Saturday, March 31, 2012

TCM in April: Highlights

April is an outstanding month on Turner Classic Movies!

Doris Day is the April Star of the Month, with 28 of her films being frontloaded into the first week of the schedule. I'll post more about those films in the near future.

In the meantime, here's a peek at a few of the highlights from the rest of the April schedule:

...I liked YELLOW JACK (1938), with Robert Montgomery as a soldier serving in Cuba who helps Major Walter Reed (Lewis Stone) discover the cause of yellow fever. It airs on April 2nd.

...YELLOW JACK is immediately followed by FOUR GIRLS IN WHITE (1939), a fast-paced B movie starring Florence Rice and Ann Rutherford.

...April 5th is a special day: it's my oldest son's birthday and it's also the birth date of Gregory Peck, born in 1916. Seven Peck films will be shown on the 5th, including THE VALLEY OF DECISION (1945) with Greer Garson, THE YEARLING (1946) with Jane Wyman, and CAPTAIN HORATIO HORNBLOWER (1951), which is admired by several people in my family. I still need to see that one!

...On April 6th I'm intrigued by BIG LEAGUER (1953), a baseball film starring Edward G. Robinson, Vera-Ellen, and Jeff Richards, directed by Robert Aldrich.

...As a teenager I saw Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in GILDA (1946) at the late, lamented Vagabond Theater. (I found an article on the Vagabond which accurately said it "became a celebrated venue for revivals in the 70s. The theatre had a great reputation for unearthing quality prints and offering a top-notch presentation.") I haven't seen GILDA in far too long. It airs April 7th.

...The holiday wouldn't be quite the same without the familiar sounds of EASTER PARADE (1948) on the TV after church on Easter Sunday. I'm guessing just about everyone who reads this has seen it, but for anyone who hasn't, it stars Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, and the music of Irving Berlin.

...Among Robert Osborne's picks on April 9th: TOGETHER AGAIN (1944), an enjoyable romantic comedy starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. The supporting cast includes Charles Coburn, Mona Freeman, and Jerome Courtland, who recently passed away.

...Randolph Scott is celebrated on April 11th with a terrific lineup including COLT .45 (1950), Fox's BELLE STARR (1941), and RIDE LONESOME (1959) directed by Budd Boetticher.

...April 13th is Stanley Donen day on TCM! The great MGM director will be honored with showings of ON THE TOWN (1949), ROYAL WEDDING (1951), GIVE A GIRL A BREAK (1953), and SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS. "Back in the day" when I was growing up and these films were hard to see, I once saw ON THE TOWN in a theater which had a screen that was little more than a sheet; the sound of machine guns from a James Cagney movie could be heard from the theater next door. I also recall watching a 16mm print of SEVEN BRIDES in a social hall at Leisure World, where a friend's grandmother lived; the print, sound, and lighting in the room were less than optimal, but I didn't care when I was watching the Barn Dance. I never take for granted being able to watch these films in beautiful prints on TCM or via DVD!

...I MARRIED A DOCTOR (1936) sounds interesting, starring Josephine Hutchinson and Pat O'Brien. It's on April 14th.

...The music of William Alwyn is celebrated with five films on the evening of April 14th, including the delicious British mystery GREEN FOR DANGER (1946), starring Alastair Sim and Trevor Howard.

...I reviewed UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957) just last month. It's an absorbing story of life on the homefront in WWII New Zealand, starring Jean Simmons, Paul Newman, and Joan Fontaine. It airs April 17th.

...Baseball is the theme of the day on April 18th, with the lineup including THE PRIDE OF THE YANKEES (1942), TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME (1949), and ANGELS IN THE OUTFIELD (1951).

...I recently reviewed the space film RIDERS TO THE STARS (1954), which stars William Lundigan, Martha Hyer, and Richard Carlson; Carlson also directed. The first opportunity to see it is on April 19th, as part of a day-long sci-fi lineup, and it's on again on April 25th.

...Lana Turner and Clark Gable are well matched in MGM's HONKY TONK (1941), showing on April 22nd.

