HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT

Submissions should be flooding in today and I can’t wait to share them with you all on Monday ~ July 24th. With my ‘Till Death Us Do Part Blogathon, bloggers will explore films where spouses attempt to murder each other. Some succeed, some fail, some get off Scott~free, some are caught. Since I’m hosting this shebang, I guess I’ll go first with a film that precedes Julia Roberts’ “Sleeping With The Enemy” by 54 years.

In loving classic films, I approach them two ways: one, with anticipation and the other with obligation. I felt the latter with HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT.” All this time, I was thinking it was some frou frou-y cotton candy confection with Chevalier and MacDonald. You know…singing princesses and cavalier playboys. ( I hadn’t even bothered to IMDB it to see who the actual cast was ). With my obligatory viewing, I entered this screening with, my dumb ol’ pre~conceived notions. I wanted to re~cast it. The unlucky triumvirate to my meddling re~casting were: JEAN ARTHUR, CHARLES BOYER and COLIN CLIVE.

     
Oh Boyer could stay, but I wanted to replace Jean Arthur with Irene Dunne and Colin Clive with Basil Rathbone. As the movie unfolds, I threw away my silly casting notions and went with the hand director FRANK BORZAGE.

 

HISTORY IS MADE OF  ( SOME ) SPOILERS 

The movie starts right away, with a note taped to the mirror ( I thought of “BUtterfield 8” ) which explains all we need to know: A jealous husband; a wife who’s sick of him…and she’s left him. I loved the complexity of the story and how “History…” unfolds is seamless. I reveled in the twists and turns and mix-ups and misunderstandings. Yes, I love how the movie is plotted out; a divorce correspondent case cum jewelry robbery cum “meet cute.” The way Borzage goes from damsel-in-distress…to…romance… to…disaster film is masterfully handled. Smooth transitions, nothing abrupt; like I said…seamless. I was totally absorbed and invested in each part of the story. There were a few things I predicted ( which still didn’t spoil what I watched ) and I was surprised by others. There were many points of foreshadowing that were answered throughout the movie. What a pickle the film puts Boyer and Jean in. How will they get the heck out of this. The stories’ weaving made a beautiful, disturbing tapestry.

INSANE IN THE BRAIN

Bruce: “I ought to kill you for this.”
Irene: “Why don’t you. Then I’d never have to see you again.”

Ouch! She knows. He knows she knows. And now she knows he knows she knows. (Mull that one over). Colin Clive is dastardly. He’s utterly galling. Clive plays the part to an infuriating fare-thee-well as shipping magnate Bruce Vail. His obsessive possessiveness need to control was beyond the pale. He wants to control her, make her his. He’s had a portrait painted of her and presents it to her:

Bruce: “Well, what do you think of your portrait? I had it painted from a cherished photograph. I’ll hang it in the Royal Suite of the Princess Irene.”

Irene: “By the neck until it dies?”

OMG! Harsh. Harsh for 1937, and just as harsh eighty years later. I was taken aback by the deadness of her voice and comment. It was devoid of life.

Bruce was absolutely diabolical. He couldn’t be dissuaded by detective or lawyer. I dare you to find…one…redeeming…thing about him other than he loves her. Wait…this can not be love. To consider wrecking an entire ocean liner with hundreds of passengers just to kill her is a Pyrrhic victory of outrageous proportion. Normally I would laud that and file it away in my Rolodex of Villainy, but I just couldn’t here. Probably because the victims were Jean Arthur and Charles Boyer ( in spite of my initial mental “Casting Switch” ). He was mean. Abusive. Sick. Control control control. He grabs her by the neck. Pushing, taunting. He made me sick!!! I hate emotional blackmail. Divorce is not an option for Clive’s character. He would never let her go no matter what. Men like that never…let…go.

What is stunning, like something ironic out of mythology is, Bruce’s fear ~ his wife cheating on him ~ he causes TO happen. And when it does happen, I love her speech about it:

“This time there IS another man. You set a trap to catch me with one, and another came instead, to tell me that he loved me. And for me to tell him I loved him too. And YOU did it. You did it all by yourself. Isn’t that funny? Don’t you think that’s funny? Before he came, I never even looked at another man. But you wouldn’t believe me. So you created one and sent him right into my arms.” 

D’ya think this is a lesson learned? Naaaah.

LOVE AND ROMANCE

Oh….I could swoon at the love story of Paul and Irene in “History…”. Acting~wise, I’m just about a Jean Arthur convert now; of her apple cheeks and unusual hoarse and scratchy voice. Her laughing while crying. Or is that crying while laughing. She’s sensitive, her vulnerability is sexy. She can wear the hell out of those clothes. ( Who DID her costumes? ) And I believe her. I believe her distress. I believe her in love. I see the touch of comic timing here. There is something engaging about her. She’s different here than the light pixie I am used to seeing. Boyer as Paul…Welll….welll now ladies. Can we talk? I mean, can we talk? I know. Not here; too public. But girls…Boyer. He’s got it. I really now see him as so underrated an actor. His name’s not bandied about like other 30’s and 40’s favorites among classic film lovers. I don’t know why…now. Love sick. Hurt by love. Loved by love.
( Boyer in love ):

    

They dance in the restaurant from night ’till dawn. Fall in love without words.

Paul: “Now…it would be okay to say. But I can’t. Unless you will believe it. Will you?”

Irene: “I think I will believe it. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because tonight is what I’ve waited for. Maybe it’s because I’ve needed tonight more than anything in my life. Because I’ve never been happy before. Because…”

 

Boyer’s accent, his dark looks already get my vote. But his ‘Paul’ was a nice caring loving man. But is he similar to Bruce? Both are businessmen, both interested in Irene…but for different reasons: one to possess / one to love. ( Two sides of the same coin? ) What a contrast. Look at him in his restaurant and how he treats customers and waiters. When he’s in New York. Look at him in his new restaurant and how he handles staff; firm but caring. But is he obsessed? After all, he’s taken over this restaurant and left a table permanently vacant in the hopes that one day, Irene will come in. I guess obsession is okay depending on which side of it you’re facing. How hurt he was when he finally sees Irene come into his restaurant…with her husband.

THE DISASTER FILM

An ominous foghorn underscores everything. I am in shock when Bruce gives the Captain the order to go with that speed test. Full steam ahead! Captain, my Captain, you crazy! The ship will break apart at this speed, and does. The S.O.S. montage was well~done. Chaos, fear…perfect. Life boats, jumping sinking ship. Women and children first. And lovers last. If Bruce cannot have Irene, no one will. Only then can he put a bullet in his brain.

“HISTORY IS MADE AT NIGHT” shows a man consumed by jealousy to insane degrees he will do anything to hold on, even if he has to destroy it. His unreasonable jealousy is ultimately self~destructive. “History is Made At Night” has also made me a convert on a couple fronts. I forgive Boyer for how mean he was in “Gaslight.” I must actively seek out Frank Borzage films with a vengeance. And as for Jean Arthur…Ms. Arthur, will you forgive me?

* * * * * * * * *

Won’t you come back Monday July 24th and check out these bloggers who show you how marriage can be murder. ThanxXx!

 

[   H O M E   ]

________________________________________________

“GILDA” ( 1946 )

Here it is again. There is something blazingly epic and biblical about this shot:

GILDA

Every blogger and their grandmother’s great-uncle Fang has written about this movie. So now, it’s my turn.

I like GILDA but boy oh boy I have to admit it’s an uncomfortable watch. Sex AND punishment … sex IS punishment, sex AS power. Psychosexual shenanigans done 1946-style. It’s a see-saw of power and oneupsmanship between a man and a woman who are, at times childish, and at most, very very hot.

