A Closer Look at Ann Sheridan and Lizabeth Scott: Detectives and Dames: A Flicker Alley Noir Blog-a-Thon!

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The following essay contains spoilers for Too Late for Tears:

Flicker Alley is hosting a noir blog-a-thon for their new Blu-ray/DVD release of two classic films noir which have been recently restored. They have asked me to participate in this blog-a-thon by writing something about one of these classic films. Unfortunately I do not have copies of these two films so I’m writing this based on viewing them quite a while ago. I also have already reviewed both of these films in the past on this site.

The first film we are looking at is Woman on the Run  which I have reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/24/review-women-on-the-run/

The second film is Too Late for Tears  which I reviewed here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2016/01/14/review-too-late-for-tears/

So what is left to talk about? I would like to look at the two main stars and the characters that they play in these two films. It is interesting we have females as the main protagonists in both of these films, something we didn’t see very much in 1949 and 1950. This maybe the only thing these two films have in common, the two females are very different from one another.

The two leads are played by Ann Sheridan in Woman on the Run

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and Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears .

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Our two leads have very little in common other then they are both married at the beginning of our films. Liz is happy in her marriage and Ann is not sure after 4 years of marriage if she is happy or not. Ann wears heavy coats in most of her film partly to show her acting chops instead of relying on her figure. Liz’s character uses her womanly charms to get what she wants from the men in her life, a classic femme fatale. Ann goes on a journey that seems to save her marriage; Liz has no problem getting rid of her husband for the chance at a bag full of money. Ann fights to find the truth while Liz does whatever it takes to cover up her trail.

As Ann’s and Liz’s characters in these two films seem like polar opposites their careers seem to be just as different.  I was not that familiar with Ann’s career but after watching Woman on the Run I became a fan and have watched many films with her in it over the last year. She may have been known for her figure and get her start in film by winning a beauty contest; she used that to have a very diverse career. Holding her own with the top male stars from the 1930’s through the 1950’s. She was in many great films noir, but also held her own in everything from slap stick comedies to serious dramas.

Liz on the other hand became a star after appearing in the classic film noir, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and seemed to be type cast. She appeared in mostly gritty films, often the femme fatale. With a sultry voice that gave Lauren Bacall a run for her money and a face that could cause any man to bend to her whim.

Though Liz and Ann where very different in career and character, they did have a few things in common. Both played strong females often and both had the talent to carry a film. If you are not familiar with either of these great actresses, these two films are a great place to start. If you are a fan, and have not seen these yet, go do it! I thank everybody involved in restoring these two films and can’t wait to see what films they will restore next!

You can buy Woman on the Run

here:http://www.flickeralley.com/classic-movies/#!/Woman-on-the-Run/p/59318243

You can buy Too Late for Tears

here:http://www.flickeralley.com/classic-movies/#!/Too-Late-for-Tears/p/59318231

Also check out all the other Blog-a-Thon entries here:

Detectives and Dames:
A Flicker Alley Noir Blog-a-Thon!

 

 

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Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal

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Here is an interesting look at the history of noir from writer C. Jerry Kutner. Though I don’t agree with some of what he says, a lot of what he says does make sense. He also talks about some films I have not seen yet and will be taking a look at.  Read the full article below and tell us some of your thoughts on his idea of noir:

 

“There is only Noir!” The Noir Vision To discuss the history of film noir since the ’50s is to fly in the face of conventional studies, which assume the “genre”[…]

Source: Beyond the Golden Age: Film Noir Since the ’50s – Bright Lights Film Journal

Review: Dillinger

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Dillinger is a film noir from 1945 based on one of, if not the most famous gangster in American history. This film was released 11 years after John Dillinger’s death and is the first film based on his exploits. Though Dillinger’s likeness appeared as fictional characters a few times before this film, including Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra of which the book by the same name was loosely based on Dillinger. Here is a look at that film:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/12/30/film-vs-film-high-sierra-vs-i-died-a-thousand-times/

This is a film that Robert Mitchum wanted to star in, but the studio thought it would be a perfect fit for their new talent,  Lawrence Tierney. I’m not sure if this would have been a better film if it starred Mitchum, but it sure was a good fit for Tierney. In only his second credited role, Dillinger launched Tierney’s star.

