|Vintage Pulp||Dec 5 2016|
It's amazing the jams men in film noir get themselves into. Imagine you really like a woman but she wants financial security you can't offer. Would you try to satisfy her by marrying a completely different woman—a trusting nice girl type—with the plan of getting into her bank account, getting the marriage annulled, and walking with the cash? Of course not. You'd know a plan like that would come apart at the seams. But men in film noir don't. In Fallen Angel Dana Andrews craves sexpot Linda Darnell, and while we can certainly see a man losing his bearings over a stunner like her, the idea of her being worth destroying another woman's life is farfetched, especially when that woman is pretty and sweet. But in the capable hands of Andrews and Darnell, with Alice Faye and Charles Bickford co-starring and Otto Preminger in the director's chair, the plot actually works. And that's the beauty of film noir—the problems are often so convoluted you can't imagine how someone could get into them, let alone get out, yet often they do. On the other hand, often they don't. Fallen Angel premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
|Vintage Pulp||Dec 22 2015|
With a poster this amazing you’d expect a pretty good movie. It promotes the Japanese run of the thriller Second Chance, which opened there today in 1953 after premiering in the U.S. in July. The film is near impossible to find, but we already possessed a downloaded copy from years back because we long ago sought out all Robert Mitchum’s work due to his utter coolness. Second Chance has not only Mitchum, but the always excellent Linda Darnell, exteriors shot in the Mexican towns of Cuernavaca and Taxco, color film stock (which lost its vividness in the intervening decades), and a 3-D process (of course not replicated for the home viewer).
So, is it any good? Well, when technical innovations arrive in Hollywood, filmmakers often use them as gimmicks, with diminished regard for story flow and physical logic. You see the same phenomenon today with CGI. Because this was RKO Radio Pictures’ first 3-D movie, and it was in Technicolor, many scenes take advantage of those aspects, but fail to build characterization or advance the plot. So there you go. But the locations in hilly Taxco look great, the musical interludes are grandly staged, and it all climaxes with an extended cable car set piece where down-on-his-luck prizefighter Mitchum gets a chance at redemption by taking on hitman Jack Palance. We’ve seen better. But we’ve seen far worse.
|Vintage Pulp||May 14 2014|
Exclusive was a digest sized monthly published out of New York City by the appropriately named Digest Publications, Inc. It launched in March 1954, had the usual mix of celebs, scandal, and crime, and folded after two years. This issue has everyone from playboy Shep King to Italian actress (and former Pulp Intl. femme) Sylvana Pampanini to showgirl Julie Bryan, as well as an interesting crime photo essay the editors—distastefully—decided to title “Sexclusive.” That’s not a smart choice when referring to sexual assault. But moving on, the good thing about these pocket magazines is the text was large relative to the page size, which means that when scanned the articles are easily readable even on our website. That being the case we won’t bother describing the contents any more than we already have. We’ve scanned about twenty-five pages below if you’re interested, and we’re going in search of a glass of ice-cold white wine. Enjoy.
|Hollywoodland||Aug 29 2012|
|Vintage Pulp||Jul 28 2012|
Above is a nice cover for Elick Moll’s suspense novel Night Without Sleep, the story of a playwright whose violent temper and love of drink lead to a serious dilemma—he awakens from a binge with vague memories of a woman screaming, leading him to suspect he may have committed murder. There are three women in his life—his wife, his mistress, and the woman he would like to be his new mistress—and he tracks them down one by one, praying that his suspicions are wrong. A pretty good read, all in all, even if certain elements do resemble Cornell Woolrich’s earlier The Black Angel. We noticed this book mainly because the title was familiar—a film version starred the luscious Linda Darnell, one of our favorite old actresses. You can see a great photo of her here. 1962 on this cover, by the way, with art by uncredited.
|Vintage Pulp||Jun 17 2011|
If you follow this site, you know Linda Darnell was a recent discovery for us. She was a big star in her day, but somehow we had missed her. Well, now that we know who she is, we see her everywhere. Witness this June 1947 issue of the magazine Votre Cinéma. It seems she conquered the French, as well as Hollywood. The message and signature, by the way, are part of the cover design. If it were a real autograph this would probably be worth a lot of money, i.e. more money than we have. See more Darnell here.
