Friday, April 29, 2016

TCM in May: Highlights

April has flown by and before we know it, it will be summertime!

First, though, it's time for a look at the May schedule on Turner Classic Movies!

Right off the top, a reminder that the TCM Classic Film Festival runs through Sunday, May 1st. Tune in throughout the weekend for interviews and other festival coverage in between the movies! (Update: It was announced during the festival that interviews would not be recorded this year to play during the weekend on TCM.)

The TCM Star of the Month is Robert Ryan. Over three dozen Ryan films will be shown on Fridays in May, beginning on May 6th; in a break from TCM's typical pattern with Star of the Month films, the movies will air starting during daytime hours and continuing into prime time. I'll be sharing more about this month's Robert Ryan movies in a separate post prior to the 6th. (Update: Please visit TCM Star of the Month: Robert Ryan.)

The TCM Spotlight will focus on American International Pictures each Thursday evening in May.

TCM's traditional Memorial Day Weekend war movie marathon takes place May 27th through 30th. It includes THE LONGEST DAY (1962) with Robert Mitchum, seen above.

Below are just a handful of this month's highlights; click on any hyperlinked title to read the related review.

...One of the first films showing in May is the excellent film noir THE BIG CLOCK (1948), starring Ray Milland, Charles Laughton, and Maureen O'Sullivan. The deep cast also includes Rita Johnson, Harry Morgan, and Elsa Lanchester, who provides some very funny comic relief. This taut film, directed by John Farrow, also boasts some great set design. It was a treat to revisit it last year at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. THE BIG CLOCK airs early on May 1st.

...Deanna Durbin's films don't appear on TCM very regularly, as Universal movies are more expensive for TCM to license; so it's a real treat that one of her best-known early films, THREE SMART GIRLS (1936), will be shown on Monday evening, May 2nd. It's being shown as part of a series of films inspired by the documentary CINEMA'S EXILES: FROM HITLER TO HOLLYWOOD (2009). Director Henry Koster, a Jew, fled his native Germany for France after knocking out a Nazi soldier, so the story goes.

...There's more film noir on May 4th, with a showing of the iconic film THE KILLERS (1946). Burt Lancaster, Ava Gardner, Edmond O'Brien...and as I wrote of William Conrad and Charles McGraw, "In their coats and fedoras, they are film noir."

...ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) is a truly great film, with Bette Davis starring as actress Margo Channing and Anne Baxter, in the title role, as the young woman who wants to take over Margo's career. Gary Merrill, Celeste Holm, and George Sanders costar in this terrific movie, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. It's showing May 7th.

...The Mother's Day theme on May 8th includes the Jane Powell musicals NANCY GOES TO RIO (1950) and THREE DARING DAUGHTERS (1948), plus the Claudette Colbert version of IMITATION OF LIFE (1934), Joan Crawford in MILDRED PIERCE (1945), and Irene Dunne in I REMEMBER MAMA (1948).

...The daytime theme on May 9th is cowboys, with titles including Tim Holt in DUDE COWBOY (1941) and SIX GUN GOLD (1941) and George O'Brien in LAWLESS VALLEY (1938) and TROUBLE IN SUNDOWN (1939). The O'Brien films were recently released on DVD.

...Fred Astaire was born May 10, 1899, and TCM celebrates by shown eight terrific Astaire films. I'm particularly fond of CAREFREE (1938), a screwball comedy with Ginger Rogers and Ralph Bellamy.

...On May 11th Dick Powell stars in TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (1948), a tough docu-noir about an opium ring.

...Loretta Young stars in the pre-Code PLAY-GIRL (1932), costarring Loretta's real-life future brother-in-law, Norman Foster. It's on May 13th.

...Every few years I cycle through watching the '30s Warner Bros. musicals choreographed by Busby Berkeley, and I'm about due to watch them again! My favorite might be FOOTLIGHT PARADE (1933), starring James Cagney. You just can't beat "By a Waterfall" for brilliantly insane excess! It's shown on May 15th.

