Day 26 of Noirvember: Dorothys You Should Know — Part II

•November 26, 2019 • 3 Comments

Ever heard of Dorothy Patrick?

During her brief heyday, she appeared with such luminaries as Robert Taylor, Wallace Beery and Loretta Young, and she was featured in three films noirs (with an uncredited part in a fourth). But after just 12 years, Patrick retired from the screen and, like her fellow Dorothy (Hart), she’s all but forgotten today. On day 26 of Noirvember, I’m aiming to right that wrong.

Patrick was born Dorothy Davis on June 3, 1924, in St. Boniface, Manitoba, a Canadian province near Winnipeg. As a child, she appeared on local radio stations and modeled children’s clothing, and at the age of 13, she won her first beauty pageant. A few years later, after winning her second beauty contest – Miss Winnipeg – Dorothy moved to New York and landed a modeling job with John Robert Powers. Before long, she was appearing on billboards and magazine covers nationwide, and became a familiar face as a Chesterfield Girl, one of the models used by the cigarette company in its ads. As a lark, she entered Jesse Lasky’s Gateway to Hollywood radio contest and, out of 2,000 entrants in the New York region, Dorothy emerged as the winner.

With William Lundigan in Follow Me Quietly.

Dorothy turned down her movie contract prize to marry New York Ranger hockey star Lynn Patrick and have a son, Lester, but the union didn’t last and after her divorce, Dorothy headed for Hollywood. She didn’t quite take the town by storm, however, and was only able to secure a bit part in an RKO musical comedy. Dorothy returned to Canada, honing her craft in radio and little theater, then returned to Hollywood in 1945, signing a contract with MGM. After a lead role in Boys’ Ranch (1946), with James Craig, Dorothy next appeared opposite Robert Walker as the wife of composer Jerome Kern in Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). The following year, she was seen in a small but pivotal role in her first noir, The High Wall (1947), in which she played the murdered wife of an ex-pilot (Robert Taylor), who is accused of killing her.

Patrick played the second female lead in 711 Ocean Drive.

After a featured role in Alias a Gentleman (1948), a comedy co-starring Wallace Beery, Dorothy returned to the dark side with Follow Me Quietly (1949). Here, she plays a reporter for a sleazy magazine who is determined to get the inside scoop about a serial killer who is terrorizing a small town. This rather creepy noir was followed by a loan-out to 20th Century Fox for Come to the Stable (1949), with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm, which was a hit with critics as well as audiences. But she then left MGM and signed with Republic Studios where, in 1950, she was seen in a series of forgettable films. Her only non-Republic film that year was her best, and her final film noir, Columbia’s 711 Ocean Drive. In this well-done picture, Dorothy played Trudy Maxwell, a secretary who loves and loses (to Joanne Dru) a technology-savvy telephone repairman who gets rich when he takes over a wire service.

Discover Dorothy.

A bit weary of her back-to-back filmmaking schedule, Dorothy briefly abandoned her career and found work as a personnel interviewer and counselor for industrial concerns. But this didn’t last, and in 1952, she was back on screen, starring with Tim Holt in a so-so Western, Road Agent, and playing bit parts in two big-budget MGM films, Scaramouche (1952) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Although her career seemed to be headed in the wrong direction, though, Dorothy seemed to take a matter-of-fact view of her experience: “There have been both ups and downs in both the pictures and the assignments I’ve had,” she said in 1954. “I have yet to experience that perfect coordination which means complete success – the ideal assignment in the smash hit.” But during the next few years, Patrick failed to capture that “perfect coordination,” and in 1955, she retired from films.

Away from the big screen, Dorothy focused on philanthropic and liberal causes, and later ecame vice president of her son’s consulting firm. In the mid-1980s, Dorothy was diagnosed with cancer and in May 1987, just days before her 66th birthday, she died at the UCLA Medical Center. At the time of her death, she had been working on her memoirs.

With just over 30 films in 12 years, Dorothy Patrick never managed to achieve the level of stardom that seemed within her reach at the start of her career. Still, she appeared in a number of cinematic gems and left her mark in the world of film noir with roles in three fine films. Do yourself a favor and get to know Dorothy Patrick.

And join me tomorrow for Day 27 of Noirvember!

Day 25 of Noirvember: A Guest Post — Open Secret at the Turner Classic Film Festival

•November 25, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Now that the passes for the 2020 Turner Classic Movies Film Festival have gone on sale, this is a perfect time for another installment of my ongoing coverage of this year’s TCM event. But for today’s Noirvember post, I’m serving up a treat — a guest post from a first-rate writer and one of my favorite people, Aurora over at the Once Upon a Screen blog. Aurora is taking us inside one of the noirs that was screened at the 2019 film festival Open Secret (1948). Enjoy!

