep viewers on their proverbial toes. Stanwyck once again plays a killer, but she’s not quite the fatal femme that we’ve come to expect.

The plot: When the wealthy aunt of Thelma Jordon is robbed and murdered, all signs point to Thelma’s guilt – and it just so happens that she’s embroiled in a hot and heavy affair with none other than the district attorney who is assigned to prosecute her.

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “I’d like to say I didn’t intend to kill her. But when you have a gun, you always intend if you have to.”

Other stuff:

  • Score another hit for Stanwyck! Kay proctor of the A. Examiner stated that Stanwyck “comes through with a hard-hitting, clean-cut performance, beautifully paced to the dimensions and requirements of the equivocal role.”
  • One of Stanwyck’s co-stars, Lyle Bettger, had nothing but praise for the actress: “Throughout the 10 weeks of shooting, my admiration and respect for Barbara Stanwyck grew each day. She is a lady with guts, consideration, kindnesss and great good humor and integrity – a real pro. There are not many like her left.”
For Mae Doyle, the grass was greener on the bitter side.

For Mae Doyle, the grass was greener on the bitter side.

Clash by Night (1952)

Some question whether Clash by Night is film noir – I say it is. It fairly reeks with cynicism, bitterness, betrayal, frustration, and rage. It’s directed by Fritz Lang, whose previous noir output includes such classics as Scarlet Street and The Big Heat. It’s has an oppressive mood and an overarching sensation of doom. It’s dark, okay? And that’s all I have to say about that.

The plot: Mae Doyle returns to her hometown after a lengthy absence, looking for peace and fulfillment. She winds up married to a good-guy fisherman, but she’s more attracted to his bitter best friend. Conflict ensues.

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “Home is where you come when you run out of places.”

Other stuff:

  • The reviewer for Variety raved about Stanwyck’s portrayal of Mae Doyle, writing that she “plays the returning itinerant with her customary defiance and sullenness. It is one of her better performances.”
  • Fritz Lang said of Stanwyck: “She’s fantastic, unbelievable, and I liked her tremendously.”
Sometimes it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.

Witness to Murder (1954)

Although this film was touted in ads as “topping the thrills of Double Indemnity and Sorry, Wrong Number, it wasn’t exactly a threat to the legacy of those two features, if you know what I mean. Still, it does have its moments (really, it does!), and best of all, it features some standout cinematography by John Alton. Plus, it co-stars George Sanders. So whaddya want?

The plot:  While looking out of her window during a sleepless night, Cheryl Draper sees a murder being committed in an apartment across the street – but can’t get anyone to believe her. (Shades of Rear Window, huh? They were both released the same year! Sadly, Witness to Murder pales in comparison.)

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “Who do you think you are? No matter what she was, you had no right to kill her.”

Other stuff:

Critics weren’t wowed by the film itself, but they still appreciated Stanwyck; in a typical review, the critic for the New York Times wrote that she “makes convincing the role of a sensitive woman being driven to distraction.”

BO-ringgg!!!!

BO-ringgg!!!!

Crime of Passion (1957) 

Stanwyck’s final film noir saw her teamed with two other noir icons – Sterling Hayden and Raymond Burr, who appeared in a whopping 16 noirs combined. It was a fitting farewell to the actress’s film noir career.

The plot: An ambitious advice columnist, Kathy Ferguson chucks her career in favor of love and marries a police officer, only to find that she’s bored out of her skull. Rather than spend her time darning socks and tossing gender-segregated dinner parties, she sets her sights on doing whatever she can (and I do mean WHATEVER) in order to advance her husband’s career.

Favorite Stanwyck quote: “For marriage I read life sentence, for home life I read T.V. nights, beer in the fridge, second mortgage – not for me. For me, life has to be something more than that.”

Other stuff:

Critics weren’t bowled over by this film or Stanwyck (gasp!), although the reviewer for the New York Times did call the actress a “sterling trouper who can do about anything, and has.” He just didn’t care for her character’s “transition from the nice, sassy gal in the press room to a maniacal stalker.” (Ah, well – they can’t all be Double Indemnity.)

If you haven’t joined Barbara Stanwyck’s walk on the dark side, don’t you think it’s time you did? You can’t go wrong with this talented performer, and her noir features rank among her best and most memorable.