...I enjoyed THE FALLEN SPARROW (1943) at last year's Noir City Film Festival. It stars John Garfield and a trio of great leading ladies, Maureen O'Hara, Patricia Morison, and Martha O'Driscoll. THE FALLEN SPARROW will be shown May 17th.

...CRISIS (1050) is a really interesting drama, directed by Richard Brooks, starring Cary Grant as a brain surgeon and Jose Ferrer as a dictator with a brain tumor. Since the brain surgeon has a healthy ego of his own, he's more than a match for the dictator demanding his services. It will air on May 19th.

...COVER UP (1949) was a favorite discovery last year; I liked this small-town Christmastime mystery so much I watched it twice! Dennis O'Keefe plays an insurance investigator trying to get to the bottom of the suicide of the most unpopular man in town. Barbara Britton and William Bendix costar. The air date is May 21st.

...On May 23rd Robert Taylor and Richard Widmark star in a John Sturges Western, THE LAW AND JAKE WADE (1958).

...There are a particularly high number of interesting films airing on May 25th. Of those I'd particularly like to recommend GUN GLORY (1957), a very solid Western starring Stewart Granger, Rhonda Fleming, and Chill Wills.

...It's John Wayne's birthday on May 26th, and I'm always happy to have the chance to recommend one of my all-time favorite Wayne films, ANGEL AND THE BADMAN (1947), costarring Gail Russell.

...The Star of the Month and Memorial Day Weekend war movie marathon merge on Friday, May 27th, with the showing of several war films starring Robert Ryan. On May 28th the titles include what might be the best war movie ever made, John Ford's THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1945). On the 29th the wonderful MISTER ROBERTS (1955), codirected by Ford and Mervyn LeRoy, will be shown; Henry Fonda, James Cagney, William Powell, and Jack Lemmon star. On May 30th the titles include Gary Cooper in SERGEANT YORK (1941).

...The month comes to an end on May 31st with a series of films set in Las Vegas, including PAINTING THE CLOUDS WITH SUNSHINE (1951), MEET ME IN LAS VEGAS (1956), and VIVA LAS VEGAS (1964).

For more on TCM in May, please visit the complete May schedule.

Happy viewing!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Coming Soon!

What a great couple of weeks to be a classic film fan in Southern California!

The 18th Annual Noir City Film Festival wrapped up Sunday evening, and tomorrow the TCM Classic Film Festival gets underway!

I'm heading to Hollywood bright and early this morning for a full day of pre-festival activities, including the annual TCM press conference this afternoon. The press conference will feature Ben Mankiewicz along with several key TCM executives.

The movies start rolling Thursday evening! My tentative picks from the festival schedule may be found in this post.

Please follow me on Twitter for real-time coverage of the movies, the people, and the places which combine to make up the TCM Festival.

Then look for in-depth blog coverage on the festival beginning next week!

For those not fortunate enough to be attending this year's festival, my latest ClassicFlix column has suggestions for programming a "Best of the TCM Classic Film Festival" lineup at home!

Additionally, tune in to Turner Classic Movies throughout the festival for interviews and other festival coverage which is slotted in between the films on the schedule.

My look at TCM's May schedule is set to run at the end of the week, so check back here during the festival for new content!

In addition to extensive coverage of the TCM Classic Film Festival, there's much more ahead here in the weeks to come, including:

*Coverage of the final evening of the Noir City Film Festival

*A look at TCM's May Star of the Month, Robert Ryan

*A visit to Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, the final resting place of many great filmmakers

*A photo tour of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum on Hollywood Boulevard

*A preview of this year's Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, being held next month in Palm Springs

*Information on FilmStruck, the new streaming venture from TCM and the Criterion Collection which was announced yesterday

*A preview of the July schedule on Turner Classic Movies


*Numerous Warner Archive DVD and Blu-ray reviews, plus a review of the new Olive Films release of TRY AND GET ME (1950)

*Reviews of the Marvel films THE AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON (2015) and the new CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR (2016), which opens May 6th

*And a giant Around the Blogosphere classic film link roundup!

