Thursday, May 21, 2015

The 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Day Two

After a very memorable first day at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, it was time to get up and do it all over again!

There were four more films on Saturday's schedule, starting with Steve Cochran and Ruth Roman starring in TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951).

I first reviewed TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY in 2012, and it was wonderful to see it again. It's my favorite Steve Cochran performance; as Eddie Muller said in his introduction, Cochran "is incredibly great in this." The combination of bad guy toughness with naivete and vulnerability makes his performance a real winner.

As Muller noted, the film has some wonderful set pieces; one of my favorite sequences finds Cochran and Roman finding a way to hitch a ride in a car on a car carrier. I very much recommend this film -- but then, I think I could say that about every film in the festival!

The second film of the day was Joseph Losey's "reimagining" of M (1951), which I first saw at the Noir City Film Festival last year. Although I feel the film's energy peters out in the final 10 minutes or so, the story of a bunch of bad guys hunting a child killer is extremely compelling, with a fantastic sequence where the criminal underworld converges on L.A.'s Bradbury Building to nab the murderer.

As Alan Rode said when introducing M, the movie is a "hall of fame" of character actors, including Howard Da Silva, Martin Gabel, Raymond Burr, Steve Brodie, Roy Engel, and the man of the hour, festival guest Norman Lloyd.

Lloyd's appearance at the festival was all the more remarkable given that he turned a century old last November. Amazingly enough, I've seen two 100-year-old actors speak in the last few weeks, the other being Patricia Morison at the Noir City Film Festival. What a gift to be able to hear their stories!

I was fortunate to see Lloyd interviewed a couple times at the 2013 TCM Classic Film Festival, where he spoke at length about his association with Alfred Hitchcock.

On this occasion he covered other topics, including his having met M director Joseph Losey in 1934; they worked together on four stage productions. He told a number of amusing anecdotes, including a rather ribald story about Losey directing Charles Laughton in the stage production of Bertold Brecht's LIFE OF GALILEO in the late '40s.

He also discussed Peter Lorre, the star of the original 1931 version of M, saying "Peter Lorre was one of the greatest actors of our time. The most brilliant way to direct Peter Lorre is to keep your mouth shut."

Although Lloyd is a wonderful storyteller with a century's worth of great tales to tell, his philosophy of living is "You've got to look ahead. If you don't look ahead, you're dead. You can't sit back and remember the past. You have to keep working."

By chance I happened to be enjoying some Palm Springs sunshine in front of the theater when Mr. Lloyd exited, and he very kindly posed for photos and signed autographs before leaving.

It's hard to top that experience, but there were still two excellent movies to go that day! Next up Eddie Muller introduced BORN TO KILL (1947), which I reviewed in 2013.

He said that the James Gunn novel on which the film was based is "depraved" and that it's fascinating to see what Hollywood was able to do with the story within the confines of the Production Code. He also mentioned that it's interesting that such an "off the charts" dark movie was directed by Robert Wise, known as a "genteel" personality.

Muller said that while Claire Trevor didn't remember a good many of her films ("Honey, I made a lot of movies"), she remembered this one. She'd told him that Lawrence Tierney was "very interesting and a great professional, but I didn't know him off the set." Unfortunately Tierney didn't return Trevor's compliment, dismissing her in an interview as a "cold fish."

Tierney, as Muller pointed out, is not someone who was pretending to be dangerous, he was dangerous. (I'll leave the details to Google.) When Tierney showed up at a Noir City screening of BORN TO KILL some years ago, it was described as a raucous experience, with the actor having a lot of, shall we say, blunt opinions to share. Although he was a challenging personality off camera, Eddie Muller noted that "something magical happens" when Tierney's onscreen.

A final comment on the very entertaining BORN TO KILL: What was someone with Claire Trevor's financial resources doing living in the shabby Reno boarding house owned by Esther Howard, anyway? She couldn't afford waiting the six weeks for her divorce in a little nicer place? Of course, if she had, there wouldn't have been a story...

Finally it was time for the last film of the day, and Foster Hirsch introduced Richard Widmark and Paul Douglas starring in PANIC IN THE STREETS (1950), directed by Elia Kazan. I reviewed PANIC IN THE STREETS back in 2006 and was glad to revisit it after so many years.

