Showing posts with label audrey totter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audrey totter. Show all posts

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.


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.

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, December 19, 2020

Noir Christmas Party Watch: Lady in the Lake (1947)

 

Watched:  12/18/2020
Format:  Amazon Watch Party
Viewing:  Unknown
Decade:  1940's
Director:  Robert Montgomery

I've written this up plenty.  And podcasted it.  No need to do so again.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Audrey Watch: The Beginning or The End (1947)



Watched :  08/28/2018
Format:  DVR/ TCM
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Audrey Quotient:  Nowhere near enough Audrey!

This isn't a noir film!  Nope.  This one is an historical drama about the creation of the atomic bomb.  So, you know, fun stuff.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Audrey Watch! The Cockeyed Miracle (1946)


Watched:  08/16/2018
Format:  TCM on DVR
Viewing:  First
Decade:  1940's
Audrey Quotient:  mid-range.  A tad low.  She plays "the daughter" in an ensemble comedy.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Set Yer DVR's: Monday is Audrey Totter Day on TCM


As part of their Summer Under the Stars month-long programming event, TCM has blocked Monday, August 6th for a slate of films starring another patron saint of The Signal Watch, actress Audrey Totter.

There are several listed that I haven't seen yet and many I have. We think you should set your DVRs and watch an Audrey movie or three.

The schedule:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Noir City Austin: The Unsuspected (1947) & The Threat (1949) - Sunday shows




Watched:  05/20/2018
Format:   Noir City Austin at Alamo Ritz in 35mm
Viewing:  fourth/ first
Decade:  1940's

We attended two films on the final day of Noir City Austin, The Unsuspected (1947) and The Threat (1949).  Two extremely different movies, but both a real treat.  The Film Noir Foundation isn't just Eddie Muller, and as he had to depart, we were lucky to have author Alan K. Rode in attendance to introduce the films.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Remembering Audrey Totter on her 100th Birthday



Several years ago I was out visiting San Francisco and JeniferS showed me a noir she knew I'd never seen, starring Richard Basehart, Cyd Charise and an actor she adored but with whom I was unfamiliar, Audrey Totter.  The movie was Tension, and it was all kinds of terrific.  But, yes, Jenifer was right, Audrey Totter was absolutely phenomenal in that movie, stealing focus in every scene.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Just not Christmas Until Audrey Totter is Looking Right Into the Lens

Through not-so-mysterious means, the 1947 film Lady in the Lake has become a perennial holiday favorite for me.  Philip Marlowe detecting, Christmas time and Audrey Totter sorta looking you in the face.


This is the movie directed by (and kinda starring) Robert Montgomery as Marlowe and shot almost entirely from his POV.  Pretty amazing work for the era and size of cameras in 1947.  The book is darker and more grisly than the movie, and not set at Christmas, if memory serves.  The plot is complicated by the fact the movie never visits the key location from the book, keeping everything in the city and refusing much in the way of exterior shooting.

But, hey, Audrey Totter is terrific.  And they actually make Christmas kind of key to the adaptation, so that's fun.



Friday, March 31, 2017

Noir Watch: Tension (1949)



This is likely the fourth time I've watched Tension, the 1949 pulp-tastic noir I was first introduced to by JSwift during a trip to SF a few years back.  It aired this last Sunday during Turner Classic Movies' new segment, Noir Alley, hosted by Eddie Muller.*

Muller does what he does so well - introduce the movie, give some history and context and talk about the players in unpolished terms.  This screening included an appreciation of co-star Audrey Totter, whom we at The Signal Watch think is absolutely tops, and a closer discussing the complicated life of director John Berry.

In addition to Totter, the movie also stars Richard Basehart, William Conrad, Lloyd Gough, Barry Sullivan - and, oddly, Cyd Charisse in a role where there is not a single step of dance.  I mean, she's terrific - she's got some straight acting ability, but it's an odd fit for someone who appeared in roles with not a single line but a lot of dancing.  That's sort of her deal.

It's a bit of a small-scale production, a tight cast working with a rat-a-tat script by Alan Rivkin, and good, twisty fun with some severely dated bits that don't seem aware they've inverted the Superman paradigm.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Signal Watch Reads: "The Lady in the Lake" by Raymond Chandler (1943) - audiobook


The great thing about novel adaptations back in the day was that they clearly either adapted the movies of books they'd read ten years prior and couldn't remember anymore, or they'd be damned if they were going to finish the book before pounding out a script.

I say this, because I've seen the odd-ball noir detective film, The Lady in the Lake directed by and starring Robert Montgomery at least twice, but more like three times.  Why?  Well, it's a super strange movie told from a first person POV with a windy plot that takes a surprisingly believable break in the action for Christmas Eve, and features Audrey Totter at her Totter-iest.

Why, yes, I am going to look right into the camera the whole movie.  Why?

But I don't really want to write a compare-and-contrast of the film and book.  First, only one of you has likely even seen this movie (for shaaaaaame...), and, you know, they're two different beasts.

Still, Audrey Totter.

seriously, this movie is odd, and I totally recommend it

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Noir Watch: The Unsuspected (1947)


It's Noirvemeber, and I haven't really been doing my duty to keep up.  Plowing through October and horror films and then thinking about watching mostly just one genre again sounded like being asked to eat a second turkey dinner on Thanksgiving Day.   I may like both genres but, man...  So, I have not taken too much of a noir plunge yet this month outside the superlative Fargo on FX.

But if we were going to jump into Noirvember, I was either going to do it by watching Narrow Margin and see Marie Windsor bust everyone's chops, or with another one of my favorite actresses of the genre, Audrey Totter.  And, man, is she ever good in this movie.  I appreciated her the last time I watched the movie, but this time... yowza.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Noir Watch (sorta): High Wall (1947)

So, like a month ago I started watching this movie on a DVD I'd picked up, and got an hour into it and the DVD fritzed out on me.  So I got a replacement copy from Amazon (seriously, their return policy is the bees knees), and finally got around to finishing the movie this evening.

I am not sure I'd recommend High Wall.  By far the best feature of the movie is that it stars Audrey Totter as a psychiatrist who is not afraid to monkey around with experimental brain surgery and the liberal application of medication.  It's only marginally noir, in my book.  More of a suspense thriller with noirish undertones.



Basically, the movie is about a guy who probably really is, at the very least, unstable following his return from WWII, who comes home to a wife he married in the fog of war, only to find out that she wants someone pulling in more bucks than he's worth now that he's not drawing a military salary.  He leaves for Burma to fly cargo and send home paychecks.  When he comes home, he may or may not have killed his wife, who he figures is schtupping her boss - a kind of sleazy dude who happens to be overseeing a Christian Book publisher.

It's all very sordid.

Monday, January 7, 2013

My very nice signed pic from Audrey Totter


On Saturday, an envelope arrived with a signed photo from Audrey Totter.  It also came with a signed note.  To put a point on it, while I knew it was coming, I'm still a bit stunned and I know these are items I'll have with me for the rest of my life.  I need to show them off here as so few of you will ever be in my living room.

I can't thank Eden and her family enough.  A truly unique and terrific experience and a very bright spot during a difficult week.

Coincidentally, Jason got me a Film Noir set that included Lady in the Lake for me for Christmas, so it's going to be Totter-Rama around my house this week.  We may need to re-watch Tension, too.

Tomorrow I return to work for the first time since before Christmas.  There's a lot to unpack in all that, so I'm trying not to think about it too much, and just get back to my desk and try to remember what it is I'm supposed to be doing at that desk.

But, that's it for the start of the week.  

You guys take care, and we will consider what regular programming looks like at the Signal Watch this week sometime.