Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1940's. Show all posts

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Screwball Magic Comedy Watch: I Married a Witch (1942)




Watched:  09/02/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rene Clair

Uh, look.  I know this movie is well regarded, but it wasn't my cup of tea.  It had some great ideas, some terrific effects for the era (and during WWII, no less).  And, let's be honest, I'd watch Veronica Lake do her taxes.

But it never hit me as funny, somehow.  Which seems like a good thing for a comedy to do.  It felt like it should have starred William Powell, and the pacing should have been different.  But the co-stars have no chemistry, and I think I turned it off 3 times before I finished it.

So.  A good one for other people, but.  Not so much me, which I was a bit sad about.  I know people love this.



Thursday, August 26, 2021

Swashbuckle Watch: The Mark of Zorro (1940)



Watched:  08/26/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Rouben Mamoulian

I'm fully down with the idea of Zorro.  Back in the 1970's and 80's, the character was still relatively popular as our parents had come up on Zorro movies and the Disney television show.  We got a cartoon and Zorro the Gay Blade.  I did watch some reruns of the Disney show, and in 1990 I watched the first season or two of Zorro on the Family Channel.  And, I quite liked the two Antonio Banderas/ Catherine Zeta Jones films.

Somehow I'd never watched this movie.  Ironically, I once owed dozens of dollars in late fees on the movie when I rented it in college and lost it in my apartment (it somehow got kicked under the bed), but I never got to see it before I found and returned it.  So, here we are.  

Monday, July 19, 2021

Totter Watch: Alias Nick Beal (1949)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Kino Lorber BluRay
Viewing:  Second (and kinda third)
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Farrow

I saw this one a few years back at the Austin Noir City fest hosted by Eddie Muller, but haven't seen it since.  It's a prime example of a good movie to sit down and say "is this noir?", because I don't know.  It sure as hell feels like noir, minus the supernatural elements.  

This time I was able to watch the film and then immediately come back (when Jamie had gone off to bed) and watch the film with commentary by Eddie Muller.  It's worth noting - because, as he states, it's been years since he did a commentary track, but he did this one because he likes the movie that much.   

The film itself is a very 20th-Century flavoring of how a good man with the best of intentions can compromise his way right into corruption when it comes to elected office - with an extra shove in the wrong direction from a sharp-dressed demon.  It doesn't hurt to understand a bit about 19th and 20th Century political machines, but the film is mostly concerned with literal forces for good and evil over a man's soul (the evil being Nick Beal), tempting the pious Joseph Foster with the ability to do good at scale, if he just compromises endlessly along the way.  And, of course, turn his eye from his matronly wife (his voice of piety) to Audrey Totter.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Hitch Watch: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)




Watched:  07/09/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Fourth
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Hitchcock

There's no reason in the world for me to write anything about Shadow of a Doubt (1943), if you're assuming I'd have anything new to say on one of the most discussed and analyzed films of the past century.  

I saw it the first time in film school, and, man, was I sold.  Re-watching it now, I'm no less - if even more - sold.  

So, go out and watch it, even if you've seen it before.

And, man, I love the one classmate of Theresa Wright's who is working in the bar and has the best "well, my life turned out shitty" attitude of anyone put to film.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Crawford Watch: Above Suspicion (1943)



Watched:  06/26/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Richard Thorpe

A mid-WWII propaganda picture, Above Suspicion (1943) is also the last film she made with MGM before severing ties with the studio, where she'd starred for 18 years.  

I'm honestly not clear on Fred MacMurray's star power in 1943, but Conrad Veidt, Reginald Owen and Basil Rathbone as supporting performers does give a notion of the high-caliber of the film at the time of the release.  And, frankly, the sets, size of the crowds of extras and more suggest MGM planned to make some money while also revving up their audience against Nazis.*

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Crawford Watch: Possessed (1947)

 


Watched:  06/07/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Curtis Bernhardt

I'd watched this one a few years back, and - with more Crawford pics, more Van Heflin, and more cinema in general to inform me about the movie - I very much wanted to revisit the film.  

Much like High Wall, released around the same time and with a fraction of the budget, the movie is interested in the origins, effects and possible solutions to mental disorders.  Unlike High Wall, Possessed (1947) doesn't all feel like a lot of nonsense to give gravity to a standard pulp-derived pot boiler.  