Well, what are you waiting for? You only owe it to yourself.

———————–

This post is part of the Classic Movie History Project Blogathon, hosted by Fritzi at Movies Silently; Ruth over at Silver Screenings; and Aurora, of Once Upon a Screen. 

The blogathon is divided into three eras – the silent era, the golden age (that’s the one I’m in!), and the modern era. Click the picture at the right to check out the many great posts from the golden age, and visit Fritzi and Ruth’s blogs to read the fascinating looks at the other eras! 

Happy Blogiversary to Me — 4.0!

•June 23, 2015 • 37 Comments

I believe it was that great thespian Julianna Margulies who once said, “Do what you love doing.”

It was four years ago, today, that I first clicked the “Publish” button on this site and started the Shadows and Satin blog, combining my passion for writing and my passion for classic movies. And I’ve been doing what I love ever since!

As I do every year, I’m privileged to tip my hat in the general direction of Kristina, author of the outstanding Speakeasy blog and Senior Writer for the Dark Pages newsletter, who encouraged me to start this blog. I can’t find enough ways to say thanks! And thanks, too, for anyone who’s ever read anything here – from regulars to one-timers – I appreciate you all, far more than I can say.

And in keeping with what’s now a four-year tradition, I leave you with a film quote from one of my favorite actresses – this time it’s the awesome Marie Windsor – from one of my all-time favorite noirs, The Killing (1956):

“It isn’t fair. I never had anybody but you. Not a real husband. Not even a man. Just a bad joke without a punch line.”

By the by, if you’ve never seen this first-rate noir, bump it up to the top of your must-see list!

You only owe it to yourself.

But you knew that.

The Billy Wilder Blogathon — The Couples of Sunset Boulevard

•June 21, 2015 • 18 Comments

“I AM big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

Sunset Boulevard (1950), which focuses on aging silent film star Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), is fairly jam-packed with fascinating couples. There’s Norma and the young, down-on-his-luck writer, Joe Gillis (William Holden), who stumbles into her orbit. Joe and fellow writer Betty Schaefer (Nancy Olson). Norma and her first husband, Max (Erich Von Stroheim). And Betty and her fiancé, Artie Green (Jack Webb).

For this year’s Billy Wilder Blogathon, I’m taking a look at how my two favorite teamings – Norma and Joe, and Joe and Betty – came to be.

NORMA AND JOE

Joe Gillis is a hustler – he has talent but he doesn’t have a job. And in he’s in dire straits. He owes three months’ rent on his apartment, his car is about to be repossessed, he can’t sell any of his writing, and he can’t convince his agent to float him a loan. He even gets a flat tire! But just as things are looking their darkest, it appears that he gets a break when he manages to elude two repo guys by turning into the driveway of what appears to be a deserted mansion.

Norma is a fast worker.

Norma is a fast worker.

But the mansion isn’t deserted. It’s the home of Norma Desmond, former silent film star – the “greatest of them all,” according to her first husband (and now her butler). She was so popular in her heyday that she received 17,000 fan letters in one week, Max tells us. Men bribed her hairdresser to get a lock of her hair. A Maharajah once traveled across the world to beg her for one of her silk stockings, only to later strangle himself with it. But that was a lifetime ago. And now Norma is an eccentric recluse, living in the past. When she first spots Joe, Norma thinks he’s the pet undertaker, there to help bury her recently deceased pet monkey.  Once she finds out Joe’s real occupation, Norma doesn’t waste a moment in snagging his services to edit the manuscript she’s been writing – Salome.

Norma may appear to be slightly off her rocker, but she’s wily and sharp – not to mention persuasive. To convince Joe to stay with her while working on her screenplay, Norma arranges for Max to collect Joe’s clothes and other belongings and pay off the rent on his apartment – he doesn’t exactly have much of a choice.  Before Joe can say “Bob’s your uncle,” Norma has moved him from the room over the garage to the room in her house where each of her three former husbands stayed. Slowly, but surely, their relationship begins to change from less employer-employee and more, well, aging silent screen star-boy toy. When Norma plays bridge with her fellow former stars (a group that consists of Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson), Joe is seated at her elbow, apparently there just to empty ashtrays. After remarking on the condition of Joe’s clothes, Norma buys him a new wardrobe (“Why begrudge me a little fun? I just want you to look nice,” she says.).

