Saturday, April 21, 2018

Quick Preview of TCM in July

The Turner Classic Movies schedule for July has been posted!

Steve McQueen will be the July Star of the Month.

July will also feature a fun Spotlight theme, "50 States in 50 Movies."

I'm especially excited about a night of Republic Pictures restorations on July 27th, which will feature Mona Freeman in THAT BRENNAN GIRL (1946); Marsha Hunt and William Lundigan in THE INSIDE STORY (1947), which I saw at the UCLA Festival of Preservation in 2013; the memorable film noir CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953); and TRIGGER, JR. (1950), a Roy Rogers Western I just reviewed on Blu-ray.

Saturday morning programming in July will feature early '40s Tim Holt Westerns, followed each week by a Tarzan film starring either Lex Barker or Gordon Scott.

July's Noir Alley titles will include ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), a favorite film which I just saw at the Noir City Festival; Robert Taylor and Cyd Charisse in Nicholas Ray's terrific "color noir" PARTY GIRL (1958); and a personal favorite, Van Johnson in SCENE OF THE CRIME (1949), to mention just part of the lineup.

Olivia de Havilland will receive a six-film tribute on July 1st, her 102nd birthday.

Another birthday of note: Leonard Bernstein's centennial will be celebrated with his musicals, his score for ON THE WATERFRONT (1954), and, intriguingly, several 1961 OMNIBUS episodes.

Additional filmmakers receiving multifilm tributes in July include Barbara Stanwyck, Sally Ann Howes, James Dean, Joan Blondell, Joe E. Brown, Sterling Hayden, Red Skelton, Maximilian Schell, Mark Robson, and Jean Negulesco.

As always, there's an Independence Day theme on July 4th, including HOLIDAY INN (1942), which features Fred Astaire's great firecracker dance. July themes will feature comedy teams, the French Revolution, women doctors, zombies, and murder mysteries involving radio actors. That's certainly an eclectic assortment!

Coming soon: Marlene Dietrich will be Star of the Month in May and Leslie Howard is featured in June.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Dark City (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

Monday was another great evening at the 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival.

The night's double bill teamed a big favorite of mine, ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950), which I reviewed in 2012, with a new-to-me title from the same year, DARK CITY (1950).

ARMORED CAR ROBBERY, which screened second, is 67 minutes of crime movie bliss, with Charles McGraw as an L.A. cop on the hunt for the man who killed his partner. It's on DVD in the Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 5, which has been reissued by the Warner Archive. It's essential noir/crime viewing.

DARK CITY's opening credits say "Introducing Charlton Heston"; DARK CITY was Heston's very first feature film. He was 26 when he filmed his role as a surly young crook.

Heston's Danny Haley is a troubled man. He runs an illegal gambling joint which has just been raided by the cops and is likely to be hit by them again in the near future. He's got a loyal girlfriend, a nightclub singer named Fran (Lizabeth Scott), but he won't commit. Any time she gets too close he pushes her away. In short, his life is going nowhere fast.

While watching Fran sing, Danny meets Arthur Winant (Don DeFore), in town on business with a $5000 cashier's check from his employer in his wallet. Danny gets one look at that check and immediately plots to lure Winant into a poker game with his associates Augie (Jack Webb) and Barney (Ed Begley). They let Winant win big, which draws him back the next night, ready to put the cashier's check on the line. Needless to say, things don't go well for Winant, who goes back to his hotel and does himself in.

Almost immediately, Barney feels that someone is following him...the wheels of a strange justice begin turning, terrifying Barney, Augie, and Danny, but who's responsible? Danny and Augie try to solve the mystery, with Captain Garvey (Dean Jagger) of the local police hot on the trail as well.

DARK CITY has a fairly involved plot which runs 98 minutes, but it's quite engrossing. I enjoyed the movie and would watch it again.