The destructive, dark side of love & romance is reminiscent to some extent of Bogart & Bergman in Casablanca ( Bogie getting the brunt of the heartache ) and even moreso in Notorious  with Cary Grant and Bergman again ( where Grant really acts like a fat-head ). But “Gilda” turns up the heat ten thousand degrees on the sado-masochistic side of “love.” Here, lovers meet up again after a few years. He done did her wrong and now she tears his heart to shreds. Such tough guys Bogie and Glenn Ford and Cary Grant are, but they can be reduced to ashes. Is it a self~imposed misery of their own making?

RITA HAYWORTH had been kicking around for a while in Hollywood by the time “Gilda” came around. ( Her picture before this was Tonight and Every Night” with my bête noire – Lee Bowman and the one after, Down to Earth with the soon-to-be blacklisted Larry Parks. ) She danced with the masters, Astaire and Kelly. She worked opposite Grant and Cagney. Her role opposite Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand might be the precursor to “Gilda” – Woman as Temptress. But Gilda is something else again. I like this movie, it being one of my favorite films of 1946. ( Check out my 1946 list here. ) And I think this is one of the best performances of Hayworth’s career. They finally give her something to work with, so she can paint a canvas with many colors. Here is 28-year old Rita. She dances, she flirts, she taunts, she’s hurt. She’s conflicted. Now on the face of it, psychologically, it’s a sick twisted movie ( c’mon, you know it is ) which is why I like it. Calling it a “love-hate” relationship, as Joseph Calleia does, is too easy. I don’t like to see Gilda tortured, but the back ‘n forth power plays between her and Johnny were sumthin’ else! A couple of reasons why I like this movie:

I was intrigued by the little spy story thread in the movie. Gay, festive…Argentina, the place where Nazis go to hide. Ballin Mundsen ( actor George Macready ), Nazis and the tungsten angle is like Hitchcock’s MacGuffin in “Notorious” ( “Gilda” was released first. ) You know…this scene:

NOTORIOUS - INOTORIOUS - VIINOTORIOUS - VI'%22NOTORIOUS%22 - IIINOTORIOUS - IV

I like the “tension” between Ballin and Johnny. Nah it doesn’t only feel like two guys fighting over the same girl. You’ve seen that a thousand times before in classic movies; this subtext feels a little different. Half-baked idea of mine? No, I don’t think so.  I mean there’s not that much loyalty in the world for a man to marry his boss’ widow, who incidentally was his ex-girlfriend, and then not sleep with her. Who’s being faithful to whom:

“She hadn’t been faithful to him while he was alive. But she was going to be faithful now that he was dead.”

GILDA - V

I was born last night when you met me in that alley. That way I’ve no past and all future, see? I like it that way.

Doesn’t that sound like something from In A Lonely Place? It’s not as intense a ‘hero worship’ as in Desert Fury between Wendell Corey for John Hodiak, but there’s a there there. Whether it was unintentional or a winking, knowing little Easter egg subtly put in, I find it an interesting layer. Don’t worry, Rita will come on the scene soon enough and set it all straight.

I also like Charles Vidor’s direction. It’s good. Unobtrusive. There’s no music foreshadowing emotions. The music we hear comes from the casino’s orchestra. Vidor’s camera work is fluid ~ he has tracking shots or easily swings the camera around people. I like how he sometimes has the leads in shadow when they speak or has them move from shadow into light. No music underscoring things; sometimes deathly silence. The better for you to pay attention to, my dears. But of course, the movie’s about these two crazy kids:

GLENN FORD ( I )RITA ( I )

They’ve got history and proceed to torture each other.

 GILDA - XVGILDA - XIVGILDA - XVIII

And you know hell hath no fury…so, let the games begin.

  • “I was true to one man, once.” 
  • “I’ll look my very best Ballin. I want all the hired help to approve of me.”

Ssssswishhhhhhh! Arrows fly through the air with the greatest of ease. Gilda’s razor-sharp words squarely hit their mark and slash deeper than the blade in Ballin’s cane.

GILDA - X

JOHNNY: “Doesn’t it bother you at all that you’re married?”
GILDA:    “What I want to know is, does it bother you?”

Ballin is silky, suave, smooth, serpentine. But I cannot, in all good conscience, carry my alliteration to include sexy. These types often seem to be asexual ( ACK! ) giving earnest hugs and chaste kisses on the cheek.

BASIL RATHBONE GILDA ( XX ) CLAUDE RAINS ( NOTORIOUS )
   

Hollywood doesn’t want to confuse us by offering sexy villainous-types to compete with our basically good tortured heroes. There is a soupçon of danger and sexiness to Menace. Ballin is smart…observant. He knows. Why else propose this toast that Gilda reluctantly sips to.

GILDA ( XXI )

“Disaster to the wench who did wrong by our Johnny.”

These villains are cultured and wealthy; and they do love their wives, in their own fashion. Ballin questions Gilda about knowing Johnny before. It’s a quiet scene; not a sound. They’re in shadow and Gilda’s self-preservation kicks in ( she says nothing ). Laying on the bed, she rolls from the shadow into the light, the proverbial lightbulb goes off, when she realizes what he is saying. He’s got a beautiful woman ( in her own bed, apparently ) and wraps his golden hypnotic voice around these lines:

GILDA - XII

 

“You’re a child Gilda. A beautiful Child. And it amuses me to feed you beautiful things because you eat with such a good appetite.”

Bone-chilling. Henry Daniell would be proud. Now we know what Gilda’s dealing with. And so does she:

GILDA - XIX

“But hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven’t you noticed that? There is a heat in it that both can feel. Didn’t you feel it tonight? I did. It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.”

 

Gilda and Johnny have a couple of guardian angels looking over them but they still have more damage to do to each other first. ( Never let it be said a good Greek chorus gets in the way of true romance ). Poor Johnny. He’s got it bad…and that ain’t good.

GILDA ( XXII )  GILDA ( XXIII )

Gilda’s got it bad herself. She’s let down her defenses in that lovely quiet moment with Uncle Pio. When Johnny barges in ( somewhat jealous of Uncle Pio being the recipient of Gilda’s attention ) she confesses to him that she was on the rebound. Truce? HA! Naturally, he scoffs at her which leads her to volley this back:

GILDA ( XXV )

Would it interest you to know how much I hate you, Johnny? I hate you so much that I would destroy myself to take you down with me. Now, I’ve warned you.”

* * * * *

 WHAT IS THIS THING…CALLED LOVE?

I hated her so I couldn’t get her out of my mind for a minute. She was in the air that I breathe; in the food I ate.”

She’s laid down the gauntlet. She’s going for a Pyrrhic Victory. She’s taking no prisoners. Death and destruction in the game of love never looked so good or felt so hot. Johnny gains the upper hand and keeps her close to him to ensure…his own torment. He becomes more Ballin than Ballin in his possession of Gilda. She’s trapped…like a bird in a “gilded” cage and tries to break out in her own way. Uhhhh, no, this is not merely dancing a jig. She grabs the film by its horns:

GILDA ( XXVI )GILDA ( XVI )GILDA ( XIX )

GILDA:   “Didn’t I get even with you for walking out on me by marrying Ballin… Johnny, there’s never been anybody but you and me. All those things I did were just to make you jealous Johnny. There’s never been anybody but you and me.”

JOHNNY:   “Not anybody.”

GILDA:        “Not anybody.”

JOHNNY:   “What about your husband?! If you could forget him so easily you could forget the others too, couldn’t you.”

GILDA:        “But there weren’t any others Johnny.”

JOHNNY:   “When you admit them. When you admit them and tell me who they were.”

ADMIT THEM? He wants details? ( Girls, as your cinematic advisor, I suggest you just give your name, rank and serial number in that situation; men don’t really want details no matter WHAT they say ). There’s more volleying back ‘n forth here than in Wimbledon.

He won’t let her go and won’t let himself love her. So Gilda has the most famous acting out moment in film history. It’s the gloriously show-stopping tantrum when she puts the blame on Mame:

GILDA ( Mamin' It UP! )          GILDA ( XXXI )GILDA ( Mame-IV )GILDA ( Mame )

Rita in black satin, peel- ing off Gypsy Rose Lee gloves, her hair casca-ding like Niagara Falls and everyone going over a barrel with her.

