Friday, September 19, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Jealousy (1945) at UCLA

Tonight I spent a pleasant evening in Westwood enjoying a double bill in UCLA's Exile Noir series, which features films with foreign-born directors.

First up was Olivia de Havilland in Robert Siodmak's THE DARK MIRROR (1946), which I reviewed after seeing it at the 2011 Noir City Film Festival. I liked the film in 2011 but hadn't remembered it well so I was glad to have the chance to see it again.

THE DARK MIRROR features de Havilland in a tour de force as identical twins, providing half the characters in what is essentially a four-person psychological crime drama. The film also has a genial performance by de Havilland's GONE WITH THE WIND (1939) costar Thomas Mitchell as a police detective, a sympathetic role for Lew Ayres as a psychologist, and quite remarkable special effects. The script has an occasional "Huh?" moment but all in all it's a fun movie.

I was especially interested in the chance to see the rare second film on tonight's program, a "B" noir from Republic Pictures titled JEALOUSY (1945). It's the kind of relatively unknown film I really enjoy checking out.

JEALOUSY proved to be quite rewarding, with lots of great L.A. atmosphere, terrific cinematography, and a plot twist I admit I didn't see coming, which surprised me yet made perfect sense. (Never fear, it shall not be given away here.) The script by Arnold Phillips and director Gustav Machaty was based on a story by Dalton Trumbo.

JEALOUSY stars Jane Randolph of CAT PEOPLE (1942) as Janet, who works as a cabbie supporting her bitter, depressed Czech immigrant husband Peter (Nils Asther). Peter was a renowned writer in his native country but can't seem to work up the interest in starting over in California, even with his wife's loyal support. Peter threatens to kill himself -- or to drive his wife to do it for him.

Janet meets kind Dr. David Brent (John Loder) when he rides in her cab, and they bond over a shared love of Brahms. David has never married, content to immerse himself in his work alongside his partner, Dr. Monica Anderson (Karen Morley), but now he's finally found love. If only Janet were free...

This 71-minute film is fairly dark -- after a while the audience is ready to kill Peter, if Janet won't! -- but it moves along briskly and has much to recommend it. The black and white photography by Henry Sharp is filled with odd angles, shadows, and interesting shots, such as the startled face of a cat at the moment a crime is committed.

The film does one of the best jobs I've ever seen in conveying the feel of Los Angeles; most of it is done through establishing shots, but they're very well chosen and different from the norm, including Hollywood at Christmas. There's also a fun scene of movie extras eating lunch at a cafe.

Although we were forewarned that the 35mm print was complete but missing "The End," the story still ended a bit too abruptly; a more satisfying ending would have been a nice finishing touch for a well-constructed film which kept me guessing trying to tell good characters from bad for most of the film.

The director, Gustav Machaty, was himself a Czech immigrant. An interesting bit of trivia is that he directed Hedy Lamarr in the infamous ECSTASY (1933); the leading man of JEALOUSY, John Loder, was married to Lamarr in the mid '40s. They had two children; the marriage ended in 1947, the year they costarred in DISHONORED LADY.

The supporting cast of JEALOUSY included actor-writer-director Hugo Haas. Holmes Herbert plays an attorney.

Hopefully this film will one day find its way to DVD so that more noir fans can enjoy checking it out.

I plan to return to UCLA next weekend for more noir!


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