Norma's suicide attempt was just what it took to bring Joe back.

Norma’s suicide attempt was just what it took to bring Joe back.

And then there’s the New Year’s Eve party-for-two, when Joe finds out how Norma really feels about him. He concedes himself that he may have been “an idiot not to have sensed it was coming. That sad, embarrassing revelation.” When Norma tells Joe that she’s in love with him, he does what he does best – he flies the coop. But while he’s gone, Norma does what she does best – makes a suicide attempt. And it serves its purpose – evoking in Joe just the right amount of pity mixed with self-preservation – and so their affair begins.

JOE AND BETTY

Joe and Betty Schaefer don’t exactly meet cute, but they meet memorably. Their first encounter takes place at Paramount Studios, in the office of Mr. Sheldrake (Fred Clark), described as “a smart producer with a set of ulcers to prove it.” Joe is there to discuss a story idea he’s submitted, and Betty, who works at the studio as a reader, brings a copy of Joe’s treatment to Sheldrake’s office. She doesn’t see Joe in the office when she enters, and gives the producer her frank opinion of the piece: “It’s a rehash of something that wasn’t very good to begin with.” Seconds later, Sheldrake introduces her to Joe, and although she’s properly chagrined, she stands her ground.

New Year's Eve -- and so it begins.

New Year’s Eve — and so it begins.

These two don’t see each other again until New Year’s Eve, when Joe flees Norma’s house and winds up at the party given by his Assistant Director friend, Artie Green (Jack Webb) – who just happens, incidentally, to be engaged to Betty.  Joe and Betty don’t spend much time together at the party – just enough for Betty to tell him about one of his proposals to the studio that she “found worthy of notice.” And, also, even though they’re playacting, just enough for Joe to almost kiss her. Neither of them seem to recognize it yet, but the sparks are flying between these two like nobody’s business.

Those sparks are fanned into a slow but sure conflagration when Joe and Betty begin meeting at night at her studio, turning his screenplay proposal into a workable script. They work together like a well-oiled machine; they trade places doing the typing and they bounce ideas off each other on how to move the story along. And sometimes they go for walks around the uninhabited studio grounds, sharing bits and pieces of themselves, like the time Betty got a nose job in an effort to further her would-be acting career; the look on Joe’s face as Betty talks tells us that in spite of himself, he is becoming more and more attracted to Betty’s wholesome good looks, her talent for a turn of phrase, her unflagging honesty, her quick wit –  even her unique scent. (“Might I say that you smell real special?” he asks. “It’s like freshly laundered linen handkerchiefs. Like a brand new car.”) He tries mightily to fight his growing feelings, but when Betty gets word that Artie wants to move up the date of their wedding, neither one of them is able to continue denying that they’re head over heels for each other.

Unfortunately, and in that great noir tradition, Joe doesn’t wind up with either of the women but, instead, floating face down in Norma’s swimming pool, with a bullet in his back. (The poor dope. He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end, he got himself a pool.)

————-

This post is part of the 2015 Billy Wilder Blogathon, hosted by Aurora at Once Upon a Screen and Kellee, over at Outspoken and Freckled. Click the banner to the right and check out the great posts that are part of this great event!

The Sex (now that I have your attention) Blogathon: Design for Living (1933)

•June 19, 2015 • 7 Comments

Sexy? Design for Living? You bet.

Directed by Ernst Lubitsch. A cast featuring Miriam Hopkins, Gary Cooper and Fredric March (a trio of lookers if ever there was one). Screenplay by Ben Hecht, based on a Noel Coward play. How could it be anything BUT sexy?

This pre-Code confectionery focuses on the lives of three expatriates living in Paris – commercial artist Gilda Farrell (Hopkins), playwright Thomas B. Chambers (March), and painter George Curtis (Cooper) – who form an unusual relationship after they meet cute aboard a train. He loves her, she loves he – it’s all very mixed up and ménage-a-trois-like, and it’s complicated further by the presence of Gilda’s self-righteous boss-slash-wannabe boyfriend, Max Plunkett (the always entertaining Edward Everett Horton who, incidentally, delivers my favorite line of the film: “Immorality may be fun, but it isn’t fun enough to take the place of one hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day.”). To resolve their growing inter-relationship dilemma, Gilda, Tom and George vow to work together, sex-free, but ultimately, complications ensue, and the trio finds that this promise is not so easy to maintain.

