Why settle for an angel when a devil is so much more fun?
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.
Caught between the dark and a hard place.
This 1949 Pocket Books paperback of In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes is a rarity. The novel is abundantly available today, but the first edition paperback you see above is hard to find. The story was made into a 1950 movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, but the final product bears little resemblance to the novel. Actually, the movie is a lesson in how source material can be completely cannibalized yet still made into a superior product. In a Lonely Place the movie, after all, is considered one of the best of the mid-century noirs. We said the same about it last year. But unlike the film, Hughes' novel leaves no doubt that main character Dixon Steele is a murderer. In fact, it's the central plot device—he kills a wealthy man and assumes his identity. The novel is said to be an inspiration for Patricia Highsmith's famed murderous grifter Tom Ripley. The nice art on In a Lonely Place was painted by Frank McCarthy, a prolific illustrator of paperbacks and magazine covers who toward the end of his career moved into fine art with frontier and western themes. We haven't featured him before but he'll doubtless pop up again.
, In a Lonely Place
, Humphrey Bogart
, Gloria Grahame
, Dorothy B. Hughes
, Patricia Highsmith
, Frank McCarthy
, cover art
, film noir
Who needs force when you have firepower?
Anita Colby, née Anita Counihan, is probably most remembered for her role as the bad girl Flossie in Jules Dassin's film noir Brute Force. It was one of only a few cinematic parts she landed, but it was a memorable one—she robs John Hoyt at gunpoint, kicks him out of his own car, and leaves him stranded. But he remembers her somewhat fondly anyway. Here's how he describes her to another character: “Flossie had looks, brains and all the accessories. She was better than a deck with six aces. But I regret to report that she also knew how to handle a gun—my gun.” Well, nobody's perfect. This image dates from 1947.
For Foch's sake won't someone please listen?
This poster was made to promote My Name Is Julia Ross, a tidy little film noir only sixty-five minutes in length, which makes it an economical expenditure of time. Dutch beauty Nina Foch is hired to be a live-in secretary but finds herself stuck in a house where everyone seems to think she's someone she isn't. She has a husband, a doting mother-in-law, and other people in her life, none of whom she's ever met before. What sort of plot is afoot here? Well, we quickly learn Foch was chosen to be an unwilling double for the former mistress of the house, who's dead, murdered by her husband actually—a fact unknown to the proper authorities. You can probably figure out the rest. Just think: inheritance. Realizing she's being set up to be murdered, she tries to tell everyone from the police to her doctor she's not the dead wife, but nobody will listen. Is everyone blind to the truth? Or is it that everyone is in on the plot? Either way she better figure out something quick. My Name Is Julia Ross isn't a perfect movie, but it's pretty good, and since it's barely longer than a television show we have to recommend it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1945.
This bird is more impressive every time you see it.
The Maltese Falcon is considered by most scholars to be the first major film noir. It was also one of the best, with legendary talents John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, and Peter Lorre coming together to make magic. Mary Astor was excellent too. This must-see film premiered in the U.S. today in 1941, but the poster above—one you don't see often—was made for its run in Australia. Put this film in the queue if you haven't seen it. And if you have, well, watch it again.
, The Maltese Falcon
, Humphrey Bogart
, Mary Astor
, John Huston
, Peter Lorre
, Sydney Greenstreet
, Elisha Cook Jr.
, poster art
, film noir
Ice is nice, but harder than water.
British skater and actress Belita, who was born Maria Belita Jepson-Turner, frolics in the pool at the Town House Hotel in Los Angeles for a cover of Life that hit newsstands today in 1945. We've shown you this pool before. A window from a swanky hotel bar known as the Zebra Room provided a view through one wall, which meant patrons could watch swimmers while enjoying cocktails. The hotel put together a group of women called Aqua Maidens who performed swim shows, but Belita was not a Maiden. She was already famous for skating in the 1936 Olympics (though she had finished only sixteenth), and had established a Hollywood career with 1943's Silver Skates and 1944's Lady, Let's Dance. She would also make 1946's Suspense, which was unique for combining skating with film noir. In addition to being an ace skater Belita was an accomplished dancer, and the Life photos show her demonstrating her underwater ballet skills. She even wears a tutu in a couple of shots. Interestingly, Picture Post, a British Life-like magazine that was considered imitative, had already featured Belita on its cover, also at the Town House, two months earlier on June 16, 1945. Doubtless both sets of photos were from them same session. So in this case Life was the imitator.