I'm a Heston fan, but I did think his sullen Danny was a bit too one note, though he starts to change late in the film. Scott seems pretty similar film to film, though she's a welcome film noir staple, and she has several nicely performed musical numbers, effectively dubbed by Trudy Stevens (who dubbed Vera-Ellen in WHITE CHRISTMAS). Incidentally, I've been trying to get "A Letter From a Lady in Love" out of my head for the last 72 hours!

Jagger is especially enjoyable as the cagey police detective. The large cast also includes Viveca Lindfors as Winant's widow, Mike Mazurki as his disturbed older brother, Walter Sande as a Las Vegas casino owner, and Harry Morgan as Danny's loyal right-hand man. Seeing Webb and Morgan onscreen together, years before DRAGNET, is a lot of fun.

DARK CITY was directed by William Dieterle and filmed in black and white by Victor Milner. The score was by Franz Waxman.

DARK CITY is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Olive Films.

It can also be streamed via Amazon Instant Video.

Wednesday night I returned to Noir City for a wonderful double bill of a pair of films I've reviewed in the past, DRAGNET (1954) and LOOPHOLE (1954). I think I enjoyed both films even more last night than I did via DVD; the 35mm black and white print of LOOPHOLE was especially gorgeous. DRAGNET provided another chance to see the Warner Bros. backlot, including the theater and neighboring alley and one of the Midwest Street houses.

Best of all, Ann Robinson, who plays the lovely policewoman in DRAGNET (seen at right with Webb and Ben Alexander), watched the film with us and was interviewed afterwards. She recounted that the DRAGNET role had already been cast but they asked her to read anyway...and then decided to pay off the other actress and give her the part! She said she had a crush on Jack Webb but he had a girlfriend and didn't give her a second look. Her role was fairly small so she didn't have many memories of being on the set, but she clearly enjoyed being in the film and working with Jack Webb.

I'll be returning to Noir City for closing night this Sunday, a 1948 double bill of ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948), which will be a first-time watch for me, and the great NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948).

Monday, April 16, 2018

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival Schedule

The 2018 TCM Classic Film Festival opens in Hollywood on April 26th!

Just 10 more days until classic film fans descend on Hollywood to watch movies 'round the clock from Thursday evening, the 26th, through Sunday night, April 29th.

The theme of this year's festival is "Powerful Words: The Page Onscreen." There are many filmed novels in the festival, plus a series of Shakespeare films.

Once again I'm pleased to be covering the festival as a member of the credentialed media. I'll be attending a pre-festival press conference to glean all the latest TCM and festival news.

During the festival itself please follow me on Twitter for real time "as it happens" coverage including photos and updates on my schedule. After the festival stayed tuned for a comprehensive review, with a series of detailed daily recaps and film reviews.

As usual, I've spent considerable time reading and rereading the schedule, weighing and occasionally changing my choices. My picks were made somewhat easier by seeing OUTRAGE (1950) last weekend at UCLA, and I'll able to see Ruta Lee at a screening of WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION (1958) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival next month!

Schedule choices are often narrowed because of logistics; for example, if a film lets out at the Egyptian half an hour before another potential movie starts in the smallest Chinese multiplex theater a few blocks down the street, chances of getting to the multiplex in time to get in aren't good. Mapping out the schedule is a bit like working with a Tetris puzzle! Fitting in one post-breakfast meal per day is a challenge as well; I still haven't found a slot to squeeze in a meal on Saturday! I think this year I'm going to be bringing along a cooler bag with sandwiches as it's the only way I can find to squeeze in some "real food" that day.

And as I've said before, sometimes last-minute substitutions become favorite experiences, so I never worry too much about most of the blocks. Whatever I see, the TCM Festival is always filled with new discoveries and great times with friends.

As a side note, my only real disappointment regarding this year's schedule is a dearth of Westerns which I personally want to see; I've had marvelous experiences in the past seeing films like STAGECOACH (1939) and RED RIVER (1948). I'll frankly never see THE OX-BOW INCIDENT (1943), as I find the story too troubling to be enjoyable, and at least at this point in time ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST (1968) doesn't hold interest either. ( Disney feature films! I've seen so many good ones at past festivals.)