Sex is all over this movie. Like flies on egg salad.

Sex is all over this movie. Like flies on egg salad.

The theme of sex is present throughout the film, hanging over the proceedings like so much filmy gauze. Sometimes its manifestation is subtle, and at other times it’s a little more anvilicious, if you know what I mean. And this being pre-Code, those anvilicious scenes could be quite jaw-dropping.

My first inkling that these characters had something going on beyond your garden-variety, Americans-together-abroad association was the scene where Thomas admits to Max Plunkett that he’s madly in love with Gilda and not three seconds later, we see her smooching with George in his apartment. Another, more obvious, clue comes during a conversation between Gilda and Plunkett, as she describes what she experienced during her lip-lock session with George: “Have you ever felt your brain catch fire, and a curious, dreadful thing go right through your body – down, down to your very toes, and leave you with your ears ringing?” And then she tells him how a recent assignation with Tom made her feel: “Just the opposite. It started in my toes and came up, up, up, very slowly until my brain caught fire. But the ringing in my ears was the same.” And as Gilda is offering up this rather esoteric, but somehow quite illustrative, account, she’s running her hands slowly over her body for emphasis – just in case we didn’t get the point.

Sexy from the start.

Sexy from the start.

Ultimately, despite Gilda’s efforts to ensure the contrary, George and Tom eventually find out that they’ve both been keeping time with the lovely and irresistible Gilda. They’re initially mutually incensed and heartily offended, but they soon conclude that their long-standing friendship isn’t worth breaking up over “some girl we met on a train.” Their resolute plan to keep Gilda – er, “Miss Farrell” – at a distance is short-lived, though; when she pays a visit to both men at their flat, they’re completely mesmerized (as are we) when Gilda compares them to hats and insists that she can’t choose between them: “You see, George, you’re sort of like a ragged straw hat, with a very soft lining. A little bit out of shape. Very dashing to look at. And very comfortable to wear,” she purrs. “And you, Tom – chic. Piquant. Perched over one eye. And has to be watched on windy days. And both so becoming.” By the time she’s finished offering up this imagery, the boys are feeling sorry for HER! But it’s Gilda who finally convinces Tom and George that the three of them can effectively work together: “No sex,” she says, kissing them chastely on their foreheads. “It’s a gentleman’s agreement.”

It's a Gentleman's Agreement.

It’s a Gentleman’s Agreement.

Of course, this covenant, which was so earnestly agreed upon, doesn’t hold up. When Tom’s play is performed on Broadway, his extended absence leaves the door open for the reunion of George and Gilda. (“It’s true we have a gentleman’s agreement,” Gilda tells George with a sigh of resignation, “but, unfortunately, I am no gentleman.”) And later, when George is off working in Nice, and Tom pays a visit, the old sparks between he and Gilda are rekindled in a scene that’s practically exploding with innuendo – Tom realizes that Gilda still has his old typewriter, but he’s disappointed to learn that she has failed to keep it oiled, resulting in a broken shift and rusty keys. Gilda slides the carriage back and forth, causing the machine to emit its familiar dinging sound. “But it still rings,” she says meaningfully. When George returns, Gilda finds herself facing her old dilemma and she flees from them both, jumping instead into the matrimonial pool with her old boss, Max Plunkett. But that little act doesn’t serve to put an end to the film’s sexy threesome – shortly after George and Tom pop back into Gilda’s life in the midst of a swanky dinner party at the Plunkett home, Gilda leaves her husband and the trio ride off in the back of a taxicab into the sunset, with plans to return together to Paris. And after she shares a passionate kiss with both of the men, Gilda offers: “There’s one thing that has to be understood – it’s a Gentleman’s Agreement.”

If you’re never seen Design for Living, I don’t know what you are doing with your life. And if – like me – it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, treat yourself and give it a rewatch!

You only owe it to yourself.

