Vintage Pulp Jan 21 2022
JOHNNY BE GOOD
The clock strikes trouble in Dick Powell crime thriller.


Above is a beautiful poster for the vintage film noir Johnny O'Clock, which starred Dick Powell at the height of his fame, and was probably greenlighted due only to his presence. The plot and script could be better, but Powell and his co-stars Evelyn Keyes, Thomas Gomez, Ellen Drew, and Nina Foch are all excellent, and the result is a twisty little noir that starts with power games inside a casino operation, but evolves into the suicide of a casino hatcheck girl, and an investigation by a cop working from a mistaken set of assumptions. Keyes plays the showgirl sister of the unfortunate suicide who jets into town, her arrival nudging casino manager Powell from indifference to curiosity about the death. Not that Powell has much of a choice in the end—the cops become extremely interested in him when the suicide turns out to be murder, his main rival turns up dead, and he's suspected of both crimes.

So the movie eventually falls into the familiar pattern—Powell needs to uncover the truth even as the cops are trying to put him behind bars; Keyes has the hots for a gangster though she's presumably old enough and smart enough to know better; Powell has gotten along fine without a conscience for years, but now Keyes is pressuring him to make the right choices; and finally there's that old film noir obstacle jealousy, ultimately the deciding factor in so much. But familiar as these ingredients may be, Johnny O'Clock manages to mix them into a decent movie. It isn't the best from the film noir cycle, but it's worth the time to watch it. As a side note, you know those old cartoons where a gangster flips a coin over and over, flipping it and catching it with the same hand? This is probably the movie where it originated. Powell is a master with that coin. And he's a master of film noir too. Johnny O'Clock premiered today in 1947.

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Femmes Fatales Oct 31 2021
THE WITCHING HOUR
That's a great pumpkin, Ellen Drew.


This cool 1941 photo shows U.S. actress Ellen Drew, who appeared in the film noir Johnny O'Clock, as well as the titles Strange Confession, Night Plane from Chungking, The Crooked Way, and dozens of other films between 1936 and 1957. Here she has all the Halloween accoutrements—black cat, jack-o'-lantern, and a witchy cape, as she awaits the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. Psst—he's behind you.

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Vintage Pulp Nov 9 2020
UNDER COVER OF NIGHT
When the sun's away the crooks will slay.


And speaking of the film noir starring Aldo Ray and Anne Bancroft, we watched it right after finishing the book, and though the novel was pretty dark, the filmmakers decided a little upbeat mood music was on order, so they got the immortal jazz crooner Al Hibbler to sing a theme song. Everybody knows this one. Join right in: Nightfaaaaaaall... and youuuuuuuuuuu... lovely you... underneath the wreath of heaven's pale blue... you are poetry (possibly haiku)... you are melody (maybe in d minor, the saddest of keys)... You get the idea. Don't let us turn you off this film. The theme song is nothing the mute button won't fix.

As we mentioned in our post on the source novel, Nightfall was directed by Jacques Tourneur, the heavyweight talent behind the film noir monument Out of the Past, and he has the kind of skills that make an early shot of co-star James Gregory getting on a bus an artistic achievement. Gregory plays an insurance investigator on the trail of $350,000 worth of missing heist loot, and, as in the novel, the innocent schmuck who accidentally got stuck with it lost it and doesn't remember how or where. That person is played by Ray, who's great in this, as he relates his dilemma in flashbacks and desperately tries to deal with the two murderous robbers who originally stole the cash.

Nightfall is no Out of the Past, but it's a solid film noir entry, well worth watching. Besides Ray and Gregory, the two robbers Brian Keith and Rudy Bond are good, and honey-voiced Bancroft as the femme fatale handles her pivotal role nicely. Credit here also goes to Burnett Guffey, who photographed the movie, and added to his long list of beautiful film noir achievements—Johnny O'Clock, Night Editor, In a Lonely Place, The Sniper, Private Hell 36, Screaming Mimi, and a portfolio of other films. Put Nightfall in your queue. It'll be worth it—once the theme song is over. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1956

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Femmes Fatales Jan 5 2018
RINGING IN THE NEW YEAR
She made a resolution to look at things 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.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
December 09
1965—UFO Reported by Thousands of Witnesses
A large, brilliant fireball is seen by thousands in at least six U.S. states and Ontario, Canada as it streaks across the sky, reportedly dropping hot metal debris, starting grass fires, and causing sonic booms. It is generally assumed and reported by the press to be a meteor, however some witnesses claim to have approached the fallen object and seen an alien craft.
December 08
1980—John Lennon Killed
Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot four times in the back and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman had been stalking Lennon since October, and earlier that evening Lennon had autographed a copy of his album Double Fantasy for him.
December 07
1941—Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
The Imperial Japanese Navy sends aircraft to attack the U.S. Pacific Fleet and its defending air forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. While the U.S. lost battleships and other vessels, its aircraft carriers were not at Pearl Harbor and survived intact, robbing the Japanese of the total destruction of the Pacific Fleet they had hoped to achieve.
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