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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Review: They Made Me a Criminal

They Made Me a Criminal may not be considered a film noir by some because of its production date. This film was made in 1939, a year or two before some consider the film noir movement started. This film is based on a book from Bertram Millhauser who maybe more famous for his Sherlock Holmes movies then his noir stories. The film is directed by Busby Berkeley, a director better known for his musicals and comedies then crime films.

I was most interested in watching this because it stared Ann Sheridan, unfortunately even though she is third on the billing she isn’t in the film very long. Claude Rains plays a pivotal role, but isn’t in the film much either. The ‘Dead End’ Kids provide some comedy relief and some fast paced dialog, but this is most definitely a John Garfield film.

What this film lacks in film noir style it more than makes up for in noir story. Garfield plays a champion boxer who has just won a big fight. He tells the press what the public wants to hear. He thanks his Mom, says he doesn’t drink, isn’t a womanizer and comes across as a class act. We soon find Garfield back in his room, drunk with his manager and his best girl played by Sheridan. We find he is nothing like his public persona and is actually the opposite of the way he acts in public. I found this aspect of the film very interesting as we see this with pro athletes to this day. It seems the smart athletes know how to come across as a humble, good person, but we soon learn in their private life they have drug problems, cheat on their beautiful wife, have gambling problems or have even thought they could get away with bigger crimes.

When Sheridan invites her friend up to the room to continue the party, things are said and tempers flair. Sheridan’s friend brings up her date who unknown to our party goers is a reporter. When he says he is taking the information he learned to his paper, Garfield tries to stop him, but is too drunk. His manager hits the reporter over the head with a bottle of liquor before he can leave. This kills the reporter and with Garfield being passed out and the only person in the room when it happens the manager frames him for the murder. The manager and Sheridan escape and soon are chased by the cops and it ends in a fiery wreck killing both of them. Garfield wakes up with a headache and no knowledge of the murder. The police mistakenly think Garfield was in the wreck and the murderer of the reporter. Garfield travels across the country as everybody thinks he is dead. Will it ever be discovered he is really alive? Will he ever be able to return to the ring and his former glory?

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This film is a pretty good film with a very noir ending. If you are a Garfield fan you have to see this one. I wish Sheridan was in this a little longer, but she does leave a lasting impression on you in the little time she is in the film. Like I said, some may not consider this a true film noir because of the date of its release. I say we have boxing, a falsely accused man brought down from being on the top of the world to a penniless man who must start over. To watch this man risk it all for people he recently meet, knowing it will be his undoing. Lets not forget the hardboiled cop that nobody likes and you have all the elements of a noir story. I recommend all film noir fans watch this and see for yourself if you would classify this a film noir or not, plus you will get to see a pretty good film no matter what genre you put it in.

Review: The Unfaithful

The Unfaithful is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman. The writing team on this film is the real story here. We have David Goodis teaming up with James Gunn for the screenplay. This is loosely based on the novel, The Letter by W. Somerset Maugham. Yes, that’s right, this is based on the same material as The Letter starring Bette Davis,which came out just 7 years earlier. Maugham was not given a writing credit for this film and the setting is moved from a rubber plantation to the urban setting of Los Angeles.

This film revolves around Ann Sheridan, who plays Chris Hunter. Chris is married to Bob Hunter, played by Zachary Scott, who is a war veteran and is now a business man in the housing business. He is out-of-town as our film starts, showing Chris on the phone with Bob as they make plans for the next morning when Bob comes home from Portland. Chris tells Bob she will be going to a divorce party for Bob’s cousin, Paula, played by Eve Arden. The party highlights Paula being proud of her new-found freedom, and everybody seems to be having a great time. Chris heads home in the middle of the night and as she opens her front door a shadowy character grabs her and shoves her in the house. As the viewer we witness the struggle through curtained windows and cannot tell exactly what is happening. Bob flies home and is confused when his wife is not at the airport to meet him. He calls home and soon grabs a taxi to rush to his house. He finds the police are there as well as his friend and lawyer, played by Lew Ayres. The dead body still sits on the floor of the home as the investigation continues. Chris is obviously distressed as she tells her story of self-defense. As our story continues we learn more about the victim and why he may have been there. Was this self-defense? Will Chris and Bob’s marriage survive this?

It seemed to me that this film is more than a mystery noir, but a real look at Post-War marriage. This shows a woman who was living by herself for two years while her husband was in the Pacific. The question this film asks is, can what happens in those two years be forgivable? Should the couple even tell each other what happened in those two years? Can a good marriage survive anything? We see one divorce at the beginning of the film showing a strong woman willing to go on in life by herself. I took Eve Arden’s character as a strong feminist, especially for the 1940’s, I would be interested in learning if the writers intended this or if she was to be perceived as something else.