May will be a busy month here at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, so please check back often!

Update: The 2016 TCM Classic Film Festival in Review.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Deception (1946) at the Noir City Film Festival

Saturday night was an especially epic night at the Noir City Film Festival!

It was a particularly happy night as the festival was attended by several classic film blogging friends who had arrived in town early for the TCM Classic Film Festival. It was wonderful to see Aurora, Annmarie, Kellee, and Christy for the first time in over a year! Christy covered the evening for The Examiner.

The evening was sponsored by the classic film and TV channel getTV. It was revealed at the start of the evening that cards were taped underneath ten seats in the theater, and as it happened, I was sitting in one of those seats! I received a lovely gift bag with a getTV mug, a journal, and a DVD of THE BIG HEAT (1953).

The evening's double bill celebrated actor Paul Henreid, with his daughter Monika Henreid in attendance. She helped to introduce the first movie, DECEPTION (1946), and after the movie she sat down for a Q&A about her father with the Film Noir Foundation's Eddie Muller.

In terms of the movie, over the years I'd heard it was very good and honestly I was expecting a little more from it. A reunion for the leads of NOW VOYAGER (1942), DECEPTION is quite a lengthy talk fest; it's essentially a three-character study in which the actors talk and talk about their problems for 115 minutes.

Bette Davis plays Christine Radcliffe, a pianist who is unexpectedly reunited with her love, cellist Karel Novak (Henreid). Christine believed Karel had died in a Nazi concentration camp, and she is now the mistress of autocratic conductor-composer Alexander Hollenius (Claude Rains).

Instead of leveling with Karel -- after all, she thought he was dead! -- Christine doesn't want the jealous Karel to know she's been in a relationship with Hollenius. She describes Hollenius as a mentor and attempts to pass off the elegant artwork in her apartment as gifts from students. Bit by bit her deceptions grow, one lie leading to another.

Christine and Karel quickly marry, but the never-ending lies she must spin to keep the truth from Karel undermine their marriage, and the nasty, jealous Hollenius doesn't help matters either. Eventually he threatens to crush Karel by telling all.

Although I found the movie somewhat disappointing, there is still some very good stuff in it. One of my favorite things was the way the grandeur of Christine's apartment is gradually revealed. Initially, with the unusual approach of the exterior stairs, we expect she's living in some sort of garrett, especially as she says she's not doing well financially. The apartment is dark so we can't see much of it, and at first it seems fairly simple, though Karel notes with puzzlement the furs hanging in Christine's closet.

Bit by bit, as Christine and Karel move about the apartment and lights are turned on, it's revealed to be a stylish loft apartment, with a large piano, works of art, an elegantly designed bathroom, and a nice kitchen. Like Karel, the audience wonders: How did a struggling pianist afford this?

Another special aspect of the movie is the music, a mixture of classical pieces and compositions by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. Henreid's cello performances were dubbed by Eleanor Slatkin. Monika Henreid revealed that since her father couldn't mimick the more complicated movements accurately enough, a special coat was designed which hid a player sitting behind her father; you see Paul Henreid, but it's someone else's arms playing the cello!

Davis and Henreid believably convey their characters' longing for one another, especially in the early and closing scenes, and Rains is entertaining, with his biting line deliveries.

Ultimately, though, the movie goes on far too long; it's a relief when there's finally some action near the end of the movie, although I found the staging a bit hokey. And then...the characters talk some more!

The movie was directed by Irving Rapper. One of the interesting things that Monika said was that while Rapper was the director, in reality Davis and Henreid were experienced professionals who were essentially directing their own performances. They worked out their characters together, invented bits of business, and so on. (She also shared that it was her father who created the signature cigarette lighting moment in NOW VOYAGER, based on a suggestion by her mother.) She said that Davis was a close friend of her father's and was at their home frequently so she would hear stories about their work.

It was quite enjoyable hearing Monika's stories, and the love and respect she clearly feels for her father came through in her comments. She is working on a documentary on him which has an official Facebook page. Monika is also on Twitter at MEHenreid.