Belita wasn't the most famous ice skater in Hollywood during the 1940s—Sonja Henie was a huge star, and Vera Ralston was probably better known as well. That may be one reason why Belita managed only eight or nine films before moving on to other pursuits. She eventually retired to the village of Montpeyroux, France, where she died in 2005 at age eighty-two. But the photos below are eternal.
, Los Angeles
, Town House Hotel
, Life Magazine
, Picture Post
, Lady Let's Dance
, Silver Skates
, Gladys Jepson-Turner
, Sonja Henie
, Vera Ralston
, film noir
Love and the art of armed robbery.
Above, a French promo poster for the American film noir Gun Crazy, which premiered in France as Le Démon des armes today in 1950. Haven't seen it? We think it's well worth a viewing.
Someone in the sleeping compartment isn't going to wake up.
Film noir teaches us that anyone can get in too deep, even a railroad engineer. In Human Desire, Fritz Lang's retelling of Emile Zola's 1890 novel La Bête humaine, Glenn Ford finds himself trapped between lust for Gloria Grahame and reluctance to kill to have her. He's already helped her cover up another killing and gotten in the middle of blackmail plot, but every man has his limits. This is flawed but canonical noir, with a cocky Ford, a quirky Grahame, a brutish Broderick Crawford, and Kathleen Case playing the loyal gal pal, who for our money is much more alluring than Grahame. Ford figures that out too, eventually. Too bad his realization is sandwiched between two murders on his train. Human Desire premiered today in 1954.
La Bête humaine
, Human Desire
, Fritz Lang
, Emile Zola
, Glenn Ford
, Gloria Grahame
, Kathleen Case
, Broderick Crawford
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
Why bother with divorce when murder will do?
From the moment Leslie Brooks makes her appearance in Blonde Ice, striding down a staircase in her wedding dress and casting a hawkish gaze over the crowd, you know she's trouble. This is a woman that clearly shouldn't marry, and indeed the union is strained before the reception ends, and the husband is dead within days.
Yes, we have a killer on our hands, a sociopath who married for money then disposed of the unnecessary man attached to it. The police don't buy suicide as a cause of death, which presents problems for Brooks, and other aspects of her plot don't go according to plan, but this is a person you don't want to count out even when the tables seem to be turning against her. She'd hardly be worth the appellation femme fatale if you could take her down just like that.
Low budget, but well executed, with the lead perfectly played by the occasionally crazy-eyed Brooks with a blend of chilly slyness and gee-whiz phony innocence, Blonde Ice shows how much filmmakers can achieve with very little budget, quite a bit of careful thought, and a very good headliner. A little more money might have solved some problems with this production, but it's a nice little time eater even if the tidy ending hurts it a little. Blonde Ice premiered in the U.S. today in 1948.
Sharky's Machine hums along nicely, but only up to a point.
This poster for the 1981 thriller Sharky's Machine was made for the movie's premiere in Bangkok. Every blue moon or so Hollywood decides to update a ’40s film noir. Sometimes these are excellent movies—Body Heat as a rework of Double Indemnity comes to mind. Sharky's Machine is based on William Diehl's novel of the same name, which is a restyling of 1944's Laura. If you haven't seen Laura, a detective falls in love with a murdered woman, focusing these feelings upon her portrait, which is hanging over the mantle in her apartment. In Sharky's Machine the hero, Atlanta vice detective Burt Reynolds, falls in love with Rachel Ward via his surveillance of her during a prostitution investigation, and is left to deal with his lingering feelings when she's killed.