Writer Stephen C. Smith, who was interviewed the next day about Bernard Herrmann, also happened to have worked with Richard Widmark on his interview for TV's BIOGRAPHY series. Smith said he felt that the role in PANIC IN THE STREETS was a part which was closest to the personality of the "real" Richard Widmark.

PANIC IN THE STREETS is a most engrossing film, as Widmark and Douglas try to track down criminals before they can spread a deadly disease all over New Orleans. The print was absolutely pristine, a real joy to watch.

Eight movies down, and three to go! Coming next: the third and final day of the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, and a review of THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949).

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Day One

My first day attending the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs got underway on Friday, May 15th, with my first-ever viewing of THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947). I shared my impressions of the film at length yesterday.

After lunch the next film on the schedule was the starkly beautiful ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951), starring Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino (seen in the still at the left). I reviewed ON DANGEROUS GROUND here in 2006.

I hadn't seen the film since that time, and it was just as good as I remembered, with Ryan's performance as an anguished, angry police detective a beautiful portrait of a broken man. He's matched by Lupino as a blind woman living an isolated country life; some of their scenes together made my eyes mist, they are both such moving actors. As Alan Rode said in his introduction, this is "one of Robert Ryan's greatest roles."

George Diskant's black and white photography of snowy Colorado is stunning. It was also fascinating to hear strains of Bernard Herrman's later score for NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959) appear in his score for ON DANGEROUS GROUND.

Author J.R. Jones, author of the new biography THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN, was interviewed by Alan Rode after the movie. I'll be reviewing the book here as soon as I have time to finish reading it; what I've read thus far is excellent.

Jones said it was a challenge to get Ryan "on the page" as he was very private. He didn't live a "Hollywood" lifestyle, living quietly in North Hollywood, where he was involved in activities outside of acting such as the founding of the Oakwood School. Ryan's children told the author their father was "hard to read," and those who knew Ryan loved him yet said they didn't know him well.

Jones named ON DANGEROUS GROUND as his favorite Ryan performance, and said Ryan's own favorites included THE SET-UP (1949), INFERNO (1953), THE NAKED SPUR (1953), BILLY BUDD (1962), and his last film, THE ICEMAN COMETH (1973).

I was interested to learn that after Ryan was widowed in 1972, he developed a relationship with John Farrow's widow, Maureen O'Sullivan. Whether they might have married we'll never know, as Ryan himself suddenly passed on in 1973, just a year after his wife.

As it happens, the next film of the day was THE BIG CLOCK (1948), in which Farrow directed O'Sullivan. I first reviewed THE BIG CLOCK here in 2009.

As a Ray Milland fan, I love the very stylish THE BIG CLOCK, which Foster Hirsch said in his introduction is about "control and what will happen if people lose it." He also pointed out the interesting aspect that the characters are in such a sterile, meticulously designed environment, dominated by the title clock, yet they "can't regulate themselves."

I was interested to learn that despite being married to the director, O'Sullivan had to try out for her role; it was noted that it wasn't a particularly flattering role, either, as her character regularly nags Milland -- though with some reason, as he constantly flakes out on his commitments to her and their son. Farrow and O'Sullivan were one of two married couples who worked on the film, the other pair being Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. Lanchester is absolutely hilarious as a dizzy artist who is the single mother of several children.

A side note for members of the Bess Flowers Fan Club: Everyone's favorite bit player made her sole appearance at the festival in a conference room scene early in THE BIG CLOCK.

The final film of the day was Dan Duryea starring in the tragedy CHICAGO CALLING (1951), described by Alan Rode as "the saddest movie you'll ever see."

I found it easier to watch the film the second time around, knowing what was coming in advance. Duryea is remarkable, and there's also very nice work by the rest of the cast; I especially enjoyed former child actress Marsha Jones (aka Marcia Mae Jones) in a couple scenes as a waitress. The film is a fascinating record of the decrepit Bunker Hill area of Los Angeles.

Duryea, who was the highest-paid freelance supporting player in Hollywood, didn't take a salary for the film, working solely for a percentage of the profits. There was no profit, so he made nothing, but he said he was glad he'd done it because the role "made my wife cry," which he said was the "highest compliment" he could receive from someone whose opinion he so respected.

