An all-star team of blacklistees made this classic noir—and then fled Hollywood

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Here is an interesting look behind He Ran All The Way by Noel Murray. I learned a little more about this film from this article:

http://www.avclub.com/article/all-star-team-blacklistees-made-classic-noirand-th-231519

You can also check out my look at the film from a few months ago here:

https://everythingnoir.com/2015/06/08/review-he-ran-all-the-way/

 

Review: Affair in Trinidad

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Rita Hayworth is back after a 4 year hiatus and is teaming up with her Gilda co-star Glenn Ford. Affair in Trinidad is very similar to Gilda, but a bit of the magic is gone. Hayworth just left her third husband, Prince Aly Khan. She was broke and needed work. I’ve seen two different theories on this film. One,the studio put her in it, because they knew it was a sub par film. Two, they put her in this film because of it’s similarities to Gilda and knew it would be a big hit. Both came true to a certain degree. Fans filled theaters to see Hayworth again, so the film was successful at the box office. Those fans where a bit disappointed with the film though.

This film is directed by Vincent Sherman and released in 1952. The story starts with a dead body and it looks like suicide. It turns out to be Chris Emery’s(Hayworth) husband and it also looks like murder. Soon her husband’s brother Steve(Ford) shows up because of a letter he received. Not knowing his brother is dead, he learns of the death after he arrives in Trinidad. Steve, thinking it is a suicide starts looking for answers. Chris knowing it was murder, but the police do not want her to tell anybody they know it is murder, is caught between lying to Steve and trying to get him to trust her. Can Steve trust Chris? Will they find the murderer? Is this part of a bigger crime?

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This film may not be as good as Gilda, but it does have a few high points and is worth viewing. Hayworth does a couple song and dance routines to show her power over the men in her life. Both have shades of “Put the Blame on Mame,” especially the second one, where she does an impormtu dance to allure one man, while pushing another man away.

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Ford and Hayworth teamed up for 5 films through out their careers, starting in 1940 and ending in 1965. Gilda was their second film together and I suspect the other three where made to cash in on the success of Gilda. This film is worth watching for fans of the duo and is entertaining. If you have not seen Hayworth and Ford together before, go directly to Gilda first.

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Review: Kiss of Death

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As you can see, when this film came out it was the big introduction of Coleen Gray. This was Gray’s first film credit(she appeared in three other films in tiny roles and did not get a credit), but if you ask any film noir buff “Who’s first movie is Kiss of Death?” Coleen Gray would not be most people’s answer. More on this later.

This film is from director Henry Hathaway and was released in 1947. It stars Victor Mature as ex-convict, Nick Bianco. This film opens with a tense jewelry heist, where Nick is shot in the leg and caught. His 3 partners get away. Nick will not rat on his partners and takes the full rap for the heist. When Assistant D.A. Louis D’Angelo, played by Brian Donlevy, offers him a deal so he can be with his wife and two daughters, Nick does not take it.

While in a holding cell, he meets Tommy Udo. Udo is played by Richard Widmark and he steals the show. Udo is a violent, evil man that feels he can get away with anything. Udo is a laughing psycho that can not be soon forgotten. Yes, he will remind you of Batman’s Joker in more then a few ways. Joker is not based on Udo and was actually created several years before Kiss of Death, maybe Widmark was influenced by the Joker?

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When Nick’s wife commits suicide and his daughters are put in a home, Nick decides he needs to rat out his partners and get out of prison, so he can take care of his kids. Nick turns to Nettie, played by Colleen Gray for romance and to put his family back together. Yes Widmark deserves all the accolades he receives for this film, but let us not forget how good Gray is in this. Gray is one of my favorite anti-femme fatales of the the classic era. She always played the good girl or the girl that saves the hero, and she did it well.

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Nick is released from prison, but must become an informant for the D.A.. He has no problem doing this, putting his family first and tries to put his criminal past behind him. Unfortunately Nick’s target is Udo and he is in a bad position with little to no way out.

