Monday, May 16, 2022

National Classic Movie Day: Four Favorite Noirs Blogathon

The National Classic Movie Day Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Cafe every year is one of the highlights of every blogger's calendar. This year the topic is Four Favorite Film Noirs

Not long after the very first National Classic Movie Day Blogathon, I wrote a post on my top 5 Film Noirs. A month later I lengthened it to ten (#6 and 8 would no longer have any chance of being on that list). However, at the time, I had hardly seen any, as it wasn't particularly my favorite genre - some of them were a little too violent or dark for my taste. As I got older though I discovered that they were actually really good. Like, REALLY GOOD. Becoming a Robert Ryan fan also helped ;) Anyway, without further ado, here are four of my favorite Noirs.

(1948)

I loved Act of Violence (1948) so much I rewatched it again a month later and took over 300 screenshots (you can see them here on my blog Facebook page - don't go all the way to the end if you haven't seen the movie). On the surface, war hero Frank Enley (Van Heflin) has a great life. He has a beautiful young wife (Janet Leigh) an adorable baby, and is well respected by his community. But when a mysterious man with a limp begins to stalk him, Enley's life quickly unravels and his dark secret is exposed. He confesses to his wife that during his time in a POW camp he became an informer in exchange for food. The man who is following him (Robert Ryan), was his friend Joe, who suffered torture because of Heflin's actions. Joe is out for revenge, intent on killing Enley and punishing him for his actions. Enley tries to run from Joe and even hires a hit man, with the help of a woman he meets in a bar (Mary Astor). Of course, being a Noir, the viewer already knows that Enley is doomed to his fate.

The deft cinematography of David Surtees is a visual depiction of Enley's worsening nightmare. It "shimmers with sunlight" at the beginning of the film and gradual descends into something "straight out of a Freudian nightmare"(Film Noir FAQ, David J. Hogan, p. 343). This is also aided by on-location shooting. The director, Fred Zinnemann, had "learned the value of authentic locations, and this new picture gave him and Surtees a chance to photograph the real LA, where Enley flees and descends into the criminal underworld." This "sense of realism extended to the actors as well. 'No makeup of any kind was used on any member of the cast,' wrote Surtees. 'We tried to maintain on the screen a high standard of skin texture.' This technique heightened the hard set of Ryan's face, with its lined brow and sneering mouth" (The Lives of Robert Ryan, J.R. Jones, p.84-85).

(1956)

Nightfall (1956) is what I call a "snowy noir." There's something about black and white cinematography and snow that I just love. Also, this film stars Aldo Ray (anybody else think he has a sexy voice? lol). Vanning (Ray) is a commercial artist who has been wrongly accused of murdering his friend while on a hunting trip in Wyoming. Not only that, but he's also accused of robbing a bank. Following from town to town is an insurance investigator for the bank and the two real bad guys, the pistol whipping, trigger happy Red and John (Brian Keith), the brains of the outfit. Vanning meets a model, Marie Gardner (Anne Bancroft), at the bar one night and let's his guard down a little. As they exit he is intercepted by John and Red, who intimate that Marie was helping them. He manages to  escape and heads to Marie's apartment to confront her but she assures him of her innocence. He tells her his story and then the two of them take the bus to Wyoming to try and find the money that can clear his name. The movie climaxes with an epic shootout/fight involving a snowplow. You can watch it on YouTube. It was directed by Jacques Tourneur(who directed another favorite of mine, Cat People) with cinematography by Burnett Guffey. 

Love this shot of Brian Keith.

(1944)

In Phantom Lady (1944), a man is accused of murdering his wife. The only person who could provide him with an alibi is a "phantom lady" with an unusual hat. His secretary, Kansas (Ella Raines), sets out to clear his name. I was blown away when I first saw this movie and Raines became an instant favorite. Rather than me try and describe it, please just do yourself a favor and watch it. 

My favorite shot from the film.

Elwood Bredell was selected as cinematographer. He was advised by director Robert Siodmak to "study Rembrandt's paintings as an example of how dark shadows could attract the eye of the viewer toward a certain portion of the composition." There is a "contrast between the bright, well-organized business world inhabited by Carol and her boss and the city's distorted, menacing underworld, as Carol slides even further down the rabbit hole," and a "nightmarish atmosphere through highly stylized moments, rich textures, and claustrophobic settings... Siodmak favored low-key lighting, which would lend itself to sharply contrasting shadows and large areas of black" (Phantom Lady: Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, The Forgotten Woman Behind Hitchcock, Christina Lane, p. 147-148). 