A highlight of the festival was Alan Rode's interview with Gordon Gebert, who had an impressive career as a child actor, including a large role opposite Duryea in CHICAGO CALLING.

Gebert said that Duryea was clearly "a father" and had "infinite patience."

Gebert said that the filming in "a seedy part of town" near the Angels' Flight Railway was a different world from where he lived in the San Fernando Valley. He said that the location work in Downtown Los Angeles, along with a trip to San Francisco to film THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951), helped awaken his interest in architecture and building.

Gebert left acting before he turned 20 and obtained a Bachelor's degree in architecture from MIT and a Master's from Princeton, and he is now a Professor of Architecture at City College of New York. He's married to a professor at Vassar College.

Gebert said that his parents managed his earnings carefully, and that he had enough banked to pay for his college education as well as his first home. He said that while at times as a child he wished he could simply go play with the other kids instead of working, as the years went by and he realized what unusual and remarkable experiences he'd had, he was grateful.

The lights wash out the faces in this photo of the interview, but I include it to give a sense of the setting at the Camelot Theatre. Alan Rode is seated at the left and Gordon Gebert is on the right.

Some of Gebert's other Hollywood memories:

*He had appeared in a play at Drake University in Iowa, and after moving to California from Des Moines, his parents took him to the Pasadena Playhouse, where he was cast in a production of LIFE WITH FATHER starring Victor Jory. He was spotted at the Playhouse by an agent, and his first movie role was in COME TO THE STABLE (1949).

*Robert Mitchum, his costar in HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949), was "a pro...could really work with other people." He also remembers Elizabeth Taylor coming to visit her close friend Janet Leigh on the set, and marveling over how beautiful Taylor was in person. Gebert is seen here with the infamous train set from the film.

*Joel McCrea, with whom he appeared in SADDLE TRAMP (1950), was "a great guy." Unfortunately SADDLE TRAMP's director, Hugo Fregonese, was the only person Gebert did not like working with, saying he was "horrendous" and would pit the children in the film against each other, taking lines away from one child and giving them to another.

*He remembers his costar in THE NARROW MARGIN (1952), Charles McGraw, as "a very funny guy." Gebert also particularly remembers the crew rocking the train set back and forth to simulate movement. He's pictured here with McGraw and Jacqueline White, who played his mother in the film.

*Audie Murphy, whom Gebert played as a boy in TO HELL AND BACK (1955), was "a lovely guy."

Gebert's other films included THE FLAME AND THE ARROW (1950), 14 HOURS (1951), NIGHT INTO MORNING (1951), and FLYING LEATHERNECKS (1951).

Coming next: Day Two of the festival!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tonight's Movie: They Won't Believe Me (1947) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

I'd previously seen most of the films at last weekend's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, but the 11 films I watched in Palm Springs were bookended by two first-time viewings, THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949).

The most enjoyable THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME was introduced by film historian Foster Hirsch, who traveled from New York to participate in the festival. Incidentally, I was glad to be able to tell him that two of his books in the Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies series, on Elizabeth Taylor and Edward G. Robinson, were among the earliest film books in my collection!

Hirsch pointed out that THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME has some rather atypical noir moments, starting with the beautiful waterfall during the opening credits. He said that while the film doesn't always have the classic "noir style" of dark shadows, it does nonetheless have a great hopeless noir mood.

Hirsch also pointed out other interesting things to be watching for, such as the strangely rumpled defense attorney (the always-wonderful Frank Ferguson) and the subtlety of Robert Young's performance.

Young was superb as Larry, a sort of homme fatale who (perhaps a bit inexplicably) attracts multiple rich and/or attractive women but discards them with seeming ease.

As the movie begins, Larry is planning to leave his wealthy wife Gretta (Rita Johnson) for her lovely friend Janice (Jane Greer, who would next make OUT OF THE PAST). Gretta, anticipating Larry's defection, holds on to her husband with the announcement she's bought him a partnership in a California firm. Larry dumps Janice without so much as a farewell, instead hopping on a westbound train with Gretta.