...One of my favorite Robert Taylor Westerns, AMBUSH (1950), will be shown as part of an evening of "Apache Stories" on April 23rd. The cast includes Arlene Dahl, John Hodiak, Jean Hagen, Don Taylor, and wonderful John McIntire as a grizzled mountain man. This movie grabs the viewer from the dramatic opening credits sequence.

...NIGHT SONG (1948) is a very interesting drama with Dana Andrews as a blind composer loved by Merle Oberon. Hoagy Carmichael is also in the cast. It's on April 25th.

...On April 27th, the primetime theme is "Boardinghouse Life," including Priscilla Lane, Jeffrey Lynn, and Ronald Reagan in MILLION DOLLAR BABY (1941) and Ginger Rogers, Katharine Hepburn, and a fantastic cast in the classic STAGE DOOR (1937).

...Director Jean Negulesco is celebrated on April 30th. I hope to see John Garfield and Geraldine Fitzgerald in NOBODY LIVES FOREVER (1946) at the Noir City festival in April. The other titles shown that night: Hedy Lamarr and Paul Henreid in THE CONSPIRATORS (1944); Fred Astaire and Leslie Caron in DADDY LONG LEGS (1955); Joan Crawford and John Garfield in HUMORESQUE (1946); and Zachary Scott, Sydney Greenstreet, and Peter Lorre in THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS (1944).

Another programming note is that TCM will be celebrating "Spring Break" from April 16th through the 20th, showing WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960), GIDGET (1959), BLUE HAWAII (1961), and movies starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello.

For the complete schedule, please visit the TCM website.

Update: For more on TCM in April, please visit TCM Star of the Month: Doris Day.

Happy viewing!

Tonight's Movie: Rebel in Town (1956)

REBEL IN TOWN is a Western distinguished by fine performances, though I can't say I cared very much for the somber storyline.

In the aftermath of the Civil War, renegade Confederates Bedloe Mason (J. Carrol Naish) and his sons (Ben Cooper, Ben Johnson, John Smith, and Cain Mason) are robbing banks in the West. Shortly after arriving in a small town, one of the Mason boys hears the click of a little boy's toy gun and instinctively shoots and kills the child.

When young Gray Mason (Cooper) wants to return to town to check on the boy's condition, the brother that pulled the trigger stabs him in the back. Gray is found by John Willoughby (John Payne); John and his wife Nora (Ruth Roman) nurse Gray back to health. It just so happens that the Willoughbys are the parents of the little boy who died. Although Nora is aware Gray was present when her son was shot, she doesn't tell her vengeful husband, as she fears for his safety and his sanity. Eventually, however, the information slips out.

Payne is excellent as the grief-stricken father who is obsessed with finding his son's killer. Payne plays a man whose pain is understandable yet who is not always particularly admirable. Even before the tragedy, Willoughby is heedless of his wife's concern for his safety when he goes to hunt for renegades, and after his son's death, he doesn't seem to particularly care if his wife is left a lonely widow. Payne bravely plays a complex character who threatens to become as much of a villain as the man who shot his little boy.

Roman is also excellent as the bereaved mother, who has the fortitude to go on, dealing not only with her own sorrow but her concern for her husband.

The Mason father and sons remind me a bit of the Cleggs, the villains in John Ford's WAGON MASTER (1950). The comparison is a bit ironic in that Ben Johnson, one of the heroes of WAGON MASTER, here plays one of the bank robbing sons. Ben Cooper is fine as the young Mason with a conscience, and Naish has a very interesting role as a man who leads his sons in a crime spree yet is also thoughtful and philosophical.

James Griffith does a nice job as the calm town marshal. Bobby Clark plays the child who dies near the start of the film. The cast also includes busy child actress Mimi Gibson; among her other films were THE OKLAHOMAN (1957), THE MONSTER THAT CHALLENGED THE WORLD (1957), and HOUSEBOAT (1958).

This was the next-to-last film directed by Alfred L. Werker. The black and white cinematography was by Gordon Avil. Danny Arnold wrote the screenplay for this film, which runs 78 minutes. It was produced by Howard W. Koch and Aubrey Schenck for Bel-Air Productions.

