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Archive for the ‘Dani Noir’ Category

LauraTheMovieI’m going to end my stream of noir movie posts with Laura, the 1944 movie with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and an incredibly young Vincent Price before he became the king of horror movies. I think this movie is better than The Maltese Falcon and on a par with Casablanca, so after almost 20 movies watched Laura and Casablanca top my list.

Clifton Webb is outstanding as the snobbish Waldo Lydecker, the radio personality who takes credit for bringing culture into the life of beautiful Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). Dana Andrews plays the hero but down to earth cop, Mark McPherson, who falls in love with Laura from the portrait hanging over her mantel. And finally the ne’er do well but suave southern gentleman, Shelby Carpenter is perfectly played by Vincent Price.

This movie has just the right amount of action, romance, suspense and regardless of the number of times I’ve watched this movie, I never fail to remain spellbound.

Which brings me to the book, LauraTheBookLaura by Vera Caspary. I forget which book of hers I read first but whichever it was prompted me to read more. I’ve liked all I’ve read so far, not all mysteries. But there was something puzzling in the book to film transition of Laura. As you can see, Waldo Lydecker in the movie is rail thin. However, in the book he is obese–think of Syndey Greenstreet in the Maltese Falcon.  The question is why the change? To accommodate Webb who was substantially better than Greenstreet would have been? Whatever the reason, it continues to puzzle me.

Just to let you know I have both the movie and the book of Laura at home. That’s got to say something, right?

So, thus ends my noir movie rampage. Thank you Nova Ren Suma for writing Dani Noir and thank you Dani for suggesting all of these movies. It has been fun watching.

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17&GoneIt was on a snowy lane that Lauren first saw the poster about Abby Sinclair’s disappearance tacked to a pine tree. Soon after, she saw the ghost like appearance of Abby in the back seat of her van as she was on the day she disappeared. She was wearing a camp t-shirt, red shorts with white striping, had leaves in her hair and bruises on her knees. Although she lived in New Jersey, she was a counselor in training at a camp Pinecliff, New York. Abby was 17.

The next vision to appear was Fiona Burke. Fiona, nine years older than Lauren, used to babysit for her. She ran away, leaving Lauren in the Burke house by herself, locked in a closet. Fiona was never heard from again, but Lauren sees her and Fiona speaks to her. Fiona was 17 when she disappeared.

There’s Natalie, Shyann, Isabeth and Madison. All 17.

There are so many 17 year olds who disappear, either by running away or by being abducted and they are starting to make themselves visible to Lauren. But she’s not sure what she’s supposed to do about it. Then the dreams start.

I ended my 2013 reading with 17 & Gone, Nova Ren Suma’s latest (and I think best) YA novel, after Imaginary Girls and Dani Noir. It is absorbing. There is tension as Lauren interacts with these visions. There is concern for these poor girls. There is a surreal atmosphere to Lauren’s life, both real and imagined. There is a twist which I didn’t see coming. This will definitely make by 2013 Top 10 List.

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MalteseFalconI’m into the classic noir movies now and decided to make it a Humphrey Bogart trifecta (The Maltese Falcon, The Big Sleep and Casablanca), although, where there’s Humphrey, there also seems to be Peter Lorre and Sydney Greetstreet. And while Rita Hayworth and Joan Bennett are front runners in the femme fatale roles, Lauren Becall, Mary Astor and Ingrid Bergman clearly outpace them in the ‘love interest’ category, as well as in sophistication.CasablancaBigSleep

There’s no need to summarize the plots of these three classic movies. I’m not sure I’d call them noir movies either, although they are mentioned in Nova Ren Suma’s book, Dani Noir (remember, that’s what got me started on this whole noir movie kick). They are star studded, action packed, well acted, absorbing movies. The actors are a delight: Sydney Greenstreet, Claude Rains, Peter Lorre, Lauren Bacall, Mary Astor, Ingrid Bergman. Of the three, Casablanca has to be my favorite, followed by The Maltese Falcon and lastly The Big Sleep. I could, and have, watched the first two multiple times. If I had to choose a femme fatale, it would have to be Ingrid Bergman.

I know I’m rambling here, so I’ll end by saying these three movies define great movies. See them. You’ll never tire of them.

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DetourThis week’s installments have been good to me. The first movie I watched was Detour with Tom Neal and Ann Savage, who plays a savage woman. Tom is thumbing a ride from New York to Los Angeles to see his girlfriend. I’m trying to figure out a way to explain the movie but it’s getting convoluted in my mind, so let’s just say there’s Detour2a dead body and an irate woman who manipulates Neal, in the form of Ann Savage. And if this last name doesn’t describe the character to a T, then I don’t know what does.

Neal tells the story in flashbacks while sitting at a bar. The actors, the cinematography, the story, the action, the tension are all good. Neal is convincing as a down on his luck guy on the lam. Savage is fantastic in her role as a jilted, manipulative, screeching albatross around Neal’s neck. If she didn’t win an Academy Award for this performance, then the judges were off their rockers.

TheStrangerWas Detour my favorite? No, but it is sure up there as is The Stranger with Edward G. Robinson, Orson Welles and Loretta Young. Robinson is a Fed tracing Nazis and has been led to the small town of Harper, CT. There is little evidence as to who Franz Kindler really is, but circumstances lead to Welles who’s reestablished himself as a professor and about the marry the daughter of a Supreme Court Justice. There is action, drama, and superb performances. TheStranger2Welles, yet again, never ceases to amaze me with his characters and his directorial achievements. And the more I see Edward G. Robinson, the more I like him. He may not transform himself as does Welles, but he’s just a joy to watch.