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A packed house was witness to a low-budget film noir at the Turner Classic Movie film festival earlier this year. It was probably the biggest crowd to ever watch John Reinhardt’s Open Secret (1948), as TCM host and Film Noir Foundation founder and president Eddie Muller noted during his introduction. “This is as B as B gets,” Muller said, which did nothing but pique the audience’s interest in what turned out to be an effective, down and dirty telling of an insidious presence in post-war, small-town America.

Hollywood had long resisted shining the light on Jewish stories despite the fact that the film industry was run primarily by Jews. It was after World War II that movies took a serious turn and, as Mark Harris describes in his brilliant 2015 book, Five Came Back, decided to grow up. Adult stories replete with realism were now in movie theaters and audiences responded with enthusiasm as did the Hollywood community, who gave Academy Award honors to stories of alcoholism, the difficulties of post-war reintegration, and the most taboo of subjects, anti-Semitism with Elia Kazan’s Gentleman’s Agreement (1947). Released that same year was Edward Dmytryk’s well-received, hard-hitting Crossfire, which was lauded by most critics for its superlative cast and frank spotlight on anti-Semitism, the same subject tackled in 1948 by John Reinhardt’s lesser-known, underrated Open Secret.

Sheldon Leonard was third-billed as a police detective.

John Reinhardt arrived in Hollywood just before the advent of sound to act, but made a name for himself by directing obscure Spanish-language films in Mexico for big studios like 20th Century Fox and Paramount in the early 1930s. Those productions were mostly comedies and musicals written by Reinhardt himself. After World War II, Reinhardt, who had worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during the war under the command of John Ford, dealt in low-budget films of a much darker nature, such as The Guilty and For You I Die, both released in 1947. His most famous film is the cold war melodrama Sofia from 1948. Unfortunately, Reinhardt’s post-war filmography is short, as he died of a heart attack in 1953 at the age of 52. However, if Open Secret had been his only post-war film, Reinhardt should have been proud because it is a gutsy production. Open Secret follows in the footsteps of Crossfire, but manages a more oppressive atmosphere throughout.

The cast also includes Arthur O’Connell and Roman Bohnen.

Open Secret stars John Ireland and Jane Randolph as newlyweds Paul and Nancy Lester, who visit Paul’s Army buddy Ed Stevens on their honeymoon, only to find Ed missing when they arrive. As Paul investigates Ed’s whereabouts, the story slowly uncovers an ugly truth simmering along the streets of the unnamed city: bigots bent on ridding the neighborhood of Jews. As it turns out, Ed had proof of the crimes committed before he went missing – a roll of film that proves vital to getting to the root of the hatred. With the help of Det. Sgt. Mike Fontelli, played by Sheldon Leonard, Paul Lester bears witness to multi-generational hatred among the inhabitants of the town. Perhaps this is Open Secret’s harshest message, the children we see who have been taught to hate with such passion that their innocence is silenced. This depiction is starker than even the spousal abuse that seeps into the forefront of the 60-plus-minute film. Although the bad guys get what they deserve at the film’s conclusion, we know the seeds of prejudice have been planted in the shadows.

Ireland is a standout as the film’s hero.

John Ireland does a fine job as the hero of Open Secret, forging a path toward righteousness without fear of the dangers that run rampant in the town. Ireland, who was adept at heroic and villainous roles throughout his six-decades-long career, had made a name for himself in A Walk in the Sun (1945). He became the first Vancouver-born actor to be nominated for an Academy Award with his turn in Robert Rossen’s All the King’s Men (1949). Jane Randolph enjoyed a film career primarily in the 1940s, but is effective and believable as Ireland’s devoted new wife. Randolph’s film career may have been relatively short, but she appeared in several enduring classics such as Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942), Anthony Mann’s T-Men (1947), and perennial favorite Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), directed by Charles T. Barton.

There are several other notable actors in Open Secret who turn in memorable performances. Sheldon Leonard, whose gruff voice and strong New York accent made him the perfect heavy, does a good job as the sympathetic detective. You’ll also catch glimpses of veteran character actor Arthur O’Connell, although his role here requires little more than barking orders as the “boss” of the gang committing hate crimes across the town. The most overtly hateful in the group, however, is Roy Locke, a hard-drinking man whose hobbies include murder and beating his wife. Locke is played memorably by Roman Bohnen with the role of Mrs. Locke delivered by character actor Ellen Lowe, who boasted several uncredited parts in big pictures like Citizen Kane during her career.