 GILDA ( XXX ) GILDA ( Glenn )

You wouldn’t think one woman could marry two insane men in one lifetime. Would you.

This public display is just too much for Johnny. He finally has to let her go. Or does he? If you think the opposite of love is hate, then you must see how this all plays out. Glenn Ford walks a razor’s edge with his performance, and Rita? Well…she leaves it all out there for the ages. And she is fantastic.

Yes Virginia, there really IS a Love Goddess.


[
 H O M E  ]

_____________________________________________________

THE OX~BOW INCIDENT ( 1943 )

 

oxbow-miriam

“MIRIAM…”

________________________________

 

OSCAR’S BACK…AND THE LADIES’VE GOT HIM!!!

oscars-2-17-19-2017

This is the fifth annual ’31 DAYS OF OSCAR Blogathon’ hosted by bloggers Kellee of “Outspoken & Freckled”, Paula of Paula’s Cinema Club” and Aurora of “Once Upon A Screen.” This is the place for one’s work to be seen and read, so I made sure to get my butt in gear for this blogathon. We classic film fans enjoy the yearly Oscar telecast where we cheer and jeer at the winners in a variety of categories. With this blogathon we all get to cover the waterfront on those who’ve won or were snubbed by the Academy. Thanks ladies for giving us a place to hang our soapbox.

Now you might think my entry is as long~winded as the Oscar telecast itself. But I think my writing about a movie that should have won an Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of 1943 deserves the depth and breadth of examination. So, take your shoes off, grab a sarsparilla, whiskey and some beef jerky and beans…and let me take you back to the Old West.

Here are the nominees for Best Picture of 1943:

casablanca-1943 for-whom-the-bell-tolls-1943 heaven-can-wait-1943 human-comedy-1934

in-which-we-serve-1943 madame-curie-1943 more-the-merrier-1943 song-of-bernadette-1943 watch-on-the-rhine-1943

The winner of course was “CASABLANCA” a towering classic that I love. But my choice for Best Picture of 1943 would be THE OX~BOW INCIDENT.”

I admit…I’m head scratching at some of the nominees for 1943, but for others I can see why…the romance, the war, the toll on families. But I make my choice for this Western because of its look at Society. What makes a Society? What are the components? What makes us civilized? What makes us pass or fail as a body in the human community? Of all the films that were nominated in 1943, I think “The Ox~Bow Incident” is a stellar example of its sweeping nature of the examination of Society. Sit back. Relax. Are you comfy? Have that cuppa cuppa at the ready. C’mon…take a look with me at WILLIAM WELLMAN’s masterwork. This film is mighty powerful stuff.

oxbow-incident-1943

 

AN IMMOVABLE OBJECT MEETS AN IRRESISTIBLE FORCE:
Justice vs. Vengeance, the Group vs. the Individual

It is 1885 in Nevada. And three factions race hellbent towards each other to make the most tragic of perfect storms:

A. The Mob
B. The Law
C. The Rustlers
D. The Innocent Bystander

oxbow-xxvioxbow-xviRancher Larry Kincaid ( FRANK ORTH ) has been shot in the head and rustlers have stolen his cattle. This is the impetus for events that unfold. Kincaid’s best childhood friend Jeff Farnley ~ played by gangster bad-guy MARC LAWRENCE ( who fits pretty good in the Western genre ) ~ is angry and wants to catch the Rustlers. Inside the posse are followers and instigators and thrill~seekers.

* * * * *

( A )  THE MOB ~ ( THE GROUP )

oxbow-xixThe posse quickly turns into a Mob. It doesn’t take much for this to happen. First off, they are not sworn in by any duly appointed representative of The Law. Deputy Mapes might as well have been played by the swarthy Steve Cochran for all the good he does. ( The deputys played by actor DICK RICH ). Every one’s blood is boiling ~ especially Farnley’s ~ there’s been some drinking and there seems to be nothing else to do in this town. When justice is abandoned and vengeance sets in…you’ve just gone from posse to mob in a microwave moment.

oxbow-viiThere’s one really hateful S.O.B. in this mob named Smith ( played by PAUL HURST  ). He is downright giddy about the proceedings. HE is the first to mention they ought to just go and get these Rustlers and not wait for the law. He occasionally takes a rope and pretends to put it around his neck, mocking the ‘necktie party’ to come. Out of everyone, I really despised his hateful glee. When the saloon keeper offers the mob a drink in an effort to get them to wait for the law, the first one up the steps is Smith. But he stops dead in his tracks when the saloon keeper says the drinks will not be unlimited.

oxbow-xxviii

The mob moves as a unit or should I say…organism;  a slimy, yellow-bellied blob monster. When a bystander’s partner is shot, they surround the wounded man. When an escaping Rustler is shot, he is surrounded to watch how he takes a bullet out of his leg. Life’s like a live inter-active movie to this group.

oxbow-xxxiThe bloodlust of the group is palpable. When they catch up to the Rustlers, I imagine every man in that mob is aroused at the prospect of engineering and watching the hangings, just as much as the men were aroused in Jodie Foster’s rape in “The Accused” whether they took their ‘turn’ or not. The Mob instigate events and watch them play out. And the one woman with them? She is played by the great JANE DARWELL. Being part of this mob is probably the only thrill her character, Jenny Grier, has had in a very long time, being long past desirability. It’s sickly funny to see her paired off with Smith, giggling on the side like deadly mischievous school children. I would have gladly shot them both myself.

oxbow-dirt-bags
DEPLORABLES ( same sentiments…different century )

oxbow-xxii

Mobs need leaders, and the self-proclaimed leader of the pack is one Major Tetley played chillingly  by FRANK CONROY. He fills the vacuum and moves right in to direct this mob. What did we used to say as kids: Who died and made you King?!” I watch him throughout. Barking out orders,  rigid…ramrod straight in his physique and mindset…all in that confounded Confederate uniform that sausages him in too tightly. Its now 1885, the Civil War was some twenty years before. The two cowboys Gil and Art don’t trust him:

GIL: “And that renegade Tetley. Strutting around in his uniform pretending he’s so much. He never even saw the South ‘till after the war. Barely long enough to marry the kid’s mother and get run out of the place by her folks.”

ART: “I figure there was something funny about him dressing up like that.”

GIL: “Sure. Why do you suppose he’d be living in this neck of the woods if he didn’t have something to hide.”

oxbow-xxiCheck out the look of hateful disappointment, no wait…the  contempt Tetley has for his own son. Can anyone spell ‘loathing’? He thwarts every plea to wait for the Law. He needs this…wants this to happen. But it’s even worse. This obstinate b*stard has another agenda he uses the mob to satisfy: Making a MAN of his son played with softness, empathy and compassion by WILLIAM EYTHE.

* * * * *

( B ) THE LAW

oxbow-xxvThe one lone voice of reason is Arthur Davies. He is played by the wonderful HARRY DAVENPORT. I love his soft, wispy, white hair and whiskers. I love the flat affect of his voice. He tries to stop the mob. He sends cowhand Gil Carter for the Judge since the Sheriff is out of town. He doesn’t mind a posse, but he knows things are spiraling quickly out of control. When he sends Gil to get the Judge, he warns him NOT to talk in front of the Deputy (the ‘Steve Cochran look-a-like’ guy). I guess he knows what kind of man the Deputy is. And it isn’t the good kind.

oxbow-matt-briggs
But the Law kind of fails Society too. The Judge ( played by MATT BRIGGS ) tries to petulantly weasel out of his responsibility, ( Doggone it, it’s the Sheriff’s job, not mine! ) He reluctantly faces the mob and half-heartedly gives them a lecture about law and yadda yadda yadda.


