Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tonight's Movie: The Dark Corner (1946)

THE DARK CORNER is 99 minutes of film noir bliss which sucked me in from the minute Alfred Newman's Gershwinesque "Street Scene" began playing over the opening credits. Newman's evocative composition was used in multiple 20th Century-Fox films over the span of decades, including I WAKE UP SCREAMING (1941) and CRY OF THE CITY (1948).

Cut to a sign being painted on the window of a private detective's new office. The p.i. is Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) and his attractive secretary is Kathleen Stewart (Lucille Ball). Lt. Frank Reeves (Reed Hadley) is keeping a close eye on Brad due to something which happened in Brad's mysterious past. Before long Brad and Kathleen are swept into dangerous intrigue and must race against time to save Brad from being framed for murder.

The cast of characters includes art gallery owner Hardy Cathcart (Clifton Webb), his beautiful, unfaithful wife Mari (Cathy Downs of MY DARLING CLEMENTINE), Mari's boyfriend Anthony Jardine (Kurt Kreuger), and "the man in the white suit" (William Bendix).

THE DARK CORNER has a sensational look, with shadowy black and white cinematography by Joe MacDonald, and loads of great film noir dialogue.

The theme of a couple racing the clock to save a man framed for murder was popular in April 1946; RKO's DEADLINE AT DAWN, with Susan Hayward and Bill Williams, was released the same month as THE DARK CORNER. The movie also calls to mind Clifton Webb's film LAURA (1944), as Hardy Cathcart (Webb) is obsessed with a woman in a painting, just as Dana Andrews was in LAURA.

Mark Stevens (recently seen in 1948's THE STREET WITH NO NAME) makes an excellent film noir lead, and Lucille Ball is a revelation in a straight role as the devoted, quick-thinking secretary. She's simply terrific. Those who know her only as TV's "Lucy" will discover a completely different Lucille Ball in this movie.

Deep-voiced Reed Hadley is most familiar to viewers of film noir as the narrator of films such as THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945), BOOMERANG! (1947), HE WALKED BY NIGHT (1948), and THE IRON CURTAIN (1948). It's great fun to see him on screen as the police detective. Is he Galt's friend or foe?

Mary Field has a funny scene as a movie theater ticket taker who overhears a conversation about Brad taking Kathleen up to his apartment. John Russell can be seen briefly as a cop writing a report after a brawl. Constance Collier and Eloise Hardt are also in the cast. Colleen Alpaugh, the little girl with the slide whistle, played one of the Kettle brood in THE EGG AND I (1947).

The film has a particularly good soundtrack, which utilizes Harry Warren's "The More I See You" and "There Will Never Be Another You" as background music. There's also some nice jazzy music provided by Eddie Heywood and his Orchestra. While Alfred Newman's "Street Scene" is used in the opening and closing credits, the rest of the score was by Cyril Mockridge, with music direction by Alfred Newman's brother Emil.

One detail puzzled me: a body is hidden under a bed for at least a day...or was it two? It's not yet summer -- we know this because it's "early in the season" for a white suit -- but still, after many hours wouldn't the apartment have smelled funny when the housekeeper (Ellen Corby) entered?

THE DARK CORNER was directed by Henry Hathaway. Hathaway's work in the film noir genre included THE HOUSE ON 92ND STREET (1945), KISS OF DEATH (1947), CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948), and FOURTEEN HOURS (1951).

THE DARK CORNER is available on DVD as No. 10 in the Fox Film Noir Series. Extras include a commentary track by Alain Silver and James Ursini. It's also had a release on VHS.

THE DARK CORNER can also be seen from time to time on the Fox Movie Channel, where it next airs on June 8, 2010.

There's more on this film at DVD Beaver and from Raquelle at Noir of the Week.

The trailer is currently available on YouTube.

March 2017 Update: I had the wonderful opportunity to see this film on a big screen in 35mm at the Noir City Film Festival.


Blogger Raquel Stecher said...

I'm glad you enjoyed the film. :-) Thanks for linking me. I've been meaning to revisit this one.

6:58 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It was a lot of fun, Raquelle. I'll be revisiting this one at some point in the future myself.

Best wishes,

9:06 AM  
Blogger DorianTB said...

Laura, your reviews are always a delight to read, but after reading your superb 2010 review of THE DARK CORNER, I almost feel like you're my movie-loving sister from another mother! :-) Not only did we agree on many aspects of TDC, but you also had lots of intriguing facts and tidbits that were new to me, and thoroughly enjoyable. Great job!

Also, I'm flattered and honored that you included my blog TALES OF THE EASILY DISTRACTED on your running list of recommended blogs. The feeling is mutual. Thanks a million, Laura!

8:34 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks so much for the lovely comments, Dorian. It's great fun to meet up with "kindred spirits," isn't it? :)

I'm looking forward to catching up with more of your older posts -- only wish I'd found your blog sooner. Glad Twitter made me aware of it!

Best wishes,

9:41 AM  
Blogger Nicholas Vilches said...

Thanks for this great review!

9:09 PM  

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