——-

This post is part of the Sex (now that I have your attention) Blogathon, hosted by Steve over at Movie Movie Blog Blog. Click the banner to the right and check out the great posts that are part of this fun and frisky event!

The Beach Party Blogathon: Drive a Crooked Road (1954)

•June 9, 2015 • 7 Comments

When I think of my favorite beach movies (and I do have some favorite beach movies!), I must admit that film noir doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But when I learned of the Beach Party Blogathon, hosted by Kristina at Speakeasy and Ruth at Silver Screenings, the first movie I thought of was Drive a Crooked Road (1954). I wasn’t even sure why – I’d only seen this film once, and that was more than 15 years ago. But when I watched it again to prepare for this post, it all came rushing back to me, like the ebb tide on a warm summer evening.

Drive a Crooked Road is a minor, woefully underrated noir starring Mickey Rooney (yes, THAT Mickey Rooney) and Kevin McCarthy (best known, perhaps, for his role in that iconic sci-fi thriller, Invasion of the Body Snatchers). Rooney is Eddie Shannon, a would-be race car driver described by one character as “Master mechanic, International Motors. No family. Few friends. Lives alone and hates it.”

Is this how you dress for your mechanic?

Is this how you dress for your mechanic?

We soon see that Eddie is shy, slightly awkward, and completely obsessed with cars; a glimpse into his persona is provided when he’s seen at work, eating with four of his co-workers (one of whom is Jerry Paris, who played Rob Petrie’s best friend and neighbor on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and later became a respected director). The other guys start giving the wolf treatment to a woman passing by, but Eddie doesn’t join in. One of the fellas starts ribbing Eddie, asking when was the last time he had a date and if he’d ever been alone with a woman. Instead of answering, Eddie abruptly and wordlessly abandons his half-eaten lunch and returns to work.

All of a sudden, Babs is fascinated by what's under her hood. Hmph.

All of a sudden, Babs is fascinated by what’s under her hood. Hmph.

But before long, Eddie gets the opportunity to learn that there’s more to life than automobiles. When an attractive woman – Barbara Matthews (Dianne Foster) – brings her car in for repairs, she asks for Eddie by name, and the next day, Eddie gets the nod for a housecall when Barbara phones to report that her car won’t start. Arriving at her house to fix her stalled car, Eddie finds Barbara clad in a sunsuit; while he works on the car, she hovers around him like a hummingbird, asking questions, remarking about the lovely weather, and asking about the scar on his forehead. (“A scar can look interesting on some people,” she practically purrs. “I have one on my leg.”) (Whoa!) She also tells him that she goes to the beach at every opportunity, and pointedly shares the exact location – “It’s never too crowded,” she adds.

Now, what could this dame be up to? Hmm?

Run away, Eddie! Run away!

Come into my sand dune, said the spider to the fly.

Although he makes plans to meet his co-workers that night for a game of cards after work, Eddie clocks out and heads straight for the beach. Barbara spots him and invites him to join her – she’s with a man named Steve (McCarthy), who has a house on the beach, and who she introduces as an “old friend.” (Yeah, right.) When Steve heads for home, Barbara suggests that Eddie take off his shirt, encouraging him to share with her his love for cars, and assertively positing why he followed her to the beach: “You like me. You’re interested. It’s as simple as that.” She gives him her phone number and the next thing we know, Eddie’s dining at her apartment, where she’s artfully placed several race car magazines and assumes a rapturous gaze as Eddie talks about his dream of racing in Europe. And when her friend, Steve, calls to invite her to a party, she asks Eddie to take her.

Seriously. What is the deal with this chick?

A bigger pair of creeps you'll be hard-pressed to find.

A bigger pair of creeps you’ll be hard-pressed to find.