Friday, June 4, 2021

Totter Watch: High Wall (1947)




Watched:  06/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director: Curtis Bernhardt

I watched this film a few years ago, and it seemed to bare a re-watch.

In the mid-40's, movies started to dabble a bit in the field of pop psychology.  Now, I'm not a psychologist and I am pretty unfamiliar with the practice, but I do recognize clunky, semi-pedantic approaches to delivering ideas.  And chucking those ideas in the 3rd reel in the name of plot.  

High Wall (1947) is a pretty solid noir mystery that wants to exploit the latest trends in exploring the maze of the human mind, but also has one foot in "I dunno, do some hand waving about some medical stuff to expedite the story" that has always been par for the course for movies (and television).  And, of course, throws medical ethics out the window when a lady gets romance-feelings for a possible murderer.  

Monday, May 24, 2021

Noir Watch: Phantom Lady (1944)




Watched:  05/22/2021
Format:  BluRay (Arrow)
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Siodmak
Producer:  Joan Harrison

I enjoyed this movie a lot the first time, but *really* liked it on a second viewing.

I just picked up the book Phantom Lady:  Hollywood Producer Joan Harrison, the Woman Behind Hitchcock - and as I finished chapter 1, figured I might as well re-watch another of Harrison's movies.  

The "phantom lady" of the title does not refer to my Canadian girlfriend I swear I had in high school.  Instead - the film follows a man who has hit a sour spot with his wife and is out on the town having a drink, when he meets a woman who is, herself, distraught, but doesn't want to talk about it.  Agreeing not to share names, the two spend an evening on the town (there's no romance, just companionship), but when he arrives home, his wife is dead and the cops are waiting for him.  

No, I don't know how the cops knew to be there.

The man admits he and his wife were quarreling, and when the man can't turn up "the phantom lady", he's off to jail and a swift trial.  

His secretary, Ella Raines, isn't buying it and starts up her own investigation, with the support of cop Thomas Gomez and her boss's best pal, Franchot Tone, just returned from Brazil.

The movie looks great with classic noir high-contrast lighting, but also some interesting ideas in set design (Tone's apartment) and framing (the famed "erotic" drumming sequence).  I don't particularly want to list every scene and how and why it works, but the thread pulling everything together is Ella Raines' "Kansas", the intrepid secretary who won't let injustice lie, at threat to her life and limb - but she's also smarter than the average bear.  

She's no Marlowe - she's operating out of loyalty and a long-hidden love for her employer, not as a professional detective with a sense of duty.  But that makes her interest and drive all the more buyable.  And I think Ella Raines - whose career was curiously short for someone who was starring in good films - is pretty terrific here, playing some challenging stuff.

Anyhoo - glad to watch it again.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Thriller Watch: The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947)




Watched:  05/16/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR from forever ago
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Peter Godfrey


Well, we often talk about how you can see the roots of Lifetime movies in the films of the past, and I'd certainly argue The Two Mrs. Carrolls (1947) absolutely fits the bill here.  

SPOILERS

This one wants to be a slow-burn gothic thriller/ murder story, and has a collection of the pieces necessary, but it's so... wacky, it plays better as near-camp in 2021.  Stanwyck is a woman inperiled, but, by god, she's going to look like a million bucks in Edith Head gowns while bed-ridden and menaced by her own husband.  

Knowing nothing about the movie ahead of time, I thought I'd signed us up for a melodrama - which is fine, but not my jam so much - about a man stuck in a loveless marriage who meets a woman he does love.  Instead, we figure our Mr. Carroll has, instead, murdered his first wife with whom he has a ridiculously precocious child, so he will be free to marry Stanwyck.  The slow death of his wife as he poisons her also gives him fuel for a now famous painting of his wife as "The Angel of Death".  

Well, all is well til Bogart starts a tryst with Alexis Smith (who looks amazing here in some outstanding outfits), and he starts up on the "better murder the wife" scheme again.  

I mean, it's the kind of movie where I confidently shouted, "lady, get outta there" at the TV, and felt fine doing so.  It's not that Stanwyck isn't doing a good job of look terrified that her husband is likely slowly murdering her, but that the whole set-up feels kind of bananas and complete with a set of supporting characters that feel like someone shook them out of a pre-war comedy.  