Davies still tries to persuade Farnley not to go off half-cocked. But I’m afraid he’s fully cocked. Farnley’s declaration:

oxbow-xxvi

“Yeah, I know who’s going to take care of it. ME! I tell you now, whoever shot Larry Kincaid ain’t coming back here for you to fuddle with your lawyer’s tricks for six months, then be led off because Davies and some other whining old woman claim he ain’t bad at heart. Kincaid didn’t have six months to decide if he wanted to die.”

Uh…I’d say his position is pretty clear. And things haven’t changed too much these days. ( #RUSHTOJUDGEMENT

oxbow-iii

If this is going to be the way it’s going to be, the Law invites Spirituality in to the mix. I love the way Sparks was used in this film. LEIGH WHIPPER portrays Sparks. Looking at his bio in IMDB, the actor was born in 1876 in South Carolina. I daresay he probably has witnessed some lynchings in his own life. It was good to see a person of color included in the movie as part of late 19th century. Wellman treated his character with respect. This film was made in 1943. Wellman didn’t have Whipper tap dancing or speaking broken English or mugging for the camera showing 65 teeth. ( Brings to my the dignity he accorded Clarence Muse in 1931’s Safe in Hell” a happy~go~lucky but dignified porter ). He represented some sort of religion, spirituality. And Lord knows that whole group is going to need prayer. 

The mob is very clear on what it’s going to do. It kind of hurt me to see the old man ( Davenport ) run a little ways down the street, calling after them. As the mob rides off, The Law rides off after them in an attempt to keep some semblance of law and order within the group. Even with the Rustlers captured…The Law keeps on pitching. Davies even tries to use one of the Rustler’s letter to dissuade the mob from its inexorable intent.

He will fail.

* * * * *

( C ) THE RUSTLERS ~ ( THE INDIVIDUAL )

oxbow-viii

oxbow-xviiiOh, what a motley crue this doomed trio is. One arrogant, one drunk and one sincere. It is sad to see the realization wash over their faces when they see where this is heading…they are going to be hanged. Watch how they each handle this realization. FRANCIS FORD ( yes, THAT director’s older brother ) is the old man…sputtering. He doesn’t know what the heck was going on. They could’ve really let this old coot go.

But they don’t.

oxbow-xx

The arrogant man makes me sit up and take notice. Yeah, he’s full of spit and vinegar and machismo. Of course, he is Latino. Juan Martinez, is played by the towering ANTHONY QUINN. HE looks at his accusers with contempt. HE is not trying to rationalize and reason with this den of vultures. HE is not going down without a fight. HE patently is NOT going to talk. I’m sure the mob looked down on him b’cuz they thought of him as a dirty Mexican. When Jenny Grier realizes he speaks English she says:

“So…he speaks American.”

Martinez replies:

“And ten other languages my dear. I don’t tell anything I want to in any of them!”

HA!! When he says he can speak ten languages, I laughed! NOW who is the Savage?? He cleans out his own leg wound (!) commenting to Major Tetley about his son:

oxbow-eythe

He’s very polite, but he’s no stomach for blood, ey?”

That sends a dagger through Tetley’s heart; someone noticing his son was weak. Martinez also throws the knife at Farnley’s feet. He was not going down without a fight. I loved him.

But he is going to hang.

oxbow-i

The kindly man of the bunch was DANA ANDREWS as Don Martin. He broke my heart.

“Speak up man. You’re taking it like a woman,” says Maj. Tetley.

Another time, Wellman doesn’t even show Jenny Grier who delivers her line off-camera:

“Keep your chin up. You can only die once, son.”

How cruelly consoling!

The Rustler’s goal is to slow things down:

oxbow-xiv

MARTIN: “Listen, why don’t you stop this farce and take us in if you think we had anything to do with it?”

But The Mob’s goal is to speed things up:

FARNLEY: “You want time and the Sheriff to get here and the job not done?”

The Law now speaks with resignation:

DAVIES: “They won’t come in time.”

TETLEY: “I believe you’re right, Mr. Davies, though I doubt if you want to be.”

The Mob does show one infinitessimal shred of pity for poor Don when he begs:

oxbow-vi

“I’ve got to write a letter. If you’re human at all, you’ll give me time to write a letter!!”

Thank Heaven for small favors…The Mob will wait to hang them, especially realizing the Sheriff won’t come in time anyway. The vulturous mob needs to eat and raids the Rustlers’ knapsacks for food. So Don writes…the old man is clueless…and Martinez eats a hearty meal.

Mr. Davies ( DAVENPORT ) keeps quietly pitching, trying to get someone to read Don’s letter so they can SEE his innocence. He’s still trying to stop the mob…get it to wait for the Law. No one will read it; not even Gil Carter. ( More on Carter later. )

oxbow-xii

“Won’t you even read it? Is it because you’ve made up your mind or because you believe everybody else has and you’re afraid to stand up for what you feel is right?”

Looks like the Law is trying to get some men on its side like Will Kane in “HIGH NOON.”

The individual must cry out and rail against the tide…against the wind, even if it means getting swept away. Even if it means drowning. Don and Mr. Davies have that in common. These two lone men try to stop the inevitable. Don wants to survive to go home to his family. Mr. Davies wants the Law to survive.

But even in the midst of the inevitable, Don Martin STILL has the wherewithal to speak up for his dignity. Where Martinez willfully would NOT speak, Don Martin shouts volumes. I love how Don gets in their faces yelling:

oxbow-letter

“What right have you got to show my letter…All I asked you to do is make sure it was delivered…It’s enough to be hanged by a bunch of bullying outlaws without having your private thoughts handed around to them as a joke…I don’t care what you were doing. I didn’t write that letter to be passed around. It’s none of these murderers’ business…give me my letter!!”

Not only is he to be hanged, but humiliated. A shame.

There IS one more component to the symbiotic relationship between lynch mob and rustlers.

* * * * *

( D. ) THE INNOCENT BYSTANDER ~ ( NEUTRALITY )

It didnt work for Neville Chamberlin, either.

oxbow-xv

HENRY FONDA and sidekick HENRY MORGAN are innocent bystanders Gil Carter and Art Croft who get swept up by the tide of the mob. They feel they have no choice. In fact, Art lets Gil know that if they make too much of a fuss, there may be a noose around their necks as well. Gil doesn’t approve but he keeps a watchful eye on things. His inactivity ~ is he us, the audience…watching events at the safe dark distance of the local bijou?? When sides have to finally be chosen…

oxbow-iiii oxbow-incident-ix

oxbow-xxviiI won’t beat too much of a dead horse on the classic film consensus about how good Fonda’s portrayal. Let me just say he was wonderfully understated and seething. He is us, the audience.  Henry ”Dragnet” “MASH” Morgan is a good Greek chorus, too. Fonda’s silent meeting with ex~girlfriend played by MARY BETH HUGHES was poignant. Sort of a non~sequitur in these parts, don’cha think. Why stick this moment into a film about a lynch mob.

oxbow-xiii

oxbow-xxxWhy. Perhaps to show something of how human relationships change; how Hughes’ character might have been one way at one point in her life, but found a man willing to marry her…even with knowing her past. In Fondas and Hughes scene neither one of them could speak openly because they were being watched by the mob and her new husband. (Nothing is private with a lynch mob. Everythings worked out in front of everybody. Sometimes less is more.) Brave man, that husband of hers as he faces the mob; many of the gents “knew” his wife very well and purposefully faced Fonda. But the husband was strong and self-assured when he quietly let them ALL know things have changed; there would be boundaries with his new bride.

But after theyve gone….its now time to take sides in this lynchin’ thing.

oxbow-xxxv

Sharpe is the first man who crosses over wanting no part of this decision to hang these men…six other men stand with him. Interesting and wonderful thoughts went through my head as I thought of the Jim Crow South. Sharpe is in the center…the focal point. I’ll love William Wellman forever for that image.

