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.”

 

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MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1947

MY FAVORITE FILMS OF 1947

Looking at the past seven years of my favorites for this thread…I see I have a dark streak; I like noirish things. And this year is no different. I’ve seen forty films for this year, more than any year I’ve listed. It was tough to pick just ten ( better make that eleven ) but here they are, with a couple of actors who make repeat appearances:

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“CROSSFIRE” – ( Edward Dmytryk )

( 1947 ) CROSSFIRE

An anti-Semitic soldier kills a man. Soon after, the police and fellow soldiers are after him. Ryan is chilling, Mitchum is cool and Young is understated as the three men linked by this crime. There’s gloriously gloria’d Gloria Grahame as a dance hall girl who actually longs to be the Girl a soldier comes home to. Also Jacqueline White gives a good showing as the wife of a soldier accused of the murder. Dark and grim just like I like it. We watch the dragnet close in around Ryan. Oh Bobby Bobby Bobby ( Ryan ) you don’t make it easy for a girl to love ya. There’s nothing noble and patriotic about his soldier. He’s a killer in a uniform. Funny thing is, I think he went IN like that. I’m not sure we’ve ever seen Johnny come marching home like this.

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“DARK PASSAGE” – ( Delmer Daves )

( 1947 ) DARK PASSAGE

Why am I rooting for an escaped convict from San Quentin? Because it’s Bogart that’s why. He’s got an angel on his side in Lauren Bacall, who believes he’s innocent of killing his wife. She helps him get a new life. The only thing he can’t get around is his wife’s friend, Madge ( played with delicious venom by Agnes Moorehead. ) She’s the fly in the ointment and I love the trouble she stirs. Bogie and Bacall are also at it again. Good chemistry. Good drama. Good ending.
Pondering his future:DARK PASSAGE ( THE END )

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“DESERT FURY” – ( Lewis Allen )

This is one of my favorite movies from one of my favorite years.  Mother and Daughter kind of go for the same man, and a gunsel is in love with his boss. It’s all mixed up in subversive ways and I urge you to check out this movie. What? You don’t believe me? Well then maybe you’ll believe master of film noir, Eddie Muller.

( 1947 ) DESERT FURY          ( 1947A ) DESERT FURY

To quote the film noir aficionado from his book: “Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir“: “Desert Fury is the gayest movie ever produced in Hollywood’s golden era. The film is saturated – with incredibly lush color, fast and furious dialogue dripping with innuendo, double entendres, dark secrets, outraged face-slappings, overwrought Miklos Rosza violins. How has this film escaped revival or cult status? It’s Hollywood at its most gloriously berserk.”

The cast includes: Mary Astor, Lizabeth Scott, Burt Lancaster, John Hodiak and introducing Wendell Corey. Well, whaddya waitin’ for?

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“GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT” – ( Elia Kazan )

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It’s one of those “IMPORTANT” pictures that was made in the 40’s tackling an American injustice: anti-Semitism. I always find Gregory Peck’s sincerity appealing. ( His duel-in-the-sun-bad-boy portrayal touches a different nerve. ) Here, he fights the good fight from the inside; he’ll say he’s Jewish and write an article about this insidious ism. He has two women to contend with who love him. One’s a career girl ( Celeste Holm who wins an Oscar for this ),  cheer-leading his efforts. The other one is a Society girl ( Dorothy McGuire ), who may not even recognize her own tacit prejudices. Very well done. And not too preachy.

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“THE HUCKSTERS” – ( Jack Conway )

 Move over Greer!!! GABLE’s BACK…and DEBORAH’s GOT HIM! ( And so does AVA. )

( 1947 ) HUCKSTERS

I can’t explain why I like this movie so much. I find it such an easy watch ( like “A Letter to Three Wives” ) and it feels modern in its indictment of the advertising game and selling “soap” to the American public. You know very well we can be sold anything. Will Gable compromise his principles for the Almighty Buck? There is a new girl in town ( Hollywood ) the lovely, classy Deborah Kerr. ( You can read a thread dedicated to her here started by the Silver Screen Oasis’ Sue Sue Applegate. ) And then there’s Ava, who loses out again in the love department. The movie’s just put together so well. I love Keenan Wynn and Edward Arnold in this as well.