Also - everyone but Bogart is supposed to be English, and for some reason Stanwyck just sounds like Stanwyck.  

I had a good time watching the film - it's paced well, has a lot of tension baked in, and you certainly feel for Stanwyck as she figures out what's happening.  And Smith and Stanwyck's outfits in the overly ornate set are something to behold.  But Bogart is playing wild-eyed crazy and hoo-boy, did he need to dial it back some.   And, of course, his character is The King of Red Flags.

But, at least he got to just be crazy and not have a lot of goofy "we explain crazy as a brain science problem!" couching like we'd see soon after.

And, hey, Alexis Smith can really rock a leopard print coat, is my big takeway from the movie.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Noir Watch: I Love Trouble (1948)




Watched:  05/12/2021
Format:  TCM Film Fest
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:   S. Sylvan Simon

I'd actually had a bit of trouble tracking down I Love Trouble (1948), a film I'd seen often referenced in writing about noir, but it just never crossed my path.  I've seen reference to the film being lost for a few decades, but TCM was able to air it as part of the 2021 TCMFF.  Honestly - the print is not great, but I've seen worse.  

The plot itself is a windy murder mystery and from the same school as a Chandler mystery, but with more than a hint of Hammett.  The cast is headlined by Franchot Tone, a guy who was a bug movie star at one point, but I tend to know as "that guy who was married to Joan Crawford in the 1930's"*.  

I absolutely cannot talk about the plot without spoiling the movie - other than it's very much a quality gumshoe caper with all the trimmings.  Tone as our shamus is actually rock solid here.  I liked what he did as "Stuart Bailey" - an enjoyable riff on a familiar sort of tune, and playing the fast-talking PI with the moral code working his way through the underbelly of society.  

He's joined by a bunch of actors you've likely never heard of - although noiristas will remember Janis Carter from Night Editor, Adele Jergens from Armored Car Robbery, Glenda Farrell from Little Caesar, Steven Geray from Gilda, and Tom Powers from... everything.  

I'd love to see this one again sometime to enjoy watching it work rather than keeping up with details of the mystery.  



*I mean, well done sir

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Noir Watch: The Won't Believe Me (1947)




Watched:  05/08/2021
Format:  TCM Film Fest 
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Irving Pichel

I actually watched a cut of this film fairly recently (just in October), so I'm not inclined to write this up again.  What I will say is that this was a more fully restored cut with several extra minutes that fleshed out the characters and whatnot.  And - as happens often - while I certainly liked it the first time, I enjoyed the film even more on a second go-round, which confirmed my feelings on it from the first viewing.  

Honestly, I thought the movie flew by at the extended 95 minutes from 80 and I figure this is the cut I'll reach for if I'm watching the film again.  


Thursday, April 8, 2021

Totter Noir Re-Watch: Tension (1949)




Watched:  04/07/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  John Berry

It's relatively near my birthday, and so Jamie said "watch whatever you want", and-  me being me - I'd been wanting to watch Tension (1949) again as it had been a while.  

If you've not seen Tension, which Jenifer introduced me to years ago, thereby doing me the lifelong solid of introducing me to Audrey Totter's work, you should!  It's noir, but kinda goofy, has a career high performance for Totter as the femme fatale, Richard Basehart playing Richard Basehart, and Barry Sullivan and William Conrad as two cops I would have followed in any number of movies as they strode into rooms like they owned the place everywhere they went.

Weirdly, the film stars Cyd Charisse in a non-dancing role, something MGM must have been trying on for her to see how far she could push her acting chops.  And she's pretty good!  But mostly her job is to look lovely and be concerned about Richard Basehart, so she wasn't about to give Bette Davis a run for her money at this point.  

I won't describe the movie as "camp", but it's certainly a goofier entry in the annals of noir.  From the hook of the plot to the strategy of the cops trying to sort it all out, and topped by Totter's Claire Quimby - a whirlwind of badgirl behavior - it's a dang entertaining film.  You won't compare it to, say, The Third Man, but it does reward rewatching once you're familiar with the characters.  

Claire Quimby married Warren as a way out of whatever her life was in San Diego and because he was cute in a uniform.  He seemed like he was going places - but now she's living in a dingy apartment as Warren works 12 hours night shifts 5 days a week as a pharmacist, scrimping and saving to get her to the middle class life he thinks they both want.

