Saturday, May 23, 2015

The 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival: Day Three

All too soon the long weekend sped by and it was time for the final day of the 2015 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs, California.

There were three films shown on Sunday, May 17th, rather than four, with the final 4:00 p.m. screening making it easy for those of us in driving distance to arrive back home at a reasonable hour!

The first showing of the day was ABANDONED (1949), starring Dennis O'Keefe, Gale Storm, Jeff Chandler, and Raymond Burr.

I had the pleasure of seeing ABANDONED at the Noir City Film Festival just last month, and I was more than happy to watch this rare Universal film again just weeks later.

O'Keefe plays a reporter who joins Storm in the hunt for her missing sister, who has recently given birth out of wedlock. As they begin to uncover a baby adoption ring, the local D.A. (Chandler) joins them in hunting down the crooks, who include Burr.

ABANDONED has marvelous L.A. locations, filmed by William Daniels, and some absolutely terrific William Bowers dialogue, delivered with flare by O'Keefe. At one point O'Keefe tells Burr, "You going legitimate is like a vulture going vegetarian," which received a particularly delighted reaction from the audience.

My appreciation for O'Keefe, whom Alan Rode called "hugely underrated," continues to grow. In recent weeks I've seen O'Keefe in three other films, COVER UP (1949), WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950), and LAS VEGAS SHAKEDOWN (1955), and I've liked all of them. He's terrific in each one.

The gorgeous Universal print of ABANDONED which was screened is, sadly, the only 35mm archival print of the film in existence. TCM seems to have really cut back on their TCM Vault releases in recent months, but it would certainly be wonderful if one day this film could be released in one of their Dark Crimes sets which have featured films from the Universal and Paramount libraries. It's a film I wish more people could enjoy, in a print looking as beautiful as the one I've seen. (2016 Update: ABANDONED is now available on DVD in the Universal Vault Series.)

HANGOVER SQUARE (1945) is what some term a "gothic noir" or "gaslight noir," a period piece starring Laird Cregar, Linda Darnell, and George Sanders. The gleaming print, showing off the superb black and white cinematography of Joseph LaShelle, added to my enjoyment.

I had some reservations about this very dark film when I first saw it in 2011; as is usually the case for me with dark or tragic films, I enjoyed it more the second time around, with all suspense about the outcome removed.

I also paid much more attention on this viewing to the striking score by Bernard Herrmann, whose career scoring films had begun with CITIZEN KANE (1941) four years previously.

After the film Alan Rode interviewed Stephen C. Smith, author of A HEART AT FIRE'S CENTER: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF BERNARD HERRMANN.

Smith described Herrmann as "difficult but usually right." I was interested to learn Herrmann was never a staff composer, always freelancing, and that he did his own orchestrations. Herrmann's view: "A composer not doing his own orchestrations is like a painter not choosing the colors."

Smith also spoke about Herrmann's famous collaboration with Alfred Hitchcock, as well as Hitchcock abruptly parting professional ways with Herrmann. It was an interesting and informative interview.

The last film of the day, THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949), was a first-time viewing for me, and I'll be writing about it in a separate review in the near future. Like the other films seen in the course of the weekend, I enjoyed it very much. (Update: Please visit my review of THIEVES' HIGHWAY here.)

All too soon it was time to get on the road and back to Orange County, having had a wonderful weekend mixing the sunshine of the Palm Springs desert with the darkness of film noir!

As I wrote in my initial post on the festival, being able to indulge in so many movies in such a convivial and relaxed setting was a real joy. I hope to return to the festival in the years to come, and I very highly recommend the experience.


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