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This film starts with Dillinger at a bar with a woman. When the bartender will not take his check, Dillinger excuses himself and holds up a store. He doesn’t make it very far before he is arrested. In prison he soon befriends some criminals with a better track record than himself. He is soon released from prison and comes up with a plan to break his new friends out. Once he is successful at this, the gang goes on a bank robbing spree which would capture the American imagination.

This film is only 70 minutes long, so it has left out key elements of this story. Public Enemy from 2009 starring Johnny Depp is probably the film to watch to get a more accurate historical prospective. That said I would say Tierney’s more brutal portrayal of Dillinger doesn’t hint at any sympathy for this criminal.

Look for Edmund Lowe, Marc Lawrence and the always great Elisha Cook Jr. as members of Dillinger’s gang.

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This isn’t the greatest film noir, but is worth watching for Tierney’s performance. You can see a noir great in the making in this film. This was a successful B-noir at the box office as well as being a censored film at the time of its release. In fact it took two years before it was shown in Chicago.

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Re-watching the Classics: Diabolique

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Diabolique is a classic French film from 1955, loved by fans of foreign film, film noir and horror. This film is directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot based on a book by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac. This film revolves around three main characters in a love triangle.

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Christina Delassalle, played by Véra Clouzot, is a wealthy woman who owns a private school. She has a weak heart and is not going to live much longer.

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Nicole Horner, played by Simone Signoret, works at the school and is Christina’s confidant and friend.

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Michel Delassalle, played by Paul Meurisse, is married to Christina and is having an affair with Nicole. He beats both women and makes it well known to Christina that he wants her dead so he can sell the school and , her money.

When the two women cannot put up with Michel any longer, they plot his murder. Over a three day holiday they lure him away from the school, drug him and drowned him. They go back to the school, and throw Michel in the dirty pool. Everybody believes Michel has not left the school over the holiday. Everybody also has seen the two women leave the school for the holiday to go to Nicole’s home, hours away. Nicole has tenants who live up stairs to reinforce the alibi.

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This film is a slow burn and the tension increases with every passing scene. This has one of the best endings in all of film and will not be spoiled for those who have not seen it. The film actually tells you at the end not to talk about the ending so you do not ruin the film for everybody else. I guess spoilers where as common in 1955 as they are today.

This film needs to be seen by everybody who loves film. If you like suspense, thrillers, horror, or film noir, this is a must see.

The film got more notoriety five years later, when star Véra Clouzot died from a heart attack at 46, mirroring her character’s weak heart from this film. The film has made a number of best of lists, mostly in the horror genre, including Time Magazine’s Top 25 Horror films and Bravo’s 100 Scariest Movie Moments. This film has been remade 4 times, or at least used the same source material, over the years. The best know, is the remake starring Sharon Stone from 1996. This version pales in comparison to the original.

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Favorite Tidbit: If you think this film has a very Hitchcockian feel, you are not alone. Hitchcock himself tried to get the rights to the book, but was to late. This film was also a huge influence on Hitchcock when he made Psycho. It also influenced Robert Bloch when he wrote the book, and Bloch says Diabolique was his all time favorite horror film. In fact when Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac heard Hitchcock wanted to buy the rights to their book, they wrote their next book with Hitchcock in mind. Hitchcock did get the film rights to that novel, it became the film Vertigo.

 

Article: 8 Classic Film Noirs Every Horror Fan Should See

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Patrick Cooper from the horror site Bloody Disgusting has an interesting look at some classic film noir from the prospective of a horror fan. He admits he purposely left out Cat People, but what other classics did he leave off the list that you think horror fans would enjoy? Check out the full article here:

8 Classic Film Noirs Every Horror Fan Should See

Review: Gang War

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Gang War is a little known film from 1958 starring a soon to be big star, Charles Bronson. This film is one of 4 films Bronson would star in, in 1958. The one that has grew to cult status is Roger Corman’s Machine-Gun Kelly. The other 3 have not had as much success over the years.

