What better way to end this noirish year than sitting back on New Year’s Eve and enjoying two of our favorite Dashiell Hammett characters Nick and Nora Charles. When ‘The Thin Man’ was made in 1934 Noir films hadn’t yet been labeled. However the James Wong Howe photography, the angles, shadows, lighting set the tone for this twisted who done it murder mystery. The delightful repartee dialogue written by Albert Hackett and his wife Frances Goodrich is delivered sloshingly through the talents of Myrna Loy and William Powell. Nick Charles advice on the correct way to mix drinks could be heeded tonight during the New Year’s Eve celebrations!
‘The important thing is the shaking of a drink. You shake a Manhattan to a Fox Trot, a Bronx to a two-step time, a Dry Martini you always shake to a Waltz!’
Happy New Year to all of our Classic Hollywood followers!
Nothing says Christmas to me more this year than the Deanna Durbin Christmas Noir movie Lady on a Train, directed in 1945 by French Director Charles David, Durbin’s future husband: December 21, 1950. The original story Lady on a Train was by Leslie Charteris author of ‘The Saint’ series of books. Lady on a Train is a fun Christmas movie mystery interspersed with Noir tendencies, no opera in this film. Durbin’s rendition of Silent Night is spot on. David Bruce and Durbin’s chemistry is great especially the Gimme a Little Kiss song sequence. Thanks TCM for adding this Durbin movie to your TCM schedule this Christmas Season.
Robert Mitchum is undeniably the epitome of Film Noir leading man. Never gets ruffled, has a slow easy manner can take a punch as well as give them and can spar witty dialogue with the best of the best femme fatale’s. I’m working my way through fifteen of his noir films and so far RKO’s 1951, His Kind of Woman starring Jane Russell is winning hands down as my favorite.
As a kid I was deeply moved by Rex Ingram’s sympathetic portrayal of Jim the runaway slave in the 1939 MGM production of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn starring Mickey Rooney.
As an adult I was impressed by his portrayal of the unbending father Joe Lucasta in the United Artists 1958 film Anna Lucasta starring Eartha Kitt. In my quest to tie as many of the Summer of the Stars to Film Noir I see that Rex also appeared in a Film Noir. The United Artists 1944 film noir titled Dark Waters co-starring Merle Oberon, and Franchot Tone.
Joan Crawford TCM’s star for the day acted in eleven Noir movies between 1945 and 1956. She received the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Mildred Pierce in 1945. Joan was nominated for Best Actress in the Film Noir thriller about ‘who was going to kill whom’ Sudden Fear in 1952. However the Oscar eluded Joan that year and went to Shirley Booth for her performance in the movie ‘Come Back Little Sheba’.
Sometimes he was the good guy but mostly the bad. I always picture him as playing the dapper ‘snidely whiplash’ parts in movies. Can you imagine in 1947 a 26 year old Deanna Durbin’s surprise when the man who played her father in 1937’s 100 Men and a Girl was now at age 57 going to play the guy that was hitting on her and chasing her around his apartment in the movie ‘I’ll Be Yours’.
Adolphe’s one Film Noir was Columbia Pictures 1952 ‘The Sniper’. As a Lieutenant in the San Francisco police department Adolphe’s character races against time to capture an unhinged killer shooting at innocent women from the rooftops. He shaved off his famous moustache for this role then promptly grew it back.
Ninety-nine year old Olivia De Havilland was also a Film Noir Girl, starring in two famous noir films. The 1946 Dark Mirror a Nunnally Johnson Production, directed by Robert Siodmak (if you had attended the Summer of Darkness Noir Course you would know Robert is a big deal in the Noir world). Vladimir Pozner was nominated for an Oscar for his Original Story.
The second was the 20th Century Fox Film: Snake Pit 1948. This film was nominated for Oscars in the categories: Best Picture, Best Director-Anatole Litvak, Best Actress-Olivia, Best Screenplay Frank Partos and Millen Brand, and received the Oscar for Best Sound Recording Thomas T. Moulton.
If you aren’t noired out after eight weeks of Friday Film Noir nights add these films to your must see noir list.
Week One of the Summer of Darkness I twittered the comment that I couldn’t wait to watch this movie because it featured the actor Jean Gabin (loved him in Moontide with Ida Lupino). I was doubly blessed when I found the DVD in the Criterion Collection. I was able to watch the movie plus the interview with Director Jean Renoir about the making of the movie.
La Bete Humaine was made in 1938. Gabin’s character is in love with two women, Simone Simon and Lison the Locomotive he engineers between Le Havre and Paris. Renoir states he chose Simone for the ‘vamp’ as he put it because she had an innocent face. Renoir and Gabin ever the realists never shared with train passengers that sometimes the engineer at the throttle driving their train was Jean Gabin himself. This movie is pre- Double Indemnity (1944), The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946) but follows the same type scenario. I’m hoping some of those Noir buffs got a chance to watch it.
Speaking of Deanna Durbin…although it seems most noir gurus gravitate toward ‘The Killers’ (1946) as an essential Robert Siodmak noir film. I can’t help mentioning Christmas Holiday (1944)
Deanna Durbin’s dramatic film debut. Eddie Muller’s article from week two of Summer of Darkness described film director Siodmak’s style in Noir as using ‘Complexly layered flashbacks, bold compositions, dramatic lighting, supple camera moves and flamboyant wardrobe’. Director Robert Siodmak from Universal Studio took W. Somerset Maugham’s story and incorporated all of what we now know as his signature noir moves.
No light comedy or operetta’s in this movie for Durbin, no singing or dancing in the rain for Gene Kelly in this truly dark noir by Robert Siodmak.