There are worse boyfriends out there, baby, believe me. I don't know of any offhand. But they must exist.
We talked about the revered film noir Night and the City last year and had absolutely nothing new to say about it. Some it's like that. But we'd never seen a color (or possibly colorized) promo image from the movie before, so we've looped back to share this great shot of stars Gene Tierney and Richard Widmark. In the film Widmark is one of the all-time losers, a guy who hustles to get over but has no luck, no momentum, no self-control, and—ultimately—no scruples, even where his girlfriend is concerned. It's a heartbreaking, uncompromising film that typifies the darkness and cynicism of film noir, and there's a reason it's considered a top level entry in the cycle. But back then it was too much for most critics. It premiered—to largely negative reviews—today in 1950.
A beautiful old poster turns out to be a beautiful new poster.
Yes, we just showed you a nice Japanese poster for Laura, and here we are again with another promo, this one French made and very striking. There's more than one French promo for the movie, but this is a special one. It's signed by the artist—Goldman. At first we were unable to find his first name, though we did immediately find another poster he created. That piece was for Orson Welles' 1946 drama The Stranger, so at that point we were thinking Goldman was an overlooked talent from the golden age of cinema. We used all our internet mining skills and learned, according to an auction website we visited, that Goldman's poster for The Stranger was for a cinematic re-release that occurred much more recently than the 1940s. That meant Laura was probably made for a re-release too. We soon determined that both The Stranger and Laura were screened in France in August 2012. The Cinémathèque Française, which isa venerable film society housed in a building designed by Canadian architect Frank Gehry, each year offers a slate of vintage and restored films, often focusing on one or several filmmakers. In 2012 Otto Preminger, director of Laura, was one of filmmakers being honored, along with Welles, Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Louis Trintignant, and others.
So, if we've gotten all this correct—which is no guarantee—the poster we thought was a rare piece of vintage promo art is actually a rare piece of modern promo art. And to think we always complain about modern promo art. So, okay, for the moment we're silenced, because this is excellent work. Still, though, we couldn't find out about Goldman. The internet is often heavy on noise and short on signal. With well known Goldmans out there ranging from Emma to Oscar to Sachs, we can't isolate our Goldman no matter what keyword/quotation mark/Boolean trick we try. But maybe the answer will turn up later. It often does.
He doesn't know art but he knows what he loves.
Above is a super promo poster for the 1944 film noir Laura, which starred Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, and Vincent Price. The figures, painted by an unknown, don't look anything like Tierney, Andrews, and Price, but still, we love it. The film premiered in Japan today in 1947 and was called ローラ殺人事件, which means “Laura murder.” Many film experts have written about Laura, but everything they say boils down the same conclusion—see it. Any perceived flaws are due to contemporary societal changes. Specifically—falling in love was accepted by World War II-era movie audiences as something that could happen easily, therefore filmmakers didn't have to expend much effort explaining it. In Laura, Andrews falls in love with a woman via her painted portrait. That's actually somewhat understandable, because he can make up anything he wants about her. But the movie's second instance of falling in love is more like, “Oh, this guy loves me, so I guess I love him too.” Modern filmgoers don't really buy that sort of thing, but when it comes to old films we consider it a feature, not a bug. Just skip the preliminaries and get to the lovin'. Hmm... we like that. Maybe we'll put that on a t-shirt.
An American con man in London.
Amazing that we haven't talked in detail about Night and the City yet, but all things in good time, and the time is now. Directed by Jules Dassin, this is one of the top entries in the film noir cycle, featuring Richard Widmark playing an American named Harry Fabian who's trying to hustle his way to riches in postwar London. Being a hustler, he long ago gave up the idea of working a fair job for a fair wage, and instead has been involved in so many spurious get-rich-quick schemes that nobody believes in him anymore. But when he stumbles upon the greatest greco-roman wrestler of all time, he cooks up a plot to take over wrestling promotion in London—and this scheme is a sure thing.
Widmark's performance hinges upon nervous energy and emotional desperation, as he shapes Harry Fabian into one of the greatest characters in the film noir annals, a man who's equal parts pitiable, ridiculous, and dangerous. He's the ultimate noir loser, a man who simply cannot see the forest for the trees. Gene Tierney, who any normal man would worship twenty-four hours a day, plays his girlfriend, beautiful and forbearing, but whose presence Fabian warps into yet another reason to grift his way to a fortune. He feels that a guy in his meager circumstances doesn't deserve her—which completely overlooks the fact that he already has her.
As Widmark tries to hold his caper together the rug is pulled from under him multiple times, yet like any serious hustler he manages to stumble improvisationally onward with lies and wishful thinking. His constant sowing of the seeds of his destruction is hard to watch, because as viewers we can see where and how he's going to fail—or possibly, just possibly, fate will grant him a miracle though he very much deserves to fail. One of the cool things about film noir is that its leads tend to be terribly flawed, but here Widmark is a human clearing house for bad character traits, and the worst of them is the one he has no control over—he was simply born under a bad star.