Watch Cyd Charisse just want to smack the living hell out of Totter (but she's too nice)



At night, she's actually cruising the lunch counter in the pharmacy, looking to get picked up by guys who can show her a good time or provide her with her next step up (and with the looks to make it happen).  She runs off with a guy with a flashy car and a beach house, and Warren's attempts to get her back flop - he's beaten up and humiliated.  

SPOILERS

Thus, Warren dares to wear 1940's hard contact lenses to change his appearance, and creates a secondary life for himself as "Paul Southern", creating a persona unrelated to Warren so that the cops will look for this Southern person instead fo Warren when the time comes to kill Barney and reclaim his wife.

But - he meets Cyd Charisse, who apparently doesn't meet many men, because despite being Cyd Charisse, she's available and latches on to the mysterious cosmetics salesman who moved in next door.  Warren kinda realizes this murder scheme is dumb, his wife isn't worth it, and... hey... new girlfriend.  

Planning to let Cyd Charisse in on his charade and double life, he returns home, and so does Claire - letting him know Barney is dead.  

Enter our cops, trying to figure out what is going on with this weird couple - and so Barry Sullivan applies... TENSION.

IE: he sweats Warren and seduces Totter.  

Going for the Clark Kent Approved method of a "no glasses, different guy" disguise, was a pretty bold move in an era where Superman was already a pretty well-known figure.  But watching Sullivan deciding to go for Claire/ Totter, you really get the feeling he's okay with however this pans out and would take equal pleasure in jailing Warren and going to Acapulco with Claire or putting Claire away.  No big whoop.

END SPOILERS

It's a well shot, tight little film that does a lot with what it is.  And, really, it's a showcase for many of the things Totter does best when she gets to play a bad girl.  But add in a windy, multi-part plot and all the parties playing against each other, and while not exactly a mystery as to who did the murdering, it is a potboiler seeing how this thing will play out.

Anyway - can't recommend enough, if for no other eason than to see Totter's character's constant irritation with Basehart's character.  She is done, y'all.


Sunday, April 4, 2021

Noir Watch: The Third Man (1949)




Watched:  04/03/2021
Format:  TCM Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Carol Reed

One day I'll podcast on this film, and then we'll have a conversation.  

This is as close to a perfect movie as I can think of, so there you go.


Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Watch Party Watch: Any Number Can Play (1949)


Watched:  03/08/2021
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Trying to be an Audrey Totter completionist, I had planned to watch this movie at some point, but just never got to it.  Had I known how many people are in the film, I probably would have watched it years ago.

Beyond Totter, the headline stars are Clark Gable and Alexis Smith, but there's also:  Barry Sullivan, Frank Morgan, Mary Astor, Wendell Corey, Leon Ames, William Conrad, and a whole bunch more you're going to recognize.  

I thought it was *fine*, but I just checked and - holy cats - do people seem to hate this movie.  There's complaints about "this movie takes place within a casino and doesn't moralize about gambling" which is... a take, I guess. It kind of misses or dismisses the actual morals of the film (don't forget your family on your way to #1, the path to friendship and respect is via truth, honesty and fairplay no matter what you do for a living), but don't let that get in the way of a good complaint.  

It's certainly not the first movie to show a man in crisis/ at the end of his rope and how it resolves in a single night as all the threads come together.  But it's the earliest one I've seen that I can think of.  Until I think of one I've seen from earlier.

I admit, the movie moved a bit slowly, and despite plastering Audrey Totter all over the poster, she honestly wasn't in it much.  Still, she's having fun playing the bad girl and fed-up wife (something she was doing a lot in this era) of Wendell Corey.  It's nothing I'd go out of my way to recommend, but once I clocked to what they were doing, I did enjoy it a bit more.

Anyway - it's a gamble to watch it.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Noir Watch: Johnny Eager (1941)




Watched:  02/18/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Summing up the plot to Johnny Eager (1941) would be extraordinarily difficult - but the short version is: ex-con pretends to go straight, meets Lana Turner, uses her and her step-father to get his new dog track open.  Poetic boozy pal plays Eager's conscience.  

Honestly, it's a hell of a movie, and it's likely the goofy title that's kept it from being checked out by enough people.  

