THE UNDERWORLD STORY (1950), the top half of tonight's Gale Storm double bill at the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival, and it's safe to say I loved ABANDONED (1949). Dennis O'Keefe and Jeff Chandler tracking down murderous baby brokers on the mean streets of Los Angeles? Yes, please! ABANDONED is a terrific example of "L.A. noir."
Storm plays Paula Considine, who as the movie begins enters L.A. City Hall to inquire about her missing sister Mary at the missing persons desk. There Paula meets helpful reporter Mark Sitko (O'Keefe), who notices that Paula is being followed by a shady P.I. (Raymond Burr).
There was a moment early on when O'Keefe walked into his newsroom late at night and I thought, "I love this!" There's just something about the mood and look of the late-night newsroom which appeals to anyone who loves crime or newspaper movies.
This was the second time I'd seen O'Keefe as a newsman in this festival, though this time he played a far less ambiguous character than his role in WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950). Over the years he's become a real film noir favorite in films such as T-MEN (1947), RAW DEAL (1948), WALK A CROOKED MILE (1948) and more. It's interesting to consider that he wasn't even on my radar as an actor until a few years ago, and now when I see him listed in a movie's credits I'm immediately intrigued.
This was one of Chandler's very earliest roles, following his part in JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947) and a handful of other films; he not only serves as the secondary "good guy," he's also the film's narrator. It's a nice part, and Chandler is charismatic enough in a supporting role that one can see why he became a leading man in short order.
Burr and Mike Mazurki are the chief villains, along with Marjorie Rambeau as the head of the adoption racket; Mazurki's first onscreen appearance in the movie elicited a smattering of appreciative applause from the Noir City audience.
The cast also includes Will Kuluva, Meg Randall, Jeanette Nolan, David Clarke, and Frank Cady.
The Irwin Gielgud screenplay has "additional dialogue" by the great William Bowers, and it was easy to pick out Bowers' influence in some of the sharp and funny dialogue.
By chance I found myself sitting next to Bowers' widow Marjorie, and it was a pleasure to chat a bit with her. She commented to me that her husband "didn't know he was writing 'film noir'!" and that he'd be gratified to know that some of his films were still being enjoyed today. I was able to let her know how much I love his SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL SHERIFF! (1969) and also shared my fondness for the Yvonne DeCarlo Western comedy THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST (1949). She said he used to joke he'd written more movies for Yvonne than anyone else!
ABANDONED was directed by Joseph M. Newman (711 OCEAN DRIVE). It was beautifully photographed in black and white by William H. Daniels. The 35mm print shown tonight wasn't brand-new but it was nonetheless in lovely shape.
Alas, this film from Universal Pictures is not on DVD. Let's hope that changes in the future...perhaps in another Dark Crimes DVD set from TCM?
May 2015 Update: I had the pleasure of seeing this beautiful print screened again at the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, California. I enjoyed it just as much the second time around!