All in all Night and the City deserves its reputation. We have a few quibbles, but they're purely personal. For example, female leads in these old films often perform a song and Tierney's is atrocious, sadly. And if we were going to be very picky we'd add that it's also hard to buy the wonderful Tierney and the unctuous, work-averse Widmark as a couple, but of course, willing suspension and all that jazz requires that we go with it. The movie works even if Widmark refuses to. Give it a watch. You won't regret it. Night and the City had its world premiere today in 1950.
An American con man in London.
Above: a nice Italian poster for Jules Dassin's 1950 film noir Night and the City. The city is London, which proves to have numerous hazards for shady Richard Widmark. In Italy the movie was called I trafficanti della notte, then retitled Nella citta la notte scotta. You see both on the poster. Earlier promos exist that have only the first title, but we like this later one painted by Renato Casaro the most. It has a beautiful glowing cityscape in the background. Amazing work. We don't know why the title was changed, but the original translates as “the traffickers of the night," while the second is, “in the city the night is hot,” so maybe the distributors simply preferred the more poetic second title. We certainly do. We haven't talked about this movie yet, but we'll get to it a little later. It opened in Italy today in 1951.
Royal Crown helps consumers to stay awake at the movies.
Lauren Bacall brings her special brand of smoky sex appeal to this magazine advertisement for Royal Crown Cola, made as a tie-in with her 1946 film noir The Big Sleep. RC was launched in 1905 by Union Bottling Works—a grandiose corporate name for some guys in the back of a Georgia grocery store. The story is that the drink came into being after grocer Claud A. Hatcher got into a feud with his Coca Cola supplier over the cost of Coke syrup, and essentially launched RC out of equal parts entrepreneurialism and spite. Union Bottling Works quickly had a line of drinks, including ginger ale, strawberry soda, and root beer. However humbly RC Cola began, the upstart had truly arrived by 1946, because The Big Sleep, co-starring Humphrey Bogart, was an important movie, and Bacall was a huge star. She was only one jewel in the crown of RC's endorsement efforts. Also appearing in ads were Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Joan Crawford, Virginia Mayo, Paulette Goddard, Gene Tierney, Ann Rutherford, Ginger Rogers, and others. Bacall flogged RC for at least a few years, including starring in tie-in ads for Dark Passage, another screen pairing of her and Bogart that hit cinemas in 1947. You see one of those at bottom. We can only assume these ads were wildly successful. After all, it was Bacall.
Sure, I'll put the cigarette out. But I'll still be smoking.
There are a few shots of U.S. actress Gene Tierney posing with the column you see behind her, but we like this one the best. It's usually attributed to her 1944 film noir Laura, but other people say it's from 1942's The Shanghai Gesture. Sharp-eyed film noir fans will remember that there's a column like this in Laura Hunt's apartment in Laura, but that isn't why the promo is from Laura. It's the hair. Tierney basically wore a pompadour in The Shanghai Gesture, and remember, these promos were almost always made with the subject in character. So this is from Laura, for sure. But the confusion is understandable, because Tierney was also photographed on this set for The Shanghai Gesture too. Check the photo below, note the hair, and note the dress—she wore that in The Shanghai Gesture, which you can prove by going here and seeing it worn in front of a Chinese themed backdrop. So the set above was used for Tierney twice, once in ’42, and once in ’44. She was hot both times.
Is that a shotgun in your coat or are you just unhappy to see me?
Gene Tierney had a great career on stage and screen, but as time has gone by the role that movie buffs seem most drawn to has been her turn as Laura Hunt in the 1944 film noir Laura. This photo was made as promo for that film, which we agree is one of her best. You can see a couple of Laura posters here, and if you follow the links in that post you can find out more about the film.
Real love knows no limits. Not even death.
We're circling back to the classic film noir Laura today to share two more promo posters. Previously we showed you a Spanish promo that caught our eye because of its red and violet colors, and a dark Finnish poster that uses a photo of Gene Tierney, but the U.S. promos above are better known. If you haven't seen Laura, it's about a detective who falls in love with a murdered woman. Definitely watch it. It premiered in New York City today in 1944. |
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
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.
1964—Mass Student Arrests in U.S.
In California, Police arrest over 800 students at the University of California, Berkeley, following their takeover and sit-in at the administration building in protest at the UC Regents' decision to forbid protests on university property.
1968—U.S. Unemployment Hits Low
Unemployment figures are released revealing that the U.S. unemployment rate has fallen to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate for almost fifteen years. Going forward all the way to the current day, the figure never reaches this low level again.
1954—Joseph McCarthy Disciplined by Senate
In the United States, after standing idly by during years of communist witch hunts in Hollywood and beyond, the U.S. Senate votes 65 to 22 to condemn Joseph McCarthy for conduct bringing the Senate into dishonor and disrepute. The vote ruined McCarthy's career.
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