REBEL IN TOWN was released on DVD-R by MGM last year.

It has also been shown on Turner Classic Movies, which has a trailer on the TCM website.

Notable Passings

...Actress Joan Taylor, best known for roles in EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS (1956) and TV's THE RIFLEMAN (1960-62), has passed on at the age of 82.

Taylor passed away in Santa Monica on March 4th.

Taylor played storekeeper Milly Scott in THE RIFLEMAN, and she appeared in many Westerns on both the large and small screen. An accomplished dancer, Taylor can be glimpsed as the Indian maiden in this trailer for the MGM musical ROSE MARIE (1954), and she starred in another sci-fi film, 20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957).

A multi-talented woman, Taylor wrote the story for the engaging romantic comedy FOOLS RUSH IN (1997), which starred Matthew Perry and Salma Hayek.

As Rose Freeman, she oversaw production of the original HAWAII FIVE-O series after the death of her husband, producer Leonard Freeman, in 1974. The current version of the series paid tribute to her at the end of the March 19th episode.

Taylor/Freeman shared memories of her career in a 1997 interview.

...Actor Warren Stevens, whose long career included playing Doc Ostrow in FORBIDDEN PLANET (1956), has died at the age of 92.

Stevens passed away on March 27th in Sherman Oaks, California.

Stevens' career began in the theater, including over a year in the cast of DETECTIVE STORY on Broadway from 1949 to 1950.

Stevens' screen career spanned nearly six decades, with over 160 credits from the late '40s to 2007.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Second Chance (1950)

Tonight's Netflix DVD was SECOND CHANCE, an unusual film which never had a theatrical run.

SECOND CHANCE -- not to be confused with the 1953 thriller starring Robert Mitchum and Linda Darnell -- was a 72-minute feature film produced by the Protestant Film Commission for 16mm exhibition in churches. It features a solid cast including Ruth Warrick (CITIZEN KANE), John Hubbard, and Hugh Beaumont (LEAVE IT TO BEAVER). According to a five-minute featurette, a surviving print which was beginning to decay was discovered in Quebec. Thanks to this discovery, the film is now available on DVD from Alpha.

The film tells the story of Emily Dean (Warrick), who reviews her life, her marriage to Ed (Hubbard), and her faith in the wake of a health crisis. Emily realizes that she has gradually let trivialities impede her relationships with God and her family; as her religious faith has become a less integral part of her life over the years, it has negatively affected her personality and how she relates to others.

The film's format is unusual in that it begins with the hymn "Faith of Our Fathers," sung by the choir of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, prior to the opening credits. A title card invites the audience to join in the singing. The movie ends in similar fashion with a different hymn.

As the film was intended for church audiences, it explicitly discusses various faith-related issues. It's an inspirational story about priorities and keeping God at the center of one's life, which seemed to be especially appropriate viewing as we approach Holy Week. Those in the audience who are not Christians may not be comfortable with all aspects of the film, but the lead characters are very human and some of their experiences over the years will be recognized and related to by the entire audience.

Classic film fans may also find the movie of general interest simply because it's unique seeing well-known actors of the era starring in this type of film. This is a well-produced, well-acted little movie which might have been lost forever, so it's wonderful that it was found and saved via DVD.

An interesting bit of trivia is that Hugh Beaumont -- last seen by me earlier this week in a far different role, as the lawyer in BURY ME DEAD (1947) -- graduated from the University of Southern California with a Master's in theology in 1946. Beaumont plays Emily and Ed's minister in SECOND CHANCE. His work in the '40s was quite varied, ranging from film noir titles such as THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946) and Anthony Mann's RAILROADED! (1947) to another inspirational film, REACHING FROM HEAVEN (1948). In 1957 he began his most famous role on TV's LEAVE IT TO BEAVER.

Ruth Warrick, of course, also became a TV legend, starring for decades as Phoebe on ALL MY CHILDREN.

This was the last film appearance by Joan Carroll, who was so effective and underrated as Agnes, the fourth Smith sister in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). Joan plays the nurse at the doctor's office.

