Stanwyck rips holes in yet another man's life.
The File on Thelma Jordon is another one of those movies in which a man fools around on a perfectly wonderful wife, and in so doing screws up his perfectly satisfactory existence. The fool in question is played by Wendell Corey, who you may recognize as James Stewart's police buddy from Rear Window. Here he's a district prosecutor. His marriage to nice girl Joan Tetzel is problematic for reasons that seem pretty trivial as far as we're concerned, but whatever—it's film noir, and if the script says he's bummed, okay. His wandering gaze soon partakes of veteran bad woman Barbara Stanwyck, and from that point forward he just can't keep his lips to himself. When Stanwyck's frail aunt turns up ventilated, wily Wendell finds himself in a serious pickle, both personally and professionally.
There's not much you can criticize in The File on Thelma Jordon. Stanwyck is a great actress, particularly in moments of high tension or panic, of which there's an abundance. The sequence where she and Corey frantically try to reorganize an incriminating crime scene before anyone else arrives is a tour de force, seven minutes of masterful staging, acting, directing, and cinematography. And that's just the halfway point. The web hasn't even begun to tighten yet. Before long Corey will find himself—as in all the best noirs—in a situation so absurdly awful that there seems to be no possibility of escape. And all because he wasn't happy with his perfectly wonderful wife, and perfectly satisfactory existence. These guys just never learn.
I should be happy with you, my lovely wife, but this is a film noir, so I'm not.
Eyes, nose, lips—yup, everything looks fine. Why do I want to cheat on you so badly?
Hi, I'm Thelma. It's okay to look at me—we'll be making the eight-limbed mattress monster™ soon anyway.
What do you mean you found a gun? What's a gun?
Why, I know nothing at all about the recent thefts of tablecloths from local Italian restaurants. Do you like my new skirt?
Can we go inside now? The center console is bruising my crack.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I've gotten my dick in the wringer but good.
Sorry, there's only room for one up here.
This 1941 image of U.S. actress Barbara Stanwyck was made when she was filming the comedy-romance Ball of Fire, one of eighty-five films she made during her long career. Her perch on a pedestal here is appropriate, considering she earned up to $50,000 per role, and in 1944 pulled in $400,000 from various sources, making her the highest paid woman in America. No wonder she's smiling.
Don't look at me you fool! Look at the menstrual cups!
Above is a production still from the classic film noir Double Indemnity showing stars Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray trying to look like two random grocery shoppers who don't know each other. They're failing big time. But it's not because of the sunglasses and hat. It's because they're both in the feminine hygiene aisle. Well, not really. In the movie we never see what aisle they're in, but our interpretation could explain MacMurray's utterly baffled expression. Double Indemnity premiered today in 1944. And for you history buffs, menstrual cups premiered in stores in the 1930s.
If at first you don't succeed.
We watched The Two Mrs. Carrolls with the Pulp Intl. girlfriends, which is a shame because years of work trying to get them to like old films was finally bearing fruit, only to be partly undone by this one. Whereas In a Lonely Place is one of Bogart's best, The Two Mrs. Carrolls is one of his worst—which should make for an interesting double bill at Noir City tonight. There are problems in most elements of this film, but the main saboteur is the script, adapted by Thomas Job from Martin Vale’s 1935 play of the same name. Structurally, it has some problematic loose threads, and in terms of plot progression, relying upon a child to impart several pieces of crucial information to the heroine all at once all during a casual conversation is not a good move for a suspense movie. Having Barbara Stanwyck find the entire murder scheme outlined on a piece of notebook paper would have been less contrived. Stanwyck, Humphrey Bogart, and Alexis Smith give it a spirited go, but they can overcome only so much. At least the movie looks great. Credit director Peter Godfrey for that much, with a big assist from cinematographer J. Peverell Marley.
Fighting the good fight.
Promo photo of American actress Barbara Stanwyck, indisputably one of film and television's greatest and most enduring stars, circa mid-1930s.
Hanging with Mr. Cooper.
