Sunday, March 31, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Trapped (1949) at the Noir City Film Festival

The 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival opened on Friday night, March 29th, with a double bill consisting of TRAPPED (1949) and THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1950).

Both films were screened in 35mm. TRAPPED is a brand-new UCLA restoration which has also screened this year at the Noir City San Francisco Festival in January and the UCLA Festival of Preservation in February.

TRAPPED, from Eagle-Lion Films, was directed by Richard Fleischer, who also directed memorable crime films such as ARMORED CAR ROBBERY (1950) and THE NARROW MARGIN (1952). TRAPPED was more noirish goodness from Fleischer.

TRAPPED is definitely my kinda movie, starting out with a docu-noir style introduction about the importance of the Treasury Department. Phony bills are circulating in Los Angeles, so the feds fake a jailbreak by Tris Stewart (Lloyd Bridges), hoping he'll lead them to the counterfeiting plates being used, since he'd been in possession of them before being sent to prison.

Tris gives the agents the slip and makes a beeline for his gorgeous girlfriend (Barbara Payton), who works as a cigarette girl at a nightclub. Tris wants to get a stash of the fake money to fund his escape to Mexico, but he needs real money to pay for it and turns to John Downey (John Hoyt), who hangs around the nightclub and has been making a not-too-subtle play for Tris's gal.

What Tris doesn't know is that the feds are listening to every word he and his girlfriend say in her apartment...and what's more, Downey may not be quite who he seems.

The plot barrels along in a quick 78 minutes with some wonderful set pieces, such as a sequence where agents are staked out along a street to observe the money being handed off for the fake bills. One's a grocery store clerk, another's mowing a lawn, one is cleaning window screens, more are delivery men, and so on. The tension builds as they wait for the all-important signal to move in when an agent sets down a case of soda. It's terrific.

The L.A. locations are excellent, with the climactic shootout coming in a Red Car barn. Fantastic stuff for a noir fan. I really enjoyed the entire film and would happily watch it again. (And I suspect I'll have that chance sooner rather than later...)

It's rather interesting that about 2/3 of the way through the film Bridges' character is sent to jail, never to be heard from again! It was a surprise that he simply disappeared from the story, as he dominates the proceedings up to that point.

James Todd -- whose character is weirdly obsessed with personal grooming in his office -- moves front and center as the main bad guy for the feds to chase in the film's final scenes, while Hoyt basically takes over as the film's lead at that point. Perennial character actor Hoyt, who was onscreen from 1946 to 1987, is really good in this and helps make the change in focus work smoothly.

Payton, whose life was ultimately tragic, is quite the stunning blonde bombshell here. Just a few years later Payton's hard living was already affecting her looks, as seen in MURDER IS MY BEAT (1955), but here she's so gorgeous it really makes one regret what might have been if she'd made different life choices. She's an excellent femme fatale, and her final scene is rather shocking.

The cast also includes Russ Conway and Robert Karnes, with familiar faces in the background like Rory Mallinson, Tommy Noonan, Frank Sully, Ken Christy, and Harry Antrim.

After the film Richard Fleischer's son Mark briefly took the stage to greet the audience along with Eddie Muller.


TRAPPED was filmed in black and white by Guy Roe. The story and screenplay were by George Zuckerman and Earl Felton.

TRAPPED is on DVD in some pretty poor public domain editions, as seen in a review at DVD Beaver. Let's hope that eventually the gorgeous restored print I saw Friday evening will make its way to DVD and Blu-ray with a company like Flicker Alley. It was quite an entertaining film, and it would be great if film fans who can't make it to film festivals have the chance to see it as well.

Coming soon: A review of the bottom half of the opening night double bill, THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON. (Update: Here is that review!)

A Visit to the 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival

Opening night of the 21st Annual Noir City Hollywood Festival was Friday, March 29th, at the Egyptian Theatre.


It was a wonderful evening filled with vintage cars and clothes, lots of great people, and of course a pair of most enjoyable film noir titles.


This was the ninth year in a row I've attended the festival's opening night! I've been going to the Noir City Festival for a decade now and made countless terrific movie memories. Opening night is always particularly fun, a wonderful convergence of classic film fans.