Larry may love Gretta's money, but that doesn't stop him from being attracted to the beautiful and ambitious secretary Verna (Susan Hayward), and once again Larry thinks it's time to move on from his marriage. As he and Verna head out of town together, there's a tragic car wreck and Verna is killed. When rescuers assume Verna is Larry's wife Gretta, he coolly goes along with it...then plans to go back home and get rid of Gretta, which will leave him a wealthy widower with no questions asked.

Believe it or not, that's just part of the story, as Larry finds his plans for Gretta become, shall we say, complicated, and later Janice re-enters his life.

This was such a fun movie, filled with interesting characters and a few jaw-dropping plot twists. While I may not have quite understood why Young was passionately pursued by so many women, he's wonderful in the role, unafraid to play a smarmy user to the hilt. He might look pleasant, but he's incredibly self-absorbed. As Foster Hirsch pointed out, there are some nice touches in Young's performance, such as the way he slightly grimaces in reaction to Gretta's aunt (Lillian Bronson) in an early scene.

Larry's the kind who doesn't bother with telling a woman he plans to marry that everything's off, he just doesn't show up. Even more disturbing, he doesn't take even a moment to grieve the loss of the next woman in his life, instead simply seeing a fresh opportunity to better his situation. In the end, Larry is strictly about No. 1.

In the supporting cast Hayward is a real standout as the bright and calculating Verna, who has a terrific introduction, making Larry look good in front of his boss. Hayward is great fun to watch, and I was sorry when her character was so abruptly written out.

Johnson, who was seen as the murder victim in THE BIG CLOCK (1948) later in the day, was also quite interesting as Gretta, who is manipulative yet not completely unsympathetic; after all, she's trying to preserve her marriage in the face of tough competition.

Greer plays the blandest character in the film, simultaneously a "good girl" and a homewrecker, who bonds with Larry over...deep sea fishing?! Yet her somewhat passive character's double side seems to hint at the dual personality she would next display more forcefully as Kathie in OUT OF THE PAST (1947).

THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME runs 80 minutes and was directed by Irving Pichel, who that same year directed a completely different kind of film, Deanna Durbin's very enjoyable musical SOMETHING IN THE WIND (1947).

THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME was written by Jonathan Latimer, who had a host of interesting film noir credits, including the previously mentioned THE BIG CLOCK. The producer of THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME was Joan Harrison, an associate of both Alfred Hitchcock and Robert Montgomery, and the executive producer was Jack Gross.

The UCLA print screened at the festival was lovely. The movie was shot in black and white by Harry J. Wild. I've been trying to find out where the movie's locations were shot, as Gretta's hacienda-style ranchhouse looked like it might have been filmed at Anchor Ranch in Lone Pine.

THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME somehow hasn't made it onto Region 1 DVD, though it's been released on Region 2 DVDs in Europe. Hopefully at some point this RKO film will be released by the Warner Archive. It did have a VHS release back in 1990 in the wonderful RKO Collection series.

THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME will be shown on Turner Classic Movies on June 26th, 2015, as part of the "Summer of Darkness" series.

This film was a wonderful start to a weekend of terrific movies! Coming next, an overview of the rest of my first day at the festival.

Monday, May 18, 2015

The 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Review

This weekend I had a fantastic time at the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs!


This was my first time to attend the festival, which was celebrating its 16th year. It's held at the Camelot Theatres, an ideal location for the festival; it's a spacious and comfortable venue with friendly staff and a huge screen. It's worth noting that the Camelot provides considerably more leg room than the typical theater, a real plus when one is watching a dozen or so movies in a single weekend!


Since festival founder Arthur Lyons died 2008, Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation has acted as the festival's producer and host.

He was ably assisted this weekend by Film Noir Foundation head Eddie Muller and FNF board member Foster Hirsch, who took turns with Alan introducing the festival's dozen movies.


I unfortunately had to miss the opening night screening of MILLER'S CROSSING (1990), attended by cast member Jon Polito, but by all accounts it was a terrific evening. I arrived in Palm Springs early on Friday morning and didn't miss a single one of the 11 movies shown between Friday morning and Sunday afternoon!

