Posted by Richard Harland Smith on April 20, 2007
Don’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.
Following 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began in earnest post-WWII, when producers realized the spats and homburgs of the classic gangster pictures were outdated fashions.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!
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