|Vintage Pulp||May 9 2011|
Linda Darnell, once named one of the four most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, died in April 1965 after being critically burned in a fire. A few weeks later National Enquirer splashed a prescient quote they attributed to her across their front page. Did Darnell actually say this? Perhaps—an actress is interviewed quite a bit during her career and out of the thousands of answers she gave, a phrase like this could probably be plucked. In any case, part of being “the world’s liveliest paper” is exploiting death, and here Enquirer shows how to become top of the tabloid heap. See a stunning image of Darnell in her prime here, and read about her best movie here.
|Vintage Pulp||Feb 7 2011|
We’re just going to come out and tell you that 1945’s Hangover Square is a tour de force. It’s one of those titles we never quite got around to, but we fixed that last week and rarely have we made better use of ninety minutes. A Victorian melodrama, a mystery, and a thriller, Hangover Square tells the story of a brilliant composer beset by blackouts during which he fears a dark and violent side of his personality emerges to wreak havoc Jack the Ripper-style on nocturnal London.
Every element of the production clicks, but the success of the picture is mainly due to director John Brahm. Working from Patrick Hamilton’s novel written for the screen by Barré Lyndon, the German-born Brahm does no less than put on a directorial clinic. He cut his teeth in Berlin during the boom years of expressionist cinema, and here he uses an array of dynamic tracking shots, dollies, low-angle close-ups and blurry point-of-view sequences to bring this story to life. As good as Brahm is, the film would not have worked without top notch performances and he gets one from his lead, Laird Cregar. Playing a composer named George Harvey Bone, Cregar is by turns baffled, oafish, charming and terrifying. Bone is a good man—that’s clear. The question is whether he remains good during his blackouts or turns into a murderous Mr. Hyde. We don’t have to wait long for the answer.
If Cregar has a dark side, he isn’t the only one. Linda Darnell, playing a cabaret singer named Letta Longdon, is a femme fatale for the ages. Longdon is all sweetness and lovely smiles, but she’s as rotten as she is ravishing, a creature of high ambition and zero morality always plotting ways to use men to climb the ladder of the popular music industry. Nonecan resist her, even though her duplicitous nature is always clear, never more so than in the shot above, in which we see her kissing the smitten George Harvey Bone while looking toward some imagined future gilded with ill-gotten gains.
Other cast members include George Sanders, Faye Marlowe, and Glenn Langan, but it’s Cregar and Darnell that give this story its heat. Cregar, in addition to turning in a great acting performance, plays all of his composer character’s piano parts, and we’re not talking about “Chopsticks.” In several scenes the camera pans from his hands to his face as he pounds out concerto quality music. Sadly, he never got to see Hangover Square finished. He died December 9, 1944, three months before the film was released. He had dropped one hundred pounds for the role in an attempt to break out of the fat man parts he had been playing until then, but the crash diet killed him. It's reasonable to assume, based on his performance here, that he would have succeeded in moving into more mainstream roles. But he never got the chance to deliver on the promise he showed.
We've discussed the directing and acting, but the brilliance of Hangover Square extends beyond those areas. Its technical elements are all wondrous. Particularly impressive are its special effects. It may sound strange to say that about a film made in 1945, but it’s true. In modern films fire is digitally inserted. Before CGI, flames were live, but were produced under controlled conditions via the use of gas jets. But asany fireman will tell you, real fires smoke. That’s what makes them so dangerous. The final sequence of Hangover Square (major spoiler alert) takes place during a fire as Cregar—not a double or stuntman—plays the finale of a symphony while the recital hall burns around him. Brahm uses a single shot, starting on Cregar’s torso and dollying back to show him surrounded by real fire and real smoke. This sequence could not be shot today—no actor would play it, no studio would allow it, and it would probably be illegal to ask a stuntman to do it. In the final moments smoke converges on Cregar from all sides, swallowing him completely. You can see this in the screen captures below. The first thing we did after the credits rolled was pull up a bio on Cregar to see if he survived the shoot. That’s how hairy it looks. And when we saw that he died three months before the film premiered, we were certain he had perished in the fire scene.
He hadn’t, of course, but strangely, Linda Darnell later did die in a fire. When she was forty-one she was caught in a house blaze and the woman who was once crowned by Look magazine as one of the four most beautiful actresses in Hollywood was burned over ninety percent of her body and face. She died a day later in the hospital. It’s truly a shame. But she did leave behind many films, and in our humble opinion she showed that she was the equal of any actress or actor working at that time. We recommend her, and we recommend Hangover Square. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
|Femmes Fatales||Feb 7 2011|
Above, an early-1940s promo shot of American actress Linda Darnell. After mentioning in our Hangover Square review that she was once named one of the four most beautiful women in Hollywood, we thought we should offer some evidence. Case closed.