The festival's additional guests were J.R. Jones, author of the new biography THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN, Bernard Herrmann biographer Stephen C. Smith, and actors Gordon Gebert and Norman Lloyd, who turned 100 last November!

There was a very nice-sized audience on hand; while not a complete sellout, each screening was well attended, with an enthused crowd. It was also fun to note that actor Clu Gulager, beloved to many of us for his role as Ryker on THE VIRGINIAN TV series, was sitting front row center during many of the films, just as he often does at classic screenings in the L.A. area.

The Arthur Lyons Festival was somewhat akin to the Lone Pine Film Festival in that it was an intimate, relaxed setting which provided an opportunity to chat with festival guests as well as fellow attendees. (I especially enjoyed getting to know Max, one of my readers who also hails from Orange County.) The movies were typically 75-95 minutes in length and were spaced at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 4:00 p.m., and 7:30 p.m., so unlike some other festivals, there was ample time to eat meals in between movies.

The combination of plenty of movies at a relaxed pace in a lovely desert setting made it an ideal "classic movie getaway" weekend.

I hadn't been to Palm Springs in more years than I can remember, and I was pleasantly surprised to realize how compactly located everything was. The theatre, my hotel, and a variety of restaurants were all within a five-minute drive of each other. Prospective attendees might also like to note that Palm Springs International Airport is just a mile and a half away from the Camelot.

I'll take a moment to recommend the nearby Best Western Plus Las Brisas Hotel on South Indian Canyon Drive, which was beautifully landscaped and had a friendly staff and comfortable rooms.


I might be inclined to get a room on the top floor next time, as the sounds of people walking above me were more noticeable than the norm, but I'll definitely stay here again. The location was ideal.


Sci-fi fans take note: Alan Rode will also be hosting the first Palm Springs Classic Sci-Fi Festival at the Camelot Theatres from October 23-25, 2015. The full schedule has not yet been announced, but it will include Julie Adams in person at CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (1954) and David Hedison attending THE FLY (1958).


Over the next few days I'll be posting an overview of each day's screenings and guest appearances, including sharing thoughts on revisiting familiar films, and I'll also have separate reviews of the pair of movies which were brand-new to me, THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949). I'll be adding the links to the end of this post so that all of my coverage can be easily found in one place.


I can't recommend the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival highly enough. I definitely hope to attend again, and I'd love to see some of my readers there in 2016!

Additional festival posts: Tonight's Movie: They Won't Believe Me (1947); The Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Day One; The Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Day Two.

Sincere thanks to Alan K. Rode and the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival for providing an All Access Pass to help facilitate my festival coverage.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Coming Soon: The 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

I'm back from a fantastic long weekend in Palm Springs! The occasion was my first-ever visit to the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.


The festival was three days of noir bliss, including 11 movies and wonderful interviews with special guests. Complete coverage coming soon!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Tonight's Movie: Las Vegas Shakedown (1955)

LAS VEGAS SHAKEDOWN (1955) is one of those little movies which might not be great art, but it's great fun.

I suspect a random person sitting down to watch the film wouldn't find much to shout about, but for me, LAS VEGAS SHAKEDOWN was a delightful little slice of cinematic bliss filled with people I enjoy in a great "retro" setting.

Dennis O'Keefe plays the ultra-cool Joe Barnes, owner of the resort and casino El Rancho Vegas.

All sorts of interesting people come to the El Rancho -- a sweet, shy schoolmarm and author named Julie (Coleen Gray) who attracts Joe's romantic interest; an estranged couple (James Millican and Dorothy Patrick) contemplating divorce; a gambling addict (a hard-to-recognize dark-haired Mary Beth Hughes) who loses money her husband (Frank Hanley) planned to use for a business; a proper banker and his wife (Charles Winninger and Elizabeth Patterson) who don't want anyone back home to know they're in "scandalous" Vegas; and oh, yes, the mobsters (Thomas Gomez, Robert Armstrong, and Joe Downing) intent on killing Joe. It seems Gimpy (Gomez) just got off Alcatraz and is determined to see Joe dead.

If there was actually a shakedown in the movie, I missed it. Joe runs an honest establishment, and the entire film, other than the mobster angle, has a sort of Cinderella feel to it, especially Joe and Julie's love story.

