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).


Blogger Jerry E said...

This festival is producing some really interesting "background" stuff about some of the actors and the films themselves, Laura. You must be having an absolute ball!
Tierney seems to have been a not-very-nice guy at all but he made some terrific little movies for a while there and was very good in them. I have never heard how well he got on with his brother, Scott Brady. That could be interesting!
And of course, in "PANIC IN THE STREETS" we get to see the first movie appearance of (Walter) Jack Palance, another 'dangerous' type (onscreen).
Thanks for another mouth-watering review, Laura.

12:08 AM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Another fun day! Based on this post I pulled TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY out to watch asap. Tierney is one of the most enjoyably menacing guys in the movies, and his real life story is wild. Great coverage Laura, love to be there vicariously.

1:37 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Jerry! I'd be interested to know more about the Tierney-Brady relationship myself. I've enjoyed Brady in films like THE GAL WHO TOOK THE WEST and THE STORM RIDER.

Kristina, was TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY a first-time watch for you, or were you revisiting it?

Thanks to you both so much for the feedback, I'm really happy I can share the experience here. :)

Best wishes,

8:52 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

There is a Scott Brady Facebook page administered by Scott's son Tim.

9:06 PM  
Blogger Kristina Dijan said...

Yes, a first-time viewing, can't believe I never got around to it!

8:56 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks for that info, Barrylane, if it's a public page which can be accessed by those not on Facebook, you're very welcome to post the Brady link here. Glad to know someone is looking out for Scott's legacy in that way.

Kristina, really looking forward to your take on TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY. Hope you'll enjoy it as much as I have!

Best wishes,

6:35 PM  

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