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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ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1952)

ON DANGEROUS GROUND - TITLE

ON DANGEROUS GROUND  is a good solid little movie. I’ve read a bit of discussion on “tone” in films; what works…what doesn’t work. “ODG” doesn’t have a big grandiose sweeping story. It has a simple one, in fact. But THIS is a good example of what it looks like when tone is handled right. This movie has two halves and I think they mesh seamlessly and the tone for each half is appropriate.

 ON DANGEROUS GROUND ROBERT RYAN ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND - I )

ROBERT RYANCLEO MOORE ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND ) plays Detective Jim Wilson who works the night shift and catches The Bad Guys by any means necessary. And most times, what’s necessary…is a beat-down. When Jim asks rhetorically, “Why do you punks make me do it?!!!” My answer’d be: “…because you want to do it Jim, that’s why.” And when Jim gets the come-on by blonde bombshell Cleo Moore you just know that their dalliance will not include a bed strewn with rose petals. Jim can work out any uhmm…“kinks” and societal rejections suffered via his line of work, with this soft hard blonde. Who’d have thunk redemption would come to our hero through actually catching a murderer.

Director NICHOLAS RAY  draws us into the second half of the movie with a savage murder in a tight-knit, rural community upstate. He does this slow and easy with a car ride from an urban jungle to a snow-covered bucolic setting. He lets us get our bearings slow and easy, just as Jim gets his. We watch Jim’s heart melt in the snow. His brutishness is washed clean in the face of a blind woman.

ON DANGEROUS GROUND ( III )

My God, IDA LUPINO…I think she’s just fantastic here. Forget her brittle sexiness as the crazed ‘Lana Carlsen’ in They Drive By Night or her conniving manipulativeness as Helen in The Hard Way or her “questionable” prison warden in Women’s Prison. ( Well actually don’t forget it. That’s what makes me Ida…Ida Ida…I idolize ya! ) Here on dangerous ground Ida gives a heart-full performance. She’s as gentle as can be. She has strength… but it’s a different kind; not hard and brassy, but one filled with trust & faith ( “I have to trust everybody. ) And not in a saccharine way either. By the sheer force in her belief and her goodness, she gets tough hard brutal Jim Wilson to make her a promise; a promise to bring her brother, the young girl’s murderer, to justice safely. And he doesn’t commit to this promise easily.

WARD BOND ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND )

As Robert Ryan’s detec- tive’s heart and point of view shifts, we have Ward Bond  as the grie- ving father ( Mr. Brent ) of the murdered girl. Let me tell you, his anger and grief are ferocious. Right off the bat it’s Country vs. City Slicker. Actually, Ward Bond seems like the Detec-tive’s former self: brutal, wild, shoot first and ask questions later…maybe. ( Ha! At that moment I thought the only actor alive not scared of Robert Ryan would be Ward Bond ). Bond is where Ryan used to be. When they tussled, it felt to me like Ryan was fighting his former self. I’m trying not to put any spoilers in my blog post, but your safe bet is to watch this classic before you read my entry. There’s so much that goes on that causes a man to go from that to this and Nicholas Ray eases us through his process. We go through the process too.

 ON DANGEROUS GROUND ( I )  RYAN - LUPINO ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND )

I’m not sure which side of the musical metronome Bernard Hermann falls with you, but my heart strings will always follow Bernie’s violins anywhere. But besides his music, which I think underscores and enhances the plot, I felt I was led by events; …Ryan’s promise to Lupino…Ward Bond’s venge-filled intent…a boy…a chase…a promise.

ROBERT RYAN - IDA LUPINO ( ON DANGEROUS GROUND )

Out there in the cold, white snow…there’s forgiveness and redemption. I think Nicholas Ray handles it seamlessly in “On Dangerous Ground.” As for Robert Ryan..wellllllll, the man is a chameleon. He plays good guys. He plays bad guys. He plays good bad guys and bad good guys. And I might say the same for Lupino to some extent. Ryan’s had such a variety of roles throughout his career. If you want to get a handle on ROBERT RYAN’s screen persona \/  you just have to remember one thing:

ROBERT RYAN IDA LUPINO

He will make you believe anything.

 

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