SECOND CHANCE was directed by the prolific William Beaudine. The supporting cast includes David Holt, Pat Combs, Ellye Marshall, and John Holland.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

UCLA Celebrates Universal Centennial Beginning May 4th

UCLA has announced plans to celebrate the centennial of Universal Pictures with screenings of nearly three dozen films spanning Universal's history.

The series will run from May 4th through June 24th, 2012.

Titles will include the silent film PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), the horror classic DRACULA (1931), Frank Borzage's rarely seen LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? (1934), the Claudette Colbert version of IMITATION OF LIFE (1934), Irene Dunne in SHOW BOAT (1936), Doris Day and Rock Hudson in PILLOW TALK (1959), the modern fantasy classic SOMEWHERE IN TIME (1980), and the outstanding Tom Hanks film APOLLO 13 (1995).

I fell in love with SOMEWHERE IN TIME when it was first released and enjoyed it on the big screen at least one more time in the '80s; it would be a real treat to see it again on a big screen. For that matter, I'd enjoy seeing the majority of the films in the series!

The studio would very likely not exist today were it not for Deanna Durbin, who saved the studio from bankruptcy in the '30s, so I was glad to note her film THREE SMART GIRLS GROW UP (1939) will be screened -- although this sequel to THREE SMART GIRLS (1936) seems a bit of a curious choice for the sole Durbin film in the festival.

For the complete list of titles please visit the UCLA website.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming to DVD: Westerns & More From Olive Films

There are some very nice-looking DVD releases coming from Olive Films in April and May.

April 24th brings Charlton Heston and Rhonda Fleming in PONY EXPRESS (1953), as well as Jeff Chandler and Fess Parker in THE JAYHAWKERS (1959).

May 22nd brings several more titles. I'm especially interested in THE LAWLESS (1950), starring Gail Russell and Macdonald Carey, and SILVER CITY (1951) starring Yvonne DeCarlo, Edmond O'Brien, and Dan Duryea.

Also out on the 22nd: DENVER AND RIO GRANDE (1952) with Edmond O'Brien, Dean Jagger, and Sterling Hayden, plus James Cagney in RUN FOR COVER (1955).

The cover art on all these Olive releases is especially nice, as seen here.

More releases coming soon: Coming to DVD: Granger, Lockwood, Carroll; Coming to DVD: Women in Danger - 1950s Thrillers; Coming to DVD: Jean Arthur Drama Collection; Coming to DVD: Maverick - Season 1; New on DVD: Alexandre Dumas Swashbucklers; Coming to DVD: Joel McCrea Westerns Collection.

Start saving those pennies, there's lots of good viewing ahead!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Tonight's Movie: Bury Me Dead (1947)

I didn't have much free time tonight, so I chose to watch BURY ME DEAD, an unusual little film noir with a short 68-minute running time.

As the film begins, wealthy Barbara Carlin (June Lockhart) is presumed dead in a fire. Barbara is very much alive, however, and she watches her own funeral from behind a heavy veil. After the service Barbara makes her presence known to the family lawyer, Michael (Hugh Beaumont), and confides she believes someone made an attempt on her life, but who?

Was the murderer Barbara's unreliable husband Rod (Mark Daniels), who had his eye on a model (Sonia Darrin)? Or perhaps her unstable little sister Rusty (Cathy O'Donnell), who resents that she'd been adopted and their father had never gotten around to writing her into his will? Was boxer George Mandley (Greg McClure), who'd romanced both Barbara and Rusty, involved? Or...

And who was buried at the funeral, anyway?!

This is an odd but interesting little movie in that it doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. It starts off very dramatically, in classic noir fashion, but when Barbara turns up alive, the drama one expects never really quite ensues. Indeed, Barbara makes all sorts of lighthearted quips to the lawyer about who might have wanted to kill her, and much of the film is played for laughs -- is there such a thing as comedy noir?

Barbara doesn't even bother to notify the police that she's alive, but instead gauges each character's reaction to her "return from the dead." The film turns dark again near the end as the would-be murderer is revealed and attempts to get rid of Barbara for good, at which point Barbara finally seems truly nervous!

