Re-Watching the Classics: Angel Face

Angel Face is a classic film noir directed by Otto Preminger from RKO while Howard Hughes was the head of the studio. The story revolves around Robert Mitchum who is an ambulance driver and a young women with issues played by Jean Simmons.

This film starts with Mitchum as an Ambulance driver, on a call at a mansion. The lady of the house had a close call with a gas leak, but seems OK now. Mitchum goes down stairs and talks to Simmons, this is where the infamous slapping scene happens.

Hughes was not happy with Simmons and put her in this film at the end of her contract. He hired Preminger to make her life a living hell. Preminger made Mitchum slap Simmons over and over again to get the right take. Mitchum finally walked over to Preminger and slapped him full force asking if that is the way he wanted it. Simmons later in life still could not watch this film because of the hell she went through making it. The only thing she loved about this film was Mitchum.

In the film Simmons befriends Mitchum and gets him a job as the driver for her Father and Step-Mother. Soon her Step-Mother and Father dies in a horrible car accident. It looks like the car was sabotaged and our couple is the prime suspects.

Simmons plays one of the best femme fatale in noir history in this film and Mitchum is great as always. The ending is one of the bleakest of all time as well. The story is good and over all the film is above average. Well worth your time if you are a fan of film noir or one of the two stars.

Favorite Tidbit: Simmons cut her hair short, knowing Howard Hughes hated his leading ladies having short hair. She thought this would get her out of her contract with RKO. Instead Hughes made her wear a horrible wig through out this film.

Review: Macao

Macao started out being directed by Josef von Sternberg but was finished up by Nicholas Ray.  Howard Hughes had his hand in making this film so a great many people were fired and hired on the writing staff and of course the original director.  It’s a miracle this film came out as good as it did.

Our story starts out with a New York police officer being killed in Macao, by getting a knife to the back.  We then meet our femme fatale Jane Russell in a ship cabin with a man who starts to get a little aggressive with her.  Robert Mitchum comes in to save the day.  Russell moves on and soon meets a traveling salesmen played by William Bendix.  Soon the three hit it off as they are on their way to Macao.  Mitchum discovers he has lost his wallet, as it was stolen by Russell.  She takes the money and dumps the wallet.  Our threesome come into the Macao port and Mitchum must report to the local police because he has no passport or identification.  The police officer is working with casino owner played by Brad Dexter and they both think Mitchum is telling a story and is really another cop from New York.  The casino becomes the center in which our 4 characters revolve, with Russell getting a job there as a singer.  We also meet Gloria Grahame as our casino owners girlfriend.  Nobody is what they seem and the plot has some interesting twists all the way to the end.

This film has a lot of star power and an unique setting for a classic film noir.  This gives us a really cool look at 1950’s Macao and gives us an interesting story to follow.  This is a fun film noir and worth a viewing for noir fans.  If you love any of the stars, you will like this film. This isn’t the best noir with Mitchum, but I haven’t seen any bad noirs with Mitchum either.

Re-watching the Classics: The Narrow Margin

Poster - Narrow Margin, The_01

The Narrow Margin is directed by film noir great Richard Fleischer.  Martin Goldsmith and Jack Leonard were nominated for an Academy Award for best writing.  Even though this was an Oscar nominee it is very much a B-movie taking only 13 days to film.  The film stars the queen of the B movie noir Marie Windsor.  The hardboiled detective is played wonderfully by Charles McGraw.  His gravelly voice and great one liners makes for one cool character.

A line from the film as our hero describes what kind of dish our femme fatale is before he meets her: ” Sixty-cent special. Cheap, flashy. Strictly poison under the gravy”

This is also Jacqueline White’s last movie, she got married and moved to Wyoming with her husband after this film.  It was her most successful film.  Hard to say where her career would have gone if she stuck it out a little longer.

The story starts when our femme fatale is being escorted by two L.A. detectives back to L.A. to testify against the mob.  One of our detectives is shot and killed protecting our witness.  Now our hero has to out smart an unknown number of mob hitmen while protecting our femme fatale that he doesn’t really like, on a train with very few places to hide.

Favorite Tidbit:  This film was actually made in 1950 but Howard Hughes who owned the studio at the time heard good things about it and wanted to view it before its release.  He forgot about it while it sat in his projector room for over a year.  The other story of the delay is Hughes liked it so much he wanted to change it from a B-movie to an A-Movie and putting Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell in it.

The Narrow Margin was remade in 1990, I haven’t seen the remake since it came out.  I’ve watched the original many times in the last few years.  I will have to re-look at the remake and compare it to the original at a later date.

This is a classic that should be seen by any film noir fan!  If you haven’t seen it in awhile go watch it right now!