(1946)

Nobody Lives Forever (1946) stars one of my favorite actors, the ever-troubled John Garfield. It is unusual in that much of the film takes place in the sunlight instead of the typical Noir darkness and on the beach instead of the city streets. Even then, the dark scenes are shrouded in mist instead of bathed in garish neon lights.

I'm going to cheat a little here and link up a post I wrote on the film several years ago. There are lots of great screenshots on the post.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Movies I Watched in April

Out of the Past (1947). The lighting of this scene is breathtaking. You can't get this in color films.

Had some pretty good rewatches this month. When I first watched Out of the Past (1947) I didn't know any of the actresses and kept getting them confused (I also watched it over the course of two days which didn't help). And when I first watched The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) I was expecting more Where the Boys Are (1960). Also noticed the exterior of the house in Invitation (1952) was also used in Executive Suite (1954).

Invitation (1952). There's a pond and bridge off to the right.

William Holden's house in Executive Suite (1954). The interior was modern, whereas in Invitation it was New England country style. The exterior worked with both!

Movies with an * indicate a rewatch:

  1. Edge of the World (1937) - Niall MacGinnis & Belle Chrystall, Finlay Currie
  2. *The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939) - Errol Flynn & Bette Davis, Olivia de Havilland, Vincent Price
  3. *Out of the Past (1947) - Robert Mitchum & Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Huston, Dickie Moore
  4. My Dear Secretary (1948) - Kirk Douglas & Laraine Day, Keenan Wynn, Rudy Vallee
  5. *Invitation (1952) - Dorothy McGuire & Van Johnson, Ruth Roman
  6. *Roman Holiday (1953) - Audrey Hepburn & Gregory Peck, Eddie Albert
  7. Man with the Gun (1955) - Robert Mitchum & Jan Sterling, Angie Dickenson
  8. *The Ten Commandments (1956) - Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, John Derek, Yvonne De Carlo, Debra Paget, Edward G. Robinson, Vincent Price, Nina Foch, Martha Scott, etc. 
  9. It Happened in Naples (1960) - Clark Gable & Sophia Loren 
  10. *The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) - Jim Hutton & Paula Prentiss 
  11. Fools’ Parade (1971) - James Stewart, George Kennedy, Strother Martin, Kurt Russell, Anne Baxter
  12. Charley and the Angel (1973) - Fred MacMurray, Harry Morgan, Cloris Leachman, Kurt Russell 
  13. The Final Countdown (1980) - Kirk Douglas, Martin Sheen, Katherine Ross
  14. Why Would I Lie? (1980) - Gabriel Macht (as Gabriel Swann)
  15. Executive Decision (1996) - Kurt Russell, Halle Berry
  16. Breakdown (1997) - Kurt Russell, Kathleen Quinlan
  17. Life as We Know It (2010) - Josh Duhamel & Katherine Heigl
  18. Fire on Fire (2012) - Josh Duhamel, Rosario Dawson, Bruce Willis 
  19. Lost in the Sun (2016) - Josh Duhamel 
  20. The Lost Husband (2020) - Leslie Bibb & Josh Duhamel, Nora Dunn
Churchill and the Movie Mogul (2019)
Elvis in the Raw (2015) - uncut interview footage

Least Favorite Film: Something about Charley and the Angel just fell flat. Breakdown and Fire on Fire were a little too disturbing/violent.

Favorite Movie: You could take any still frame from Edge of the World and turn it into an art print. My Dear Secretary was very funny, especially Keenan Wynn. I watched Fools' Parade for Kurt Russell but it was actually really good! James Stewart had a great scene on the train involving his character's glass eye. You can watch it for free on Tubi right now. It has never been released on dvd or VHS so now's your chance!! It's also on rarefilmm.com. 

Errol Flynn is ridiculously handsome in The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939).