It's a lot of fun seeing Lockhart and Beaumont, who were later the stars of classic "family" TV series, in the leads. Lockhart's Barbara is a bit strange, however, in that she never really seems particularly disturbed about her life potentially being in danger, sailing through the film with a serenity which doesn't seem to quite fit the situation. I've got a real soft spot for June Lockhart, though, so I liked her in this even though I was perplexed by her character.

The disturbed young Rusty is completely different from confident Barbara, and indeed, Rusty resents the ease with which Barbara approaches everything in her life. This was Cathy O'Donnell's first film after playing Wilma in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES (1946). She starred in several more film noir titles in the ensuing years: THE AMAZING MR. X (1948), THEY LIVE BY NIGHT (1949), and SIDE STREET (1950). In 1948 she married Robert Wyler, the brother of William Wyler, who had directed her in THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES. Robert was decades older than Cathy, but they were happily married until her death from cancer on their 22nd wedding anniversary.

There are some great faces in the cast such as John Dehner, Charles Lane, and Virginia Farmer. Particular kudos go to Milton Parsons for his very funny turn as the deadpan butler.

BURY ME DEAD was released by Producers Releasing Corporation. It was directed by Bernard Vorhaus (SO YOUNG SO BAD) and filmed in black and white by the great John Alton. Alton's next film, T-MEN (1947), also included June Lockhart in the cast.

There's a TV version of BURY ME DEAD which was edited down to a mere 26 minutes!

I watched BURY ME DEAD on a DVD from VCI. The picture was soft in a few places but overall it's a nice-looking DVD. It's a "double feature film noir" DVD which also includes the film THE CHASE (1946).

BURY ME DEAD has also been released on VHS.

In 2010 Alan Rode of the Film Noir Foundation interviewed Lockhart about BURY ME DEAD and T-MEN on video here and here. She shares some fun stories.

BURY ME DEAD wasn't exactly what I was expecting and it's not a completely successful film, but it's a unique little movie which is worth a look.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Around the Blogosphere This Week

Miscellaneous bits of news and fun stuff from around the Internet...

...My recent "Gone Too Soon" post on actress Gail Russell has been adapted and posted at MovieFanFare. I appreciate MovieFanFare sharing this post with their readers, and I'm especially happy to have the chance to share thoughts on one of my favorite actresses with a wider audience.

...MAD MEN returned to TV tonight after an absence of roughly a year and a half. I enjoy "speed watching" the show; I like keeping up with the overall plots and taking in the sets and costumes, but I'm not interested in burying myself in its endlessly depressing darkness for every second of a full episode. (Honestly, if the show were all one knew of the '60s you'd think no one in that era was ever happy.) I do a fair amount of fast-forwarding. Heresy, perhaps, but it works for me. Motorcyle Boy has a good post on the show at The Lady Eve's Reel Life. I also enjoyed Robert Lloyd's review in the L.A. Times.

...I had no idea before today that Jared Harris, who's so good playing Lane Pryce on MAD MEN, is the son of the late Richard Harris.

...The Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta looks fantastic, although I think I might try substituting some simple olive oil with garlic for the wine & cream sauce.

...Jill has posted some great Life Magazine photos of James Stewart's return from wartime service at The Cinementals.

...And be sure to catch the ongoing "March in March" tribute to actor Fredric March at Jill's other blog, Sittin' on a Backyard Fence. I unfortunately ran out of time to offer a contribution myself to the "free for all" this weekend, but there are tons of good posts. One of my favorites was by Cliff at Immortal Ephemera, but be sure to check them all out!

...A review at A Shroud of Thoughts has convinced me I need to try the '60s TV series MY LIVING DOLL. Be sure to read the comments carefully; there is some special feedback.

...Musicals with remote pit orchestras? That's just weird.

...Actress Julie Adams has a Facebook page. If you're on Facebook, stop by and say hello!

...Greenbriar Picture Shows has some great new posts on THE BURNING HILLS (1956), starring Natalie Wood and Tab Hunter, and WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS (1956) with Dana Andrews and an all-star cast. As is always the case at Greenbriar, they're packed with excellent photos.