Also worthy of mention is George Styne who plays Harry Strauss, the Jewish owner of the photo store that plays prominently in the story. Styne was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, but bounced back to become a frequent television director, helming episodes of such notable series as The Odd Couple, Love American Style, and The Bob Newhart Show. Strauss is the character we most sympathize with in Open Secret as we witness how he is consistently harassed and his store vandalized in hopes he’d leave the neighborhood. Mr. Strauss remains steadfast, however, and we root for him as he becomes involved in resolving the mystery. There’s a particularly difficult scene to watch that takes place in a local bar where Jews are not served. The mocking of a man by people who think they are better, but whose faults are evident, is perhaps what makes Open Secret most relevant today. That and the disgust in their voices as they mention “foreigners.”

You will notice the lack of budget when you watch Open Secret. Eddie Muller joked that it was made for about $2,000. Or maybe he meant it. The sets are bare and the score is recycled, although none of that diminishes the power of the film’s message. In fact, Open Secret does a heck of a lot with very little, thanks in large part to the photography of George Robinson, whose work helps create the palpable dread in the film. Robinson was a prolific cinematographer who worked primarily at Universal, creating the look of many memorable films including several in that studio’s fabled horror canon.

Thought lost for years, Open Secret was restored by The UCLA Film & Television Archive, and festgoers had the pleasure of discovering the film with that print at the TCM festival. In that packed theater, the audience learned that Open Secret is a brave thriller that deserves to be seen.

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My humble thanks to Aurora for a top-notch write-up on a fine film, which can be viewed on YouTube and other sites. Do yourself a favor and check out this film, pay a visit to Aurora’s Once Upon a Screen blog — and join me tomorrow for Day 26 of Noirvember!

 

Day 24 of Noirvember: Comings and Goings

•November 24, 2019 • 5 Comments

Duff’s career began in radio.

November 24th was a significant day in the lives of three classic movie performers, each of whom had a prominent role in at least three films noirs – they were either born on the 24th of November, or that was date on which they died. Today’s Noirvember post pays tribute to these perfomers, and the noir films in which they appeared.

Howard Duff

Duff was born on November 24, 1913, in Bremerton, Washington, a day he once described as “so foggy, even the birds were walking.”

Duff started his career in radio, appearing on numerous radio serials before landing the title role in The Adventures of Sam Spade.

His first film was also his noir debut – Brute Force (1947), where he played one of five inmates who plan a risky prison break. Duff’s other noirs were The Naked City (1948), co-starring Ted De Corsia, Dorothy Hart, and Barry Fitzgerald; Shakedown (1950), a rarely seen, but absolutely cracking film noir where Duff plays an unscrupulous newspaper photographer; Private Hell 36 (1954), with Steve Cochran and Dorothy Malone; and While the City Sleeps (1956), starring Thomas Mitchell, Dana Andrews, and Ida Lupino.

Duff, Lupino, and their daughter, Bridget.

Speaking of Ida Lupino, Duff was married to the actress from 1951 to 1984. The two met while filming the noirish Woman in Hiding (1950). When they first met, Lupino declared that she “couldn’t stand Duff,” and Duff maintained that Lupino “scared” him.

During the HUAC witch hunt of the 1950s, Duff was jailed for contempt of Congress for refusing to answer questions about Communism in the motion picture industry. His name was included in the publication Red Channels, which identified writers, directors, and performers suspected of Communist affiliations. Duff was removed from the cast of Sam Spade, couldn’t get a radio job for two years, and was able to land only a handful of screen gigs.

The actor died of a heart attack at the age of 76 in July 1990.

Geraldine Fitzgerald

Nobody Lives Forever with John Garfield.

Fitzgerald was born on the same day and year as Howard Duff, in Greystones, Ireland, the daughter of a prominent lawyer.

Encouraged to pursue acting by her aunt, she joined Dublin’s famous Gate Theatre, where her aunt was one of the leading stars. While there, she appeared in productions with future fellow luminaries James Mason and Orson Welles.

The actress was known for her combative nature, and she blamed herself for hampering her early career in Hollywood by fighting with studio heads over her roles. Her daughter, Susan Scheftel, once said, “My mother was just way too feisty to be in bondage to the Warner Bros.” (Incidentally, Susan’s father, Stuart Scheftel, was a businessman and grandson of the founder of Macy’s department store, Isidor Strauss, who, along with his wife, died on the Titanic. He and Fitzgerald were married from 1946 to Sheftel’s death in 1994.)