Here's a look at my initial plan for this year's festival. (Click on any hyperlinked title for my past review.)

Thursday, April 26th:

The first pick of the night is an easy one for me: The delicious pre-Code FINISHING SCHOOL (1934), starring Frances Dee, Ginger Rogers, and Bruce Cabot. Jeremy Arnold will interview Wyatt McCrea about his grandmother Frances Dee's career prior to the movie. This one is playing in 35mm in the smallest multiplex theater so I plan to be in line for it quite early.

As an illustration of the competing choices in this single time slot: MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS (1974), which I'd love to see, having seen last year's remake, plus some of the film's stars will be at the festival and seem likely to show up; DETOUR (1945), a film noir I've amazingly not caught up with yet; the Bogart-Bacall classic TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944); or a poolside screening of THEM! (1954) at the Hollywood Roosevelt.

My second time slot choice of the night will probably be STAGE DOOR (1937) at the Egyptian Theatre; I last saw it 4-1/2 years ago, but it's a favorite which holds up well to repeat viewings, and more significantly, it's the first of four films at the festival screening in nitrate. The wild card, if I decide to stay at the multiplex and try some more adventurous viewing, is Toshiro Mifune in Kurosawa's THRONE OF BLOOD (1957), shown in 35mm. That's an option I'm giving serious thought.

Friday, April 27th:

Friday morning starts for me at the Egyptian, with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier in Ernst Lubitsch's THE MERRY WIDOW (1934), screening in 35mm. I thought I'd seen all the MacDonald-Chevalier films and was surprised to suddenly realize that somehow I haven't seen this one! (Second choice: Seeing Hitchcock's STRANGERS ON A TRAIN on a big screen for the first time, via a digital print.)

Next a comedy I've never seen, Preston Sturges' THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK (1944). I've avoided it to date as I don't care for Betty Hutton, but it's time to finally see this one, as I enjoy so many other Sturges films. It's a digital print. (Side note: I seem to see films directed by Sturges, Lubitsch, and Hitchcock at every TCM Fest!)

THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK gets out 45 minutes before the next screening in the same theater, HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE (1953). That's my choice if I can get in, because I've not seen more than bits of it and it lets me get in line earlier for the next film on my list. While I'm a Betty Grable fan, the other big draws for me in MILLIONAIRE are Rory Calhoun and William Powell! If I can't get in, my second choice is BLESSED EVENT (1932), a Lee Tracy pre-Code I liked a lot a few years ago. HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE is a digital print, while BLESSED EVENT is 35mm.

The next two slots are my favorites of the festival, starting with Deanna Durbin in THREE SMART GIRLS (1936). LADY ON A TRAIN (1945) is the only Deanna film I've seen on a big screen to date, so the chance to see THREE SMART GIRLS is a great opportunity! (It's a killer time slot: I'll have to miss Marsha Hunt introducing NONE SHALL ESCAPE and a Chinese Theatre screening of a more recent favorite, THE RIGHT STUFF, with Veronica Cartwright and Mary Jo Deschanel appearing. Having been blessed to see Marsha in person on a number of occasions helped me make the choice...but perhaps it will turn out to be a TBA and I'll get to see that one as well!) Director Henry Koster's son Bob will be at THREE SMART GIRLS, interviewed by Susan King, who formerly covered the classic film beat for the L.A. Times. There's no indication of the format on the TCM site.

The last slot of the evening might be the most important to me of the entire festival, seeing LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN (1945) and its amazing Technicolor photography in a 35mm nitrate print at the Egyptian! It stars Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, and Jeanne Crain (seen at left).

