Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Tonight's Movie: Flamingo Road (1949) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

Last month's 2018 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival concluded on Sunday, May 13th, with one of my favorite films of the festival, FLAMINGO ROAD (1949).

It was my first time to see this terrific Joan Crawford melodrama, with Michael Curtiz directing a superb cast in a highly entertaining 94-minute film.

Crawford plays Lane Bellamy, a carny dancer who tires of being chased out of towns along with the carnival. Marooned in a small town and ready for a new life, she's helped by Deputy Sheriff Fielding Carlisle (Zachary Scott), who helps her get a waitress job at a diner run by Pete (Tito Vuolo).

Lane and Fielding fall for one another, which doesn't sit well with town political boss Sheriff Titus Semple (Sydney Greenstreet), who wants his deputy and political protege to marry wealthy and ladylike Annabelle Weldon (Virginia Huston, OUT OF THE PAST).

Semple tries to drive Lane out of town, getting her fired and also arrested on a trumped-up charge, but Lane is befriended by roadhouse owner Lute Mae (Gladys George), who gives her a new job. No matter how hard Semple pushes, Lane refuses to back down.

Lane is heartbroken when Fielding throws her over and marries Annabelle, but she doesn't know how good she has it, in more ways than one: The weak Fielding dissolves into an alcoholic mess, and Lane soon meets another powerful political boss, Dan Reynolds (David Brian), who truly loves her -- and who has the gumption to stand up to Semple.

Crawford is beautiful and sympathetic as the woman who won't let evil Sheriff Semple push her around, and I was pleasantly surprised by David Brian in a strong role; initially it's unclear whether Dan will be friend or foe, but as the story unfolds, Dan's star rises while Fielding's crashes to the ground. Fielding is a perfect role for Scott, initially charming but a mess underneath.

The cast is filled with an abundance of great faces in even the smallest roles, including Fred Clark, Dale Robertson, Alice White, Frank Cady, Sam McDaniel, John Gallaudet, Iris Adrian, Gertrude Michael, and Tristram Coffin.

It's just plain fun to watch this cast in a steamy Southern soap opera. It has a great sense of mood and place, paired with a fast-moving story. Among the excellent cast, the milk-guzzling Greenstreet is particularly unforgettable; sadly, 1949 was his final year in films. He passed on in 1954.

FLAMINGO ROAD was filmed in black and white by Ted McCord. The score was by Max Steiner.

Over the years most of the prints I've seen at the Arthur Lyons Festival have been excellent, including many restored prints; however, as I mentioned in my overview of this day at the festival, the Library of Congress print was dark and broke once, but was successfully repaired. Despite these hindrances I still thoroughly enjoyed the movie, and I hope to see it again one day via the nitrate print UCLA screened last February.

Although I hadn't caught up with it before this festival viewing, I own FLAMINGO ROAD on DVD in the Joan Crawford Collection, Vol. 2. (I picked the set up for a crazy low price on iOffer a few years ago.) It's also been reissued on DVD by the Warner Archive.

I found FLAMINGO ROAD to be a thoroughly good time at the movies. Recommended.

2023 Update: FLAMINGO ROAD is now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive Collection.  My review of the Blu-ray may be read here.


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

I love that film. Like you I was very pleasantly surprised with David Brian. The only silly scene was in the beginning, Joan dancing in that Arabian Nights outfit. She was way too old for that. After that the movie takes off.

12:03 PM  
Blogger barrylane said...

A forty five year old woman with good legs giving off an available vibe seems to make perfect sense from the get go.

4:25 PM  
Blogger Margot Shelby said...

To each his own, Barry. :)

4:11 PM  
Blogger Walter S. said...

Laura, FLAMINGO ROAD is another fun Warner Bros. movie from the 1940's and you can't get any better than that. Good source material from Robert Wilder's 1942 novel and he and wife Sally's 1946 play. Joan Crawford and Sydney Greenstreet commanded the screen, as they always did. Joan could muster up intensity on the screen and Sydney was at his slimy evil best. I agree with you and Margot about David Brian. Check out his performance as the defense attorney in INTRUDER IN THE DUST(1949).

Yes, Margot, it was somewhat corny for Joan to be playing a carnival hootchy-kootchy dancer, but she gave it her all and in fine form.

6:24 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to all for the comments!

I agree with all of the above about Crawford, actually -- on the one hand I felt that Crawford (though good-looking) was too "mature in years" to be doing that kind of dancing, but I decided that it helped her character's desperation to change her life and do something different make sense, that it was way past time she left that life!

Walter, that's great info on the original novel and play. That might be a fun book to check out. And I'm so glad that others enjoyed David Brian as much as I did. I tend to think of him as rather bland and will now be giving him a fresh look, since he was so good in this. Many thanks for the recommendation of INTRUDER IN THE DUST, Walter. That one played at TCMFF with Claude Jarman Jr. in attendance but was one of many screenings I had to reluctantly pass up due to the embarrassment of riches available from which to choose!

Best wishes,

4:19 PM  

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