One of her best-known films was Wuthering Heights.

She appeared in three films noirs: The Strange Love of Uncle Harry (1945), a period piece with George Sanders and Ella Raines; Three Strangers (1946), the eighth of nine features starring Sidney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre; and Nobody Lives Forever (1946), where she was a wealthy spinster who is targeted for a con by John Garfield.

Her best-known roles were probably the second female leads she played in Wuthering Heights, as the pitiable wife of Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) and Dark Victory, as Bette Davis’s best friend.

Fitzgerald died in 2005 at the age of 91, from complications of Alzheimer’s Disease.

George Raft

Raft was born on September 26, 1895 (my older daughter’s birthday twin!) in New York City. His name at birth was George Ranft; one of 10 children, he grew up in the city’s rough Hell’s Kitchen area.

Raft was a dancer early in his career.

A school dropout at the age of 13, Raft was a professional boxer for a while, and then capitalized on his natural dancing ability by working as a “taxi-dancer” in local cafes.

His breakout role was Scarface (1932), a thinly veiled accounting of the exploits of gangster Al Capone. After the release of the film, Capone himself reportedly reached out to Raft to offer his stamp of approval. Over the years, Raft also hobnobbed with other gangland figures, like Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Owney Madden.

Raft claimed that he was “tricked” in 1923 into marrying Grace Mulrooney, who had once worked as one of his ballroom dancing partners. The couple separated soon after they wed, but Mulrooney refused to grant Raft a divorce – a stance that she maintained until her death in 1970.

Raft’s first noir was Johnny Angel (1945).

Under contract to Paramount, Raft was put on suspension for refusing to appear in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), starring Miriam Hopkins. Raft said, “It’s not that I mind being the guy on the wrong side of the law, but I won’t take a role that’s pure heel. The character has to have some ray of warmth, some redeeming quality – or it just isn’t real.” Raft also famously turned down the roles in High Sierra and The Maltese Falcon that would be played to much success by Humphrey Bogart.

Raft appeared in five noirs: Johnny Angel (1945), where he played a ship’s captain investigating the death of his father and his crew; Nocturne (1946), with Lynn Bari and Virginia Huston; Red Light (1950), with Virginia Mayo and Gene Lockhart; Loan Shark (1952), in which he played an ex-con who goes undercover to infiltrate a loan sharking gang; and Rogue Cop (1954), where he played a syndicate boss.

Raft died of emphysema on November 24, 1980, at the age of 85.

Join me in saluting these November 24th illuminaries today . . . and join me for Day 25 of Noirvember tomorrow!

 

Day 23 of Noirvember: Top Seven in ’47

•November 23, 2019 • 4 Comments

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!

Day 22 of Noirvember: Someone’s in the Kitchen

•November 22, 2019 • 6 Comments

I don’t know if classic film stars spent as much time in the kitchen as the movie magazines of the day would have you believe, but I quite like to think of my favorite performers whipping up a three-layer chocolate cake or tasty batch of fried chicken.

Today’s Noirvember post takes a peek inside the kitchens of some of our favorite shadowy actors and actresses – and serves up my recommended noir for each!

Veronica Lake: The Glass Key (1942)

 

Richard Widmark: Night and the City (1950)

 

Dorothy Malone: The Big Sleep (1946)

 

Ava Gardner: The Killers (1946) (duh)

 

Raymond Burr: Desperate (1947)

 

Jeanne Crain: Leave Her to Heaven (1945)

 

Victor Mature: Cry of the City (1948)

 

Rita Hayworth: Gilda (1946)

Bon appetit, y’all! Join me tomorrow for Day 23 of Noirvember!

Day 21 of Noirvember: Trivia Thursday

•November 21, 2019 • 4 Comments

This ain’t just acting.

If you know anything at all about me, you know that I love trivia. Today’s Noirvember post serves up some trivial tidbits about some of my favorite film noir actresses. Here goes . . .

Hope Emerson made her feature film debut in Cry of the City (1948), where she played a jewel-stealing masseuse. In one scene in the film, she strangles the character played by Richard Conte. Emerson’s determination to infuse the scene with realism reportedly caused Conte to seek medical treatment.

Lauren Bacall dated Kirk Douglas for a while, when both were students at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. The two starred opposite each other in the 1950 film Young Man With a Horn.

Joan Bennett’s first marriage was when she was 16 years old.

At the age of 16, Joan Bennett married John Marion Fox, who was 20 years her senior. She was thrilled (at first) to be “a married women, and therefore, an adult.”