I'm not a huge fan of star Robert Taylor - who is pretty rock solid here as a handsome, devil-may-care gangster with no refinement.  That's not a dig, but I think I'd only seen two or so Robert Taylor films previously.  But he's totally buyable as Johnny Eager.

The real hook is that Johnny can spot an angle, spot a dope, and has a mind perfectly set for operating in the criminal world - but he can't understand the straight world.  People with pure motivations are a mystery that gnaws at him.  More than that, his understanding of women is only as pliable tools, either as sexual playthings or as employees.  

What makes the movie curious - and maybe different from other gangster films with bent leads - is the presence of Van Heflin as Jeff Jartnett, a drunk and seemingly a man of education, who hangs around Johnny as pal, enabler, and because he sees the greatness within Johnny and wants to bear witness to either the rise or fall of a great mind.

Out of prison, Johnny has put everything he's got into a dummy organization trying to open a dog track with no permits, but meanwhile it seems his control on the city is slipping.  Others may be moving against him. 

Annnnd in the middle of all this, he meets Lan Turner, who more or less throws herself at him.  But winds up in way deeper than she barganined for, and it takes a toll on her psyche.

This is very early to be considered true noir, but not so as a gangster picture, which this most certainly is.  And Turner is a femme fatale only in that she leads Johnny toward his downfall because he actually does come close to understanding sacrifice via whatever passes for love in his heart.  It absolutely is a man making bad decisions (that, I mean, get him dead) over a woman, but they also redeem him, which isn't very noirish.  But that he goes down throwing a hail of bullets and popped off by the cop who married his first girl?  That's some symmetry there.

And that's the interesting thing about the movie, really.  It's a down-in-the-streets gangster picture about a guy trying to build an empire, and sees the poetry and literary mythology in it all - right down to pointing out "he's just some guy" who dies badly in the middle of the road.

Anyhoo... I enjoyed the heck out of this movie, and not just because Turner had amazing hair through the whole thing, even when we were told she looked "awful".*



*she did not



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Noir Watch: Born to Kill (1947)




Watched:  02/14/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Unknown.  At least 3rd.
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Wise

Some time ago, when I was first exploring noir, Born to Kill (1947) was included in one of the box sets I picked up to try and learn more about the genre.  Honestly, if I wanted to blow the doors off the expectations I think a *lot* of people have about Hayes Code-era film, this is the movie I'd show them.

Our leads are a psychopath and sociopath, divorce(!), a brutal murder, one of our most virtuous characters is a lush, and a PI who is mostly there as an equal-opportunity grifter.  Heck, there's an Elisha Cook Jr. lurking around for good measure.  It's a dark, nasty little film with no POV hero - just characters who cross paths and feel a mutual appreciation and attraction, even as they're connection is going to burn them both out.

This was the movie that showed me what films of the era were really capable of when it came to stepping into the shadows.  You might get sexy obsession in penty of other films, but there was always an obvious line that the characters crossed that was going to be their downfall, the thing that made you want to do the equivalent of "don't go in the basement!" as our protagonist decides to risk it for a nice set of legs or a smokey voice.  Born to Kill doesn't bother with all that  - these characters were going to hell, anyway.  They're just speeding each other along.

Starring Claire Trevor - someone I flat out did NOT appreciate enough for several years but whom I've come back around to and adore - and the notorious Lawrence Tierney as our leads, we've got a pair with some amazing presence.  Tierney's low-key menace and chiseled jaw works phenomenally well as the handsome psychopath who attracts women, but becaomes infuriated at the slightest hint of slight.  Trevor manages to find a delicate balance - we know she's play-acting to certain parties, and we know better to buy it, but it's absolutely seemingly sincere.  

Other players include Walter Slezak as the PI of iffy moral character, Elisha Cook Jr. as a longtime friend of Tierney's who's been maybe the only force on Earth keeping him in check.  Audrey Long is Trevor's wealthy but naive foster-sister with a fortune.  And, notably, Esther Howard plays a rooming house owner with more heart than you'd figure.

There is a character who is murdered with the name "Laury Palmer", and much of the mystery for the other characters is who killed Laury Palmer - and I can't help but think Lynch was winking at this character with Twin Peaks, til it was, you know, magic dream goblins or what have you.

