San Fran film fest once again celebrates the best and brightest of mid-century crime cinema.
Today, once again, the U.S.’s premier film noir festival begins in San Francisco. Well, we aren’t impartial—we used to live in Berkeley, just across the Bay, and San Fran was our nocturnal playground—but we think the Noir City Film Festival is the best, that its locale the Castro Theatre is awesome, and that San Francisco, with its iconic hills, clanking cable cars, and rogue fogs, is the also the best possible host city. This year the art produced for the festival in its thirteenth year references worn pulp paperbacks, which we can appreciate, and we also love the festival line-up.
The extravaganza opens with Woman on the Run, a film we discussed recently. Apparently the last known print burned in a fire, and this year’s showing represents the culmination of years of restoration work. Since the film was in the public domain, we imagine some secondary sources existed and needed to be tracked down and cobbled together. Other classics to be screened include Clash By Night, The Thin Man, Shockproof, Cry Terror!, and twenty others. Hopefully a few of our Bay Area friends will attend the festival and report back. And to Pulp Intl. readers in that part of the world, this is your official reminder—any chance to see film noir on a big screen is an opportunity not to be wasted.
Photo sessions make me nervous and then I look uneasy or stressed, so please wait until I’m smiling before you—
Actually, American actress Gladys George did tend to look worried in many of her photos. Not her fault—it’s just the way her face was built. But she coincidentally suffered from numerous worrisome ailments during her life, including throat cancer, heart disease, and cirrhosis. You may remember her as Iva Archer in the classic noir The Maltese Falcon, but she also appeared in Madame X, They Gave Him a Gun, and The House that Jazz Built, among more than forty other films. She eventually died early from a cerebral hemorrhage.
Thou shalt not mispronounce her name.
When your name is Nina Foch you probably get used to introducing yourself only to have people say, “You need a what?” Not us, though. We’d never be that juvenile. Film buffs will remember this Dutch actress as Bithiah, the woman who in 1956’s oft-broadcast spectacle The Ten Commandments finds Moses and raises him as her son, but she also played in pulpier fare such as The Return of the Vampire and Escape in the Fog, and important noirs like Johnny O’Clock and My Name Is Julia Ross. This shot was made in 1944 as a promo for her role in Cry of the Werewolf.
Woman on the Run is a real rollercoaster ride.
General consensus on this public domain film is that it’s better than expected and we watched it and agree. It isn’t about a woman on the run but rather the woman’s husband. She’s looking for him, though, and that’s what the movie revolves around. There’s a very effective rollercoaster sequence at the climax, but otherwise the movie has two main pleasures—Ann Sheridan’s jaded wife character that softens by the end of the film, and the extensive location shooting. In fact, there’s so much external scenery that the film doubles as a tour of mid-century San Francisco, which might be enough reason alone to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1950.
Diana Dors dirties her golden locks for another turn as a woman behind bars.
The excellent promo above for Le femme et le rôdeur, aka The Unholy Wife was created by Roger Soubie, one of the best French poster artists of the mid-century period. His art drew us to the movie, which we watched only to discover Diana Dors in identical grime mode as in her prison drama Yield to the Night. Not only do both productions feature Dors locked down with her blonde tresses gone brown due to lack of available dye, but both involve her being on death row for murder. Since The Unholy Wife was the next film she did after Yield to the Night we can only assume her initial foray into crime and incarceration was such a success it needed to be repeated. Like almost exactly. Unfortunately, two visions of a bruise-eyed Dors about to receive state-sponsored revenge were too much for audiences, and her repeat excursion was roundly panned.
And sadly, we must agree. Dors is living in California and is married to a Napa winery baron, but since she’s also sharing her affections with a hot young lover, she soon ponders murdering her unsuspecting hubby for his estate. When we lived in Berkeley, just south of the California wine country, we rarely pondered anything more than sunlit grapes and a nice Schug Syrah. But okay, The Unholy Wife is a film noir, which means Dors is no more happy with her heaven-on-Earth existence than a Wall Street stockbroker is with his untaxable Cayman Islands shadow fortune. Both inexplicably want more. Dors starts the film in prison and tells her story via flashback, so we already know her schemes backfired. If only the same were true for stockbrokers. The Unholy Wife premiered in England in the summer of 1957 and premiered in France today the same year.
, The Unholy Wife
, La femme et le rôdeur
, Yield to the Night
, Diana Dors
, Rod Steiger
, Roger Soubie
, poster art
, film noir
Way down Argentine way Bogart fronts the era’s definitive detective novel.