Gil can take it no more when he sees Don struck while his hands are tied behind his back. He barrels into the attacker and the mob starts to fight each other. Gil has taken a stand. But too late. Tetley fights for order before the hanging. (  Reminiscent of Dr. Strangelove  ~  “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!” ) He needs this to happen. Somehow this hanging is all tied up with some “weakness” about himself that he loathes sooooooooooooooooooo much, he must beat it out of his son. Martinez picks up on it. And Tetley even says it aloud to his son:

“I’ll have no female boys bearing my name. You’ll do your part, say nothing more!”

I suspect he was really talking to himself. The worse thing a man could be in the wild wild west is…be less than a man. Or produce a son like that. 

Yes, yes…the Gil-reading-the-letter-moment is poignant, a heartbreaking an iconic shot by Wellman. ( Click photo to hear the letter. )

oxbow-v

“There can’t be any such thing thing as civilization unless people have conscience.”

But there are two smaller moments I like even better: One…when the lynch mob slowly rides away from the scene of their murder. As the horses saunter up the hill around the mountain, Gil (FONDA) takes one last look at the three men hanging. He shudders and shakes his head as he passes the bodies. The second moment comes in the bar after its all said and done.

oxbow-ending-iii

oxbow-ending-i oxbow-ending-iiii

As Gil reads the letter, we get a shot of Farnley. This got to me even more. I think we see a man recognizing the enormity of what he’s done. And that he’s going to pay.

oxbow-ending-marci oxbow-marc-iia oxbow-marc-iiiia

IF Hollywood were more courageous, they would have given THE OX~BOW INCIDENT the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1943. No telling where America would be now if Hollywood lead the way in showing us how to aspire to be our better angels. Yeah yeah…I know what Goldwyn said about messages and Western Union. But I think movies and the Media can construct HOW people see the world. I think the Academy missed a big chance back in ’43. The media missed a big chance now, during the recent presidential campaign as well. Funny how history repeats itself.

oxbow-sheriff

“God better have mercy on ya. You won’t get any from me.”

 

William Wellman weaves a seamless tale in this film full of civic lessons without clobbering us over the head. I’m newly appreciating his mastery of genres ( gangster, pre~code, comedy, adventure, war film and social issues ~ of which my friend Wendy wrote an excellent write~up ).

day-1day-2day-3

Join our hostesses for this 31 Days of Oscar blogathon and read others’ picks for that coveted Oscar. The Academy Awards are coming up and as Ive done since Sidney Poitier and Julie Christie won their Oscar, I will be watching with rapt attention cheering and booing every decision they make. The Oscar telecast is February 26th: HERE are the nominees.

[   H O M E   ]

________________________________________________________________

I WALK ALONE

I MET SPARTACUS!

kirk-douglas-blogathon-young-man-whorn

Yep, I actually met Kirk Douglas. My friend Chip Duckett was getting memorabilia autographed for a giant AIDS ball being held in Vienna he helps brings talent to. He invited me along to Barnes & Noble with him for a Kirk Douglas book signing. ( “Let’s Face It: 90 Years of Living, Loving, and Learning.” ) Chip was going to get some Kirk memorabilia autographed. I wasn’t going to buy the book just go along for the ride. The seriousness of WHO I was actually going to meet struck me when we were taken to the bookstore’s “green room” ~ a storage room of books ~ to actually meet him, thanks to one of Chip’s connections at the store. We were going to meet him before the formal book signing began. Just before the B&N guy knocked on the door, Chip gave me one of his Kirk memorabilia items to have something in my hand. Wha’? The door opened and  there was Kirk Douglas sitting at a table. I knew I was going to see him, but I didnt know I was actually going to MEET him.

He looked old and small. I hung back while Chip introduced himself and chatted with him briefly while he got his memorabilia signed. After Chip was done, he introduced me to Kirk Douglas. Yo, you can be all nonchalant meeting a legend if you want, but I’m telling you straight up…I am a fangirl.

Mr. Douglas started to stand to greet me. The full import of who he was was hitting me dead in the face as he rose up. What the hell happened to that old and small man, because all of a sudden, in those few moments he didn’t seem as old and small as I initially thought. As he was standing up I said “Sir, please sit. You don’t have to stand for me.” And he said “Of course I do. I always stand for ladies.” ( Thats me guys…a lady!! L0L! ) We shook hands and I gave him Chip’s memorabilia, stammered innocuously and then stepped back.

I attended the book~signing ~ ( yeah, I bought the book a little later ) ~ met him again in that book signing factory line sort of way that handlers handle it. He smiled at me with recognition. Don’t worry, I didnt linger. I kept it moving.

* * * * * * *

He was a major star my entire lifetime. When I met him, of course I had seen so many of his films already. When I saw SHADOWS and SATIN was throwing a birthday blogathon for Kirk’s 100th, well, how could I not…

You’re going to see a lot of great films covered in this blogathon. I’m going to look at an early-in-his-career-Kirk Douglas-film, before his teeth were clenched in stone. So far he’d done The Strange Love of Martha Ivers Out of the Past” “Mourning Becomes Electra.” I will cover his fourth film, 1948s I WALK ALONE.”

i-walk-alone-movie-poster i-walk-alone-title

With  “I Walk Alone” comes Kirk Douglas’ first of seven screen pairings with fellow newcomer BURT LANCASTER ( this being his fifth movie ). RIght from the beginning, their chemistry was dynamite; I find them to be as evenly matched as any two stars were. ( Well maybe with the exception of Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn ). They’re 

kirk-gunfight-at-the-ok-corralkirk-devils-disciplekirk-seven-days-in-maykirk-tough-guys

more closely associated with each other ( their pairings also include: “The List of Adrian Messenger” [ 1963 ] and “Victory at Entebbe” [ 1976 ] ) than they are with their leading ladies ( though who can argue Burt with Ava and Deborah Kerr or Kirk with Lana and Kim and Jean Simmons ). If they ever were to really get into a fist fight, I don’t know who’d win…but I do know they’d each give as good as they got.

“I Walk Alone” is the story of a man released from prison after fourteen years, expecting to become half owner of a successful night club he invested in ( before going to the slammer ) with his old rum-running buddy.

He is in for a rude awakening.

i-walk-alone-kirkKIRK DOUGLAS is the old pal, Noll ( nicknamed ‘Dink’ ) and Douglas plays him as far from scared little Walter O’Neill as you or Martha Ivers could get. Noll is mucho suave-aaaay. He can talk his way out of, or smooth over anything. He’ll use the night club’s chanteuse to pump Frankie for info, while continuing to string her along in their romance. He’ll hook up with an ice queen socialite to further his business and social standing. He’s not above blackmailing an old friend. Noll will do or say whatever it takes. He is ambitious. He is a smooth operator.

i-walk-alone-burtQuite the opposite personality is BURT LANCASTER as Frankie Madison. He’s been cooped up for fourteen years. ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!!!!” he says tightly…and with reason ). Oh, he doesn’t look any worse for the wear having been in prison. He’s tall, fills a suit nicely…a big strapping fella. ( I think it should be de rigueuer for Burt Lancaster to wear a t-shirt in every movie from 1946 – 1952! But I digress ). Lancaster’s Frankie, is a man of few words…very defensive, sensitive and coiled as tightly as a snake. Where Noll is cool as a cucumber, Frankie is a hothead. He’s a bit awkward socially, being out of practice for so long. Noll’s Socialite Gal Pal, Alexis Richardson. speaks to him:

i-walk-alone-kristine-burt

SOCIALITE: “You know, you’re quite an attractive man.”
FRANKIE:    “Keep going.”
SOCIALITE: “How far do you want me to go?”
FRANKIE:    “I’m at the plate. You’re doing the pitching.”

The socialite is played to an Alexis Smith-ish fare-thee-well by actress KRISTINE MILLER. But that interaction ends poorly with her wanting Frankie thrown out of the club:

i-walk-alone-kristine

“You looked like a man who might have three or four interesting sentences to say. You’ve said them. Goodbye!!”

kirk-i-walk-alone-a

Well…he was out of practice.

