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.
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.
The Noir City Film Festival arrives in the Bay for its 16th year.
We wanted to show you the latest Noir City Film Festival promo posters, like we traditionally do, because it's a nostalgia trip for us from our time living in the San Fran Bay area. This year we aren't going to try to watch all the movies. Well, we may watch the movies, but we won't write about them. Or maybe we'll write about one or two. Anyway, Noir City, Bay area, audience members in period costumes—go. There's nothing like an old movie on a big screen.
What the hell are you two snickering about? You never seen a guy polish his tommy gun before?
Harry Schaare does nice work on a cover for W.R. Burnett's thriller High Sierra, copyright 1950 from Bantam Books. If anybody snickered it was probably Schaare himself. He had to know how masturbatory this looked, right? Or maybe it's just us. Anyway, this book obviously became a celebrated gangster film noir starring Humphrey Bogart, but the source material is electric. We read it years ago and it stuck with us. Highly recommended.
She made a resolution to see the world from a fresh perspective.
Ellen Drew, née Esther Loretta Ray, was only 5'3”, which means she probably needed help getting onto and off of these rings, but she looks pretty comfy up there, and joins other gymnastic femmes fatales we've featured. Drew debuted onscreen in 1936 and made scores of movies, including Johnny O'Clock and The Crooked Way. She actually acted under her birth name for twenty-five films, but switched to Ellen Drew in 1938 and sustained her career into the early 1960s. This shot of her risking a broken head or tailbone was made around 1940. If you want to see other classic celebs performing aerial gymnastics, check here for Danielle Darrieux, here for Sophie Hardy, and here for the goddess Joey Heatherton.
Peggy Cummins hit Hollywood with guns blazing.
According to a story yesterday in The Hollywood Reporter, Wales born Irish actress Peggy Cummins died in a London hospital December 29 after suffering a stroke. She was ninety-two years old. Cummins, who was born Augusta Fuller, played the morality challenged Annie Laurie Starr in Gun Crazy, a low budget film noir that rose above its humble station over the decades to eventually be included in the U.S. Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. While the film is often characterized as a breakthrough fro Cummins, it was actually her eleventh screen role, and did not lead to a career of top notch offers. However, she ultimately appeared in more than twenty-five productions, with her last coming in 1965. The above photo was made a promo for Gun Crazy and dates from 1950. You can read more about the film here.
Santa Claus, huh? Well, let's see some identification. And get those reindeer back or they'll be sorry.
Above, a nice promo shot for the Dick Powell film noir Cornered, which opened in the U.S. today in 1945. Powell is posing with co-star Micheline Cheirel. If you're interested we talked about the movie here.
The tune tells the whole tale.
We love when the opening song of a movie tells you everything you need to know about the main character. Wicked Woman stars legendary b-movie femme fatale Beverly Michaels, and here are some choice lines from the intro theme, sung by crooner Herb Jeffries:
Why is a wicked woman a fascinating game,
a thing a good man just can't leave alone?
You know before you start it you'll end up broken hearted,
but still you're like a moth to flame.
What does a wicked woman have burning in her eyes
that casts you in a spell you can't escape?
You know that what she's doin' is sure to cause your ruin
and still you listen to her lies...
Wicked Woman is pure cheeseball melodrama, but it's important because it established the icy cold Michaels blueprint that was copied in later movies—the lure, the scam, and the betrayal, all done unrepentantly. Michaels' fame derives not from acting ability, but from screen presence—i.e. she had that special it needed to play a femme fatale. In fact she's so bad you kind of root for her. Wicked Woman premiered in the U.S. today in 1953, and you can watch the whole thing at this link.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1938—Chicora Meteor Lands
In the U.S., above Chicora, Pennsylvania, a meteor estimated to have weighed 450 metric tons explodes in the upper atmosphere and scatters fragments across the sky. Only four small pieces are ever discovered, but scientists estimate that the meteor, with an explosive power of about three kilotons of TNT, would have killed everyone for miles around if it had detonated in the city.
1973—Peter Dinsdale Commits First Arson
A fire at a house in Hull, England, kills a six year old boy and is believed to be an accident until it later is discovered to be a case of arson. It is the first of twenty-six deaths by fire caused over the next seven years by serial-arsonist Peter Dinsdale. Dinsdale is finally captured in 1981, pleads guilty to multiple manslaughter, and is detained indefinitely under Britain's Mental Health Act as a dangerous psychotic.
1944—G.I. Bill Goes into Effect
U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Servicemen's Readjustment Act into law. Commonly known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply G.I. Bill, the grants toward college and vocational education, generous unemployment benefits, and low interest home and business loans the Bill provided to nearly ten million military veterans was one of the largest factors involved in building the vast American middle class of the 1950s and 1960s.
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