...Colin recently reviewed THE BRIBE (1949) at his blog Riding the High Country. I enjoyed this movie, which stars Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Charles Laughton, and Vincent Price and was directed by Robert Z. Leonard. In the comments, Blake Lucas offers the interesting rumor that Vincente Minnelli directed the climactic fireworks sequence. I could see that being a possibility; it's an especially stylish and memorable scene.

...I always enjoy Barrie Maxwell's columns at The Digital Bits, and his latest is especially interesting, focusing on the career of David O. Selznick and the availability of Selznick's films on DVD.

...Out this week on DVD from Olive: Ray Milland, Joan Fontaine, and Teresa Wright in SOMETHING TO LIVE FOR (1952), reviewed by Glenn Erickson; and Barbara Stanwyck and John Lund in NO MAN OF HER OWN (1952), which I loved last year.

...Attention Southern Californians: There's a new Warner Bros. TV exhibit at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.

...Notable Passing: Lincoln Hall, who remarkably survived a night on Everest without equipment in 2006, has passed away at the age of 56. The cause was mesothelioma.

Have a great week!

Tonight's Movie: Seminole (1953)

SEMINOLE is a handsomely produced, solid Universal Western directed by Budd Boetticher.

Lt. Lance Caldwell (Rock Hudson) returns home to Florida from West Point. He is ordered to serve under Major Degan (Richard Carlson), a martinet who intends to drive the Seminole tribe out of Florida.

Osceola (Anthony Quinn), the half-white leader of the Seminole tribe, is a childhood friend of Lance's, and both men love Revere Muldoon (Barbara Hale). Revere acts as a go-between conveying messages between the army and the Indians. Osceola hopes for peace, but Major Degan is blinded by his rigid views of the Indians.

The recently released Universal Vault DVD is visually impressive. Universal's distinctive candybox Technicolor of this era is seen to stunning effect during the opening credits, with red, pink, and blue letters dazzling against the background of the Everglades. There was a brief flaw midway through the film, but otherwise, like the Vault release of TOMAHAWK (1951), it's a beautiful DVD.

The film itself has excellent production values, including location shooting in the Everglades. A quicksand sequence was obviously filmed in a soundstage, which is a poor visual match for the exterior shots, but otherwise the film looks quite realistic, with flies noticeably buzzing around the actors in the swamp scenes. The colors of the Indians' costumes and war paint look particularly fine in this film.

Hudson and Quinn both give strong performances, and the interracial romance between Quinn and Hale adds a somewhat unusual element of interest. Lee Marvin provides a dash of color as a sergeant who's ordered by Major Degan to keep a watchful eye on Lt. Caldwell, but the sergeant seems just as uncertain about the major at times.

My main criticism of the film is simply that it's tiresome to watch someone act like an idiot for an extended period of time. Major Degan (Carlson) is cut from the same cloth as Col. Thursday in FORT APACHE (1948), and that character is the reason FORT APACHE is my least favorite of Ford's Cavalry trilogy. If anything, Degan is even worse than Col. Thursday, with no apparent redeeming qualities; at least the misguided Col. Thursday loved his daughter! Both leaders let their hatred and "by the book" thinking needlessly endanger the lives of their men.

As regular readers know, I'm quite a fan of Richard Carlson, but his performance struck me as a bit over the top; I wondered if a more subtle interpretation might have been more effective, although his acting choices were somewhat limited by his dialogue.

SEMINOLE was filmed by Russell Metty. The supporting cast includes Hugh O'Brian, Russell Johnson, and James Best. The running time is 87 minutes.

In addition to the DVD, SEMINOLE can be seen periodically on Encore Westerns Channel.

Update: This film is also now available in the eight-filmUniversal Westerns Collection.

2021 Update: This film is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber as part of the Rock Hudson Collection. My review of the Blu-ray may be read here.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Tonight's Movie: The Sleeping City (1950)

Actor Richard Conte was born on this date in 1910. He made many good movies but is especially known for his work in film noir, where he was equally effective as a hero or villain...or someone in between. I marked Conte's birthday by watching his excellent performance in the film noir THE SLEEPING CITY.