Above, Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation, along with a solo shot of the "Czar of Noir" below.


Opening night was a sellout! Saturday evening was also very well attended.


As has been the case for the past three years, the Noir City films will play for 10 consecutive evenings at the Egyptian; closing night is Sunday, April 7th.


My detailed date-by-date look at the festival schedule may be found here. As usual, a majority of the films are shown in 35mm.


Below, Alan K. Rode, Christa Faust, and Michael Schlesinger before the movies began rolling:


Karie Bible is one of the volunteers manning the souvenir table:


Below, Ann Dvorak biographer Christina Rice with Jemma Rode. Christina is working on an upcoming biography of Jane Russell which I'm looking forward to reading!


Alan and Jemma Rode as the festivities began:


Eddie Muller with Mark Fleischer, son of director Richard Fleischer. Richard Fleischer directed the evening's first film, TRAPPED (1949), which I'll be reviewing here in the near future. TRAPPED starred Lloyd Bridges, Barbara Payton, and John Hoyt.


The opening night party between films in the Egyptian's courtyard:



Jeremy Arnold:


Alice Maltin chats with my husband while actor Clu Gulagher, a mainstay attending L.A. classic film screenings, chats with Alan Rode in the background.


After the party, Alan Rode introduced the evening's second film, THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1949), starring Barbara Stanwyck and Wendell Corey.


As always, this introductory post to the Noir City Hollywood Festival will be regularly updated with review links for all films seen at the festival. As the saying goes, watch this space!


New reviews of films seen at the 2019 Noir City Film Festival: TRAPPED (1950), THE FILE ON THELMA JORDON (1949), APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1950), SUDDEN FEAR (1952), PLAYGIRL (1954), HELL'S HALF ACRE (1954). [Reviews of THE MIDNIGHT STORY and MONKEY ON MY BACK are coming soon!]

Previously reviewed films seen at this year's festival: SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950), CITY THAT NEVER SLEEPS (1953), 99 RIVER STREET (1953), THE BIG COMBO (1955), A KISS BEFORE DYING (1956).

Posts on past Noir City Festivals which contain review links for all films seen each year, in reverse chronological order: A Visit to the 20th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2018); A Visit to the 19th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2017); A Visit to the 18th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2016); A Visit to the 17th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2015); A Visit to the 16th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2014); A Visit to the 15th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2013); A Visit to the 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival (2012); A Visit to the 13th Noir City Film Festival (2011); A Visit to the Noir City Film Festival (2010).

TCM in April: Highlights

Happy Silver Anniversary to Turner Classic Movies!

TCM celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 14, 2019. That is also the closing day of the 10th annual TCM Classic Film Festival, which runs this year from April 11th through 14th. Many more details regarding the festival may be found in my overview of the schedule.

GONE WITH THE WIND (1939), the first film ever shown on TCM, will air in prime time on April 14th.

Greta Garbo is the April Star of the Month, her fourth time for that honor. She was Star of the Month in May 1994, just after TCM went on the air, so it's particularly appropriate that she be recognized again this Silver Anniversary month.

The Star of the Month screenings for April are being compressed into a single week. 23 Garbo films are scheduled to be shown on the evenings of April 1st through 5th, along with a documentary. Please note there will not be a separate Star of the Month post for April.

The April Noir Alley titles are 99 RIVER STREET (1953) on April 6th and 7th, NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946) the 13th/14th, WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950) April 20th and 21st, and M (1951) on April 27th and 28th.

As a side note, Southern Californians also have the opportunity to see 99 RIVER STREET on Monday, April 1st, at the Noir City Hollywood Festival. I've seen the rest of this month's Noir Alley films at past Noir City fests and am looking forward to seeing 99 RIVER STREET on a big screen for the first time!

Below are just a few of the highlights from the April schedule; click on any hyperlinked title for the related review:

...TCM celebrates Debbie Reynolds' birthday on April 1st. The seven titles include the enjoyable minor MGM musical I LOVE MELVIN (1953) with Donald O'Connor.

...THE STRANGE LOVE OF MARTHA IVERS (1946) is an interesting noirish crime film starring Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and Kirk Douglas. It's showing on April 2nd and rerunning on the 18th.

