Femmes Fatales Apr 6 2018
NIGHTIE NIGHT
I shot my alarm clock. After years of abuse it was long overdue.


Above, a nice image of a nightgown clad, gun accessorized Rita Hayworth in her rare platinum blonde incarnation. The photo was made as a promo for her film noir The Lady from Shanghai, 1947.

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Intl. Notebook Mar 23 2018
MILE HIGH NOIR
Short of breath? Accelerated pulse rate? It might not be the altitude.


Since we're from Denver (we know it's tough to keep track because we've written about living in L.A., San Francisco, Guatemala, and the Philippines, but we are indeed from the Mile High City) we thought we'd share this promo for the Noir City Film Festival's new Denver edition. This particular noir fest (there are several) is affiliated with the San Fran fest, so it's not a surprise to see that they're reusing the art from the 8th San Francisco get together. What is a surprise is that the event is at the Alamo Drafthouse in Littleton—i.e. suburbia. Usually these events are held at historic cinemas such as the Castro in San Francisco or the Egyptian in Los Angeles. Denver has a few landmark cinemas, including the Mayan right in the city center. We assume it wasn't available. But on the plus side crime author James Ellroy will be co-hosting at the Alamo along with Film Noir Foundation president Eddie Muller. The festival will be a quickie—three days and six great thrillers: The Prowler, 711 Ocean Drive, Wicked as They Come, The Lineup, He Walked by Night, and I Walk Alone. Denverites, we highly recommend seeing film noir on a big screen. Opportunities in cities like New York, San Fran, L.A. and Chicago abound. Opportunities in the mountain west are rare. Take advantage.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 18 2018
HER BIG BREAK
The best laid plans of singers and musicians often go awry.


This is an unusually nice promo poster we think. It was made for the Susan Hayward vehicle Smash-Up, sometimes referred to as Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman. It premiered this month in 1947 and involves nightclub chanteuse Hayward and her crooner husband, played by Lee Bowman. Hayward has talent but values love over career; her husband has less talent but endless ambition. When their careers go in different directions the strain begins to tear the marriage apart. Whose career goes which direction? We won't tell you that, though the audience learns in the first scene, a framing device featuring the downfallen character bandaged and delirious in a hospital bed. Even though the story's ending is sacrificed for an intro Smash-Up is a pretty good if melodramatic movie, with some strong film noir elements, Hayward in an Oscar nominated performance, and solid support from Eddie Albert as Bowman's composer partner. Worth a look—as long as you can deal with all the crooning.

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Vintage Pulp Mar 8 2018
HORSE OF A DIFFERENT COLOR
Hallucinatory southwestern noir takes readers to a land of saints and sinners.


It's said that a good book teaches you how to read it. The author instructs while building the story. Dorothy B. Hughes' 1946 crime novel Ride the Pink Horse, which was the source material for the 1947 film noir starring Robert Montgomery, falls into that category. In the story a man wanders around the southwestern U.S. town of Santa Fe, New Mexico, searching for someone he calls the Sen, which is short for the Senator. We suspect the shortening of his title is designed to make it a heterograph with “sin,” because this Illinois senator-turned-crime boss rather sinfully hired out the murder of his wife then shorted the murderer part of his fee. That's why the main character, named Sailor, is adrift in this town. He's followed the Sen there from Chicago to get his money. He plans to find him, confront him, collect payment, then scurry away to Mexico.

But this comes out in trickles. Initially Sailor merely criss-crosses the town, unable to find a hotel room because it's fiesta weekend, with crowds everywhere and processions filling the streets. He sleeps under the canopy of a merry-go-round which features a pink horse. As he keeps going in circles around town more characters emerge—the cop who's trying to solve murder of the senator's wife, the carousel owner who appeals to Sailor's sense of honor, the girl who recalls an innocence he can barely remember, and the beautiful Iris Towers, the focus of his wishes for a better life.

Hughes loves symbolic names: there's the Sen, as we already mentioned; there's Iris Towers, dressed in ivory colors and pale of skin; and there's the girl Pila, whose name is the Spanish word for a laundry trough, a place of cleansing. The book is composed of encounters rather than events, hallucinatory meanderings punctuated by tense verbal standoffs. Each tête-à-tête clarifies matters a bit more for the reader. Did Sailor really kill the Sen's wife? Did he ever intend to? Was she ever to be the actual target? Were others involved?

When Sailor goes from seeing the town's Mexican and Native American inhabitants as something other than sub-human, maybe, we think, he isn't irredeemable. But even if he grows in some ways his hatred continues to drive him. He thinks the Sen is vermin. He wonders how such an abomination can even walk upon the Earth. When he follows the Sen into the cathedral this thought passes through his mind: He didn’t know why the dim perfumed cathedral didn’t belch the Sen out of its holy portals.

Hughes is a good writer, a unique stylist, and she gives Ride the Pink Horse the disorienting feeling of taking place in purgatory. It's a fever dream, an acid trip across a constantly shifting landscape, literary rather than pulp in approach, as much Faulkner as it is Chandler, with nothing quite solid or real apart from Sailor's hatred, which is so intense it seems as if it will consume him and leave nothing behind but a cinder. Sailor's racism is appalling, but he's not supposed to be a good man. This town filled with people that frighten and confuse him could be his salvation or his doom. He's the one who has to decide whether to step back from the precipice. Every wise character sees that he's headed for destruction. But the future isn't set. He has a chance for redemption—small, but real. Top marks for this one.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 10 2018
HER MOVE
Knight shoots pawn—check and mate.