Lana Turner was married seven times. Her seventh and final marriage was to Ronald Dante, a 39-year-old nightclub hypnotist whom Turner dated for around three weeks before she married Dante in May 1969. The union lasted less than a year, with Turner charging that Dante defrauded her of $34,000.

While a student at Northwestern University, Jean Hagen’s roommate was fellow aspiring actress Patricia Neal.

When Gloria Grahame won the Academy Award for her role in The Bad and the Beautiful, she tripped on her way up to the podium and muttered a curse word, causing a rumor that she was drunk. “I don’t drink,” she later told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner. “I think I was emotionally druink.”

At the age of seven, Susan Hayward suffered a fractured hip when she was hit by a car. Despite doctors’ forecast that she would probably never walk again, the future actress was able to get around on crutches after six months, and she returned to school after a year.

Emma Matzo.

Born Emma Matzo, Lizabeth Scott chose her last name in honor of one of her favorite plays, Mary of Scotland.

Ruth Roman’s parents were owners of a carnival sideshow in Boston. Roman recalled that although the sideshow “wasn’t very big or very fancy . . . it was the most exciting thing in the world to me. I still get weak with nostalgia whenever I look at a merry-go-round.”

Agnes Moorehead made her first stage appearance at the age of three, singing on a church program. She was such an imaginative and talented youngster that her mother greeted her each day with the question, “Well, Agnes, who are you today?”

Join me tomorrow on Day 22 of Noirvember!

Day 20 of Noirvember: The Dark Page – Part II

•November 20, 2019 • 4 Comments

Two years ago, during Noirvember, I wrote about one of my book collection treasures, a beautiful coffee table tome called The Dark Page: Books That Inspired American Film Noir, by Kevin Johnson. The Dark Page shares beautiful photos of books that were the basis of film noir features in America, and provides trivia tidbits (my favorites!) about both the books and the movies.

My post back then focused on Part I of this double-volume set; this year, I thought I’d write about some of the books in Part II, which covers 1950 to 1965.

Book: Mischief by Charlotte Armstrong

Movie: Don’t Bother to Knock (1952), starring Richard Widmark, Anne Bancroft, and Marilyn Monroe

Originally, Dorothy McGuire was cast in the starring role in the film, and Jules Dassin (who would go on to direct a top-notch heist movie, Rififi) was tapped as director. Both were replaced for the final film, McGuire by Anne Bancroft, in her big-screen debut, and Dassin by Roy Baker.

Book: The Bloody Spur by Charles Einstein

Movie: While the City Sleeps (1956)

Author Charles Einstein is the older half-brother of comedian/actor/director Albert Brooks (who was born Albert Einstein) and actor-comedian Bob Einstein (better known as Super Dave Osborne). The story was based on the William Heirens serial killings that took place in Chicago in the mid-1940s.

Book: Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith

Movie: Strangers on a Train, starring Farley Granger, Robert Walker, and Ruth Roman

Famed writer Raymond Chandler worked on the screeplay, but director Alfred Hitchcock wasn’t happy with the work he did and he wound up hiring Czenzi Ormonde, one of Ben Hecht’s assistants, to finish it. “Whenever I collaborate with another writer who, like myself, specializes in mystery, thriller, or suspense, things don’t seems to work out too well,” Hitchcock told Francois Truffaut in his 1967 interview. “We’d sit together and I would say, ‘Why not do it this way?’ and he’s answer, ‘Well, if you can puzzle it out, what do you need me for?’”

Book: The Harder They Fall by Budd Schulberg

Movie: The Harder They Fall (1956), starring Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger, and Jan Sterling

The book was based on the Primo Carnera boxing scandal. This was Bogart’s last film; he was dying of cancer during production, but he was so close-mouthed about his illness that even the film’s producer didn’t know.

Book: The Condemned by Jo Pagano

Movie: The Sound of Fury (AKA Try and Get Me), starring Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, and Richard Carlson

The novel was based on the case of two killers in San Jose, California who were hanged by a lynch mob in November 1933. The 1936 Fritz Lang film Fury, starring Spencer Tracy, was also based on this incident.

Book: Sudden Fear by Edna Sherrry

Movie: Sudden Fear (1952), starring Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, and Gloria Grahame

The role of the husband in the film was first offered to Marlon Brando, and Clark Gable was also considered (the director, David Miller, put the kibosh on the Gable casting, saying that Gable was too old for the part). Both Joan Crawford and Jack Palance earned Academy Award nominations for their performances.

If you can, check out some of these books and films — you won’t be sorry.

Join me tomorrow for Day 21 of Noirvember!