...LIVING ON VELVET (1935) is a good Warner Bros. melodrama starring Kay Francis, George Brent, and Warren William. It's on in the early hours of April 3rd.

...For those who can't make it to this year's TCM Classic Film Festival, there's a great opportunity to watch MY FAVORITE WIFE (1940) on April 4th. MY FAVORITE WIFE stars Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Randolph Scott, and Gail Patrick. I plan to see it at this year's festival!

...The beautiful silent Greta Garbo film FLESH AND THE DEVIL (1926) will be shown on the evening of April 4th. This is a particularly great title for those who are new to Garbo to check out.

...There's more top-notch Garbo on April 5th when TCM shows the Ernst Lubitsch comedy NINOTCHKA (1939). The movie costars Melvyn Douglas in one of his best roles.

...Two of my all-time favorite films play back to back on Sunday, April 7th: YOU WERE NEVER LOVELIER (1942), starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, is followed by ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947) with John Wayne and Gail Russell.

...An evening of films featuring female detectives on April 8th includes the marvelous Hitchcock film THE LADY VANISHES (1938) starring Margaret Lockwood. I didn't see this one until about 10 years ago but it quickly zoomed onto my short list of favorite Hitchcock films. Highly recommended.

...April 9th is a great day for Kay Francis fans, with a whopping ten of her films on the schedule. I FOUND STELLA PARISH (1935) is a good exemplar of a Francis melodrama, as she suffers nobly wearing fabulous Orry-Kelly gowns. Between this day and LIVING ON VELVET earlier in the month, Francis fans have plenty to keep their DVR's humming!

...The evening of April 9th features male detectives, with some really enjoyable films including Louis Hayward in THE SAINT IN NEW YORK (1938) and George Sanders in THE GAY FALCON (1941). I particularly enjoy Chester Morris in MEET BOSTON BLACKIE (1941). It's quite delightful, with a good plot and a particularly witty script along with a very good performance by Morris.

...A day of '50s melodramas on April 10th includes Lana Turner in the interesting A LIFE OF HER OWN (1950), costarring Ray Milland.

...The night of the 10th features husband and wife detective teams, including fun films such as Melvyn Douglas and Florence Rice in FAST COMPANY (1938), Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY (1993), William Powell and Jean Arthur in THE EX-MRS. BRADFORD (1936), and Robert Montgomery and Constance Cummings in HAUNTED HONEYMOON (1940). I am loving the detective series featured that week!

...The evening of April 11th features several Westerns, including one of my all-time favorites, Randolph Scott in RIDE LONESOME (1959). It has a great supporting cast in James Coburn, Lee Van Cleef, and a surprisingly marvelous Pernell Roberts.

...It's musicals day on April 12th, with the lineup including a favorite of mine, LOVELY TO LOOK AT (1952). LOVELY TO LOOK at features the music of Jerome Kern and a cast including Howard Keel, Kathryn Grayson, Marge and Gower Champion, Ann Miller, and Red Skelton.

...There are even more musicals on the 13th! Several MGM films are shown that day, including Keel, Grayson and Miller in the very entertaining KISS ME KATE (1953).

...I just saw IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT (1934) again last weekend and fell in love with it all over again. What better day to watch it than on TCM's 25th Anniversary on April 14th?

...The memorable pre-Code melodrama RIPTIDE (1934), starring Norma Shearer, Herbert Marshall, and Robert Montgomery, will be shown on Monday the 15th.

...A day of films set in Egypt on April 17th includes the Jeanette MacDonald espionage film CAIRO (1942), which I reviewed last fall. Robert Young costars.

...On Friday, April 18th, TCM is showing a film I like a lot, IMPACT (1949), with Brian Donlevy and Ella Raines. I keep hoping this one will turn up at a film noir festival! It has wonderful location shooting in San Francisco and Larkspur, California.

...Spring is the theme on April 19th. I especially recommend Margaret O'Brien and Dean Stockwell in THE SECRET GARDEN (1949), an excellent adaptation of the classic novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

...Easter Sunday features EASTER PARADE (1948), of course! That movie is part of the soundtrack of the holiday for me, every Easter afternoon for most of my life.