At the party, Eddie spends most of his time with Steve, who pumps him for information about sports cars, and how fast they can go. But later that night, after Eddie drops Barbara at home, we discover that Steve and Barbara are lovers and that Barbara has deliberately set out to ensnare Eddie. We don’t know why, but we do know that Barbara is getting cold feet: “I feel sorry for him, terribly sorry for him. Let’s call the whole thing off,” she says. “He’s not like other people. He’s like a lonesome little animal that’s never had any love in its whole life.” But Steve tells her it’s too late. And, in fact, it is. The next day, Steve shares his plan with Eddie, which is for Eddie to act as the getaway driver in an intricately planned bank heist – in exchange for a cool 15 grand. When Eddie balks, Steve suggests that he talk it over with Barbara – and he does. And he realizes that she’s not quite the peaches and cream sweetie pie that she’d first appeared. “You don’t want to be just a mechanic, and I don’t want you to be,” Barbara tells him. “Steve made you a proposition. To you it’s terrible, it’s breaking the law. Well, sure it’s breaking the law, maybe it’s terrible, but I can think of a whole lot worse . . . . You’re willing to wait and hope that maybe someday you’ll get what you want. Well, I can’t wait. I know what happens when people wait.” Eddie also realizes that Barbara knew about Steve’s scheme all along – and that their relationship is kaput unless he capitulates. So he capitulates.  SUCKER!

Did they get away with it? Or did Eddie get stopped for a busted tail light? Who can say?

Did they get away with it? Or did Eddie get stopped for a busted tail light? Who can say?

So . . . is the heist a success? Do the bandits get away with the money? Does Eddie get his $15,000? Does he ever get to race in the Grand Prix?

And what about Barbara?

I’ll leave all that for you to discover. But let’s get back to the purpose of this blogathon – the beach – which, in this film, is practically another character; every significant action in the film takes place there. Eddie follows Barbara to the beach after fixing her car, and that’s where they have their first real conversation. Next up is the party at the beach house, where Eddie first gets to know Steve. The beach house is also where Eddie is approached about participating in the bank robbery, and where Eddie throws a monkey wrench into the works by showing up at the beach after the heist. And, finally, the film’s dark, unexpected climax takes place – you guessed it – at the beach. There are no games of volleyball or sandcastles being built at this beach; it’s full of menace and shadows and danger. But if you watch Drive a Crooked Road, you won’t be able to get it out of your mind.

Whoops! What have we here??

Whoops! What have we here?? Look away!

Drive a Crooked Road is available on DVD – if you haven’t seen it, you really need to check it out. Mickey Rooney offers up a sensitive portrayal of yet another noir everyman who finds himself in over his head because of his affinity for a duplicitous dame. His performance is so subdued and understated, in fact, that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching Mickey Rooney. Kevin McCarthy is excellent in his role as well, creating a character with a pleasant façade and a thoroughly black soul – you may never look at him the same again. Others in the cast include Dianne Foster, who can also be seen in such films as The Violent Men and The Brothers Rico (and who, incidentally, is now age 86 and living in California), and Jack Kelly as Steve’s annoyingly jokey but deadly sidekick – you might remember him as James Garner’s little brother in the 1950s television show, Maverick.

Take a trip down to the beach located near the crooked road. You’ll be glad you did. (But you might want to leave the sunscreen and take a rod.)

_______________________

This post is part of the Beach Party Blogathon, hosted by Speakeasy and Silver Screenings.

Click the picture at the right to check out the many great posts being presented as part of this event! You only owe it to yourself.

A Liebster? Me? Aw, shucks.

•June 8, 2015 • 10 Comments

Liebster-awardI am thrilled to bits to share with y’all that I am the recipient of another Liebster Award! I am ever so grateful to Liz over at Now Voyaging – she’s not only a great writer, but she’s a super nice person, to boot – and if you haven’t checked out her blog, what are you waiting for?

Liebster, by the way, is a word with German origins that actually has several definitions, including dearest, nicest, and valued. (Just thought you’d like to know!) These are the rules associated with receiving a Liebster Award:

  • Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the coveted award.
  • Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Give the nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post their nomination.

So here goes – first, the questions posed by Liz:

Ruby Gentry: So bad, it's good. Kind of.

Ruby Gentry: So bad, it’s good. Kind of.

1. What is your favorite “bad” movie?

This was a tough one. A Summer Place, Duel in the Sun, Written on the Wind, and Beyond the Forest were strong contenders, but I ultimately had to go with Ruby Gentry. Boy, is it a hoot! Jennifer Jones and Charlton Heston are bad movie ROYALTY. If you’ve never seen this movie, you are truly in for a treat.

2. What inspired you to start blogging?

I was inspired and encouraged by my pal and Dark Pages Senior Writer, Kristina over at Speakeasy. I don’t remember now what she said, but I sure am glad she said it.