This film is directed by Gene Fowler Jr. and is based on a book by Ovid Demaris.  This is a short B-movie of only 75 minutes. I am kind of surprised this hasn’t found a cult following itself. Not only for having an early performance from a major star like Bronson, but for it’s fun performances from the rest of the cast.

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Bronson plays a school teacher that is out late one night, getting medicine for his pregnant wife, when he witnesses a man murdered by two thugs. He soon is recruited by the police as a star witness against the two thugs. The thugs work for a major mafia boss, and the police figure they can get the two thugs to snitch on their boss, rather then go to prison for murder. The police promise to keep our hero’s identity secret, but a cop on the mob boss’s payroll tells the papers and the mob our hero’s identity.

The boss sends his ex-pro boxer, bodyguard to scare Bronson’s wife, but he scares her a little to much and kills her. Bronson is out for revenge, but will the mob boss’s other enemies beat him to it?

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Bronson has a good performance in this film, playing it straight and a little subdued. The rest of the cast seemed to know they are in a cheap B-movie film noir and camp it up and go just enough over the top to not be annoying and still be entertaining.

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John Doucette plays our mob boss and he steals the show. With an odd fetish or two and a cadence with his dialog that is fun to listen to. Telling his girlfriend to read a book while he talks about how the Chicago mafia screwed up at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre is priceless.

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Jennifer Holden a year after appearing with Elvis Presley in Jail House Rock, plays our mob boss’s girlfriend. She is the classic all looks and no brains bimbo, or is she? With lines like “Minks don’t look good with bullet holes!” and “Dead men got no dough!” shows she may have more brains then one would think in the end. Holden only appeared in three films, Jail House Rock, then this one and a small role in the western Buchanan Rides Alone(never seen it). I’m not sure what happened after 1958 and her film career, but I enjoyed her campy fun performance in this film.

Larry Gelbman plays the punch drunk ex-boxer Chester. He does a great job of playing the man that lives a breaths for his boss. He’s portrayal of a brain damaged thug is great fun!

Are you a die hard Charles Bronson fan? Are you looking for an entertaining and short B-movie film noir with a decent story and fun performances? This is the movie for you.

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Film vs. Film: Murder, My Sweet vs. Farewell, My Lovely

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These two films are based on the classic noir novel by Raymond Chandler, Farewell, My Lovely published in 1940. Murder, My Sweet was released in 1944. The name was changed because Dick Powell was known more for his musical roles and Farewell, My Lovely sounded like another Powell musical. Powell wanted to have more hardboiled roles and signed with R.K.O. as long as he got to play Marlowe.  Thirty one years later, film noir great, Robert Mitchum finally got his chance to play the iconic private eye. After a noir resurgence in the 1970’s and Marlowe having success in a modern retelling of The Long Goodbye, timing was good for another Marlowe adaption. Here is a round by round bout of two classics from two different eras.

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Round 1: Screenplay

Since both of these films are based on one of the most iconic books in all of noir, as well as all of American literature, one has to be careful not to change this story too much for the screen. I have not read this book in a few years, but have read it more than once.

John Paxton adapted the book to the screen for Murder, My Sweet and stuck pretty close to the book. When you have Raymond Chandler writing dialog, why change it? This was Paxton’s first film noir screenplay and it was a good one. He went on to write many more classic film noir screenplays.

David Zelag Goodman started out in television and went on to write a few good neo noir and gritty films in the 1970’s. Goodman left the setting in the 1940’s, but added a bit more grit to the story. He also added a few , dropped a few and changed a few characters. He added a bit of historic background to plant the viewer back in the 1940’s. He also added some diversity to the story. The original film has an all white cast and not only did Goodman add some African Americans, Asians, and Gays but he also threw in a bi-racial couple with a child. He also threw in some noir tropes not found in the original film, like a whore house, dirty cops, and corrupt businessmen. He also made the McGuffin of the jade necklace, that drives the original movie, a none factor in his screenplay. Goodman also adds his own Chandler like dialogue and only uses Chandler’s dialogue sparingly.