At the right, Monika is greeted before the film by the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode and getTV's Kimberly Truhler.

The supporting cast includes Benson Fong and John Abbott. Music students in the opening scenes included Richard Erdman, Patricia Barry, and Jane Harker. Bess Flowers once again turns up in an evening gown, as a guest at Christine and Karel's wedding reception.

DECEPTION was filmed in lovely black and white by Ernest Haller.

DECEPTION is available on DVD and VHS. It can be streamed via Amazon Instant Video. (May 2020 Update: This film is being reissued on DVD-R by the Warner Archive.)

We needed an early night and had to leave before the second film of the evening, HOLLOW TRIUMPH (1948). I reviewed that entertaining movie after seeing it at UCLA in 2014, and I recommend it.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Key Witness (1947) at the Noir City Film Festival

The "B" half of Friday's double bill at the Noir City Film Festival, following DEAD RECKONING (1947), was KEY WITNESS (1947).

You just never know what interesting things will turn up at Noir City, and KEY WITNESS was 67 minutes of goofball plot craziness. The constantly surprising plot twists at times elicited laughter, yet the movie was so entertaining that the audience applauded enthusiastically as the movie ended.

Milton Higby (John Beal) works as a draftsman but is a would-be inventor on the side, creating unique clocks and light switches. His wife Martha (Barbara Read, whose name was spelled Reed in the credits) despairs of his career ever amounting to much.

When Martha goes out of town, Milton goes to the racetrack with friends and wins a large sum of money. Unfortunately, while Milton is passed out after celebrating, a girl he'd just met (Helen Mowery) is shot and killed.

Milton doesn't stick around to clear his name but hits the road. Eventually he comes across another murder victim and takes his identity, as the long-lost son of a wealthy man. Milton and his new "father" even have success with his inventions, but eventually they lead to his true identity being uncovered.

Reunited with Martha, Milton is quickly, miraculously cleared of the murder...but then he's accused of murdering the man he's been impersonating, and he's sentenced to die.

All this and more in 67 minutes! I was fairly tired by the time this movie unspooled late in the evening, and it was definitely an interesting movie to watch through a slightly drowsy haze, which made an unreal plot seem even crazier.

The cast included Trudy Marshall, mother of actress Deborah Raffin, plus Jimmy Lloyd, Wilton Graff, William Newell, Selmer Jackson, Arthur Space, Victoria Horne, Pat O'Malley, and Douglas Fowley.

KEY WITNESS was directed by D. Ross Lederman and filmed in black and white by Philip Tannura.

KEY WITNESS was screened in a beautiful 35mm print.

This movie is available on DVD-R.

Tonight's Movie: Dead Reckoning (1947) at the Noir City Film Festival

The Friday night double bill at the Noir City Film Festival consisted of a pair of films from 1947. DEAD RECKONING (1947), an "A" film starring Humphrey Bogart, was paired with the programmer KEY WITNESS (1947).

Somehow I had never before caught up with DEAD RECKONING, and it was especially fun to see it for the first time with an appreciative audience which applauded the first appearance of noir icon Lizabeth Scott.

Bogart plays Captain Rip Murdock. Rip is traveling with his best pal, Sgt. Johnny Drake (William Prince), to attend a ceremony at which Johnny will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. However, when Johnny learns of the impending honor, he disappears and later turns up dead.

The grieving Rip investigates and learns that before the war, Johnny had been involved in a messy love triangle; after the husband of Coral (Scott) turned up dead, Johnny fled and enlisted under a false name.

As Rip investigates the death of Coral's husband, he begins to fall for her himself...

DEAD RECKONING is an engrossing 100 minutes with plenty of great noir moments. The plot, which also involves a mobster type (Morris Carnovsky) and his creepy goon (Marvin Miller), is fairly involved and twisty but easy to follow.

The movie kept me guessing to the end as to whether Coral was a heroine or femme fatale, although with Scott's noir track record perhaps I should have guessed sooner.