THE SLEEPING CITY is an especially good docu-noir, which was filmed on location at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Conte plays a member of an elite detective squad whose past medical training enables him to go undercover as an intern at a hospital where another doctor was recently shot in the head at pointblank range. Gradually the contacts he makes enable him to piece together the story behind a murder no one had been able to solve.

The film has an unusual opening, as Conte introduces himself to the audience and pays tribute to Bellevue Hospital. It seems quite clear that the hospital wanted to make sure that no one thought nefarious goings-on, such as depicted in the film, could actually happen at the hospital! The viewer tours part of the hospital along with new interns, and it makes a fascinating, distinctive setting.

Of course, the modern viewer can't help thinking how impossible it would be, in this litigious society, for someone without the proper degree to be treating patients as a doctor. It's made clear that if he finds himself in a situation he can't handle, he'll have to break his cover in order to summon the necessary help. He comes close at one point, but manages to get through the situation by following the lead of the experienced nurse. I particularly liked that the false identity constructed for Conte made him a graduate of the University of Southern California medical school.

Coleen Gray plays a ward nurse who appears to be a sweet woman, dedicated to her career. But the intern was killed right after he was summoned to talk to her...could she be mixed up in the murder? Gray does a good job with a complex character. However, my only complaint about the film is I had the feeling that a few scenes might have been left on the cutting-room floor, including some developing her character's relationship with Conte.

Coleen Gray turns 90 this October. Her films previously reviewed here include KISS OF DEATH (1947), FATHER IS A BACHELOR (1950), SABRE JET (1953), and TENNESSEE'S PARTNER (1955).

Peggy Dow turned 84 a few days ago. She has a couple of scenes as a nurse, the fiancee of one of Conte's fellow interns. As with Gray, I had the feeling perhaps she might have been in a scene earlier in the film; she seemed to know Conte's character better than I expected in their first scene. There's additional information about Dow in my review of her film YOU NEVER CAN TELL (1951).

John Alexander, who plays Police Inspector Gordon, is best known for his role as Uncle Teddy on stage and screen in ARSENIC AND OLD LACE. Without his Teddy Roosevelt get-up, I didn't realize who it was at first! He's very effective in a good role as the cigar-smoking detective.

The supporting cast also includes Alex Nicol, in his film debut. Richard Taber plays the elderly elevator operator who runs a bookie operation for the interns on the side.

Karen has an interesting post at Shadows and Satin about a real-life story very similar to THE SLEEPING CITY. (Spoiler alert, those who don't want to know more details about the plot should bookmark it to read after seeing the movie.)

This 85-minute film was directed by George Sherman, who was especially known for his Universal Westerns. It was filmed in black and white by William Miller. The original story and screenplay were by Jo Eisinger.

Conte and Gray both made a number of films at 20th Century-Fox in the late '40s, so I was somewhat surprised to learn that THE SLEEPING CITY was a Universal film. However, that helps to explain why it's not easily available, as many Fox film noir titles have been released on DVD or shown on Fox Movie Channel, while Universal films are relatively hard to come by. The copy I watched had been recorded from commercial-free American Movie Classics a number of years ago. It really deserves a DVD release; it would be an excellent candidate for TCM's line of Universal releases. (Update: This film was indeed released on DVD in the Universal Vault Series.)

Richard Conte passed away in 1975. Late in his career he was one of the stars of THE GODFATHER (1972). Conte films previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT (1946), CALL NORTHSIDE 777 (1948), CRY OF THE CITY (1948), HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949), THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953), HIGHWAY DRAGNET (1954), THE BIG COMBO (1955), and FULL OF LIFE (1956). All of these movies are film noir/crime titles, with the exception of the wildly atypical and quite wonderful FULL OF LIFE, a warm comedy in which Conte and Judy Holliday play expectant parents. All of these reviewed films are recommended.

April 2020 Update: This film will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in June as part of a three-film Film Noir III collection.

June 2020 Update: My review of the Kino Lorber Blu-ray may be found here.

Schedule Announced for Noir City 14 in Hollywood

The majority of the schedule has now been announced for the 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival, which returns to Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre from April 20th through May 6th, 2012.