Anyway - "wow, this things DARK" is not really much of a selling point, I suppose, but the execution of the movie, the performances and the winding story are all masterfully handled by director Robert Wise (yes, the man who brought you films as diverse as The Set-Up, The HauntingThe Sound of Music and Star Trek: The Motion Picture).    

But if you want to see what Hollywood could pull off (and Claire Trevor plotting in some excellent outfits), highly recommended.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Accidental Watch: Keep Your Powder Dry (1945)

the tagline is not remotely what this movie is about



Watched:  02/08/2021
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Edward Buzzell

Knowing it was Lana Turner's 100th birthday and TCM was running a marathon, I flipped over to TCM on the cable dial, and was just putting on this World War II movie about women in the WACs starring Turner, Laraine Day and Susan Peters... and then the movie ended and I realized I watched the whole thing.  

Anyway.  I guess that happened.  It was not bad!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Noir Watch: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)




Watched:  02/06/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Tay Garnett

The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) is among the top ten films I'd recommend in a "what you need to know about noir" seminar.  It's got an earned place among the noir canon, and even though I've read the book and seen it half-dozen times, I find myself thoroughly enjoying every time I return to it.  It simply works.  

It shares a certain headspace with Double Indemnity, which makes sense as both started as novels by James M. Cain.  There's not just a gritty realism in how characters are and behave, it's matched by the worlds Cain created that seem not far off from our own.  Roadside diners, insurance offices.  Heck, throw in Mildred Pierce and you're in the suburbs and building up comfortable eateries.  

All it really takes is infatuation to become an obsession, and everything can go off the rails.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Noir Re-Watch: The Unsuspected (1947)




Watched:  02/03/2021
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  4th?
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Michael Curtiz

Michael Curtiz directed innumerable good to great movies, and we find ourselves watching his output a few times per year one way or another, but since finding The Unsuspected (1947) as part of my "let's watch all the Audrey Totter stuff we can find" quest, I'm a little surprised it just isn't more widely discussed.  The cinematography alone is noteworthy, courtesy industry veteran Elwood Bridell.  Add in a Franz Waxman score, and multiple hooks for a story, and it already has plenty to recommend it before you point out Claude Rains stars.



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Noir Watch: The Glass Key (1942)




Watched:  01/16/2021
Format:  Noir Alley on DVR
Viewing:  Not sure
Decade:  1940's
Director:   Stuart Heisler

Measured by the fact I think this is the fourth time I've seen this movie, you can take it at face value - I think pretty highly of The Glass Key (1942).  But, it is based on a novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett, co-stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, and has a large supporting role for William Bendix - w, yes.  I'm pre-disposed to like the film.  

We're going to cover Miller's Crossing on the podcast at some point, an early 90's Coen Bros. film, and one of my personal canon.  I think I was in early college when I read my first Hammett on JAL's recommendation and got a few pages into Red Harvest before saying "wait a minute, maybe the Coen Bros. weren't so darn clever after all...".   Because, honestly, Miller's Crossing is the love child of The Glass Key and Red Harvest, both Hammett books.*

I did read The Glass Key before seeing this film (and just learned via Eddie Muller there's an earlier version starring George Raft - which may lead to me skipping it) - and, sure, the book is better, yadda yadda.  But, the film is terrific all on its own - a twisting, double-double-crossing political/gangland yarn that adds up perfectly, but the first time through can be hard to keep track of all the parts of the equation.  

Ladd plays the lieutenant to a political boss who, upon meeting the daughter (Lake) of a reform candidate  decides to back the reform candidate.  This gets his boss crosswise with another, shadier, political boss, and all of a sudden Lake's brother winds up dead on the street.  

The movie has a similar tone to a Hammett novel when it comes to casual brutality and unsavory characters.  That includes our lead, who never really throws a punch, but he's not exactly a knight in shining armor as he works angles, falls out with his boss, and tries not to fall for Lake.

The movie is difficult to discuss, but the characters in it are terrifically drawn, each instantly knowable in broad strokes, even if in the framework of the story, they're all capable of anything - which is part of what keeps the mystery of the story rolling.  

Frankly, this is a "could be a TL;DR post" kind of movie, and I'm not going to do that.  Maybe I'll podcast this movie one day instead.  But in the meantime, I highly recommend the film.  Just go with that. 


*and a bit of visual flavoring from The Conformist