Saturday, April 28th:

My first screening on Saturday will be a 35mm print of LOVE FINDS ANDY HARDY (1938), which somehow I've never seen all the way through. This film also positions me best timewise to get in line for the next time slot. Second choice: A digital print of A LETTER TO THREE WIVES (1949), a longtime favorite which I've never seen in a theater.

Next up, one of the films I most want to see, THIS THING CALLED LOVE (1940), a new-to-me romantic comedy starring Rosalind Russell and Melvyn Douglas, introduced by his granddaughter Illeana Douglas. And it's in 35mm!

Then I head down to the Egyptian for the rest of the day! WIFE VS. SECRETARY (1936) with Clark Gable, Myrna Loy, and Jean Harlow, is a lot of fun, and it's showing in 35mm. The only reason I might not see this is otherwise I'm probably not going to have time for an actual meal after breakfast on Saturday! Hence my considering bringing a bag with food I can eat in line at some point...

WIFE VS. SECRETARY gets out only 45 minutes before the next highly interesting film, but since the Egyptian seats over 600 people hopefully I'll get in for the pre-Code GIRLS ABOUT TOWN (1931), starring two huge favorites, Kay Francis and Joel McCrea, along with Lilyan Tashman (Francis and Tashman are seen at left). Wyatt McCrea will be on hand to discuss his grandfather's work; I'm delighted TCM asked him back this year, as he's an excellent speaker. This one screens in 35mm.

Then I'm very excited to see the Marion Davies silent comedy SHOW PEOPLE (1928) for the first time, a 35mm print with musical accompaniment by Ben Model. Leonard Maltin and blogger Lara Fowler will introduce it; Lara is working on a Davies biography.

Then I finally get to see some Hitchcock! I plan to see the nitrate 35mm print of SPELLBOUND (1945), starring Ingrid Berman and Gregory Peck, also showing at the Egyptian.

Sunday, April 29th: Sunday is always a bit uncertain due to the five "TBA" slots, which are typically filled with sellout titles from earlier in the festival. Last year, for example, I changed my original plan to see SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) in order to see the repeat screening of Lubitsch's ONE HOUR WITH YOU (1932), starring Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. It was a gorgeous tinted print, and I was very happy with that schedule change!

The first time slot of the day is the only one without a blank "TBA" spot on the schedule. I'm currently leaning toward the Warner Bros. version of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM (1935), shown in 35mm, as it would be interesting to see the Oscar-winning cinematography on a big screen. (Only write-in Oscar winner ever, if memory serves!) Dick Powell, Olivia de Havilland, James Cagney, Anita Louise, and Mickey Rooney are among the all-star cast. The only other option for me in that time space is Tracy and Hepburn in WOMAN OF THE YEAR (1942), which has some great moments but I find hasn't held up that well.

Next up, it's a TBA or MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON (1939), which I've seen numerous times, but not on a big screen since I was a teen in the '70s! I'd be perfectly happy spending that time with James Stewart and Jean Arthur if a more tantalizing option doesn't appear on the schedule. This one is a digital print.

The third slot of the day is a three-way contest between Kevin Costner in BULL DURHAM (1988) in 35mm, Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse in SILK STOCKINGS (1957) in a digital print, or one of a couple TBA titles. Then there's actually time to grab some dinner!

Finally, unless I pick a film from one of the remaining two TBA slots, I'll see William Wellman Jr. introduce the fourth and final 35mm nitrate print of the festival, A STAR IS BORN (1937). I've honestly never liked that story very much, in any version...but nitrate! And Wellman is always interesting; I've been very fortunate to see him speak at a number of venues over the last few years.

I'm especially pleased with how many of my choices are in 35mm this year; I could end up seeing a significant majority in that format, which pleases me as I prefer seeing a format which can't be seen in my living room when I attend a festival. In 2016 only a third of my picks were in 35mm, but that jumped to over 50% at last year's festival, and it looks like it's climbing even higher this year.

It's always interesting to see how the final numbers of films seen shake out after the festival. I saw 11 movies at the 2013 festival, 14 in 2014, 16 films in 2015, 15 in 2016, and 17 (including a slate of cartoons) at the 2017 festival.