This film is very dark, with one of the most violent scenes in all of film history when Udo tosses a wheel chair bound woman down a flight of stairs.

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This film could have been way darker if the censors didn’t get involved. Patricia Morison played Nick’s wife, but all of her scenes are cut from the final film. As we know Nick’s wife commits suicide early in the film. What we do not see is Morison’s character is actually raped first and then commits suicide. Both of these scenes are cut by the censors. Also the end of the film was much darker in the original story. I will not give anymore information on this, but after you see the film, you can see how easy the end could have been much darker.

This film is a must see for all film noir fans. It is a dark tale that you need to see to appreciate.

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Favorite Tidbit: This film has been remade twice: 1st as a western called The Fiend Who Walked the West in 1958 and then as a neo noir in 1995 starring David Caruso, Samuel L. Jackson and Nicolas Cage. I have seen the 1995 version, but it has been so long ago I can not compare the two films. This might make for an interesting double feature some day soon.

Article: 20 Great Movies That Had Major Influences On Film Noir

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Woodson Hughes has written and put together a great list of pre-noir films. Sure we see some of the same films we would expect to see in a list like this. Ripe with Fritz Lang and Jean Renoir films. Hughes brought up some films I was not aware of, but what I really liked was his information about these films. He looks at the authors of early noir as well as the directors and actors that brought film noir to light. I highly recommend reading this article and not just look at the movies he lists, there is a lot of great information. All those that want to learn more about film noir should read this. Oh yeah, the list actually has 35 films, not 20. Click the link in blue:

20 Great Movies That Had Major Influences On Film Noir

Review: Cape Fear(1962)

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Cape Fear is a late film noir or early neo noir from 1962, brought to the screen by Gregory Peck. He brought the book The Executioners by pulp and noir great John D. MacDonald to the screen. He didn’t like the title, The Executioners, and from 1960’s marketing perspective, Peck thought films named after places did well at the box office. So he looked along the East Coast for a name and he came across Cape Fear. Peck’s company backed this film and it actually lost a lot of money on its release. The film was to violent and tackled subjects that movie goers didn’t want to see. Luckily when Martin Scorsese remade this film in 1991, Peck still owned the rights. He made a tidy sum on licencing of the film to Scorsese.

Honestly I put off watching this classic for years. After seeing the 1991 version I could not see how this one could compare. I mean, how could anybody be better then Robert De Niro and Scorsese?

I finally broke down and watched this classic and I’m glad I did! Directed by J. Lee Thompson I had low expectations. Thompson may not be Scorsese, but he did a damn good job.

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This story is a classic tale of a good man pushed to the brink by a bad man. Will the good man have to do illegal, evil things to rid himself of the bad man? Will good prevail over bad?

Gregory Peck plays lawyer, Sam Bowden. A upstanding man of the community with a beautiful wife and daughter. At first, I questioned the character being a lawyer. I thought he prosecuted or defended Max Cady, and that is why Cady hated him. He is actually an eye witness to a crime and his testimony put Cady in prison. So if Bowden is a witness, why does he have to be a lawyer? Well as the film progressed I understood why. Bowden takes the law very seriously, because that’s his job. If Bowden was in another profession, I think the story would have progressed differently.

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Cady is played by Robert Mitchum and is one of those performances everybody needs to see! Cady is an ex-con who just got out of prison for assaulting a young girl and was seen in the act by Bowden. If it wasn’t for Bowden, he would have got away with it, and not spent the last 8 years in prison. His life would not have been ruined and he is looking to get revenge. Cady uses his time in prison wisely, and studies law. He know just what he can say and do, according to the law and Bowden can’t do anything about it.

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The clash of good and evil starts with the law being the game. Look for Polly Bergen as Bowden’s wife and Martin Balsam as the Police Chief. My favorite small role in this film goes to Telly Savalas as the hardboiled P.I. Bowden hires. Savalas tried for the role of Cady but lost out to Mitchum and received this role instead.