Frankie’s wined and dined by club chanteuse: Kay Lawrence played by LIZABETH SCOTT, whose been sent by Noll to wine and dine Frankie. Noll tells her:

i-walk-alone-lizabeth

“That’s why men take women to dinner. So they’ll have someone to talk about themselves to.”

Kay goes along with it, but gets mangled in Noll’s machinations because of her love for him. And there’s the usual requisite tension between two women competing for the same man. Alexis wants to marry Noll:

“You’re so utterly no good I should marry you.”

…If you call that love.

( ASIDE: Kristine Miller shared screen~time with Lizabeth Scott in “Desert Fury” and “Too Late For Tears” ).

i-walk-alone-kirk-lizabethFrankie realizes the ruse to pump him for information and unjustly lambasts Kay. He trusts no one except the book~ keeper Dave. He lumps Kay in with all the snakes. She finally sees what a user Noll really is when he tells her he’s marrying the Socialite:

“You love me but you’re marrying her?”

[ Oy, #IFIHADADIME! ]

The jig is up for Noll and Kay when Frankie realizes hes been played like a cheap fiddle.

i-walk-alone-burt-discoveryii i-walk-alone-kirk-lizabethi

“The oldest trick in the world. You want to pump a guy, use a woman. And I grabbed.”

I love Lizabeth’s display of pouty anger when she tells off Douglas’ slimy caddish character since she was not in on his scheme.

NOLL:   “You’re in Frankie’s league now.”
KAY:      “I couldn’t ask for better company.”

i-walk-alone-burt-lizabethiii

She sides with Frankie ( when she finally gets him to trust her again ). Look, I know this romantic coupling is pretty quick and just a plot contrivance. But I say, in the scheme of 40’s films, relationships happen at the speed of a writer’s Underwood.

i-walk-alone-typewriter

I know things like this can make or break one’s enjoyment of a classic film. But I don’t mind the shorthand in these old movies. I know it doesn’t make psychological sense for the script, but it sure gets things moving a lot quicker. I like Lizabeth Scott in this film. Yes, she’s stiff and wooden, down to her walk and her hairstyle. I know the voice they dubbed was wrong for her and her singing stance was all stiff. But a better pal a guy couldn’t have in the 40’s ( depending on the film’s budget ) than Lizabeth Scott. ( Ella Raines is a different vibe…she’s not really The Victim ). So Scott is part of the triumvirate and Im fine with that. Kay and Frankie are now an “item.” She falls for the right wronged man.

i-walk-alone-burt-lizabethiv

Poor Frankie. It’s like he is stuck in a time warp… when  handshakes were as bonding and binding as a contract. A Promise meant something before he went to prison. Well he’s going to make Noll live up to his promise of fourteen years ago, ( “FOURTEEN YEARS!” ) by using some muscle. He’s going to take what’s his. He speaks to his old pal Nick Palestro to help round up the gang. I thought it was a great casting choice to have MARC LAWRENCE play the gangster Nick Palestro. He was such a staple in 30’s movies when he played “The Gangster.” ( When I see Lawrence in “The Man With the Golden Gun” or Diamonds Are Forever ~ I smile at the nod ).

It’s with Palestro we see that times, they are a-changing; that the old gang just ain’t what it used to be. Nick is a businessman now who owns a car lot. He’ll assemble some new boys, but things are not the same he tells Frankie. When Frankie and the boys meet Noll, Dave is asked to show Frankie “the books.” This was a sad scene to me on a couple of levels…time passing Frankie by, Noll’s lies, the book~keeper’s betrayal. That cut Frankie to the quick. The shame and humiliation Frankie suffers in front of EVERYone was tough to watch. I felt embarassed for him. He’s like a caged animal. The day of the old-time gangster in spats and Tommy gun is gone. The books are cooked and Frankie’s fight is with an amorphous enemy. He rails against The Corporation. Noll leaves him no dignity. It was sad to watch his powerless rage.

mazurski-chokes-walk-aloneCheck out the men who watch him ( especially that wiseass guy ). Think of those soldiers who came back from the war, having difficulty adjusting to Society. Cagney’s film The Roaring Twenties comes to mind. Frankie now wants to settle the score…but it seems he’s the only one living in the past. A relic. And now the ultimate indignity…getting a beatdown, by the one and only: Mike Mazurki.

i-walk-alone-wendell

Who is this Dave, the book~keeper?  Well its WENDELL COREY. And this is his second movie ~ ( the first being “Desert Fury ). I was never really a big fan of his; his skeletal features and pale blue eyes kind of pushed me away. But…he did have a great speaking voice…and he really could handle Stanwyck in “The Furies.” Hmmm…let me think about this.

Okay!! I’ve settled it in my mind.

I am now totally coming around to Wendell Corey. ( Welcome to CineMaven’s Van Heflin Club, Mr. Corey. Step right up .) Now, maybe not with lust in my heart, ( I’ve got to see him in a t-shirt ) but with some hard core respect for this fine Actor, I’m coming around. With “I Walk Alone” I do think he was the heart and soul of the movie. My heart goes out to him, Corey’s Dave, the bookkeeper…and he’s really caught in the thick of things between these two old friends. Dave was torn between his heartfelt loyalty to Frankie…and the “hooks” Dink had into him: forgery. Corey plays Dave wonderfully. We see a beaten man, heavy with the weight of guilt and resentment. It is weighing him down. Frankie says,

“You’re two years older than me and I’ve been in jail. You look ten years older than me!!”

When the inevitable happens, ( and you’re a movie buff…so you know what will happen), it springs Frankie into action. It takes him OUTSIDE his Self to think about someone else. And goes to action he does. I think this is a testimony to how Wendell Corey plays Dave. ( Kent Smith would’ve played him differently and we might’ve cheered for his demise…but that’s for another thread ). 

i-walk-alone-burt-lizabethii

I really like “I Walk Alone.” Kirk Douglas is the son of a bitch you love to hate. Burt Lancaster is the hero you want to root for. And Lizabeth Scott ~ the girl you want to love. When the movie finished it felt like a satisfying meal. The film feels to me like the quintessential nineteen forties movie in style and dress and dialogue. It has all the archetypical characters you could want to have; all the characters that were perhaps already old hat by the late forties: The Big Lug, The Girl, The Smooth Operator, The Strong Arm, The Snot-Nosed Up & Comer, The Bored Socialite, The Erudite Servant/Restauranteur. Is this movie officially a film noir…I’ll leave that to wiser movie buffs to define.

kirk-i-walk-alone-b

kirk-douglas-blogathon-spartacus


I think audiences knew they had a tiger by its tail with this intense young actor. Kirk Douglas would prove his star power time after time in film after film. Click on the blogathon’s banner to read accounts of others’ favorite Kirk Douglas films. Not many people live to be one hundred years old. Douglas is one of them. He’s tough and tenacious. I think he will give Father Time a real run for his money. Kirk Douglas is someone still with us, that is a connection to the golden age of Hollywood we love.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

You know, after I got my autographed book by Kirk Douglas, I couldn’t wait to go up to my parents house and show them the book. My father is more the movie buff. Maybe this was his reaction when I brought home from school, an ashtray I made of clay in the fourth grade…but I cant quite remember my father ever smiling so broadly and with awe before.

“Whaaaaaaat?!! You met Spartacus???”


     _____________________________________________________________________

 

CROSSFIRE: GLORIOUSLY GLORIA

GLORIA GRAHAME ( Crossfire )

[ November 28th, 1923 ~ October 5th, 1981 ]

CROSSFIRE (1947) Robert Young, Robert Ryan and Robert Mitchum, directed by Edward Dmytryk.

The testosterone level is high in this rough and tumble drama. You see those leads? But there’s another piece ot this movie; the girls they left behind.