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“KISS OF DEATH” – ( Henry Hathaway )

( 1947 ) KISS OF DEATH

One of my favorite times for liking Brian Donlevy is in “Kiss of Death.” (“Impact” is the other time). He’s an on the level cop. This is one of the great films noir. Richard Widmark makes an auspicious debut. I don’t know if his ‘dese’ ‘dems’ and ‘dose’ are authentic, but he is definitely a new kinda crazy. (And whatever you do, do not leave your wheelchair-bound moms around him). But my boy in all this is the tried and true hunkalicious: Victor Mature. Here, I love him with his girlfriend ( Coleen Gray ) and two adorable daughters. And I love him in the dark of the night in the thick of things in his fedora and wide lapelled suits. He’s not all testosteroned bravery. He’s tender and loving, but can be tough. ( Isn’t that the perfect combo in a man we want girls? ) He wants to go straight and has to help catch a psychopath. Love how it all plays out. Love watching Victor Mature. No, I don’t ( only ) think he’s  grade-A beefcake. I think he is an under-rated actor. Just see him as Doc Holiday in John Ford’s “My Darling Clementine.” See? What’d I tell you.

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“THE MACOMBER AFFAIR” – ( Zoltan Korda )

( 1947 ) MACOMBER AFAIR

My history with Joan Bennett has been sketchy. I did like her in “Scarlet Street” but I couldn’t quite get a handle on her. Then I saw this at TCM’s film festival. She soared through the roof of my imagination. (“About time,“ I can hear one of my friends say.) What an interesting movie about a marriage. It’s one thing to fall out of love with your spouse, but to lose respect? Uh-oh. It might have been better getting mauled by a lion than face the disdain of Joan Bennett. It’s so nice to have a great white hunter to turn to, and that’s Gregory Peck who walks a fine line between checking out Bennett, and helping Robert Preston regain his self esteem. And let me give a shout-out to Jean Gillie (who I mentioned last year in “Decoy”). She gives a solid performance in a very small role. Potential. She died soon after the movie. The photo above spells it all out. The movie just amazed me. ( See my detailed review of this film for The 1947 Blogathon. )

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“NIGHTMARE ALLEY” – ( Edmund Goulding )

( 1947 ) NIGHTMARE ALLEY

He’s plays Stan Carlisle. Black. Dark. Cynical. Manipulative. We see the rise and fall of Tyrone Power in the best performance of his career. He’s no nice guy here. He’s  an op-portunist, and does what he has to, to get what he wants. He gets tripped up by his own grab for power. Three women in his life perhaps representing pieces of him, or represents where he’s at in his life –  the well-worn beauty of Joan Blondell ( where he’s at ), the youthful innocence of Coleen Gray ( the good inside him ) and the blonde ice queen of Helen Walker ( what he wants to achieve. ) It’s Power’s scenes opposite Walker ( and Taylor Holmes’ break down ) that makes the movie for me. The movie is dark and compelling. Power is more than a pretty face. I can’t look away.

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“NORA PRENTISS” – ( Vincent Sherman )

( 1947 ) NORA PRENTISS - I

I like Ann Sheridan. I see a maturity in her as Nora Prentiss. She’s not a smart alec or brassy or makin’ with the wise-cracks. She’s fallen for a nice guy; a doctor ( Kent Smith ) who’s too weak to make a clean break with his wife, and runs off with Sheridan. Here’s an affair gone wrong and spirals into something not so good. I like the drama and the turn it takes. Ann Sheridan is good. And so is Kent Smith. The final thirty seconds of the movie…

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“OUT OF THE PAST” – ( Jacques Tourneur )

( 1947 ) OUT OF THE PAST

The best film noir ever made. ( Hey…it’s my list. What’s your favorite film noir? ) Mitchum has to find the woman who shot kingpin Kirk Douglas and stole his money. He runs into her in the form of femme fatale Jane Greer, ( and we all know how she builds his gallows. ) Mitchum follows her deep into noir because, baby, he don’t care. So there’s double crosses, fist fights, broken hearts, the pitter patter of Rhonda Fleming’s heavy breathing, and murder. Did I mention it is the best film noir EVER made?

( Come back next week and I’ll show you what a Twitter party looks like when the folks at TCMPARTY talk about “Out of the Past” ).

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“THE UNFAITHFUL” – ( Vincent Sherman )

( 1947 ) UNFAITHFUL

There’s nothing compelling or heart-stopping about this movie.. And I know …it’s sort of a re-make of “The Letter” played out differently. But that’s okay. Ann Sheridan’s in a jam-blackmailed for an affair she’s had while her husband ( Zachary Scott ) served in the war. It gets lonely under that apple tree and I like that that is addressed. It’s a mature drama that’s not tied up in a neat little bow. Besides, I like Ann Sheridan. That’s not enough reason to make it a favorite?

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