I'd like to kiss ya, but I'm on my way to lunch with Karen.

I’d like to kiss ya, but I’m on my way to lunch with Karen.

3. What person alive or dead would you choose to go to lunch with?

I would love to go to lunch with Bette Davis. I would just want to sit there and listen to her talk.

4. Who is your favorite classic film star?

Er, that would be Bette Davis. Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck are a close second and third favorite, but Bette just has my heart.

5. What is the funniest joke you know?

Two cannibals were eating a clown. One cannibal said to the other, “Does this taste funny to you?”

Joanie and napping and croquettes, oh my!

Joanie and napping and croquettes, oh my!

6. Describe your perfect day.

No alarm clock. Sleep until I wake up. Have something yummy to eat like cinnamon toast and salmon croquettes, and then climb back into bed to watch a good old movie that I haven’t seen in a long time, like Letty Lynton. Take a nap after the movie, and get up to have a tasty lunch. Lather, rinse, repeat, if you get my drift.

7. What is your favorite book of all time?

Gone With the Wind. No question.

8. Where is the best place you have ever visited?

This is a tough one, too. I fell in love with Savannah, I adored Aruba, and I’m wild about my old Kentucky home in Winchester, KY – but I’m going to have to say Los Angeles. I can’t get enough of it.

9. What advice would you give to fellow bloggers?

Take some time to write down ideas for future posts, so you’ll have a variety of topics to choose from whenever you’re ready to write something.

10. Why do you love classic films?

Because they're AWESOME, that's why!

Because they’re AWESOME, that’s why!

The plots. The performances. The dialogue. The cinematography. The stars. The way they look, sound, and make me feel. Basically, because they are the shiz-nit. If you know what I mean.

11. What is your favorite color?

All my life, my favorite color was purple, but now that I’m older, it’s mauve. (Do you think that means something?)

And here are eleven random facts about ME!!

1. Except for four years in the mid-1990s when I had my own editing business, I have had the same job since 1988.

2. I LOVE my job.

3. I finally bit the bullet this year and got an iPhone – but only because I dropped the flip phone that I’d had for 10 years and it broke into pieces. I like (okay, LOVE) being able to listen to podcasts while I’m driving, but that’s about it. I still miss my flip phone, though. It was very effective for hanging up on mouthy teenage daughters. (Kidding!!) (Sort of.)

4. I haven’t taken my Christmas tree down in three years. I may never take it down again.

5. I recently celebrated my three-year anniversary of quitting cigarettes, after smoking for 33 years. (Lots of threes around here – what’s THAT about?) If you’re a smoker and you’re ready to stop, just read The Easy Way to Stop Smoking by Allan Carr. It was a snap.

6. I completed the Insanity workout a couple of years ago – got a t-shirt and everything! I will NEVER do that again.

I cannot get enough of this show. (Don't tell anybody.)

I cannot get enough of this show. (Don’t tell anybody.)

7. My favorite guilty pleasure TV show is Big Brother. I’ve watched it every year since the first season, and cannot WAIT for it to start every June.

8. I am rapidly approaching an empty nest. My younger daughter is a rising senior and will be going off to college next year. I’m not okay.

9. My 35-year high school reunion is this summer. (Good Lord.)

I can't get enough of this one, either. (But I don't care who knows it!)

I can’t get enough of this one, either. (But I don’t care who knows it!)

10. After a few days of mourning the end of Mad Men, I am now watching the entire series again from the beginning. I am once again obsessed. And loving it.

11. I’m in my eighth day of a 10-day green smoothie cleanse. I never knew how delicious unsweetened peanut butter and celery could be. OMG. (Also, this cleanse has been a MIRACLE in my life. It. Is. AWESOME.)

I am nominating the following blogs to be the recipients of a Liebster – I hope you’ll check out each and every one!!

Immortal Ephemera

CineMaven’s: ESSAYS from the Couch

Cinematically Insane

Vienna’s Classic Hollywood

Movie Movie Blog Blog

The Vintage Cameo

Old Hollywood Films

The Blonde at the Film

Caftan Woman

Grand Old Movies

Mildred’s Fatburgers

And now, here are the 11 questions I’m asking these bloggers!