A highlight was the appearance of Wallace Ford as a safecracker and explosives expert; Ford was also seen during the festival in FLESH AND FURY (1952). This leads to a rather unique climactic confrontation with Bogart throwing hand grenades at the mobsters!

Bogart, of course, is perfect, and he's well matched by Scott. I find there's always a certain weirdness to Scott's performances, yet that usually works for her characters. Despite those who assert that the sultry Scott was emulating Lauren Bacall in this, I find Scott is a one-of-a-kind screen presence. (P.S. That woman had amazing hair!)

Scott's song in a nightclub was dubbed by Trudy Stevens, who also dubbed the actress in I WALK ALONE (1948) and DARK CITY (1950).

The cast also included Charles Kincaid, James Bell, George Chandler, and William Forrest, plus Ray Teal in a small role. Busy dress extra Bess Flowers is a nightclub patron in this. It seems like she must have shown up in at least half of the films shown in the festival!

DEAD RECKONING was directed by John Cromwell. It was filmed in black and white by Leo Tover.

DEAD RECKONING is available on DVD. It also had a release on VHS in the Columbia Classics line.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Young Man With a Horn (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

A "jazz noir" double feature at the Noir City Film Festival Wednesday night kicked off with Frank Sinatra in MEET DANNY WILSON (1951).

That most entertaining film was followed by a 35mm print of YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950), starring Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, and Lauren Bacall, directed by Michael Curtiz.

I had very mixed feelings about YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN. I felt half of it was terrific, and half of it was...not.

Lonely young Rick Martin (Orley Lindgren) falls in love with jazz. He's taken under the wing and taught to play a trumpet by one of the top musicians in the business, Art Hazzard (Juano Hernandez); as Rick becomes an adult (Kirk Douglas), he begins to see career success, working with people like band singer Jo Jordan (Day) and a pianist named Smoke (Hoagy Carmichael).

Rick's star is rising, but then he marries the Wrong Woman (Lauren Bacall), and the failure of his marriage and the death of his mentor lead to a breakdown.

The first half of the movie was powerful stuff, with a depiction of the jazz world which felt authentic. The power of music to cross the racial divide in that era, with a black musician becoming a father figure to a young white boy, was marvelous. Art and Rick's relationship was touching without being cloying.

Doris Day can never do any wrong as far as I'm concerned, and she's tops as Jo. It just doesn't get any better than Doris singing one of my favorite songs, "With a Song in My Heart," accompanied by Harry James (dubbing Douglas). Sheer magic. Unfortunately, though, Day was woefully underused in the film.

The movie also has a superb performance by the great character actor Juano Hernandez, one of a string of wonderful roles in films such as STARS IN MY CROWN (1950) and TRIAL (1955). There's also the always-excellent Hoagy Carmichael, a terrific actor as well as musician; his filmography is short but choice. The reliable Jerome Cowan has a brief but effective turn as an orchestra leader who gives Rick one of his big breaks.

Unfortunately, the movie falls apart with the entrance of Lauren Bacall as Amy, a strange friend of Day's who ends up in a relationship with Rick. I like Bacall just fine in other films, but here her arch performance as a rude, disturbed woman has an air of unreality to it which contrasts starkly with what has led to that point in the movie, nor is she done any favors by a script which has her do oddball things like invite Rick in for a drink, then abruptly go to bed, telling him to turn out the lights on his way out the door. There are some curious overtones about her feelings for another woman thrown in for good measure, but her character is never really explored or explained.

At this stage of the movie it descends into Melodrama with a capital "M." I'm not a Douglas fan but he'd done a fine, understated job for much of the movie. Once he starts staggering through the streets it was all just a little much for me; it felt silly rather than sincere, and the film wore out its welcome as it tried a little too obviously to be dramatic and "important."

All in all, I was left feeling there's a part of a superb film in this movie; if only some sections could have been scripted and edited differently.

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN was filmed in black and white by Ted McCord. It runs 112 minutes. The supporting cast includes Nestor Paiva, Mary Beth Hughes, and Walter Reed. Dress extra Bess Flowers, who also appeared in MEET DANNY WILSON, was in this one too!

YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN is available on DVD as a single title or as part of a multifilm Kirk Douglas set. It also had a release on VHS. May 2017 Update: YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN has been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

It can be streamed via Amazon Instant Video.

2020 Update: This movie will be released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive in December 2020.

Tonight's Movie: Meet Danny Wilson (1951) at the Noir City Film Festival

Wednesday night at the Noir City Film Festival was a "jazz noir" double feature.

The evening kicked off with MEET DANNY WILSON (1951), starring Frank Sinatra, followed by Kirk Douglas, Doris Day, and Lauren Bacall in YOUNG MAN WITH A HORN (1950).

Although MEET DANNY WILSON is generally considered the lesser of the evening's movies, I thoroughly enjoyed it; in fact, for me it was the highlight of the evening, thanks to the melding of film noir with Sinatra singing many great standards.

Singer Danny Wilson (Sinatra) and his pianist, Mike Francis (Alex Nicol), lifelong best friends, get a big break when they meet Joy Carroll (Shelley Winters). She introduces them to her boss Nick (Raymond Burr), owner of the nightclub where she works, and he hires them -- but insists that he receive half of all their future earnings. When Danny catches on as a singer, half of their earnings will turn out to be quite a lot of money.

Incidentally, there's no contract -- Nick says one isn't needed because if they don't follow through, he has "friends" who will enforce the agreement. Danny and Mike, being starving musicians, accept the deal.

There is also friction between Nick, Danny, and Mike where Joy is concerned; Nick considers Joy "his," while Danny loves Joy...but Joy loves Mike, who nobly tries to step out of his friend Danny's way but ultimately can't resist Joy when she tells him she loves him. Oh, what a tangled web...

This was the last Sinatra film released before his career resurgence thanks to his Oscar-winning performance in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY (1953). He was always a fine actor, and he's right on target here as a man who's equal doses cocky and sympathetic, and loaded with enormous talent. It's a great pleasure to hear him in top voice singing so many wonderful songs, including one of my all-time favorites, "How Deep is the Ocean?"

Nicol has usually struck me as on the wooden side, save for a fearless performance in Anthony Mann's THE MAN FROM LARAMIE (1955) a few years later. Here he's once again fairly bland but acceptable as the less colorful half of the musical duo.

I'll never be a Shelley Winters fan, but this is about as appealing as she gets on screen, mercifully abandoning her frequent whiny mode for someone who is pleasant and sensible. It was especially nice to see her in this role after seeing her in a more typical Winters role last weekend in TAKE ONE FALSE STEP (1949).

As the Film Noir Foundation's Alan Rode noted, this film is "noir tinged" chiefly thanks to the menacing performance by Raymond Burr as the villain of the piece. He's terrific, as always.

Unexpected cameos by Jeff Chandler and Tony Curtis added some fun. The cast also included Vaughn Taylor, Donald MacBride, Tommy Farrell, and Barbara Knudson. Classic film fans who like to play the "Spot Bess Flowers" game will find her in an evening gown at Danny's party.

MEET DANNY WILSON was directed by Joseph Pevney, who also directed FLESH AND FURY (1952), seen the previous evening. The movie was filmed in black and white by Maury Gertsman. It runs 88 minutes.

MEET DANNY WILSON had a release on VHS. It's never had a U.S. release on DVD.

Sinatra fans who've not seen this lesser-known Universal Pictures film should watch for it, as it's quite enjoyable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Outside the Wall (1950) at the Noir City Film Festival

Tuesday evening's double bill at the Noir City Film Festival teamed two rarely seen films from Universal Pictures, FLESH AND FURY (1952) and OUTSIDE THE WALL (1950).

Both films were screened in brand-new 35mm prints.

OUTSIDE THE WALL was the lesser of the two movies, yet it was still highly enjoyable, thanks to a good cast in an interesting, fast-paced story.