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Recycled Costumes from "The Fallen Sparrow" (1943)

This month we have a special feature on recycled costumes originally worn by Maureen O'Hara in The Fallen Sparrow (1943) - apologies for the lack of recycled costume posts lately. I started a new job where I'm on the computer all day so the last thing I want to do in my free time is stare at a computer...

These stunning outfits were created by Edward Stevenson, head designer for RKO.

Worn by the hotel proprietress in The Falcon in Mexico (1944).

Worn by Jean Brooks in The Falcon in Hollywood (1944).

Worn by Jean Brooks (center) in Two O'Clock Courage (1945) and 
for a publicity portrait of Anne Jeffreys. I absolutely love this gown!

Worn by Laraine Day in Bride by Mistake (1944), a remake of The Richest Girl in the World (1934). 


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Bette's Hats & Reviews: The Big Shakedown (1934)

Bette's first film of 1934 was The Big Shakedown. She only references it sarcastically in her autobiography, The Lonely Life: "They needed me desperately for such historic milestones as The Big Shakedown and The Man with the Black Hat."

The first hat is only on the screen long enough for the Justice of the Peace to say "By the power vested in me, I now pronounce you man and wife. That'll be $2." You can see a better shot of the hat here.

Bette Davis has little to do but look attractive as an ingenue, the wife of the chemist (Charles Farrell).

~ Picturegoer Weekly, March 3, 1934

The only advantage Bette Davis enjoys is that she is not on much and so does not bore as often. 

~ Variety

Farrell and Miss Davis are not at their best.

~ Film Daily

I wonder if this photo is from a scene cut from the film? It says it's from The Big Shakedown.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Movies I Watched in March

Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955)

As usual, there wasn't much on TCM for their 31 Days of Oscar programming that I wanted to watch and, as I'm still watching lots of Kurt Russell movies, this month didn't have as many pre-1970 films as it typically does. I also watched several television episodes in which Russell guest starred in, as well as some episodes of a show he starred in as a kid, The Travels of Jamie McPheeters (they're on a YT channel devoted to the Osmond brothers).

  1. The Dark Angel (1935) - Fredric March, Merle Oberon, Herbert Marshall
  2. A Letter to Three Wives (1949) - Jeanne Crain & Jeffrey Lynn, Ann Sothern & Kirk Douglas, Linda Darnell & Paul Douglas, Thelma Ritter, Celeste Holm (voice)
  3. Fancy Pants (1950) - Bob Hope & Lucille Ball, Bruce Cabot, Eric Blore, John Alexander 
  4. Hong Kong (1952) - Ronald Reagan & Rhonda Fleming 
  5. Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955) - William Holden & Jennifer Jones
  6. The Night My Number Came Up (1955) - Michael Redgrave, Sheila Sim, Alexander Knox, Denholm Elliott
  7. Judgement at Nuremberg (1961) - Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Marlene Dietrich, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, William Shatner, Werner Klemperer
  8. Love with the Proper Stranger (1963) - Natalie Wood & Steve McQueen 
  9. The Golden Head (1964) - George Sanders, Buddy Hackett, Jess Conrad
  10. Butterflies are Free (1972) - Goldie Hawn & Edward Albert, Eileen Heckart
  11. Search for the Gods (1975) - Stephen McHattie, Kurt Russell, Ralph Bellamy
  12. Amber Waves (1980) - Dennis Weaver, Kurt Russell 
  13. The Thing (1982) - Kurt Russell
  14. Summer Rental (1985) - John Candy
  15. Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) - Kathleen Turner & Nicholas Cage, Jim Carrey, Helen Hunt, Leon Ames & Maureen O’Sullivan
  16. Big Trouble in Little China (1986) - Kurt Russell, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Kim Cattrall
  17. Tango & Cash (1989) - Sylvester Stallone, Kurt Russell, Jack Palance, James Hong
  18. Stargate (1994) - James Spader, Kurt Russell, Viveca Lindfors 
  19. *While You Were Sleeping (1995) - Sandra Bullock & Bill Pullman, Peter Gallagher, Peter Boyle, Jack Warden, Glynis Johns
  20. Soldier (1998) - Kurt Russell 
  21. Dreamer (2005) - Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Kris Kristofferson, Freddy Rodriguez
  22. Bottle Shock (2008) - Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriguez, Rachel Taylor
  23. The Iron Lady (2011) - Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman
  24. Safe Haven (2013) - Julianne Hough & Josh Duhamel
Least Favorite Film: I’m going to say The Thing mainly because there were a lot of gross parts that I had to skip. 