Leoplán was an Argentine magazine published by Ramón Sopena’s eponymous company Editorial Sopena from 1934 to 1965. This issue features a complete Spanish language reprint of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon and is fronted by a nice Manuel Olivas painting of Humphrey Bogart and the bird. It’s from 1949.
, Editorial Sopena
, The Maltese Falcon
, El halcón maltés
, Ramón Sopena
, Humphrey Bogart
, Dashiell Hammett
, Manuel Olivas
, magazine art
, film noir
Glass Key paperback art is tops thanks to another Italian master.
Brian Donlevy and Veronica Lake’s film noir The Glass Key, which was Hollywood’s second try at Dashiell Hammett’s novel, premiered this month in 1942. To be exact, it opened yesterday in New York City and throughout the U.S. on October 23. The poster most often seen online is the theatrical release version we showed you several years ago, but alternates were produced and two of them appear below. What we really wanted to share, though, is this great paperback cover from UK-based Digit Books. It’s from 1961 and features the art of Italian illustrator Enrico de Seta, who we’ve mentioned before. If you haven’t watched The Glass Key we recommend it, and if you haven’t read the book, just know that it was Hammett’s personal favorite.
, New York City
, Digit Books
, The Glass Key
, Dashiell Hammett
, Enrico de Seta
, Alan Ladd
, Brian Donlevy
, Veronica Lake
, poster art
, cover art
, film noir
Slipping into darkness.
Lauren Bacall appears here in what may be her most famous publicity image, gazing from the darkness with a knowing, mischievous, heavy-lidded look she made her trademark in The Big Sleep, Dark Passage, and To Have and Have Not, three films that were a sort of informal trifecta of film noir. She also appeared in Key Largo, less a noir than a melodrama, but still excellent. All co-starred Humphrey Bogart, who she married in the middle of this run of films and remained married to until his death in 1957. Bacall joins him more than half a century later, aged eighty-nine.
He wasn’t very tall, but he cast a long shadow.
Above, Humphrey Bogart in a promo shot from 1941’s High Sierra, a movie that examines the futility of greed and violence (at least for those with no power or connections). It was more or less the fortieth film Bogart had made, and further cemented his bankability before he truly broke out as a leading man later the same year with The Maltese Falcon. Also, you can once again thank W.R. Burnett—he wrote the novel and collaborated on the screenplay.
The eyes of March.
Peggy Dow was born Margaret Josephine Varnadow in March 1928 and came to widespread notice in her second feature, the film noir Undertow. She had earned a seven-year contract with Universal International Pictures and it’s certain they thought they had a big star on their hands, but after three years in movies she abruptly quit to marry an Oklahoma oilman and settled into family life and motherhood. She may not be well remembered today, but we’re pretty sure this promo photo will stick in the mind. It was made in 1949.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
Russian political revolutionary Fanny Kaplan shoots Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, wounding him in the shoulder and jaw. Lenin survives, she doesn't—she's executed three days later.
1963—Washington-Moscow Hotline Established
A hotline between U.S. and Soviet leaders, known as the Washington-Moscow hotline or Red Telephone, goes into operation. It linked the White House to the Kremlin at the height of the Cold War, and presumably still does today.
2006—Glenn Ford Dies
Canadian actor Glenn Ford, who starred in some of the best films ever made, including Gilda
, The Big Heat, and the original 3:10 to Yuma, dies in his home in Beverly Hills, USA. He was still in love with Rita Hayworth, his one-time co-star who had died years earlier. Reputedly, his last words were, "You don't keep Rita Hayworth waiting."
1949—Soviet Union Joins Nuclear Club
The Soviet Union detonates
a nuclear weapon at a test site in Kazakhstan. American experts are shocked and dismayed because they had thought the Soviets were still years away from having a workable bomb. The resultant fear helps trigger an arms race that would see the Americans and Soviets stockpile approximately 32,000 and 45,000 nuclear devices.
1963—King Gives Famous Speech
In the U.S., Martin Luther King, Jr., at the culmination of his march on Washington for jobs and freedom, gives his famous "I Have a Dream Speech," advocating racial harmony and equality.
1981—Scientists Announce Existence of New Disease
The National Centers for Disease Control announce a high incidence of pneumocystis and Kaposi's sarcoma in gay men. These illnesses are later recognized as symptoms of a blood-borne immune disorder, which they name AIDS. The disease is initially thought to have developed in the late 1970s among gay populations, but scientists now know it developed in the late 1800s or early 1900s in Africa during the height of European conquest of the continent.
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