Postcard from the edge

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Get your Noir on

Scram, see... Noir CityDon’t trust The American Cinematheque – their annual film noir festival is in its 9th year not its 8th, as their promotions allege.  We’ll forgive 'em the slip-up, as the hardworking folks at The Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood have a lot on their plates these days and, after all, film noir is all about suckers and marks who just can't do the math.  Programmed by noir know-it-alls Eddie Muller (author of Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir) and Alan K. Rode (whose essential Charles McGraw biography is due this fall from McFarland) in association with the American Cinematheque’s own Chris D and on the dime of the estimable Film Noir Foundation, “Noir City” has entered its second of three weeks at the Egyptian. 

Noir CityFollowing its success at San Francisco’s Castro Theater, the series picked up at the Egyptian on April 12th with a pairing of Fred Zinnemann’s Act of Violence (1948) starring Van Heflin and Robert Ryan with Abraham Polonsky’s Force of Evil (1948) starring John Garfield and Marie Windsor, followed by a Friday the 13th deuce of Richard Fleischer’s steely Armored Car Robbery (1950) with Charles McGraw and William Talman alongside Robert Wise’s brutal Odds Against Tomorrow (1960) starring Robert Ryan and Harry Belafonte, with the late, great Richard Bright in an early role as Coco, a transparently gay gunsel.  Audiences have been treated to  special appearances by Odds leading lady Kim Hamilton and Cry of the City (1948) costar Tommy Cook, both of whom shared priceless stories of working with the likes of Ryan, Belafonte, Richard Conte, Victor Mature and a young Shelley Winters. 

For you saps not wise to the charms of noir, this crime film subgenre began in earnest post-WWII, when producers realized the spats and homburgs of the classic gangster pictures were outdated fashions.  With a pernicious vibe of cynicism undercutting the American dream, film noir was born.  Stark black and white thrillers edged with German expressionism gave a psychological twist to such tales of greed, betrayal, revenge and retribution as Robert Siodmak’s The Killers (1946) with Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner, Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past (1947) with Robert Mitchum and Kirk Douglas and Edgar G. Ulmer’s cheapjack Detour (1945) with future wife-killer Tom Neal and the aptly-named Ann Savage.  Deceit, determinism and doom were the watchwords of film noir, which continues to influence moviemakers 60 years later. With American society suffering from a galloping case of cultural amnesia, festivals like “Noir City” are crucial for not only providing access to classic and obscure titles but for placing these films in a context allowing us to understand why they were made and where they were coming from.  There are two more weeks of this fest to go and plenty of time left to see some dynamite thrillers. 

Confirmed guests for the remaining run include Ann Robinson (The Glass Wall, Saturday April 21), Coleen Gray (The Killing and The Sleeping City, Wednesday April 25), Peggy Webber (The Wrong Man, Saturday April 28), Richard Anderson (The People Against O'Hara, Saturday April 29) and the mighty, mighty Robert Loggia (The Garment Jungle, Wednesday May 2, closing night).

Now scram, see.  Beat it… to “Noir City” at The Egyptian!

10 Responses Get your Noir on
Posted By Jeff : April 21, 2007 12:52 pm

I'm envious of you. How I would love to see some of these on the big screen at the Egyptian! ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW is one of the late, great film noirs that always seems to get overlooked and what a cast though it was Harry Belafonte, not Sidney Poitier, who was in it plus Gloria Grahame AND Shelley Winters. I know they showed Irving Lerner's CITY OF FEAR but I'd love to see his 1958 noir MURDER BY CONTRACT again. That's a miniature masterpiece and Vince Edwards is truly chilling as the emotionless contract killer – beautiful cinematography by Lucien Ballard too.

Posted By Jeff : April 21, 2007 12:52 pm

I'm envious of you. How I would love to see some of these on the big screen at the Egyptian! ODDS AGAINST TOMORROW is one of the late, great film noirs that always seems to get overlooked and what a cast though it was Harry Belafonte, not Sidney Poitier, who was in it plus Gloria Grahame AND Shelley Winters. I know they showed Irving Lerner's CITY OF FEAR but I'd love to see his 1958 noir MURDER BY CONTRACT again. That's a miniature masterpiece and Vince Edwards is truly chilling as the emotionless contract killer – beautiful cinematography by Lucien Ballard too.

Posted By RHS : April 21, 2007 4:47 pm

You know, my brain knew that was Harry Belafonte (since corrected) and not Sidney Poitier because I thought, when Kim Hamilton made the appearance, that Belafonte might have drawn an interesting reaction from the crowds due to his recent very vocal stance on our current president.  And yet I wrote Sidney Poitier.  I have similar Sweden/Switzerland problems.

Posted By RHS : April 21, 2007 4:47 pm

You know, my brain knew that was Harry Belafonte (since corrected) and not Sidney Poitier because I thought, when Kim Hamilton made the appearance, that Belafonte might have drawn an interesting reaction from the crowds due to his recent very vocal stance on our current president.  And yet I wrote Sidney Poitier.  I have similar Sweden/Switzerland problems.

Posted By fxcinchicago@yahoo.com : April 28, 2007 12:47 pm

  For many years I have wanted to know what was the title of a movie where a female child is being prevented by her aunt or mother or sister from solving/determining the outcome of a case. The child, for some apparent reason, can no longer speak and she is being attended to at a hospital where the adult visits her. Who were the actresses and movie title??????   Francisco X Caballero

Posted By fxcinchicago@yahoo.com : April 28, 2007 12:47 pm

  For many years I have wanted to know what was the title of a movie where a female child is being prevented by her aunt or mother or sister from solving/determining the outcome of a case. The child, for some apparent reason, can no longer speak and she is being attended to at a hospital where the adult visits her. Who were the actresses and movie title??????   Francisco X Caballero

Posted By RHS : April 28, 2007 10:24 pm

Francisco, I ran your thumbnail synopsis across the desks of a number of distinguished men of film and one of them suggested your mystery movie might be Shadow on the Wall (1950), directed by Pat Jackson and starring Gigi Perreau as the little girl, Zachary Scott her father, Ann Sothern the killer and Nancy Davis the psychiatrist who helps Gigi overcome her shock.

Posted By RHS : April 28, 2007 10:24 pm

Francisco, I ran your thumbnail synopsis across the desks of a number of distinguished men of film and one of them suggested your mystery movie might be Shadow on the Wall (1950), directed by Pat Jackson and starring Gigi Perreau as the little girl, Zachary Scott her father, Ann Sothern the killer and Nancy Davis the psychiatrist who helps Gigi overcome her shock.

Posted By MDR : May 4, 2007 9:41 am

Good snag, Richard!  Even though I'd written a fairly detailed synopsis of Shadow on the Wall (1950) for my website years ago, I didn't recognize it from Francisco's description.

Posted By MDR : May 4, 2007 9:41 am

Good snag, Richard!  Even though I'd written a fairly detailed synopsis of Shadow on the Wall (1950) for my website years ago, I didn't recognize it from Francisco's description.

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