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It has been years since I have seen the remake of this film, but after watching this I’m going to have to watch them back to back to see who played Cady better, De Niro or Mitchum. I remember De Niro being great in this, but Mitchum’s portrayal is legendary.  Some Sunday afternoon, I will need to watch these back to back and look at a film vs film on these two. Maybe I will read the book first and look at a book vs film vs film, now that would be interesting.

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This is a must see classic for all fans of film and especially those that are fans of noir. This is a very dark film from the early 1960’s and pushed into some new terrain for film in general.

Review: The Steel Trap

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The Steel Trap is a classic film noir from 1952, directed and written by Andrew Stone. This was the second time that Joseph Cotten and Teresa Wright starred in a film together, following Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt 9 years earlier. In Shadow of a Doubt they played uncle and niece, in Steel Trap they play a happily married couple.

Cotten plays Jim Osborne, an employee at a bank, where he has worked for 11 years and has moved up the ranks some. The beginning of the film shows him doing the same routine going to work, every day, over and over again.

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He has a crazy idea in his head that just will not go away. He keeps thinking about how he could get away with robbing the bank and not get caught. He starts studying in the library different laws and extradition rules. When he decides to do it and run to Brazil, he takes his wife with him. His wife, Laurie, played by Teresa Wright, is our barometer of all that is good.

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Cotten does a great job with the internal dialog, thinking things out and deciding what the next step is. This film really gave a sense of claustrophobia, as Jim seems to get in a deeper hole all the time and the audience roots for him to get away with the money. In the end this film asks the questions, what really makes you happy in life? and does money equal happiness?

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Without giving to much away, I really liked how this film was structured. I also liked the moral questions it proposes. I guess most things noir asks this question, but Jim has a little more to lose then some of our noir protagonists.

This is a very good film, and different enough to be entertaining and fresh. If you are a fan of either of the stars, or just a fan of classic film noir, this movie is worth your time.

 

Film vs. Film: M(1931) vs. M(1951)

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Here we look at the German Expressionist all time classic M and the 1951 Hollywood film noir remake M. A story about a serial killer of children and vigilante justice. Can a re-make hold a candle to one of the all-time greatest films ever? Well let’s step into the cage for an all out noir brawl.

Round 1: Direction and Cinematography

M from 1931 is directed by one of the all time greats, Fritz Lang. Even Lang has said this is his favorite film of his career. Released in 1931, this film broke new ground in so many ways. This movie also used filming techniques that all film noir would crib from over 9 years later.

M from 1951 is directed by one of film noir’s favorites as well, Joseph Losey. This was Losey’s third film and one he didn’t want to do. He didn’t figure he could re-make a work by Lang, but was broke and took the job. He would go on to make many more classics after this film. The cinematography of this film is very good looking. The street scenes of Los Angeles are a great time capsule to see. Some of the scenes might even be more creepy then the original, like the mannequins scene. Though there is nothing wrong with Losey’s direction, we are talking about Lang and one of the most influential films ever, so we need to give this round to the original. M(1931) 1-M(1951) 0

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Round 2: Screenplay 

M(1931) is written by Fritz Lang and his then wife Thea von Harbou. They really wanted to make a film about the most horrifying criminal they could imagine. Loosely based on a real case of a serial killer targeting children, Lang and Harbou could not think of anything more scary to make a film about. Still to this day, this subject mater is fairly taboo in film and television. Can you imagine how shocking this story would have been in 1931?

M(1951) Leo Katcher, Norman Reilly Raine and Waldo Salt took the original script and revised it for an American setting and audience. They added another dimension to the script with the drunk lawyer character played by Luther Adler. They did take away the element of the beggars union hunting to find the killer, which did take a bit away from the story.

I have to go with the original again in this round. Though the remake made some interesting changes, those changes are not enough or good enough to sway the judges. M(1931)2-M(1951)0

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Round 3: Male Lead

Peter Lorre became a household name around the world from this film. He is so scary, yet you feel sorry for him at the same time, it is a brilliant performance from one of the all time greats.