Though I like Goodman’s added diversity, I felt he added a bunch of tropes just to add them. Chandler’s wit fits in the 1940’s time frame and I can see changing or updating the dialogue if it was to take place in a different decade, but if you are going to set it in the 1940’s, I would stick more to the original lines. I’m going with Chandler here and since Paxton stuck with the original material better, Murder, My Sweet wins this round.

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Round 2: Direction and Cinematography 

Edward Dmytryk directs Murder, My Sweet and uses a number of awesome techniques, from placing unseen glass panes to get the right effect and some of the best noir lighting ever. This is as good as it gets for looks in the classic film noir era. The scene where Marlowe is drugged and has a nightmare is a sequence you have to see.

Dick Richards does a good job taking us back 30 years. He may use a lot of memorabilia laying around to take the audience back in time. The cars and buildings look great and the lighting is well done. Richards even does a smaller nightmare scene, not as long, but still gives a nod to the original.

Though Richards makes Farewell, My Lovely look like a great throw back to the 1940’s, it’s hard to beat a black and white film actually filmed in the 1940’s for that authentic look. Dmytryk wins this round for Murder, My Sweet.

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Round 3: The Male Lead

Dick Powell went from big studio musical star to hardboiled film noir star in this film. Some, including the director, didn’t think Powell could play Marlowe, but he pulled it off. It was probably good that this film came out two years before The Big Sleep or his turn as Marlowe, no matter how good, would not have been a success. Powell isn’t Bogart, but he is pretty damn good in this film.

Robert Mitchum is dream casting as Marlowe, but was a 58 year old Mitchum too old to pull off Marlowe? I don’t think so, he plays Marlowe as well as you would ever expect. He plays Marlowe understated and tough without overly trying to be. Like the trailer for this movie says, “last of the tough guys.”  Sure, I would love to have seen Mitchum play Marlowe in the late 1940’s or early 1950’s, but an older Mitchum as Marlowe is better then not having one at all.

This is a tough round, but the round has to go to Mitchum.

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Round 4: Female Lead

Claire Trevor is one of the best femme fatales of all time. She was born to play the evil woman and she does it well here. She seems to be able to lie to a man and he knows it, but he doesn’t care.

Charlotte Rampling can say more with her eyes and a slight smile then most can do with a 10 minute monologue. In Murder, My Sweet you felt Marlowe was always one step ahead of Helen, but in Forever, My Lovely, Helen seems to be one step ahead of Marlowe all the way to the climax.

This was also a tough call, one of the best femme fatale actresses from the classic era or one of the best actresses in the world playing a femme fatale. This one is a draw.

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Round 5: Supporting Cast

Mike Mazurki as Moose is the role that made him a star. It also may have type cast him as the big, not so smart, thug. He is brilliant in this role and is a highlight of this film.

Anne Shirley plays Helen’s stepdaughter Ann in her last film. She was great in this role as Helen’s rival for Marlowe’s affection. The character Ann is not in Farewell, My Lovely.

Jack O’Halloran tries to step into very big shoes as Moose and does well in Farewell, My Lovely. Harry Dean Stanton and Burton Gilliam in smaller roles are highlights. Also one year before his big break in Rocky, Sylvester Stallone plays a thug in love with a hooker in a very small role.

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Even though Farewell, My Lovely has a lot of great talent in small roles through out, the round has to go to Murder, My Sweet based on Mike Mazurki’s Moose alone.

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So there you have it, the original film wins again. Though the score was 4 to 2 this was a lot closer then it looked. Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe is one of the best, if not the best noir character of all time and I would rather see more remakes than less here. Go watch both of these films yourself and see what one you feel is the best.