Richard Basehart plays Larry Nelson, pardoned after spending 15 years in a Philadelphia prison for an accidental death he caused as a teenager. Soured on big city life by his initial experiences outside the prison walls, Larry uses his prison experience as a medical assistant to obtain a job at a country sanitarium.

Larry has no interest in doing anything which would land him back in prison, although a mercenary blonde nurse named Charlotte (Marilyn Maxwell) causes him to want some quick money so he can attract her interest. Another nurse, Ann (Dorothy Hart, seen last weekend in TAKE ONE FALSE STEP), proves herself a true friend to Larry, and he even opens up to her about his past.

Larry has unexpected new problems when a deathly ill crook, Jack Bernard (John Hoyt), becomes a patient at the sanitarium. Bernard had recently stolen a large sum of money, and a gang of crooks including Garth (Harry Morgan) want to know where it's been stashed. Garth will stoop to some pretty unpleasant techniques in order to find out what he wants to know.

I really enjoyed this film, not least because it wasn't always predictable. Except for one brief moment of succumbing to temptation, Larry has a pretty tough spine and sticks to his plan to live his life without fear of returning behind bars. With his prison background, he's also deceptively cunning and strong, easily fighting his way out of a jam more than once.

It had only been five years since Maxwell sparkled as Ruth in MGM's BETWEEN TWO WOMEN (1945), but the 29-year-old actress looks a bit worse for the wear here, and the impression isn't helped by her unpleasant character. She stands in stark contrast to lovely Dorothy Hart, who's very appealing in this film. What a treat to see Hart in not one but two movies in the Noir City festival!

This was one of the last films in which Joseph Pevney acted; he plays an obnoxious orderly. Pevney appeared in several film noir titles, most notably appearing as Jack Oakie's trucking partner in THIEVES' HIGHWAY (1949). He began directing the same year OUTSIDE THE WALL was released; his credits included the first film of the night, FLESH AND FURY (1952). He also directed a film showing Wednesday night, MEET DANNY WILSON (1951).

The cast also includes Signe Hasso, Mickey Knox, and Lloyd Gough.

Don't blink when Larry and Ann visit a roadhouse; it registered with me that the waitress was Peggie Castle right about the time she exited the picture!

OUTSIDE THE WALL runs a crisp 80 minutes. It was written and directed by Crane Wilbur and filmed in black and white by Irving Glassberg.

This would make a great double bill paired with another film about an ex-con, TOMORROW IS ANOTHER DAY (1951).

OUTSIDE THE WALL is not available on DVD. As with other films seen in the festival, we'll hope for a future release.

Update: It took a few years after this review, but here's some great news: OUTSIDE THE WALL will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in April 2023 as part of the Dark Side of Cinema XII Collection.

Update: My review of the Blu-ray is here.

Tonight's Movie: Flesh and Fury (1952) at the Noir City Film Festival

The double bill of FLESH AND FURY (1952) and OUTSIDE THE WALL (1950) was a late addition to my Noir City Film Festival plans, and I'm so glad I made the effort! These films combined for a highly entertaining night at the movies.

A significant number of the films shown at this year's Noir City Festival are brand-new 35mm prints just struck by Universal, including this pair of titles. Neither FLESH AND FURY or OUTSIDE THE WALL are available on DVD. Kudos to Universal for their willingness to support the festival by providing new copies of so many interesting yet rarely shown films.

It was kind of funny that earlier in the festival I saw a film titled FLESH AND FANTASY (1943) and then saw the similarly titled FLESH AND FURY tonight! However, any resemblance between the films ends at the titles. While FLESH AND FANTASY was otherworldly, FLESH AND FURY was a very earthbound tale about a deaf boxer.

Tony Curtis was just climbing his way into bigtime stardom when he played the lead in FLESH AND FURY. He's excellent -- and, it must be admitted, very handsome -- as Paul Callan, a deaf boxer on the way up.

Jan Sterling plays Sonya, whose love for boxing is a tad on the unusual side, as she has a tendency to frequently jump up and scream "KILL HIM!" She latches on to the innocent Paul, seeing him as a potential meal ticket.

