Glenn Ford gets the picture and it isn't pretty.
This poster for the film noir Framed, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1947, is a bit different in style from what you'd normally see during the 1940s. It was a low budget movie, so we imagine this was the low budget solution to promo art. It's reasonably effective, enough so that we decided to watch the movie, and the premise is that pretty boy Glenn Ford is a down-on-his-luck job seeker who's been unwittingly selected by a couple of shady characters to take the fall for a bank embezzlement. We didn't give anything away there. Viewers know pretty much right away Ford is being set up, who's doing it, and why. It's the complications that make the movie, and those accumulate rather quickly. If being framed is defined as to be on the hook for a crime you didn't commit, then there's more than one framee in this film, which is where clever scripting comes in to rescue a bottom drawer budget. In the end you get a nice b-noir with a title that takes on more significance than you'd at first assume. We recommend it highly.
Rita Hayworth does tall, dark, and treacherous.
We've done a lot on Gilda, but it's one of our favorite movies of the 1940s, and we'd be remiss if we didn't show you this beautiful promo image, basically the best of the lot from this flick. Gilda had everything—an exotic Argentine location (shot on a backlot), a story of danger (done many times before), and a tough, cynical leading man (nothing new for the time period). So then, what made Gilda great, if it was so derivative? Two things—Hayworth, playing a jaded and suspicious femme fatale; and a good script that skirted that bounds of what was allowable in terms of expressing feminine sexual liberation. Co-star Glenn Ford had perfect chemistry with Hayworth, too, which counts for something, but any man would have that. No, it's Rita's show. And though she didn't live forever, Gilda will. Or at least, it'll live as long as humans watch anything that can be classified as cinema.
High quality poster art for a high quality film noir.
As far as posters go for the seminal Gene Tierney film noir Laura, this, we think, is the best of the lot. It's the West German promo, a real work of art, signed, but illegibly. We scoured the internet for hours for clues to the creator of this, but with no luck, so put it in the unknown file. Laura premiered in the U.S. in 1944, and reached West Germany today in 1947.
Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can stay her from the swift completion of her appointed seduction.
Above is a trolley card for the classic Lana Turner/John Garfield film noir The Postman Always Rings Twice, which according to the text, opened at the Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles today in 1946. What's a trolley card? Pretty much self-explanatory, that. But you don't see many surviving examples, so this is a real treasure. The opening date represents new info. All the websites we checked said the movie opened in L.A. May 9. Maybe the managers of the Egyptian had connections at MGM. Awesome connections, we guess, to have helped them beat the rest of town by two full days. With that kind of juice, it's safe to assume they only had to ring once at the studio gates. We worked in the L.A. film industry. Relationships are everything. Or maybe the movie actually opened today, and the internet is wrong. Wouldn't be the first time. Not that we're trying to sound superior. We've made errors more than once. Interestingly, we were able to locate a vintage photo of the Egyptian with its marquee advertising Postman. It's a great movie. Nobody needs us to tell them that, but we did anyway, at this link.
If you were framed for murder you'd be pissed too.
These posters for They Made Me a Killer are about as nice as you'll find from the mid-century period. They're both framable classics, so it may come as a surprise to know the film is a bottom budget b-noir, only sixty-four minutes long, and streamlined in plot. Basically, Robert Lowery, who soups up cars for a living, gets suckered by a femme fatale into driving getaway for a bank robbery. He's literally hijacked. Bank guards die, and a witness is shot. When Lowery is eventually left behind, the cops pick him up and he tries to explain that he's a patsy, but they don't believe him. This leads to an astonishing sequence. Lowery convinces the cops to take him to the hospital, where the fact that he had nothing to do with the robbery can be confirmed by a critically wounded witness. But the witness is barely hanging on and is unable to speak at all. Lowery decides to escape and upends the hospital bed onto the cops‚ critically injured occupant and all. He hadn't killed the bank guards, but the guy in the hospital bed surely couldn't have survived being dumped on the floor. It's weird and kind of funny, but the scene does let us know the hero's motivations for finding the robbers may not be as simple as merely clearing his name. You have time to kill? This lightweight thriller is fine. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.
Shit. I knew moving up to the behemoth division was a bad idea.
Above is a promo image made of Robert Ryan when he was starring in the gritty boxing noir The Set-Up. There's good news and bad news for Ryan here. The bad news is he's losing. The good news is he'll survive because his opponent only kills to eat. The film premiered today in 1949, and you can read what we wrote about it and see more promo images here.
Famed director ends up with too many cooks in his kitchen.
The film noir The Lady from Shanghai, starring Hollywood icons Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles, and directed by Welles, premiered in 1947 but reached Australia today in 1948, with this stunning promo poster having been distributed Down Under to help attract audiences. This film had amazing promos in many countries, some of which we'll show you later, and they all spelled Welles' last name correctly, which this one didn't. All the brilliant poster work around this movie is ironic, because Harry Cohn, who was the shot-caller at Columbia Pictures, hated it. He even shelved the flick for a year while he waited for what he deemed to be the best date to release it. When he finally did, what audiences saw was a radically altered version of Welles' original edit.