No femme fatales in either of these movies, so Rita, Joan, there are no contenders for your title.

And the even better news: I just found out that Robinson, Dan Duryea and Joan Bennett (The Woman in the Window) were in another noir movie together: Scarlet Street. That’s on tomorrow’s agenda, time permitting. Thanks to Dani Noir, I am seeing some great movies.

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TheWomanInTheWindowThe Woman in the Window may have been my favorite noir movie so far…until the last 2 minutes, which in my opinion, ruined the noir tenor of the movie. Joan BennettTheWomanInTheWindow2 is the woman in the window…a portrait in the window next door to Edward G. Robinson’s men’s club. (Talk about one sultry femme fatale…although she really isn’t ‘fatale’ in the movie.) After dinner with his friends, the local district attorney and a doctor, Robinson is ruminating over the portrait in front of him when the model, Ms. Bennett appears. They chat, go out for drinks and before you know it, Robinson is back in her apartment. All is innocent but Bennett’s jealous lover, a prominent financier, unexpectedly enters and gets the wrong impression. He gets Robinson in a stranglehold and Robinson, to save himself, stabs and kills him. The rest of the movie is the cover up. Robinson’s friend, Raymond Massey, is the district attorney handling the case, so Robinson gets constant updates. There is suspense galore, dark, shadowy streets and alleyways and all three main characters are so well cast. If there was a way to give you a two minute warning, I would, so you could turn it off at the right time. However, you might as well watch the whole thing because 105 minutes of pleasure is worth the two minutes of pain. By the way, Joan Bennett will give Rita Hayworth a run for the money. And there is just something about Edward G. Robinson, isn’t there.

Now let’s move on to noir movie clunker number 2, after Touch of Evil . It is D.O.A. starring Edmund O’Brien. DOAO’Brien, mysteriously decides to take a vacation in San Francisco. He stays at a hotel hosting a sales convention, goes partying with some salesmen, has a few too many and feels sick in the morning, but so sick he sees a doctor. After running tests, it’s determined that O’Brien was poisoned. O’Brien, an accountant in the movie, spends the rest of it trying to determine who poisoned him. From the dialogue to the action, this movie just didn’t make it. The storyline is convoluted. The love interest is uninteresting. And there certainly is no femme fatale. If you’re determined to see a movie entitled D.O.A., I suggest to see the 1988 movie with Randy Quaid. Although the story is different, the poisoning is the same and this one is a lot more suspenseful.

Since I’m halfway through the noir movies mentioned in Dani Noir by Nova Ren Suma, it’s probably time for a recap. As far as femme fatales go, Rita Hayworth is certainly on top, with Joan Bennett a close second. There is no close or even distant third.

Regarding the movies, Gilda still remains on top with Lady from Shanghai and The Third Man battling head to head for second place. The Woman in the Window is trailing only because of the lame ending.

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AudreyTotterAudrey Totter passed away this week at the age of 96. To most of you this won’t mean much. But in reading her obituary it mentioned that she played femme fatale roles in the 1940s and 1950s noir movies, including a bit part in The Postman Always Rings Twice, which I recently saw. I do remember her part. So, I picked the most noir photo I could find for this post.

Included in her list of movies was Lady in the Lake based on a Raymond Chandler novel, The Unsuspected, High Wall and Tension. Beginning in the 1950s, she worked mostly in TV.

So, in addition to the remaining movies on my Dani Noir list, I have several more to watch. This whole noir thing may become a lifelong pursuit.

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LadyFromShanghaiThis is the weekend of duplicitous, murderous women: The Lady from Shanghai with Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth and The Man Who Cheated Himself with Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt.

The Lady from Shanghai was a great noir movie with a totally ‘noir’ ending, although it didn’t have that dark, mysterious locale. The murder plotting takes some unpredictable turns. As in Gilda, Rita Hayworth is manipulative, alluring and wonderful. Orson Welles has changed his persona yet again from Touch of Evil and The Third Man. Now he’s seaman Michael ‘Black Irish’ O’Hara, with appropriate Irish brogue, who takes a job aboard Hayworth’s and her crippled husband’s yacht. In Touch of Evil, he was the bloated, misguided sheriff in a U.S./Mexico border town. In The Third Man he was the suave, confident black marketeer in Europe. I find it so hard to reconcile these Orson Welles images with the cigar smoking man who appeared on TV talk shows back in the day. Although I’m sure the other actors in The Lady from Shanghai were well known in their day, they were unknown to me, but they were cast superbly. This is a movie to watch.

I also liked The Man Who Cheated Himself with Lee J. Cobb and Jane Wyatt. It was a totally different kind of movie. TheManWhoCheatedHimselfI thought they were both well cast, Cobb as the Detective in love with socialite Wyatt who ‘mistakenly?’ shoots her estranged husband and has Cobb clean up the mess. According to the blog Film Noir of the Week, however, Wyatt was not considered up to femme fatale standards, “Completely miscast as the object of Ed’s (Cobbs’) desire is Jane Wyatt. No perfect housewife Margaret Anderson is Ms Wyatt in her role as the femme fatale, Lois Frazer. Her performance can politely be called “over the top.” Some have referred to her performance as the worst ever by a femme fatale.” Personally, I thought she did a pretty decent job.

Suffice it to say, I’m in total agreement with Dani Callanzano of Dani Noir…the only real femme fatale so far is Rita Hayworth, in both Gilda and Lady from Shanghai. (However, please note that I do have 11 more movies to go, including Gene Tierney in Laura. She may give Rita Hayworth a run for her money.)

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