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.

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Review: The Burglar

The Burglar is a film based on a book and screenplay by noir great David Goodis.  Goodis went to Hollywood after the massive success of the movie Dark Passage was based on his novel.  He got flustered with the Hollywood machine and moved to Philadelphia.  Who knew the Philadelphia movie industry would come calling.  When Philadelphia wanted to showcase their city like Los Angles and New York were doing, they looked at one of their own to write a screenplay based on his book.

This movie was actually made in 1955 and shelved.  This was probably more frustration with the movie industry Goodis would feel.  Luckily Producer Louis W. Kellman cast the relatively unknown Jayne Mansfield in a role, this was based on how guys were reacting to her on the set of Pete Kelly’s Blues, where she had a small part.  Kellman was not the only one to see something in Mansfield, movie goers fell in love with her after they saw her in The Girl Can’t Help It in 1956 and her star was on the rise.  This movie was finally released in 1957 because of her new-found star power.

This was also the first film directed by Paul Wendkos who went on to direct many television projects and movies with a very long career.  Columbia bought this film as a favor, but wanted Wendkos as part of the deal.

This film also stars one of noir’s favorite actors, Dan Duryea as our title character.  This film can be argued to have two femme fatales, they both contribute to our hero’s downfall.  Of course we have Mansfield as the girl our hero has vowed to protect and we have Martha Vickers as the girl our hero picks up in a bar, she happens to be working with a crooked cop, out to get our hero.

This story starts out with our hero and his crew robbing a rich women of her priceless necklace.  The burglary is an intense scene, with our hero outsmarting some cops and using his skill to break into a fortress to steal the necklace.  They go back to their hideout to determine the value of the necklace and what the split will be.  This is where we meet Mansfield and soon see she is in danger from an over lusting member of the crew.  Our hero sends her to Atlantic City for her own safety.  Duryea picks up Vickers in a bar and goes back to her house.  While she thinks he is asleep she goes to meet the crooked cop as our hero tails her and he learns they are working him and Mansfield to find the necklace.  Our gang of burglars take off from Philadelphia to Atlantic City to protect Mansfield even though they know this will put them in danger.

This is a good film and the finale on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk with scenes in a circus and carnival settings is very good.  Did Lady of Shanghai inspire this?  Worth watching for all noir fans and especially those of Goodis’ writing.  Goodis didn’t have much luck in America, but he would soon be discovered by the French and elevated to one of the greatest noir writers ever.

Favorite Tidbit:  This was remade in France as The Burglars, the second of a string of movies made over the next three decades in France based on Goodis’ books.

Review: Nightfall

I had this on my DVR from a showing on TCM and found the introduction to the movie interesting.  Now legendary noir author David Goodis wrote NIghtfall as a screenplay after his success with the film Dark Passage.  Dark Passage put him in the spotlight and he was in Hollywood putting his writing skills to use.  He wrote a screenplay with this story and nobody wanted it.  He got flustered with the Hollywood machine and turned it into a book.  Roughly 10 years later Stirling Silliphant took the book and made it into this screenplay.  He changed a few scenes and gave the bad guy heavies a little more depth and character.  This gave it another chance in Hollywood and it was made into this movie.

film noir directing great Jacques Tourneur was in the directors chair for this film.  It also stars Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft as our romantic couple.  Brian Keith and Rudy Bond play our thug like bank robbers and we also have James Gregory as an insurance investigator.

This film starts out with Aldo Ray at a news stand looking at papers from the Chicago area.  Gregory talks to him at the corner waiting for his bus.  Then Ray walks into a bar and meets Anne Bancroft.  They hit it off and have dinner, after dinner our two thugs jump our couple.  Bancroft is sent home and Ray is taken in a car.  From here Ray and the thugs battle it out through out the film and the story is told with a few flashbacks to see how our thugs and our hero come to meet.  Our adventure goes from the classic noir streets of Los Angles to the wilderness of Wyoming.

I am surprised with the talent in this film, from the great writing and directing to some good performances from our cast, that this movie isn’t more talked about.  If you’re a fan of any of the cast or crew or just a classic film noir fan, you should check out this film.  It will be well worth your time.