When Ward observed years back that she had been too prudish in her artistic choices, we imagine this was one movie she had in mind. We agree. Reynolds' 24/7 surveillance of a high priced hooker is not near frank enough. This is where vice, voyeurism, and sleaze as subtext should have come together overtly, as it does in Diehl's unflinchingly detailed novel, rather than as stylized montages, which is what Reynolds opts for.
Sex and nudity aren't always gratuitous. The plot driver in old film noirs is often sex, but it couldn't be shown. Remaking a noir affords the opportunity to explore the sexual aspect further, as in Body Heat, where it's literally the lure of sex with no boundaries—exemplified in that famous (but implied) anal scene—that snares the hero in an insane murder plot. In Sharky's Machine it's sexual objectification that is the initial driver. Reynolds' loves Ward's body first and her personality later, but the surveillance that is the key to this is barely explored.
It's a missed opportunity to not only make a better thriller, but to examine this lust-to-love transition as an aspect of all romantic relationships. Reynolds doubled as both star and director of the film, and while his relative newbie status in the latter realm may be a reason he didn't push the envelope, he still manages in his third outing helming a motion picture to put together a final product that is stylish, dark, and neon-streaked—everything a neo-noir should be. Upon release many critics had problems with tone—violence and humor seemed to clash. Reynolds' was a semi-comedic cinematic figure and his previous two directorial efforts had been comedies, which may have led to jokes leaking into unusual moments of the film. But these days the mix of violence and comedy is common, so we doubt you'll be terribly annoyed by these few incongruities.
The main flaw with the movie, besides its chasteness, is not its tone, but that it feels compressed in the latter third, especially as relates to the love subplot. True, the film is already a shade over two hours long, but it's time that flies by, populated as it is by so many interesting roles and great actors (Bernie Casey, Brian Keith, Vittorio Gassman, Charles Durning). Another seven minutes would not have hurt. Still, we recommend this one. It should have been as bold a noir rework as Body Heat, but there's plenty to entertain in other areas, and Hollywood may make this film perfect yet—a new version of Sharky's Machine is in development with Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Hah hah—who are we kidding? They'll screw it up completely. You already know that.
, Sharky's Machine
, Burt Reynolds
, Rachel Ward
, Bernie Casey
, Brian Keith
, Vittorio Gassman
, Charles Durning
, Mark Wahlberg
, poster art
, film noir
, movie review
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1989—Anti-Feminist Gunman Kills 14
In Montreal, Canada, at the École Polytechnique, a gunman shoots twenty-eight young women with a semi-automatic rifle, killing fourteen. The gunman claimed to be fighting feminism, which he believed had ruined his life. After the killings he turns the gun on himself and commits suicide.
1933—Prohibition Ends in United States
Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 75% of states needed to overturn the 18th Amendment which had made the sale of alcohol illegal. But the criminal gangs that had gained power during Prohibition are now firmly established, and maintain an influence that continues unabated for decades.
1945—Flight 19 Vanishes without a Trace
During an overwater navigation training flight from Fort Lauderdale, five U.S. Navy TBM Avenger torpedo-bombers lose radio contact with their base and vanish. The disappearance takes place in what is popularly known as the Bermuda Triangle.
1918—Wilson Goes to Europe
U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sails to Europe for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France, becoming the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office.
1921—Arbuckle Manslaughter Trial Ends
In the U.S., a manslaughter trial against actor/director Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle ends with the jury deadlocked as to whether he had killed aspiring actress Virginia Rappe during rape and sodomy. Arbuckle was finally cleared of all wrongdoing after two more trials, but the scandal ruined his career and personal life.
It's easy. We have an uploader that makes it a snap. Use it to submit your art, text, header, and subhead. Your post can be funny, serious, or anything in between, as long as it's vintage pulp. You'll get a byline and experience the fleeting pride of free authorship. We'll edit your post for typos, but the rest is up to you. Click here
to give us your best shot.