Just a few of the interesting screenings not already mentioned which I'm potentially (and regretfully) passing up: Animation historian Jerry Beck hosting a slate of PINK PANTHER cartoons; Eddie Muller introducing THE SET-UP (1949), which I've never seen; Muller introducing two more films I want to see, POINT BLANK (1967) and BULLITT (1968); Alan Rode introducing THE CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE (1936); Nancy Olson at SUNSET BLVD. (1950); Nancy Kwan at THE WORLD OF SUZIE WONG (1960); Claude Jarman Jr. at INTRUDER IN THE DUST (1949); Disney historian J.B. Kaufman on "Mickey in Hollywood" at Club TCM; Craig Barron and Ben Burtt doing one of their justly lauded special effects presentations leading into THE TEN COMMANDMENTS (1956) at the Chinese Theatre; Eva Marie Saint interviewed at GRAND PRIX (1966) at the Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard; Suzanne Lloyd doing a presentation on "Harold Lloyd in 3D" at the Academy's Linwood Dunn Theater on Vine Street; and Alan Cumming (my favorite actor on THE GOOD WIFE) introducing HAMLET (1948). And there's more...much more! The TCM Classic Film Fest is sort of a Disneyland for classic film fans, if that comparison makes sense...for a few days it's "the happiest place on earth"!

For looks at the schedules created by other bloggers, please visit these lists by my fellow classic film bloggers:

Aurora at Once Upon a Screen

Kim at I See a Dark Theater

Kristen at Journeys in Classic Film

Danny at Pre-Code.Com

James at Thirty Hertz Rumble

Jocelyn at Classic Film Observations & Obsessions

Angela at The Hollywood Revue

Daniel at Movie Mania Madness

Nora of The Nitrate Diva

Toni at Watching Forever

Diane at Classic Movie Blog

Chris at Blog of the Darned

KC at A Classic Movie Blog

Raquel at Out of the Past

Stanford at Movies Past and Present

Anyone not included in the list above is most welcome to post the link to their plans in the comments! (P.S. Chris Sturhann of Blog of the Darned has written a great festival Survival Guide.)

For a look back in time, my post on the 2017 schedule is here. Please also visit my posts on the schedules for 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Trigger, Jr. (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

The Roy Rogers Western TRIGGER, JR. (1950) will be released this week on Blu-ray and DVD by Kino Lorber, and it looks spectacular.

Kino describes it as a brand-new HD master from a 4K scan of the original 35mm Trucolor nitrate negatives from the Paramount Pictures Archives. That's a mouthful, but all I can say regarding the resulting picture is "Wow!" We can only hope more such great-looking films will be forthcoming from Kino. As many Western fans are aware, Roy's films haven't always had the best care over the years, and Kino is doing film fans and film history a great service by presenting his films in such beautiful condition.

The story of this Republic Pictures film, such as it is, finds Roy and his wild west circus show setting up for an extended stay at a ranch owned by Colonel Harkrider (George Cleveland). The colonel lives with his daughter Kay (Dale Evans) and his young grandson Larry (Peter Miles of THE RED PONY), son of another daughter who died.

There's a range war of sorts going on, with villain Manson (Grant Withers) and his "Range Patrol" operating a protection racket which would make New York mobsters proud.

It's a pretty short film, with the action wrapped up in 68 minutes. There are some colorful bits, including trapeze artists, but plotwise, I confess TRIGGER, JR. didn't do a great deal for me compared to other Rogers films I've seen.

First and foremost, I'm not particularly fond of films focused on horses, though I'll watch them, but this film had horses in peril, injured horses, masked horses, and even a creepy nightmare for young Larry, who's terrified of horses. It was all a little much. More music and fewer horses, please!

The film had some other sour notes, such as the embittered colonel, who at one point tells his grandson that he's turning into his no-account father. Nice granddad!

