Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Nocturne (1946) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

NOCTURNE (1946) is an engaging whodunit available in the Warner Archive's Film Noir Collection.

A composer (Edward Ashley) is shot dead while he plays piano, but when the police arrive it's been staged to appear as a suicide. Police detective Joe Warne (George Raft) isn't convinced the man did himself in and doggedly pursues the case; his unorthodox, brusque methods lead to him being asked to turn in his badge, but he won't quit until the case is solved.

The murder victim was quite the love 'em and leave 'em ladies' man, and one of the suspects is beautiful Frances Ransom (Lynn Bari), who works as a Hollywood extra. The cast of characters also includes Frances's sister Carol (Virginia Huston of Out of the Past), a nightclub singer; nightclub pianist "Fingers" (future director Joseph Pevney); and the murder victim's maid (Myrna Dell).

This entertaining film was produced by Hitchcock associate Joan Harrison and RKO's Jack Gross, who both had great track records, and they have another winner here.

The Jonathan Latimer screenplay has some great lines, particularly those delivered by Lynn Bari, who has a terrific role as the beautiful suspect to whom Joe is attracted. (At one point he asks his mother, delightfully played by Mabel Paige, if she'd mind if he married a murderer and she offhandedly replies "No, not if she's a nice girl.") Raft's appeal often escapes me but he unbends quite nicely in this one, exchanging zingy dialogue with a succession of lovely ladies, not to mention his mother. (While Raft is fine I couldn't help thinking that this type of role was tailor made for Dick Powell!)

Myrna Dell is also excellent as the sarcastic maid, although I lost the plot thread explaining why she was beaten up.

One of the film's best aspects is its great Los Angeles atmosphere, from Hollywood locations such as the Pantages Theatre and the Brown Derby to wonderfully creepy use of Santa Ana winds to, best of all, a visit to the set of RKO's SINBAD THE SAILOR (1947), where Bari's character works as an extra. I'd love to know where her swimming pool scenes were shot.

The music for the NOCTURNE theme was written by Leigh Harline, composer of the classic scores for SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS (1937) and PINOCCHIO (1940).

Virginia Huston's singing was dubbed by Martha Mears, whose many vocal jobs included dubbing Marjorie Reynolds to debut "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby in HOLIDAY INN (1942). She also dubbed Veronica Lake and Rita Hayworth, among others.

NOCTURNE was directed by Edwin L. Marin and shot in black and white by Harry J. Wild. It runs 87 minutes.

This good-looking Warner Archive DVD has no extras. Recommended viewing.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered at the Warner Archive website.


Blogger Jerry E said...

I doubt George Raft was an especially nice person but I do like a lot of his films.

He made his quality films in the late 1930s/early 40s while under contract to Warners but it is his later films I enjoy the most. "Nocturne", "Intrigue", "Whistle Stop" and particularly "Johnny Angel" all entertain me. I believe I have also mentioned previously my liking for "Escape Route" which was shot in London and shows many parts I know from my working life there.
Thanks for your good review here, Laura.

6:30 AM  
Blogger barrylane said...

I actually knew George Raft. He was a terrific guy.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both for your comments. It's always nice to hear when someone is likeable offscreen.

Jerry, I have some of the movies you mention so I'll have to try them too. It's funny to me he made a pair of movies with very similar names, JOHNNY ANGEL and JOHNNY ALLEGRO. I saw the latter at a Noir City Film Festival.

ESCAPE ROUTE sounds like something I'd like -- anything filmed in London is of interest to me.

Best wishes,

8:24 PM  

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