Favorite Movie: Lots of great movies this month. I’m obsessed with the soundtrack to Love is a Many Splendored Thing. I thought Kurt Russell was great in Soldier. Also, I need him to have been in a boxing movie...

Favorite Quote: "To go on living, one must be occasionally unwise." ~ Jennifer Jones in Love is a Many Splendored Thing (1955).


I recently started a new job and was unable to get out my Recycled Costume post and Royal Film Performance post (I'm waiting on some material for that anyway so I was already planning on postponing it).

There will not be a Cinema Wedding Gown post next month because of Easter. It will return in May. 

Me trying to write under "work" conditions ;)

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Bette's Hats & Reviews: Bureau of Missing Persons (1933) + short

Bette's final film of 1933 was Bureau of Missing Persons with Pat O'Brien and Glenda Farrell. The only mention she makes of it in her autobiography, The Lonely Life, is that making that film made her realize why movie stars elected to go on suspension. She wears two hats.



Bette Davis does well.
~ The New York Times

They are still trying to make a sexy star out of Bette Davis when your reviewer is still pretty certain that she would be a whole lot better off if they let her be the sweet girl that she probably is.
~ The New Movie Magazine, Oct. 1933




Bette also appeared in a short titled Just Around the Corner, advertising General Electric household appliances! You can watch that gem below. 


She wears one hat in the short at 8:05. It's really too blurry to screenshot.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

Pick My Movie Tag 2: Five Least Favorite Hitchcock Films

I was tagged by The Flapper Dame to write a post on my five least favorite Alfred Hitchcock films for The Pick My Movie Tag 2. The rules are as follows:

  • Nominate one or more people to review the film or films of your choice. Or you can request they review something from a certain year, genre, or star. Everyone can review the same thing, or you can request each person cover something different. As long as it’s something they haven’t written about yet, you’re good.
  • Nominees are allowed to request a different pick for whatever reason no more than five times. Stuff happens. We all know it.
  • Nominees must thank the person who nominated them and provide a link their blog.
  • Nominees may nominate others to keep the tag going. Picking the person who nominated them is allowed, or they can nominate someone else. Maybe both.
  • All participants need to include these rules in their post, whether they’re nominees or picking nominees.
  • All participants should use the “Pick My Movie” banner or something similar in their posts.
  • Have fun!

At first I thought I wouldn’t be able to come up with that number, but I looked through the films I’ve seen and five was the exact number. Now, I still have several films I haven’t seen. I started Under Capricorn once but it wasn’t grabbing me, and I have no desire to watch his final films, Family Plot and Frenzy. And of course I haven’t seen most of his British films (that includes a The Lady Vanishes - I know). However, here is what I was able to come up with (SPOILERS are marked):

1958

Ok, before you start, I only watched this once probably over a decade ago. I need to rewatch it. At the time though, I really wasn't a fan of Jimmy Stewart, especially when he gets those crazy eyes. I have a thing about close-ups of eyes in movies. I also thought he was too old for Kim Novak (same goes for Grace Kelly in Rear Window). The whole psychedelic sequence was not to my liking either. Being younger, I probably missed a lot of underlying meanings and signs that I would get nowadays. Anyway, this is the first film that pops into my head when asked about my least favorite Hitchcock film.

1944

SPOILERS: It really disturbed me when Walter Slezak (I think it was him?) let Canada Lee fall overboard while everyone was sleeping just because he was black. And William Bendix losing his leg also bothered me.

1948

I watched about 15 minutes but did not like it so I stopped. I will probably never watch it all the way through. It was just too morbid.

1936
I couldn't get on board with Sylvia Sidney being married to Oscar Homolka. And SPOILER, her brother getting blown up at the end was pretty gruesome, even though they didn't show it.

1939

I don't really remember anything about this movie except that it was boring and I didn't like it. Was probably just creeped out by Charles Laughton.

What can I say? Those are my choices and I'm sticking to them!

Thanks to Emily for tagging me! And now I tag Hamlette's Soliloquy to write about her Favorite Movie that was FILMED in Europe!