Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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.


Blogger dfordoom said...

I quite like Sinatra so I'd certainly see this one if I got the chance.

9:37 PM  
Blogger mel said...

Meet Danny Wilson has been one of my favorite Sinatra movies ever since I first saw it many years ago (I've watched it countless times since then), and I think much more of it than do most of the critics.

Thanks for your take on it, Laura - it pretty much fits mine.

I can't believe that there hasn't been a DVD release in the US.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

dfordoom, if you like Sinatra I feel pretty sure you'll enjoy it!

Mel, very interested to learn that you like this one too. Most enjoyable movie I'd like to watch again in the future. Wonder if that DVD will ever come out?! It's especially surprising given how much of Sinatra's other work is available.

Best wishes,

11:53 PM  

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