The Noir City calendar has been published through Sunday, April 29th, and the majority of the titles to be shown the final week of the festival have been posted on the Egyptian site.

So far I have definite plans to attend four screenings, and I'm very likely to purchase additional tickets once the festival is underway. Last year I ended up seeing seven double bills! It was my favorite movie viewing experience of the entire year; I almost felt as though I had gone on vacation after spending so much time at the Egyptian.

I just ordered my ticket for opening night, April 20th, which is an Alan Ladd double bill consisting of THE GREAT GATSBY (1949) and THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942). I've never seen either film and am particularly excited that my first-ever viewing of THIS GUN FOR HIRE will be on a big screen in 35mm. I'm hopeful that David Ladd will attend the screening, as he did earlier this year in San Francisco.

April 21st is an interesting double bill of Sterling Hayden films from 1954: NAKED ALIBI with Gloria Grahame and Gene Barry, and SUDDENLY with Frank Sinatra.

I'll definitely be at the Cornell Woolrich triple bill on Sunday, April 22nd. I've previously seen the first two films, PHANTOM LADY (1944) and BLACK ANGEL (1946), but am thrilled at the prospect of seeing them again on the big screen. The final film of the evening is THE WINDOW (1949) with Barbara Hale, Arthur Kennedy, and Ruth Roman.

Wednesday the 25th it's an Anthony Mann double bill, T-MEN (1947) and STRANGE IMPERSONATION (1946). Noir fans who haven't seen these should make it a point to be there.

Prison movies are on the bill on the 26th, with Eleanor Parker's Oscar-nominated role in CAGED (1950) followed by Broderick Crawford and Ralph Meeker in BIG HOUSE U.S.A. (1955).

I plan to return on Friday, April 27th, for a double bill which begins with MGM's very good police procedural SCENE OF THE CRIME (1949), with a deep cast including Van Johnson, Tom Drake, Gloria DeHaven, Arlene Dahl, and John McIntire.

The second film on the 27th is an Anthony Mann film I'm very excited to see in 35mm, REIGN OF TERROR (1949), also known as THE BLACK BOOK. It's a "French Revolution noir" starring Robert Cummings, Arlene Dahl, Richard Basehart, and Charles McGraw.

Best of all, 97-year-old Norman Lloyd, who is in the casts of both films, is scheduled to attend on the 27th! I wonder if there's any chance Arlene Dahl might attend as well?

On April 28th Julie Adams, who I was fortunate to see at the Egyptian last fall, will be in attendance at SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE (1957), costarring Richard Egan, Jan Sterling, Dan Duryea, Charles McGraw, and Walter Matthau. It's accompanied by EDGE OF THE CITY (1957) with Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes.

I'll be back on Sunday the 29th, when Dick Powell stars in the terrific -- and underrated -- JOHNNY O'CLOCK (1947). It's paired with JOHNNY ALLEGRO (1949), starring George Raft and Nina Foch.

The dates have not yet been announced, but the final week will include:

...A pair of "proto-noir" pre-Codes, OKAY, AMERICA! (1932) starring Lew Ayres, Maureen O'Sullivan, Louis Calhern, and Edward Arnold, and AFRAID TO TALK (MERRY-GO-ROUND) (1932) starring Eric Linden, Louis Calhern, and Edward Arnold.

...A double bill of Geraldine Fitzgerald films from 1946, THREE STRANGERS, costarring Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, paired with NOBODY LIVES FOREVER, starring John Garfield. Both films were directed by Jean Negulesco.

...MANHANDLED (1949) starring Sterling Hayden, Dan Duryea, and Dorothy Lamour.

...SHIELD FOR MURDER (1954) starring Edmond O'Brien.

...THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE (1946) with Lana Turner and John Garfield. This film had its 1946 premiere at the Egyptian Theatre.

I'll update this post when the complete schedule is announced for the first week of May. (April 7th Update: Final Week of Noir City 14 Schedule Announced.)

Previously posted: First Preview of 14th Annual Noir City Film Festival; A Visit to the 13th Noir City Film Festival (2011); A Visit to the Noir City Film Festival (2010).

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