Vulnerability. Regret. Pathos. This describes the very good performance of Gloria Grahame in “Crossfire.” The blare of a trumpet and a soft focused shot comes into focus announcing the appearance of Gloria Grahame as Ginny. Her Ginny reminds me of a young Joan Blondell. Grahame plays a dance hall girl ( to put it politely ) and the young soldier the police is searching for for murder ends up there. Mitchell is having a hard time adjusting, he’s missing his wife. Grahame could be that pretty girl-next-door, with delicate features and shoulder-length hair softly cascading onto her shoulders he could cry on.

But she’s not.

She doesn’t readily have a sympathetic ear. It’s all about the ca$h. It usually is with the men she meets in this place. He hooks up with her. They talk. She sarcastically tells him she knows she reminds him of the “girl he left behind.” He tells her, in fact, she does, This upsets her. She leaves him at the bar and goes out back to the garden patio.

Gloria’s angry and hurt. Hurt because she is no one’s wife; hurt because being a dance hall girl probably ruins her chances of ever becoming anyone’s wife. As she says: “I’ve been working for a long time.”

GLORIA GRAHAME ( IV )

She finds him corny but dances with him…close. Very close. Her arms are around him; she looks him squarely in the eyes when they dance. Slowly, softly, tentatively she puts her cheek next to his; her body is pressed up against his. We can see her let her guard down…like a street cat who learns to trust. The hard, cynical edge she’s hidden behind to protect her, is slowly melting. She finds him corny but it’s probably because she misses what she never had…one guy, one steady guy to love her. She’s letting him in. There’s something about this soldier.

She invites the soldier to her place. She wants to cook for him. She gets to play house but in a different way. She gives the soldier a key to her apartment. Director Dmytryk chooses to use a very long dissolve from her face to her apartment building. We linger on the close-up image of her face.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( II )

The next time we see Gloria she’s changed into a robe. And she’s cold and hard as the soldier’s wife and detective Robert Young are at her door. They want to see if she can serve as an alibi to the soldier’s whereabouts, but she is unwilling to help. Why? The soldier was sweet and gentle and didn’t want to use her. What’s turned Gloria against him to not want to help?

Well, she could be sore that he wasn’t there when she came back to her apartment. She could be sore that the soldier’s wife is now at her door. She could be sad and hurt at the realization that she’ll never get a decent break with a guy. She could be sore at just being used for information she could provide with no thought to her own feelings. She is all those things. No one could play sad, hurt & defiant in one fell swoop like Gloria Grahame. We see her catch a glimpse of what she could have had: welcoming home her soldier with dancing, dinner and a sweet homecoming. But alas that was not to be.

GLORIA GRAHAME ( VI )   PAUL KELLY ( %22Crossfire%22 )

And who DOES she have? She has a crazy old coot of a lover/husband, played sympa-thetically by character actor Paul Kelly; probably a shell-shocked vet from the Great War, or an officer from this war. We’re not really sure who he is. A delusional man who loves her. It’s very telling she hasn’t sent him away permanently. THAT’s who she has. Grahame does a wonderful job in this mystery, the girl-left-behind in so many ways.

Grahame does a lot with this small but pivotal role. In fact, I can’t think of another actress who could show pain and hurt and vulnerability and hardness and sexiness simultaneously besides Gloria Grahame. “Crossfire” was a good post-war noir film. All three Bobs (Young, Ryan & Mitchum ) were well-cast, ( Ryan – psychotically chilling ) and George Cooper was wonderful as the soldier.

But Gloria Grahame…she just adds that lovely edge of cold sarcasm softened by her vul-nerability. She’s a wonderful addition to this classic motion picture.

jacqueline-white-1 jacqueline-white

And let me give a brief shout out to Jacqueline White, who plays the Soldier’s wife. I saw her interviewed by Eddie Muller at the TCM Film Festival in 2013 before the screening of her last movie, The Narrow Margin.”  Check out the trailer for  “Crossfire.”

 

[   H O M E   ]
_________________________________________________________________________

PITFALL ( 1948 )

PITFALL ( I )PITFALL ( III )PITFALL ( II )PITFALL ( IV )Husband                     Wife                         Mistress                   Creep

PITFALL is taut tense quiet drama and I like how it plays out. You think it’s going to go one way and director André De Toth takes you in a different direction.  For Dick Powell who plays John Forbes, your average, postwar, 9-to-5, Everyman, Insurance man, what happens outside his marriage comes crashing into his suburban home like a tsunami. (Gosh, insurance guys sure lead fascinating lives; remember Walter Neff?) Powell’s a hero to his son, a good provider to his wife, but his life is in a rut. Then Lizabeth Scott falls into his lap.

PITFALL ( V )RAYMOND BURR is Mac, the private investigator Dick Powell sends out on Lizabeth Scott’s case and he’s developed a hankering for her, to put it mildly. He’s just a guy who can’t take “No.” Basically he’s a one-track minded terminator, obsessed with Scott beyond all rhyme and reason. He’s having that relationship with her all by himself. In fact, Burr spends much of the late 40’s and 50’s not getting the girl. Scott wants no part of this hulking brute. Any girl would take a ten-foot pole and vault as far away from him as possi-ble. Visiting her in the shop where she works, he has free rein to sit and watch her model clothes for him as long as his cash holds out. All perfectly legal. All perfectly “Eeeeew!” I told you he was a creep.

DICK POWELL ( PITFALL )

I like DICK POWELL as John Forbes. He gets all caught up in a web of his own making but I do feel sorry for him. It’s not that he does not love his wife; he does. He’s just frustrated and bored with the routine and predic-tability of his own life. He did not look for this; doesn’t initiate it. Yes, lying by omission is still lying. Yes, he should have gotten a hobby. Yes, he could have said no, but…c’mon.

“I guess I’m a little out of practice. I never quoted anything but statistics. I’m a little unsure of  myself whenever I crawl out of my briefcase.”

WHO’S DRAWING OUT WHOM?

PITFALL ( VII )

Forbes takes inventory of the items Mona Stevens received from her ex-boyfriend who’s now in jail for embezzlement. LIZA-BETH SCOTT plays Mona and if you know anything about Lizabeth in the 40’s, you know she rarely caught a break! As Forbes investigates her, he is strictly about business. Says Mona about her ex:

“He was just too much in love with me. He wanted to do things for me and he didn’t have the money. So he went out and got some…I liked him mostly because he was nice to me. Very few men are. That means a lot.”  

( RULE #1 – HOOK THE HERO WITH YOUR TALES OF WOE )

Forbes warms up to her when he sees she’s not a bad egg; she is not a femme fatale in the strictest sense of the word. She just got caught up in something herself. It’s the begin-ning of getting-to-know-you. Mona offers Forbes a life raft out of his sea of boredom. She lets him have a ride on her ill-gotten gains of a boat before he confiscates it, and he gets a brief glimpse of how the other half lives; a respite from his ordinary existence. I think they recognize they’re each caught up in life’s circumstances. She invites him to a home-cooked meal where one thing leads to another. See…he just falls into it.

GUILT – THE GREAT MOTIVATOR

PITFALL ( VIII )
Maybe moguls got JANE WYATT confused with Jane Wyman due the similarity of their last names. Wyatt did not get all the meaty roles Wyman or Dorothy McGuire were offered, but she was a fine actress as well – ( I love her voice ) and it shows here in “Pitfall” as Sue Forbes, John’s wife. As Sue she is pretty, competent and has a sense of humor; she tries to sensibly cajole him out of his doldrums. She seems like a true partner in that marriage; someone who can go to a PTA meeting or country club, and is probably a good bridge partner. ‘The Wife’ usually is a thankless role in movies, painted as nag, shrew, harpy. But not here. ( Anne Archer in “Fatal Attraction” comes to mind. )  As Sue, she’s not too busy for her husband and accepts her adult responsibility. Yes he strays, but we can see there’s nothing really wrong with Sue.