What did Cohn specifically hate about the film? Foremost there was its length, which was 155 minutes, and which Cohn ordered condensed, with the final running time coming to a mere 88 minutes. He also felt Hayworth didn't have enough close-ups, so he had those shot during extensive re-takes. Hayworth also didn't have a song, which was standard for film noir leading ladies, so Cohn had a number added and had Hayworth's voice dubbed. He hated the lighting, which he felt was a negative result of Welles choosing location work over controlled studio conditions. And he especially hated that Hayworth had agreed to chop off her auburn hair and dye it platinum. The list goes on but you get the point—clashing creative visions. Nothing new in Hollywood.
The Lady from Shanghai finds Welles playing a typical film noir schmo who falls in love with a femme fatale and is drawn into a murder plot. Other familiar film noir tropes include a trip to Mexico (not in the original novel by Sherwood King) and a tense court showdown. But what's decidedly uncommon here is Welles' visual mastery of the cinematic form. His abilities there have been exhaustively discussed and are in no way overrated, but visuals are only part of the filmic equation. There's also narrative pace and story cohesion and emotional tone, and those are areas where the movie runs into a bit of trouble. Since Welles' cut was so much longer (and presumably better) than what has ever been seen by the public, many of those problems were probably introduced by clumsy third parties.
But we can only judge what we see. Since all that missing footage is thought to have been destroyed, it takes a major leap of faith to see a masterpiece in what Welles himself thought was a diced up travesty of his original vision. We don't understand how anyone can truly revere him, yet disregard his artistic opinion. But that's exactly what some contemporary film writers do. We recently read a review that discussed how well the visuals and music work together, but Welles hated the score, which he had no control over and which lacked the subtlety he wanted it to have. We suggest that a critic is trying way too hard when they lavish praise upon a director for something he didn't even do. Welles was a genius—agreement on that point is universal. But even geniuses are not so magical that their abilities can overcome the artistic myopia and careless scissors of studio heads.
The Lady from Shanghai received mixed reviews when released, and ultimately, those reviews strike us as fair. There's plenty here worth seeing, particularly the ravishing Hayworth and nice location work in Acapulco and Sausalito, and of course Welles makes shots like Steph Curry makes 3s. But even so, the final result is good but not great. Not a failure, but not a top notch film noir. Calling The Lady from Shanghai one of the best of the genre is just unfair to the many, many great noirs that were made. Still, if you're a noir fan you should see it. And we're confident you'll enjoy it like we did. On the other hand, if you've never watched a film noir and this happens to be first one you see, we can easily picture you giving a shrug and drifting away from the genre, never to return.
A film noir of a different color.
Above, two Italian posters for Operazione Lotus bleu, better known as The Scarlet Hour. Funny that the color in the title changed. Why not call it “operazione lotus rosso”? Actually, “bleu” isn't evan an Italian word, as far as we know, which makes this poster even weirder. Italian for blue is “blu.” The movie also played under a title translated literally from the English original—L'ora scarlatta—and we'd show you those posters but they don't compare to these. No surprise, since these were painted by the great Renato Casaro. As for the color change, that will likely remain a mystery. There's no known Italian release date for the film, but it premiered nearly everywhere in Europe between September and November of 1956. More here.
Glenn Ford, Lee Marvin, and Gloria Grahame raise the temperature in Italy.
Above, three Italian posters for Il grande caldo, better known as The Big Heat. The top piece was painted by Ezio Tarantelli, and middle one is by by Anselmo Ballester, both of whom we featured a while back, here and here. We already talked about the film. If you haven't watched it, try to make the time. It's good.
Everything that can possibly go wrong will.
Nora Prentiss, which stars Ann Sheridan and Kent Smith, has an innocuous title, but it's close to the most ingenious film noir ever made. It's about a mild-mannered doctor who falls for a beautiful nightclub singer and decides he's willing to leave his wife. Exactly how far he's willing to go to accomplish this split is one aspect of what makes the film interesting, but the aftermath of his decision, and how it leads to an ending that is simultaneously literal and metaphorical, is what makes it a top entry in the genre. Reviews of the day complained that the film was not believable, but are any of the pickles leading men get into in film noir believable? The fact that the filmmakers, writers, and actors pull off the plot at all is worthy of praise. We can say nothing more about Nora Prentiss, not even a hint, and we strongly suggest you don't get anywhere near a review before watching it. Just trust us that it's a film noir worth seeing. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1947.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1968—Andy Warhol Is Shot
Valerie Solanas, feminist author of an anti-male tract she called the S.C.U.M. Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men), attempts to assassinate artist Andy Warhol by shooting him with a handgun. Warhol survives but suffers health problems for the rest of his life. Solanas serves three years in prison and eventually dies of emphysema at San Francisco's Bristol Hotel in 1988.
1941—Lou Gehrig Dies
New York Yankees baseball player Henry Louis Gehrig, aka The Iron Horse, who set a record for playing in 2,130 consecutive games over the course of fourteen seasons, dies of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, two years after the onset of the illness ended his consecutive games streak.
1946—Antonescu Is Executed
Ion Antonescu, who was ruler of Romania during World War II, and whose policies were independently responsible for the deaths of as many as 400,000 Bessarabian, Ukrainian and Romanian Jews, as well as countless Romani Romanians, is executed by means of firing squad at Fort Jilava prison just outside Bucharest.
1959—Sax Rohmer Dies
Prolific British pulp writer Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward, aka Sax Rohmer, who created the popular character Fu Manchu and became one of the most highly paid authors of his time writing fundamentally racist fiction about the "yellow peril" and what he blithely called "rampant criminality among the Chinese", dies of avian flu in White Plains, New York.
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