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David Wayne steps into some big shoes and bravely does the character totally different then Lorre. It is a great performance where he actually seems a bit scarier then Lorre in a few scenes. Maybe the scariest part of Wayne’s performance is that he looks a lot more normal then Lorre when he is hunting for his next victim.

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This round has to go to Lorre, though I liked Wayne’s performance. Lorre just has that it factor that makes him so watchable in almost anything. M(1931)3-M(1951)0

Round 4: Supporting Cast

The original film used real life criminals and the beggars had some amazingly interesting looks. Small people, men with wooden peg legs, and the blind are very interesting to watch.

The 1951 version has Raymond Burr, Howard Da Silva, Jim Backus and Norman Lloyd just to name a few of the cops and gangsters that appear in this film. Though this is a close one, but I have to give the round to the remake. M(1931)3-M(1951)1

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Though the remake showed a bit of brilliance in the last round, the fight goes to the original by a landslide. Though both films are good in their own right and the remake is a very good film noir the original is a masterpiece. Both are worth your time to seek out and watch. Now that a remastered version of the 1951 film is available, look for a copy.

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Favorite Tidbit: Both of these films where banned at one time or another. The original was banned a few years after its release in Germany by the Nazi party. Both Lang and Lorre fled Germany because of their Jewish heritage. The remake was basically shelved after some of the crew was put on the Communist Blacklist. Losey would soon flee to Europe after this film.

 

 

Review: Too Late for Tears

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Too Late for Tears is a classic film noir from 1949 from director Byron Haskin. The film is based on a “Saturday Evening Post” serial and screenplay by Roy Huggins. This film had fallen into public domain and good copies of this film where hard to come by. Thanks to The  Film Noir Foundation we got a restored version that took 5 years to complete. The restored version debuted on Turner Classic Movies this summer and has been shown fairly regularly on TCM since.

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This film has two of noir fans favorites in it, Lizabeth Scott and Dan Duryea.

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This film starts with Jane Palmer(Lizabeth Scott) and her husband,
Alan Palmer played by Arthur Kennedy, driving down a back road when Jane wants to go back home. They argue and the car swerves back and forth. When they pass an oncoming car, somebody throws a bag full of money into their car.

Jane always wanting to have money, wants to keep the cash. Alan wants to give the money to the police, knowing it will cause problems. Jane talks him into keeping it for two weeks before they make a decision. Things turn worse when Danny Fuller( Dan Duryea) comes looking for his money. Things get out of hand fast for Jane, who does whatever it takes to keep the money.

Things get even more dire when Alan’s sister Kathy played by  Kristine Miller and a strange man Don played by  Don DeFore both suspect something is a miss.

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If you get a chance to see a restored copy of this film, jump on it. If you are a Lizabeth Scott fan, it is a must see. Scott’s Jane maybe one of the deadliest ladies in film noir. She isn’t just a femme fatale, using her charms to get what she wants, she is not afraid to get her hands dirty herself.

 

Review: A Lady Without Passport

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In 1950, the same year Joseph H. Lewis’ classic film noir Gun Crazy was released, he also had a lesser known film noir released, A Lady Without Passport.

This film starts out with a man hunting down another man on the street. When the hunted man is on the run, he is hit by a car. The police find some interesting clues in his pocket that lead to Cuba. This leads to John Hodiak’s  U.S. Immigration Service Agent Peter Karczag going undercover in Havana to bust a human smuggling ring.

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All things seem to be going by the book until he meets the beautiful Marianne Lorress played by Hedy Lamarr. Lorress is trying to get to America where her father is. Now Karczag is torn between helping Lorress and busting the human smugglers. Though this film tackles the subject of illegal immigration, a subject still relevant today, this is not the most complex or compelling story line. The film takes us from Havana, Cuba to some great scenes in the Florida Everglades. The shoot locations and Hedy Lamarr do make this an entertaining film.

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This is another well directed and great looking film by Joseph H. Lewis and should be watched by fans of his. If you are new to Lewis, I would start with the more classic Gun Crazy or The Big Combo from 1955.