We were just writing about Gary Cooper in our history text and… You do read the history text, right? Please tell us you read that stuff, because we really do work hard on it. Anyway, Cooper died fifty years ago yesterday, so we thought we’d share one of the posters we had sitting around. Above you see the Japanese one sheet for his 1953 western Blowing Wild, with Barbara Stanwyck and Anthony Quinn. We’ll get into Mr. Cooper a bit more down the line. We have to—we can’t possibly ignore a guy who Clara Bow said was “hung like a horse and can go all night.” And we also have to get into the story about how Lupe Velez stabbed him for drawing a face on one of her nipples. When you do something like that to a woman known as the Mexican Spitfire, you have to expect incendiary results, but we'll explore that and other Cooper episodes soon.
Midnight offers yet more fiction in the guise of reportage.
The thing about Midnight is that they didn’t need much to build an issue. A couple of phony, sex-oriented stories, some outraged letters to the editor, their monthly “Hollywood Confidential” column, a bunch of sleazy little ads for the back pages, and they were good to go. In this issue from forty-three years ago today we learn that a UC Berkeley co-ed is earning enough credits to graduate by performing a “first hand” survey of American sex practices. For that, she needs volunteers. Lots of them. Another story, written by Element J. Pussypimple (seriously) discusses a Sheffield, England sex school that teaches teens to get it on without getting pregnant. But the real gem in each issue of Midnight was John Wilson’s column “Hollywood Confidential,” which was as libelous an effort as ever appeared in an American tabloid. In this issue alone, Wilson claims Elvis Presley placed an emergency call to his plastic surgeon because his new nose was sagging, Chris Noel ditched her date Richard Boone at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go and ran out the back door with Tom Tryon, Jack Lemmon hit a man over the head with a brass ashtray, and Barbara Stanwyck resorted to paying tabloids to arrange trysts for her with young men. Wow! Spinning a web of lies that vast is no easy feat, but it's go big or go home at Midnight. Check out more issues by clicking keyword "Midnight" below. See you Monday.
Every star who mattered made an appearance.
Assorted Festival magazines, published in France, circa 1940s, 1950s. Cover stars from top left are: Arlette Poirier, Susan Hayward, Yvonne de Carlo, Magali Noel, Jaqueline Brion, Alida Valli, Jane Russell, Victoria Shaw, Lana Turner, Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Bates, Marilyn Monroe, Micheline Francey, and Barbara Stanwyck.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1919—Volstead Act Passed
The U.S. Congress passes the Volstead Act over President Woodrow Wilson's veto, paving the way for alcohol Prohibition to begin the following January. The Act, named for Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Andrew Volstead, was supposed to create a better society but instead helped lead to the rise of violent organized crime gangs. The law wouldn't be repealed until 1933.
1922—Mussolini Comes Into Power
During the second day of the event known as the March on Rome, Fascist leader Benito Mussolini officially takes control of the Italian government when King Victor Emmanuel III cedes power. Supported by a coalition of military, business, and right-wing leaders, Mussolini remains in power until 1943, when defeat in World War II begins to look inevitable.
1994—U.S. Prison Population Reaches Milestone
The U.S. prison population tops 1 million for the first time in American history. By 2008 the U.S. Justice Department pegs the number of imprisoned at 2.3 million, and the overall U.S. correctional population, i.e. those in jail, prison, on probation or on parole, at 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 adults.
1951—Churchill Becomes Prime Minster Again
The Conservative Party wins the British general election, making Winston Churchill prime minister for the second time. Churchill is nearly 76 at the time, making him the second oldest prime minister in history after William Gladstone. Churchill remains PM until 1955, when he steps down at 81 due to ill health.
1964—The Night Caller Is Executed
In Australia, Eric Edgar Cooke, who had earned the nickname Night Caller, is hanged after being convicted of murder. He had terrorized Perth for four years, committing 22 violent crimes, eight of which resulted in deaths. He becomes the last person to be executed in Western Australia.
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