Think of it as sort of an early version of THE LOVE BOAT -- or as an IMDb reviewer tagged it, GRAND MOTEL! -- with Joe as the captain, making sure things run smoothly and bringing people together; that said, it's much more interesting than the boring LOVE BOAT ever was, with some fantastic '50s Vegas location filming thrown in for good measure.

Sometimes it's nice to simply watch a happy romance with no problems attached, and this film delivered. My only complaint is I wanted more than 79 minutes!

This film was a reunion for O'Keefe and Gray, who had also costarred in THE FAKE (1953). They are well-matched and completely charming as Joe and Julie. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop -- maybe she's not as sweet as she seems, or some other problem will crop up -- but nope, he just flat-out immediately falls for the teacher behind the glasses, seeing someone "good."

Being a virtuous miss, Julie scurries away from Joe's first couple of passes, thinking he's not sincere or out for a fling, but when he offers to buy her an evening gown and she blanches, he makes clear he's on the up and up, he's buying the dress for his future wife! And to add to the Cinderella angle, he mentions that his wife will need lots of gorgeous gowns. Julie's really hit her own jackpot.

It was extra-special that another pair of favorites, Millican and Patrick, were in secondary roles as the couple with the troubled marriage. Their story likewise builds to a touching ending.

And just to make sure there's not too much sugar, you've got the bracing presence of old hands like Gomez and Armstrong wielding knives, guns, and fists as they try to take out Joe. A violent confrontation in a train yard would do any film noir proud.

LAS VEGAS SHAKEDOWN was directed by Sidney Salkow and written by Steve Fisher, who had many interesting film noir and Western titles in his credits, including the novel which inspired I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) and screenplays for THE HUNTED (1948), WOMAN THEY ALMOST LYNCHED (1953), and CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953), to name just a few.

The movie was filmed in black and white by John J. Martin. The film has an interesting low-key and gritty, almost documentary look which stands in contrast to a story which is mostly, in the end, upbeat.

The copy of the film I watched was clear but somewhat jumpy. Here's hoping that this Allied Artists film will be available in the future in a beautiful Warner Archive print.

As a final note, this seems to be the year of Dennis O'Keefe for me, having very recently loved three other O'Keefe films, ABANDONED (1949), COVER UP (1949), and WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950). I'm happy at the prospect of taking a second look at ABANDONED at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival this weekend. If I were making a new list of Favorite Actors I'd have to find a spot for him!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Tonight's Movie: South of St. Louis (1949)

Joel McCrea heads a terrific cast in SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS (1949), which I caught up with for the first time in many years thanks to the beautiful DVD from Olive Films.

I had little memory of the film from that long-ago viewing, and the Civil War era plot, alas, proved to be a bit dreary. The film concerns three longtime pals who co-own a ranch; after being burned out, Kip and Charlie (McCrea and Zachary Scott) end up gun-running for the South while Lee (Douglas Kennedy) signs on with the Confederate Army.

Two lovely ladies, saloon gal "Rouge" (Alexis Smith) and army nurse Deb (Dorothy Malone) pine over Kip; after being ignored for too long, Deb later transfers her affections to Lee. That and Charlie's obsession with making money -- nearly sacrificing Kip's life -- cause Kip to retreat across the border in disgust, where he's on the road to alcoholism. Then one day after the war has ended, Kip gets word that newly minted Texas Ranger Lee is on the verge of a dangerous confrontation with Charlie.

The film isn't boring; it's just not very interesting, either. McCrea's Kip is a bit dense, making a series of poor decisions; Scott as the cynical, wryly sarcastic Charlie is more fun to watch, but his character gradually descends into villainy, aided by the creepy, knife-wielding Slim (Bob Steele). Only Lee has a real sense of nobility, if one can forgive him being a Confederate soldier; that problem is erased by making him a Ranger at movie's end.

What does distinguish SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS is its absolutely stunning Technicolor, filmed by Karl Freund. The Olive Films DVD looks quite spectacular; Joel McCrea's eyes were never so blue! In fact, it's hard to imagine the Blu-ray looking any better than the impressive DVD picture. It looks so good that it's worth watching the movie for that reason alone.