Additionally, while I loved watching Roy and Dale in TV reruns as a kid and have read countless books on the Rogers family by both Dale Evans and her stepdaughter Cheryl Rogers Barnett, Roy and Dale don't have any chemistry in this one. It's not just the absence of a romance, but you'd think there would at least be a sort of connection between them, some spark in their dialogue, but if it's there I didn't see it.

All this said, TRIGGER, JR. has some strong advocates among my fellow Western fans, so as the saying goes, "Your mileage may vary." It could be this one just didn't quite hit me the right way but others will find more to enjoy.

The supporting cast includes Gordon Jones, Pat Brady, I. Stanford Jolley, and Stanley Andrews.

The movie was directed by William Witney, who directed a previous Roy Rogers Kino release from the same year, SUNSET IN THE WEST (1950). I thought SUNSET IN THE WEST was wonderful so hopefully the next Rogers film I see will strike me more like that one!

This week I'll be listening to the commentary track by Toby Roan and Jay Dee Witney, son of the director. I've listened to every one of Toby's Kino commentaries, and they've all been excellent. The addition of Witney should be a nice bonus.

There's also a trailer gallery for four Westerns available from Kino Lorber.

Coming soon, a review of another Western from Kino Lorber, SINGING GUNS (1950) with Vaughn Monroe, Ella Raines, Ward Bond, and Walter Brennan. I'm really looking forward to checking this one out! Like TRIGGER, JR., it's from a brand-new HD master and will be available as of April 17th, 2018.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.

Tonight's Movie: L.A. Confidential (1997) at the Noir City Film Festival

The second night of this year's Noir City Film Festival featured a sold-out screening of a relatively new film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997).

Prior to the film, L.A. CONFIDENTIAL novelist James Ellroy was honored with the Film Noir Foundation's "Modern Noir Master" Award, presented by Eddie Muller. The award itself, incidentally, was designed by Samantha Fuller, daughter of director Samuel Fuller.

Muller interviewed Ellroy before the screening (seen below). Ellroy's language and subject matter were frankly too raw for me to find enjoyable, as he gleefully and repeatedly violated norms of considerate public discourse. Enough said.

I did glean one interesting tidbit, when Ellroy said his dream cast, if the story had been filmed in the year it was set, 1952, would have been Sterling Hayden, Steve Cochran, and William Holden in the roles played by Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce. I think Cochran would have been particularly apt casting.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was grittier and more graphic than I typically care for, but fortunately the moments I didn't want to look at were telegraphed enough in advance that I was able to avoid looking! Aside from that issue, I found the film an engrossing and worthwhile 2 hours and 18 minutes. The screenplay by Brian Helgeland and director Curtis Hanson, based on Ellroy's book, had the feel of a sprawling, meaty novel, with various criss-crossing subplots which initially seem unrelated yet tie up neatly in the end.

It was particularly fun watching the movie in the heart of Hollywood, as the audience applauded nearby locations such as the Frolic Room, a bar located next to the Pantages Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, or the Formosa Cafe on Santa Monica Boulvard. I saw some of the locations on the TCM Los Angeles Movie Locations Tour a few years back.

Spacey, Crowe and Pearce play a trio of L.A. cops. Spacey is Jack Vincennes, the sleazy one, in cahoots with a magazine publisher (Danny DeVito) to stage flashy celebrity arrests for under-the-table payoffs. Crowe plays the perpetually angry Bud White, who provides no-questions-asked "muscle" for Chief Dudley Smith (James Cromwell) and has an affair with a high-class call girl (Kim Basinger) who resembles Veronica Lake.

Pearce is Ed Exley, the nerdy straight-arrow cop who wants to quickly move up the departmental ranks, but only doing things by the book, to the annoyance of his "old school" boss Chief Smith, who believes loyalty to fellow officers supersedes honesty and doing the right thing. Exley's ethics also make him unpopular with some of his racist coworkers, though eventually some grudgingly give him his due.