Patricia Knight made only five motion pictures, but one of them was 1949's Shockproof, which falls into the category of under appreciated film noir. She plays an ex-convict who moves in with her parole officer. Yeah—bad idea, but no need to say more because we already talked about the film in detail. Check here. Knight married her Shockproof co-star Cornel Wilde and, except for a few more roles, that was pretty much the end of her career. But her contribution to film noir is remembered as one of the better ones. This is a promo photo from the movie, 1949.

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Femmes Fatales Feb 5 2018
ASSUMPTION OF GUILD
Pronounce it wrong one more time. I dare you.

American actress Nancy Guild's name actually rhymed with “wild” not “guilt,” according to her, and since she's armed we'll call her anything she wants. She appeared in the noir thrillers Somewhere in the Night, which we talked about here, and Dashiell Hammett's The Brasher Doubloon, as well as about a dozen more films before quitting show business to marry producer Ernest H. Martin. This photo was made in 1947.

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Vintage Pulp Feb 1 2018
SOLO PERFORMANCE
If you want something done right do it yourself.


Years ago we shared a poster for I Walk Alone but hadn't seen the film. Since it's on the Noir City Film Festival schedule this year we thought we'd have a look, and what we watched was a story about Burt Lancaster being released from fourteen years in prison and immediately looking up his old partner who owes him a 50% share of profits from the bar they owned together. The partner is Kirk Douglas, at his slimy best, having expanded the bar into a glitzy supper club he has no intention of sharing. But since Lancaster got tossed into jail in the first place by protecting Douglas he's not going to just walk away empty handed. Once it becomes clear he has no legal claim to the club he puts together a crew to muscle in, but the strong arm method doesn't work out quite how he plans, and the stakes between the former partners go higher and higher. Lancaster, Douglas, Scott—there's really no way to fail. I Walk Alone has some problems in the area of character motivation—i.e. why would you do that?—but it's well acted and ultimately is an enjoyable film noir entry.

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Vintage Pulp Jan 30 2018
DARK BLUE
Los Angeles homecoming goes awry for Alan Ladd.


The Blue Dahlia is often cited as a top film noir, but it really isn't. That didn't matter to the Hollywood movers and shakers who nominated Raymond Chandler's screenplay for an Oscar, but we suspect the nod was for stringing together hard boiled dialogue, since it certainly wasn't for stringing together a coherent plot. The movie tells the story of a vet who returns home to find his wife cheating with the shady owner of a Hollywood nightclub. When she's murdered, the husband is sought by police, but he goes fugitive and attempts to find the real killer. With pretty boy Alan Ladd in the lead, plus support from Veronica Lake, William Bendix, and the beautiful Doris Dowling, The Blue Dahlia has a lot going for it, including a cool nocturnal vibe, but a script too reliant on improbable occurrences and Lake's flat performance in a basically ornamental role keep it from being upper echelon. It's worth a watch just to see Bendix go bathouse crazy every time he hears what he calls “monkey music,” but go into it knowing there are at least twenty better films in the genre. 

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Vintage Pulp Jan 29 2018
LOOKS THAT KILL
The eyes have it in for you.


Above, a beautiful promo poster for the film noir Mildred Pierce made for the film's run in France, which began today in 1947, more than a year after its U.S. premiere. This is pure awesomeness from artist Roger Rojac. Note that it touts Joan Crawford's Academy Award triumph, her win as best actress. It was also nominated for best picture but beaten by Lost Weekend, which is these days considered a bit of a cheeseball classic. We have our earlier write-up on Mildred Pierce here, and a nice promo image for the film at this link

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Vintage Pulp Jan 27 2018
DEAD SILENCE
Counterfeiters and Nazi agents clash in wartime Los Angeles.


When we saw Quiet Please: Murder on the Noir City slate and realized we'd never heard of it we decided to watch it and were treated to an interesting flick about sellers of literary forgeries who get in over their heads when they cheat the representatives of Nazis. Apparently, Hermann Göring is accumulating items he expects to maintain value in the event of post-war inflation, and a rare quarto of Hamlet fits the bill. George Sanders and Gail Patrick are the crooked vendors who run afoul of the Nazis, as well as the cop hero played by Richard Denning. The movie is remembered for its central scene involving an air raid drill that plunges heroes and villains into a blackout at a crucial moment, but the primary benefit here is watching Sanders, who was Russian born but learned a clenched-jaw upper class English accent that made his voice unique in film. He's a perfect baddie here, shooting a librarian to acquire the original Hamlet, pimp slapping his partner Patrick, and in general being shady as fuck. Thanks to him Quiet Please: Murder is an entertaining little b-noir.

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Next Page
History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
April 19
1927—Mae West Sentenced to Jail
American actress and playwright Mae West is sentenced to ten days in jail for obscenity for the content of her play Sex. The trial occurred even though the play had run for a year and had been seen by 325,000 people. However West's considerable popularity, already based on her risque image, only increased due to the controversy.
1971—Manson Sentenced to Death
In the U.S, cult leader Charles Manson is sentenced to death for inciting the murders of Sharon Tate and several other people. Three accomplices, who had actually done the killing, were also sentenced to death, but the state of California abolished capital punishment in 1972 and neither they nor Manson were ever actually executed.
April 18
1923—Yankee Stadium Opens
In New York City, Yankee Stadium, home of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees, opens with the Yankees beating their eternal rivals the Boston Red Sox 4 to 1. The stadium, which is nicknamed The House that Ruth Built, sees the Yankees become the most successful franchise in baseball history. It is eventually replaced by a new Yankee Stadium and closes in September 2008.
April 17
1961—Bay of Pigs Invasion Is Launched
A group of CIA financed and trained Cuban refugees lands at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba with the aim of ousting Fidel Castro. However, the invasion fails badly and the result is embarrassment for U.S. president John F. Kennedy and a major boost in popularity for Fidel Castro, and also has the effect of pushing him toward the Soviet Union for protection.
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