...A day of films with Eddie Albert on April 21st includes FOUR DAUGHTERS (1939). I've had a yen to rewatch this series and just ordered the complete set in a Warner Archive sale! Very much recommended.

...Shirley Temple's birthday is celebrated on April 23rd with a really excellent lineup of eight films, including THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947), another film showing at this year's TCM Classic Film Festival. It stars Cary Grant, Myrna Lloy, and Rudy Vallee. The day also includes ADVENTURE IN BALTIMORE (1949) and FORT APACHE (1948). It's a wonderful day to sit on the couch and watch one movie after another!

...The peerless Lubitsch classic THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (1940), starring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, will be shown on the evening of April 25th.

...The Saturday morning lineup on April 27th includes George O'Brien and Laraine Day (billed as Laraine Johnson) in one of their three films together, THE PAINTED DESERT (1938). There's some very nice singing by Ray Whitley and the Phelps Brothers and good location shooting at California's Red Rock Canyon.

...A wonderful treat on the evening of Sunday, April 28th: Three Japanese films directed by Yasujiro Ozu, PASSING FANCY (1933), AN AUTUMN AFTERNOON (1962), and THE END OF SUMMER (1961).

...The evening of April 29th features several interview programs with Robert Osborne, as well as a new special, BEST OF PRIVATE SCREENINGS (2019).

...April wraps up on April 30th with a night of Mountie-themed movies including Errol Flynn in NORTHERN PURSUIT (1943), Stewart Granger and Wendell Corey in THE WILD NORTH (1952), and James Craig and William Lundigan in NORTHWEST RANGERS (1942).

For more on TCM in April 2019, please visit my post Quick Preview of TCM in April and TCM's complete online schedule.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Weekend Movie Fun: Out and About in Los Angeles

We spent a wonderful day yesterday "out and about" in the Greater Los Angeles area, ahead of opening night of the 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival.

We began our day with a brief walk through Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

From there we met our oldest daughter for lunch at the Dog Haus in Burbank, across the street from Warner Bros. We get the chance to eat there about once a year and I always enjoy it. I recommend the corn dogs in a root beer batter dip!


After lunch we went to the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale.


I've been curious about the museum for some time and was glad to finally have the chance to check it out.


The sign below explains the history of the Jantzen Diving Girl, recreated above:


A brief history of neon. Click this or any photo to enlarge for a closer look.


My favorite thing in the museum was the sign from Grauman's Chinese Theatre!



The history of the Chinese sign is explained here:


More shots taken in the museum:



I knew the museum was small but admit I was surprised at just how small; it was basically one room and a gift shop. I've seen photographs of other signs in the museum online, such as the Brown Derby sign, but they were not on display yesterday. I assume the museum must rotate its collection.


The gift shop, seen below beyond the Jantzen Diving Girl, was quite enjoyable. I purchased a mug as well as the book VINTAGE SIGNS OF AMERICA, which has been on my wish list for a while now.


After the museum we drove up to Griffith Observatory, but the parking lot was so crowded, perhaps due to spring break, that we drove right back down the hill! From there we went to Milk Jar Cookies on Wilshire Boulevard, which we first visited in 2016.



I especially like the "Birthday Cookie" with sprinkles, seen in the center below:


Then it was time to head to Hollywood! I never get tired of this view down Las Palmas Avenue from Hollywood Boulevard, which film noir fans will recognize is straight out of the classic GUN CRAZY (1950):


We stopped by Larry Edmunds Cinema Bookshop, where I purchased HALLIWELL'S HUNDRED.


Leslie Halliwell's FILMGOER'S COMPANION and TELEGUIDE were important references when I was a young film fan. (Somewhere I have a letter from him thanking me for corrections I submitted for the COMPANION.) I'd never heard of HALLIWELL'S HUNDRED, containing essays on his favorite films, so that was a great find.


I photographed the signs for a couple classic Hollywood restaurants, including Miceli's on Las Palmas Avenue, where we plan to eat this evening...


...and Musso & Frank on Hollywood Boulevard, which celebrates a century in business this year:


Our dinner destination last night was the Pig 'n Whistle on Hollywood Boulevard, established in 1927.



Coming soon, my post on opening night of the Noir City Hollywood Film Festival! (Update: Here is coverage of opening night!)

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