Several execution-style murders at the Nite Owl Coffee Shop intersect with other crimes, including a murder at a motel, to start the trio of cops on the path to uncovering a major crime ring. A dilly of a plot twist around 75% of the way into the movie changes everything.

While I wouldn't want to revisit the exceedingly sordid world of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL anytime soon, it was definitely worth taking a look, especially for the period setting and extensive location shooting. I enjoyed the three lead actors; incidentally, you'd never know that two of them, Crowe and Pearce, were originally from Down Under. No traces of accents at all.

The film has a couple of particularly satisfying moments when various members of the trio put aside differences to solve an ever-growing tangle of crimes, and the previously referred to twist provided one of the more shocking moments I've seen in a movie. I appreciated the way the many different stories were all pulled together in the end, thanks to a deft screenplay.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL was filmed by Dante Spinotti and featured a score by Jerry Goldsmith.

I'll be returning to Noir City Monday evening for a double bill of DARK CITY (1950) and ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950).

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Tonight's Movie: I Love Trouble (1948) at the Noir City Film Festival

The 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood featured an opening night double bill of THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946) and I LOVE TROUBLE (1948).

This was at least the third opening night I've attended featuring a film starring Alan Ladd; past opening nights have featured THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) in 2012 and THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), shown on the bottom half of the double bill in 2012 and reprised as the evening's lead film in 2017. As a big fan of Alan Ladd, I'm delighted his work continues to command such attention!

I last reviewed THE BLUE DAHLIA after watching it on DVD in 2013. Once again I found it to be a highly entertaining film, right down to faces like Noel Neill, James Millican, Frank Faylen, and Anthony Caruso in small roles.

All of the films in this year's Noir City Festival are set in and around Los Angeles, and both THE BLUE DAHLIA and the second film of the night, I LOVE TROUBLE, do a good job conveying a sense of "place." The location shooting in each film isn't extensive, but it's effective, and script references to nearby cities like Long Beach add to the authenticity.

I LOVE TROUBLE was the first screenplay by Roy Huggins, based on his Chandler-esque novel THE DOUBLE TAKE. Huggins would later be known for several classic TV shows, including James Garner's MAVERICK and THE ROCKFORD FILES. Franchot Tone plays Hollywood-based private detective Stuart Bailey, and it's fun to note that Huggins would later recycle the name Stuart Bailey for Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s character in the TV series 77 SUNSET STRIP!

Character actor Tom Powers, seen earlier in the night as the police captain in THE BLUE DAHLIA, here plays Ralph Johnston, who hires Bailey to follow his lovely young wife (Lynn Merrick). Mrs. Johnston seems to have an unexceptional background, yet she's receiving blackmail letters.

Bailey, aided by his firecracker Gal Friday, Hazel (a very funny Glenda Farrell), traces Mrs. Johnston's background, which leads him to Portland and meeting lovely ladies played by Janet Blair, Janis Carter, and Adele Jergens. Before the film Alan K. Rode quipped that "If Joan Crawford and Barbara Stanwyck are the Four Seasons of femme fatale, then Janis Carter and Adele Jergens are the Courtyard by Marriott."

The plot frankly gets a bit convoluted, especially given a couple characters' multiple identities. I was glad to note it wasn't just me who became a bit confused; some years ago Steve at Mystery File wrote "I do not believe that anyone can watch this movie and follow the plot all of the way through. It is complicated."

That said, it's made up for by the terrific cast, the previously mentioned location shooting, a couple nicely choreographed car chases, and a number of good lines and fun incidents; I especially loved a dark warehouse which conceals a high-class nightclub.

The supporting cast includes John Ireland, Donald Curtis, Robert Barrat, Steven Geray, Eduardo Ciannelli, Arthur Space, and, pretty far down in the cast list, Raymond Burr, his fifth film in a career which started in 1946. Mary Adams Hayes and Karen X. Gaylord appear in an amusing scene as waitresses.