The film has some wonderful visual imagery centered around the bells that the three friends wear on their spurs; the scenes with close-ups of the spurs provide the movie's best moments, whether it's the opening barroom confrontation with Cottrell (Victor Jory) or the final shootout. The "three bells" theme is so effective, one wishes it were part of a stronger movie.

Still, any time spent with this cast is worthwhile. They may have all made better films, but having this group of actors all together on screen in the same film is special.

The supporting cast also includes Alan Hale (Sr.), Art Smith, Monte Blue, and Nacho Galindo.

SOUTH OF ST. LOUIS was directed by Ray Enright. It has a solid score by Max Steiner. It runs 88 minutes.

For another take on this film, please visit Jacqueline's engaging post at Another Old Movie Blog.

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the internet...

...I'm excited to announce that this Friday morning I head for Palm Springs and the 16th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. Although I'll miss the opening night film on Thursday evening, I'll have the opportunity to see a fantastic lineup of 11 films between Friday and Sunday. I've only seen two of the movies on a big screen, and this will be my very first time to see THEY WON'T BELIEVE ME (1947) and THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949). The great Norman Lloyd, who celebrated his centennial birthday last November, is expected at a screening of M (1951), and former child actor Gordon Gebert will attend a showing of CHICAGO CALLING (1951). Also on hand will be J.R. Jones, author of the brand-new biography THE LIVES OF ROBERT RYAN, which I'll be reviewing here at a future date. (Ryan is seen above left in ON DANGEROUS GROUND, costarring Ida Lupino, which will be screening at the festival.) Stay tuned for complete coverage of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival!

...For those who may be interested, more reviews of individual films shown at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival will also be coming!

...It was a pleasure to hear from former child actor Donald Smelick (now Donald Ross), who just left comments at my post on TRY AND GET ME (1950) about some of his experiences working on the film. As a big fan of Frank Lovejoy, I especially enjoyed hearing that "Frank Lovejoy was the nicest guy you’ll ever meet."

...For Mother's Day, Kay interviewed Beverly Washburn about her experiences working with her "TV mom," Loretta Young. Visit Kay's blog Movie Star Makeover for some wonderful memories of the woman Beverly called "Mrs. Lewis."

...Amazon Prime members can stream for free when flying JetBlue.

...Wonderful news for fans of quality TV: BLUE BLOODS, with Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg leading a fine cast, has just been renewed for a sixth season.

...The retro-inspired AGENT CARTER, starring Hayley Atwell, has been just been renewed for a second season on ABC. I intend to try this show at some point, as bits and pieces I've seen look like fun.

...Blythe Danner and Sam Elliott were interviewed about the leading roles they play in the new indie film I'LL SEE YOU IN MY DREAMS (2015).

...Dunkin' Donuts is moving back into the Southern California market, after a failed attempt some years ago ended with the company closing its California stores.

...When Turner Classic Movies showed CRIME WAVE (1954) last week, I saw a Tweet linking to a terrific photo post on the movie's locations at Tropico Station: The Glendale Blog. Fans of this wonderful Sterling Hayden film should be sure to check out the link.

...Prince Jacques and Princess Gabriella, the children of Prince Albert II and Princess Charlene of Monaco, were christened this weekend. The Daily Mail has lots of photos along with a short video of the ceremony. Jacques and Gabriella are the grandchildren of Princess Grace of Monaco, aka actress Grace Kelly. Albert's American cousin, Grace's nephew Christopher Le Vine Jr., is godfather to Jacques.

...My latest article for ClassicFlix is a recap of my experience at the 2015 TCM Classic Film Festival.

...Notable Passings: Actress Elizabeth Wilson has passed on at 94...Grace Lee Whitney of STAR TREK has died at 85...Joanne Carson, the ex-wife of Johnny Carson, has passed away at 83. She was Carson's second wife, from 1963-72...Chris Burden, who created the famed "Urban Light" display outside the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has died at 69...and screenwriter William Bast, who co-created the DYNASTY spinoff THE COLBYS, is dead at 84. Bast wrote the screenplay for one of my all-time favorite TV-movies, THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL (1982) starring Anthony Andrews, Jane Seymour, and Ian McKellen.

Have a great week!

‹Older