Friday, March 10, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Open Secret (1948) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

Film noir was the theme of the evening Friday at the UCLA Festival of Preservation.

Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation was on hand to introduce a double bill of two films from 1948, HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948) and OPEN SECRET (1948).

I don't think I could ever tire of HE WALKED BY NIGHT, which I last saw in 2014 as part of UCLA's Anthony Mann series.

Scott Brady and Roy Roberts (seen below right), are on the trail of killer Richard Basehart, aided by Jack Webb as a criminologist. The film helped set the style for decades of police procedurals to come, including hugely influencing Webb's own DRAGNET.

A fun bit of trivia I learned tonight: Basehart's dog in this film was also seen as "Rembrandt" in WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950).

The cinematography by John Alton is thrilling; shots of the police flashlights as the cops race through L.A.'s underground storm drains have the power to give me goosebumps even after several viewings. At the time it was made this Eagle-Lion film may have been seen as just another movie to fill a theater schedule, but it has scenes which are, quite simply, great art.

The night's second film, OPEN SECRET, was considered a "lost" noir which has only been available via poor public domain DVDs. The restored 35mm print was excellent.

Rode related an amazing coincidence which he learned from his brother in recent years: The director of OPEN SECRET, John Reinhardt, had come to America from Europe on the same boat with his grandfather Alfonse; the two men then traveled cross-country to California, and there is a photo of them together at the Grand Canyon!

Reinhardt also directed HIGH TIDE (1947), which I saw at the 2013 Festival of Preservation, and THE GUILTY (1947), seen at the festival in 2015.

OPEN SECRET stars John Ireland and Jane Randolph as Paul and Nancy Lester, newlyweds who stumble into a hotbed of anti-Semitism when they interrupt their honeymoon trip to visit Paul's old army pal.

The Lesters are let into the friend's apartment by his landlady (Anne O'Neal), but he never shows up, and scary things start happening, like things going missing from the apartment...and then the friend's body turns up. Paul and Nancy solve the mystery with the help of Sgt. Frontelli (Sheldon Leonard) and a Jewish camera shop owner, Harry (George Tyne).

This was an interesting little movie, not least because Ireland and Randolph, as the loving newlyweds, play characters so different from the crooks they portrayed in the previous year's RAILROADED! (1947). They're an appealing team as the good guys in this one.

There seemed to be a brief blip of missing footage when Sgt. Frontelli meets Paul, as they're suddenly on a sofa talking, but that was the only issue with the print.  Just as with Ireland and Randolph, it was great seeing Leonard as a good guy. He has the best line in the film, wrapping things up saying "He was playing Hitler -- but in the wrong precinct." There was appreciative chuckling among the audience when he said that. You don't mess with Sheldon Leonard!

I liked that O'Neal's nosy landlady wasn't a one-note character, being genuinely helpful and kind, and her being hard of hearing added an interesting touch to her attempts to do a bit of snooping on her tenant.

While the villains may have been a bit overdone -- for the most part they are all very, very bad, with no shadings to differentiate the characters -- all in all it was an absorbing 68 minutes which I enjoyed. Other than a word seen in a photograph, the terminology may have been soft-pedaled (for easier marketing, we were told), but like CROSSFIRE (1947) the previous year, it boldly addresses discrimination and the evil that men do.

OPEN SECRET was filmed by George Robinson. The supporting cast includes Roman Bohnen, Arthur O'Connell, Rory Mallinson, Morgan Farley, and Ellen Lowe.

Next up for me at the festival: Saturday afternoon seeing the double bill of Spencer Tracy and Claire Trevor in THE MAD GAME (1933) followed by Alice Faye and James Dunn in 365 NIGHTS IN HOLLYWOOD (1934). Then, after a dinner break, an evening of classic animated Paramount shorts!

2 Comments:

Blogger Jerry E said...

What a great double bill, Laura! "HE WALKED BY NIGHT" is, as you say, one you can watch and re-watch. A real classic of its genre.

"OPEN SECRET" is one I've somehow never heard of - and it sounds like it's just up my'dark, rainy, shadowy street'! LOL I have seen quite a bit of John Ireland recently, having just acquired the 1950 western "The Return Of Jesse James". I also noticed that another favourite film, "The Good Die Young" (1954) is currently showing on TV here. Ireland is in that along with a host of other good stars of the time. Don't know if you know that one?

11:33 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Jerry!

It really was a great evening. :)

It would sure be great if the print we saw of OPEN SECRET were made available. Some of the other UCLA restorations have made it to DVD, though we're still waiting for the other Reinhardt films -- a set with all three restorations of his film seen at UCLA's last few festivals would sure be great.

As it happens I recorded THE GOOD DIE YOUNG from TCM quite recently -- but I've not yet seen it (story of my life!). Interested to learn it's a favorite of yours.

Best wishes,
Laura

12:36 AM  

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