As Paul achieves increasing success, Sonya's access to Paul and his checkbook is disrupted when he gets to know Ann (Mona Freeman), a magazine reporter who writes a feature on him. Unlike Sonya, who calls Paul a "dummy," Ann is comfortable with Paul's lack of hearing, due to her father having been deaf; she even knows sign language, and she urges Paul to overcome his embarrassment at signing and use it.

Paul secretly has surgery to restore hearing to one of his ears, but finds that the surgery brings new, unexpected issues and insecurities he must deal with, including whether to take part in a medically risky championship fight.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable film with a terrific cast. My only quibble with the movie was that I was skeptical about the surgery restoring hearing. This 83-minute film was a great watch from start to finish.

Curtis does a great job, believably portraying a deaf man; he's both appealing and sympathetic. It's small wonder that he became such a big star.

Sterling and Freeman's characters are stark opposites. Sterling's character initially seems as though she might be an okay gal, as at least she's up front about the fact that Paul needs to have money before he can take her on a date; however, she gradually peels back the layers revealing a grasping, mercenary woman willing to lash out and make fun of Paul when she's thwarted. In contrast, Freeman is the all-American girl, albeit with more money than average, sunny and encouraging.

Wallace Ford plays Paul's trainer, with Connie Gilchrist as his wife. One of my faves, Louis Jean Heydt, plays a trainer for a competing boxer who has a reputation for fighting unfairly; Heydt has such a great "character" face and really stood out in his scenes. The deep cast includes Harry Guardino, Katherine Locke, Harry Shannon, Nella Walker, and Tom Powers.

FLESH AND FURY was directed by Joseph Pevney -- who appeared on camera acting in the night's second film, OUTSIDE THE WALL.

The excellent black and white cinematography was by Irving Glassberg. I especially loved the trails of cigar and cigarette smoke creating a haze around the boxing ring. From a modern perspective, the idea of such vigorous sports activity taking place amidst all that secondhand smoke is hard to fathom.

This film is available in Europe on a Region 2 DVD. Hopefully at some point in the future it will be available in the U.S. on Region 1 DVD so that more people can see it.

Discovering new-to-me movies like FLESH AND FURY is one of the reasons I love the Noir City Film Festival!

2022 Update: FLESH AND FURY will be released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber in October 2022.

2023 Update: Here is my review of the FLESH AND FURY Blu-ray release.

Weekend Fun: Petersen Automotive Museum and Milk Jar Cookies

Last Friday was the opening of the Noir City Film Festival, and my husband and I took the afternoon off work to enjoy some time in the L.A. area.

We began by having lunch with a family member in the Universal Studios employee commissary. As a big Deanna Durbin fan, I love that Deanna is featured in one of the handful of posters decorating the commissary walls; given the fact the studio might not exist today without the financial success of Deanna's films, it seems entirely fitting that she's honored in this way!

We next headed for Wilshire Boulevard and the Petersen Automotive Museum, which had been substantially remodeled since my husband's last visit years ago.

The museum made for a pleasant walk of 90 minutes or so, though we both found it top-heavy with Italian cars. I've only been to one other auto museum, the National Automobile Museum in Reno, which I thought had more interesting American-made cars.

Here are a couple of shots, starting with the Batmobile from Michael Keaton's BATMAN (1989):

I found this RKO camera car especially interesting:

There was no shortage of colorful, attractive cars to look at!

After the museum we drove a few blocks to Milk Jar Cookies, a three-year-old bakery which was recently recommended by a friend.

This shop is an absolutely charming place to visit, as these photos convey:

They even serve whole milk from Broguiere's Dairy with the cookies, in cute little bottles. Some of the cookies may look rather "plain" on the outside, but on the inside, oh boy! They are so dense and rich that I couldn't finish even one in a sitting.

We also took a couple home with us, and I especially liked the birthday cookie, a sprinkle-covered confection with a vanilla cake batter flavor (birthday cookie photo below is from the Milk Jar Cookies website):

Milk Jar Cookies is a highly recommended stop!

Newer›  ‹Older