The other thing that stood out to me is another great performance from Ann Sheridan. She really is hard to read in this film as our loyalty to her shifts from the poor victim to murderer and back again a number of times. In the end do we really learn the truth? Is she just another evil femme fatale or is she the victim of circumstance?

This film is a must see for fans of Ann Sheridan and would make for an interesting double feature with The Letter from 1940. I have not seen The Letter in a while, so I will not try to comment of the similarities and differences at this time.

Review: Nora Prentiss

OK, after watching this and Woman on the Run, which came out three years later and I reviewed earlier on this site, I’m a huge fan of Ann Sheridan. Nora Prentiss is a classic film noir from 1947 directed by Vincent Sherman.

This is a unique film in the classic film noir period. The first scene is a man covering his face and not wanting to talk to the press. The press is asking if “he really killed him” and similar questions. If it was not for this scene letting us know we are going into some dark noir story in this film, we may not think it was noir film for the first 40 minutes or so. The first part of this film is a love story between Dr. Richard Talbot played by Kent Smith and Nora Prentiss played by Sheridan. They meet when Nora is accidentally hit by a car and is brought to Dr. Talbot for examination.

Nora flirts with the Doctor and has him drive her home. When she finds out he is married, she apologizes for being fresh with him. Of course it is too late as Dr. Talbot is already having feelings for Nora, and you can see why. Sheridan does a great job of having you fall in love with her so you can easily see why Dr. Talbot would. Nora is a lounge singer and soon the Doctor goes to the night club to see her sing. The relationship progresses and Dr. Talbot says he is going to ask for a divorce that night. Talbot goes home and finds a party going on for his daughter’s 16th birthday, which has slipped his mind. We soon see Talbot start to lose his mind. Soon Talbot is seeing a patient, who drops dead in his office. Talbot noticing the striking resemblance between himself and this man and decides to trade places with him. So he fakes his own death, using the patients body and moves from San Francisco to New York with Nora. Nora has no idea this has happened and is happy that her love has decided to go to New York with her. We now see in the second half of this film why it is considered a noir! Will Talbot totally go crazy and hurt Nora? Will Nora figure out what her boyfriend has done to get out of his marriage? Will the dead man’s past come back to haunt our couple?

This is a very good classic film noir with two great performances from our leads. This film doesn’t seem to get the recognition it deserves and I’m not sure why? This is a film that needs to be seen more. Go watch it and then tell a friend or two about it as well. If you like classic film noir or just classic film, this is worth your time.

Review: Woman on the Run

As Eddie Muller said, this is the best film noir you have never seen. This film went into public domain making it easy to find and see, but the quality has been lost in the over copying. Muller himself was key in finding a few original prints and getting them edited together to make a restored version. He introduced this on the first night of TCM’s Summer of Darkness. This film was made in 1950 and directed by Norman Foster, who also helped with the screenplay, based on a story by Sylvia Tate.

This story is about an artist who witnesses a murder. It turns out the man murdered was a key witness in a case. The artist played by Ross Elliott is now the key witness and only person that can identify the murderer. He runs from the cops knowing his life is in danger. His wife played by our main star, Ann Sheridan is the police’s only lead in finding their new witness. She is crafty and out smarts the police at every turn, getting away from them in the hopes to find her husband before the police find him. Our couple has been married for four years and things are not going well. As the movie goes on she finds new things about her husband that makes her heart grow fonder of her husband. She also realizes her husband really does love her. Along the way she teams up with a journalist played by Dennis O’keefe to help find her husband. He is offering good money for an exclusive interview from her husband and seems to know the city of San Francisco. As our two are on their hunt for the missing witness we get to see a lot of this classic noir city. The hunt continues as our duo continue to try to lose the cops and beat them to her husband, but not everything is as it seems.

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This film has a grand finale at a Carnival, something I have seen in two other noir films with the first and most famous one being The Lady from Shanghai. We also see an artist getting in over his head, this is also the third time I have seen this theme, with Scarlet Street being the first and best of this idea. Yes, I would put this movie behind these other two on my list of great film noir, but this film would be on the list. I have not seen a lot of films with Ann Sheridan before, but this movie has made me a fan and I will be looking to see more of her movies. If you are a fan of Sheridan or classic film noir, this is a must see. I did see the restored version and have not seen the public domain versions, but from the sound of things, it is worth seeking out the new restored version.

Favorite Tidbit:  Eddie Muller mentioned that he thought Ann Sheridan made a conscious decision not to be objectified in this film, as she was more known for her curves then her acting up to this point. She wore a big coat in almost every scene in this film to cover her body.