1. On your perfect viewing day, what five films would air back-to-back on TCM?

2. What’s your favorite movie-related book?

3. Name an underrated film that you’d recommend.

Reach for it and tell me the name of your favorite western!

Reach for it and tell me the name of your favorite western!

4. What movie do you watch every time it comes on TV?

5. What’s your favorite western?

6. If you had Aladdin’s lamp, what three wishes would you make?

7. What movie have you seen more often than any other?

8. Name one thing you believed as a child that turned out not to be true.

9. What is your favorite guilty pleasure movie?

10. Name a movie that it seems everyone has seen except you.

11. Humphrey Bogart or Robert Mitchum?

And that’s it!

Thanks for reading, thanks again to Liz of Now Voyaging, and congratulations to my nominees – you’re the berries!

Announcing the 1947 Blogathon!

•June 5, 2015 • 130 Comments

What do Out of the PastBorn to Kill, Forever Amber, and the Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap have in common?

They were all released in 1947!

Whether you’re a fan of film noir, comedy, westerns, or four-hankie weepers, you’re sure to have a favorite that hit the big screen in this great cinematic year.

So tell us all about it in the 1947 Blogathon! Brought to you by Kristina from Speakeasy and Karen from Shadows and Satin, this event will run July 13-15, 2015. You can write about any film, from any genre, as long as it was released between January 1, 1947 and December 31, 1947.

Duplicates are no problem, and you can post on any day of the event. Just click here and fill out this handy, dandy form for each film you’ll be covering, and you’ll be all set! (We’re also asking for your email address, but don’t fret – it’s only for contact purposes and we won’t make it public. We promise!)

Trail Street Speakeasy
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Seven Doors of Cinema
Out of the Past The Stop Button
The Lady From Shanghai The Cinematic Frontier
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer Silver Screenings
Black Narcissus Criterion Blues
A Double Life B Noir Detour
Black Narcissus Now Voyaging
The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer Now Voyaging
Dark Passage The Motion Pictures
Boomerang! Vienna
Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome Caftan Woman
Forever Amber Moon in Gemini
The Devil Thumbs a Ride Shadows and Satin
Born To Kill everythingnoir.com
Hold That Lion! Movie Movie Blog Blog
The Lady From Shanghai GirlsDoFilm
Odd Man Out Defiant Success
Something in the Wind Pop Culture Reverie
The Humpbacked Horse The Globally Curious
The Perils of Pauline Sepia Stories
Angel and the Badman Movie Classics
Jassy A Shroud of Thoughts
Unconquered Movies Silently
Song of the Thin Man Love Letters to Old Hollywood
This Time for Keeps Love Letters to Old Hollywood
The Macomber Affair CineMaven
Heartaches Noirish
Nightmare Alley Back to Golden Days
Lady in the Lake Old Hollywood Films
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir Le Mot du Cinephiliaque
Variety Girl Mike’s Take on the Movies
Violence Brian Camp’s Film and Anime Blog
One Wonderful Sunday (Japan) Brian Camp’s Film and Anime Blog
Magic Town Phyllis Loves Classic Movies
Tom & Jerry shorts from 1947 Motion Picture Gems
Odd Man Out The Fluff Is Raging
Welcome Stranger Motion Picture Gems
The October Man Book ’em, Danno!
Dark Passage Pure Golden Classics
Deep Valley Another Old Movie Blog
Dark Passage In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood
Cry Wolf! In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood
The Man I Love Sister Celluloid
Framed Twenty Four Frames
Ride the Pink Horse Reel Distracted
Golden Earrings Movies Silently
T-Men Wide Screen World
Gentleman’s Agreement Outspoken & Freckled
Road to Rio Critica Retro
Lady in the Lake Old Hollywood Films
They Won’t Believe Me Portraits by Jenni
Monsieur Verdoux Seredipitous Anachronisms
Daisy Kenyon Cinephilia
Possessed Once Upon a Screen
Song of Love The Great Katharine Hepburn
Noir Films of 1947 Silver Screen Modes

Please publicize this event on your blog by helping yourself to one of the lovely banners below. We’ll be looking for you to join us July 13-15th, when we plan to party like it’s 1947!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 447 other followers