The underappreciated Franchot Tone brings to Stu Bailey the same lighthearted spirit seen as the Western detective in TRAIL OF THE VIGILANTES (1940). Things may get tense and even dangerous, such as when there's an attempt to run him down in a deserted industrial area, but he keeps his cool and is always ready with a quip. There's definitely some foreshadowing of Jim Rockford here, over a quarter century before THE ROCKFORD FILES.

The movie is good fun and I would happily watch it again; alas, it's not available on DVD or even VHS. It can currently be found on YouTube in a murky print with a slightly mismatched but clear soundtrack; sadly, the print looks nothing like the lovely 35mm print from Sony we saw last night. I very much hope this Columbia Pictures film shows up one day on a restored DVD so that it may be enjoyed by a much wider audience.

I LOVE TROUBLE was directed by S. Sylvan Simon, who would pass away too young in 1951. Simon was only in his 20s when he made numerous entertaining "B" films for MGM, including SPRING MADNESS (1938), THESE GLAMOUR GIRLS (1939), and DANCING CO-ED (1939), to name just three fondly recalled movies.

The movie was filmed in black and white by Charles Lawton Jr. It runs 93 minutes.

Coming soon: A review of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997), seen Saturday evening.

A Visit to the 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival

Opening night of the annual Noir City Hollywood film festival is one of the most anticipated dates on the calendar for classic film fans in Southern California, and this year was no exception.

The 20th Anniversary edition of the festival opened last night, April 13th, and it was as much fun as anticipated.

I'm told this poster on display in front of the Egyptian was on loan from a fan:

This was the eighth year in a row I've attended the festival's opening night! I've been attending for nine festivals now and made countless terrific movie memories.

This year Noir City plays for 10 consecutive days at the Egyptian Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, with closing night on April 22nd.

My detailed date-by-date look at the festival schedule may be found here.

As I covered in that post, all but one film in the festival will be screened in 35mm; the exception is a new digital restoration of THE TURNING POINT (1952). A number of the films are not available on DVD.

As we have sometimes done in the past, my husband and I started our evening in classic Hollywood fashion at Miceli's, which opened in 1949 and bills itself as "Hollywood's Oldest Italian Restaurant." Miceli's is located next to the theater on Las Palmas Avenue. It even has a film noir connection, having been a featured location in Jacques Tourneur's NIGHTFALL (1957).

Then it was over to the Egyptian Theatre courtyard where vintage police cars were available for photo ops:

My friend Karie Bible and friends enact a noirish dramatic scene for our camera:

The photos are slightly blurry, but here are the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller before the movie:

Rode and Muller with writer James Ellroy, who will be honored Saturday night at a sold-out screening of L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)...

...and with Leonard and Alice Maltin.

The Egyptian as it begins to fill, with actor Clu Gulagher in his usual front row center seat:

Opening night featured Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946) and Franchot Tone and a bevy of lovely ladies in I LOVE TROUBLE (1948). Between films there was an hour-long reception in the Egyptian courtyard, featuring the Dean Mora Trio.

Eddie Muller chats with fans during the party:

It was quite the happening event! It was great to see a number of friends.

As always, this introductory post to the Noir City Hollywood Festival will be regularly updated with review links for all films seen at the festival. As the saying goes, watch this space!

New reviews of films seen at the 2018 Noir City Film Festival: I LOVE TROUBLE (1948); L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997); DARK CITY (1950).

Previously reviewed films seen at this year's festival: THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946); ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950); DRAGNET (1954); LOOPHOLE (1954).

Posts on past Noir City Festivals which contain review links for all films seen each year: A Visit to the 19th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2017); A Visit to the 18th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2016); A Visit to the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2015); A Visit to the 16th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2014); A Visit to the 15th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2013); A Visit to the 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2012); A Visit to the 13th Noir City Film Festival (2011); A Visit to the Noir City Film Festival (2010).