Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Tonight's Movie: Hazard (1948) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tonight's double bill at the Noir City Film Festival began with FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955) and concluded with HAZARD, a lighthearted "comedy noir" starring Paulette Goddard and Macdonald Carey.

Goddard plays Ellen Crane, a compulsive gambler who welches on a bet with mobster-type gambling establishment owner Lonnie Burns (Fred Clark). Lonnie offers to forgive the debt if Ellen will marry him.

Ellen flees town, only to find Lonnie's private eye, J.D. Storm (Carey), on her trail. Ellen and J.D. play cat and mouse going across the country and back again, only to find themselves both in trouble with Lonnie when J.D. falls for Ellen.

This was a fun 85 minutes, thanks to the chemistry between Goddard and Carey, who are supported by an excellent cast including Charles McGraw and Frank Faylen. Sparks fly between the two leads, and there is also a thoughtful -- if somewhat patly resolved -- consideration of Ellen's gambling problem, which results from her guilt over the death of her fiance in WWII. Goddard and Carey are a cute couple, and it's easy to imagine they will live "happily ever after."

Goddard is a charmer, even when her character is less than admirable. Her effervescent personality causes the viewer to willingly buy into a heroine who gambles and can't pay a major debt. (How often does a leading lady spend considerable screen time playing roulette, betting on horses, and rolling dice?) Goddard demonstrates in this why she's moved into my top 20 or so favorite actresses.

Carey is excellent as the private eye. For years I had thought of him as the grandfatherly figure on the soap opera DAYS OF OUR LIVES, but I've found him surprisingly charismatic in his younger days; it's interesting he didn't become a bigger star, although he certainly had a successful career. I was charmed by him in SHADOW OF A DOUBT (1943), where he plays the young detective who falls for Teresa Wright. He was also extremely good as the villain in COPPER CANYON (1950) opposite Ray Milland. HAZARD gave me another positive impression of Carey the film actor.

The supporting cast includes Percy Helton, Maxie Rosenbloom, Frank Fenton, Walter Baldwin, and Ann Doran.

HAZARD was directed by longtime Paramount director George Marshall (THE BLUE DAHLIA). It was filmed in black and white by Daniel L. Fapp. Exterior sequences which are part of Goddard and Carey's cross-country trek are especially enjoyable, giving the film a nice fresh air feel.

This film is not available on DVD or VHS. Hopefully that will change in the future! I had a thoroughly enjoyable night at the movies.


Blogger Barb the Evil Genius said...

What is UP with that movie poster on top? Her head is stuck on some weirdly posed body, and she is rather, um, well-endowed.

5:24 PM  

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