 

ENDING WHAT NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEGUN

PITFALL ( IX )

After she accidentally discovers he’s married, he breaks off the affair.

________________

JOHN: “I’ve done something I’m terribly ashamed of. I’d like to make it up to you.”

MONA: “Well if you think I’m going to stand in competition with a wife and child…even I’ve got more sense than that.”

JOHN: “What’s going to happen to you?”

MONA: “What do you care, really. Honestly Johnny, aren’t you a little relieved to get out of it this easily. This is the set up Johnny. This is the kind of girl you’ve always dreamed about. I’m going to let you off without an angle. I could be nasty. But I’m not going to be.”

JOHN: “Why?”

MONA:  “I don’t know. But I’m not going to be…what happens to men like you, Johnny? If I had a nice home like you did Johnny, I wouldn’t take a chance with it for anything in the world.”

JOHN: “I’ll do anything I can.”

MONA:  “Will you really? Alright. Then go home. Stay there.”

JOHN:  “Alright. If that’s the way you want it.”

MONA:  “If that’s the way I want it? Have you got any other ideas?”

_______________

It’s a clean break. A sad one. Hurtful. John gets away “scott”-free. He’s learned his lesson and is now back in the fold, content with what he has at home.

Uhmmm…not so fast.

BLACKMAIL MAKES STRANGE BEDFELLOWS

PITFALL ( XII )What intrigues me about this film is that it’s not just your usual married-man-cheats-and-slinks-back-home-feeling-guilty sort of thing. There are tangible consequences, not just emotional ones. His outside actions intrude on his home life ( again, like in Fatal Attraction” ) and in a big way. Big as in RAYMOND BURRThe conflict between the two men is an in-teresting dynamic and it puts Forbes in a pickle. They both like Mona. One offers protection, the other – his obsession. How can John protect Mona against Mac without his wife finding out about the affair? And if pounding  Forbes to a pulp won’t keep him from Mona, ( John has to lie to Sue about why he was beat up… )  Mac decides to create a human heat-seeking missile out of Mona’s ex, Smiley, ( Byron Barr. ) And Smiley heads straight to Forbes’ house after being released from prison. It all comes to a head.

PITFALL ( LOGO SHOT )

Sue tells John:

Conscience? You make it sound like a dirty word. You worrying about your filthy little conscience… you’re not going to the police. You lied once. It came to you easily enough then. You’ve got to lie now. I mean this Johnny, if you drag this family through the dirt I’ll never forgive you!

Lots of compromises in “Pitfall.” Everything is not tied up in a nice tidy bow. That only hap-pens in the movies.

CineMoral: If your husband gets a beat-down and doesn’t report it to the cops…he’s having an affair.

You can read a more in depth look at Raymond Burr in “Pitfall” here: at the Caftan Woman blog that covered his performance in this movie for last April’s GREAT VILLAIN BLOGATHON hosted by Speakeasy, Silver Screenings and Shadows and Satin.

_________________________________________________________________________

NORA PRENTISS ( 1947 )

How would you like a little film noir in your adultery?  Yes…there will be SPOILERS:

NORA PRENTISS ( I )Nora Prentiss kneels before the ashes of her dreams of  home, hearth and a husband of her own

NORA PRENTISS is really a showcase for Ann Sheridan. Director Vincent Sherman gloriously holds the camera on her many times, to which I, as a Sheridan fan say “Yay!” She’s excellent. As Nora Prentiss, she hadnt sign up for this. Shes not a bad guy; no vixen or femme fatale or Vamp. She wants to be married, have kids, live out in the open. It gets increasingly dark for her too. She soon sees hes not any closer to divorce and this is not working out for her in an open way.

NORA PRENTIS ( VII ) NORA PRENTISS ( V )

The He is played by Kent Smith. At first I was upset with him, the husband character ( Dr. Richard Talbott ). I thought he was a coward. He wanted to have his cake and eat it too. I almost couldn’t believe why she even fell for him in the first place. ( Dry, boring, dull. ) But then something clicked in me. (Like first hating reading Willa Cather’s “My Antonia” and then loving reading “My Antonia” in the tenth grade). A switch flipped, a lightbulb went off and I thought “0hhhhhhh, this is a movie about what happens when a man spirals down a devastating path…” Got it. Nora is the object of affection…but the movie is about him; THAT was the examination. Like Tyrone Power in “Nightmare Alley” Kent Smith’s character reached for something, going about it the wrong way…and down down down he goes.

NORA PRENTISS ( VI )

Dr. Talbott’s not fun-loving anymore. He has them hiding in dingy hotel rooms, not going dancing or being seen in public. He’s living like a fugitive; he is a fugitive. Kent Smith does a grand job in the movie. I feel his desperation. He’s like Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend.” Tattered, torn, unshaven, unkempt; looking like a wild man… irrational. “Don’t leave me!”but not letting her go; making every mistake in the book to do what he has to do to keep her. Getting deeper and deeper into the mess he’s made of his life. Car crash, fire, disfigurement and a murder trial. Kent does a very good job of showing us The Descent. Isn’t that what film noir is about?

There must be something about confessing to an extra-marital fling that is a fate worse than death. In Nora Prentiss” adultery is film noir. The Husband in this drama has much in common with our boy from DETOUR”.  Neon lights, rain-soaked streets, living in the shadows. I don’t mean to constantly compare this film to other movies; it’s just that the journey, the fall is so similar. The look of this film? Awww hell… all praises belong to Master Cinematographer: JAMES WONG HOWE. ( Look him up…you’ll faint at his credits ).

NORA PRENTISS ( James Wong Howe )     James Wong Howe and Vincent Sherman

slacks-sheridan
Vincent Sherman and Ann Sheridan…yeh

 Just a couple of points to get off my chest:

*  Why do Movie Wives ( Rosemary DeCamp in this case ) act like cold fish and then are surprised when their husbands lose interest and get attracted to another woman.

NORA PRENTISS ( IV ) NORA PRENTISS ( II )

*  I love the montage of their affair progressing. Who knew Kent had it in him. I liked that the movie didn’t make Sheridan out to be a gold-digger.

*  I loved Robert Alda waiting in the wings for Sheridan. He plays a nice guy.  Hes on the sidelines falling for Nora as well.

*  John Ridgely is in the movie…as he is in every movie ever made in every studio ever existed.

*  Sheridan puts a lot of emotion into that second song she sings. I love her close-ups. Tears, emotion-choked voice. ( I want to believe that’s Sheridan singing. Does anyone know? )

*  And back at the ranch…Kent’s not eating…pacing around..drinking. It reminds me of Carmen Jones ( here I go again ) when Dandridge is out hotfooting it around town and Belafonte has to stay cooped up in a hotel less the MPs find him. Kent even starts to look like the Geek Tyrone Power played in “Nightmare Alley.” Kent’s downward spiral is a sad fall from grace to see. He doesn’t help keep a girl. He becomes jealous, possessive. No body signed up for this.

NORA PRENTISS ( III )

*  Great car crash.

*  I love 1940’s fashion. ( Whaddya want…I’m a girl ).

*  I love Rosemary DeCamp at the trial.

*  The last shot of Kent Smith in this movie is truly disturbing.

*  FRANZ WAXMANFranz Waxman’s music – dark…doleful…mournful, moving. But that music at the end of the movie is particularly poignant as she walks down the courthouse steps knowing she was leaving her love in the hands of fate. The music’s dirge-like melancholy is beautiful and creates and fits the mood of the film perfectly.

Okay ohkaaaaaaaay…so John Ridgely wasn’t in every movie ever made. But it seems so.

See the movie trailer here:

 

CineMoral: If you need a doctor and he says he’s married…change doctors. And fellas…if you can’t handle the Ooomph, get outta the kitchen.

 

(   H O M E   )

 

________________________________________________________________