Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Appointment With Danger (1951) at the Noir City Film Festival

Last Saturday night was a marvelous evening at the 21st Annual Noir City Film Festival.

The night consisted of a double bill of APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER (1951) and SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950), both shown in 35mm.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER stars Alan Ladd, who happily has been a mainstay at Noir City over the last few years. Ladd films I've seen at the festival are THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942), THE GREAT GATSBY (1949), CALCUTTA (1947), THE BLUE DAHLIA (1946), and CHICAGO DEADLINE (1949).

(What's more, next month at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival I'll get to see THE GLASS KEY (1942) on the screen for the first time, along with revisiting CALCUTTA!)

In APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER Ladd plays U.S. postal inspector Al Goddard, who travels to Gary, Indiana, to investigate the murder of a colleague. The black and white location cinematography by John F. Seitz in Indiana and Illinois is just one of the film's pleasures.

The sole witness to the aftermath of the murder is a nun (Phyllis Calvert, THE MAN IN GREY). Cynical Al is constantly baffled by Sister Augustine's outlook and honesty as he works to keep her alive, but eventually it seems she might just be having some influence on his attitudes...

Al works to infiltrate the gang, played by Paul Stewart, Jack Webb, and Harry Morgan. It's rather delicious seeing future DRAGNET costars Webb and Morgan as heavies. The year before APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER they also each had a supporting role in DARK CITY (1950).

The supporting cast includes Jan Sterling as a music-loving gangster's moll, who has some great lines. Also in the film: Geraldine Wall, Harry Antrim, and David Wolfe.

In addition to interesting location filming and set pieces -- I loved a scene on a handball court -- the movie has a very good script, by Richard Breen and Warren Duff. Few were better than Ladd at delivering verbal zingers. He's terrific in a nuanced performance, starting out all sharp edges as the tenacious investigator but gradually softening thanks to his dealings with the good sister.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER runs 90 minutes. It was directed by Lewis Allen (THE UNINVITED, DESERT FURY). The musical score was by Victor Young.

For more on APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER, please visit a review by David Vineyard at Mystery File and another by "The Professor" at Noir of the Week. They admire the film, as I did.

APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER has been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Olive Films.

The second film of the night was the excellent SHADOW ON THE WALL (1950), which I reviewed on DVD in 2016. I also reviewed a TCM showing back in 2010.

It was a real treat to have SHADOW ON THE WALL introduced by former child actress Gigi Perreau. Eddie Muller spoke with Gigi about her career and at one point said it might be the most upbeat interview ever at a Noir City Festival.

Perreau was very appreciative of her experiences and the opportunity to work with many talented people. On SHADOW ON THE WALL she said she remembers liking director Pat Jackson's British accent, and she felt he trusted her acting ability, telling her to follow her instincts for a big scene.

She admired the cowboy boots Zachary Scott constantly wore, and near the end of the film he traced her feet onto paper and told her she'd be getting a surprise in a few weeks. She later received her own custom-made cowboy boots as a gift from him. She said he and Ann Sothern were wonderful to work with, and she remembered playing with Ann Sothern's little girl (who would have been Tisha Sterling).

She adored Nancy Davis (Reagan) and had fond memories of skipping with her to the commissary singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." It was the start of a lifelong friendship which eventually led to her visiting Nancy in the White House.

She also briefly discussed her trip to England for last year's royal wedding, where she watched the carriage procession. Perreau had been Meghan Markle's high school drama teacher and said Meghan was a wonderful girl. She also was highly complimentary of Meghan's father, saying he'd been a great help with technical support for their productions; she clearly felt he has been treated unfairly by the press.

It was great to hear from a former child actress who had such positive things to say about her career. Gigi clearly felt blessed by her unusual life experiences.

It was a terrific evening, with several more great nights still to come!

Update: The interview with Gigi Perreau is now available in two parts at the Film Noir Foundation website.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

Thanks for bringing us along to the Festival.

The first time I saw Appointment With Danger I was a 12-year-old fan of Dragnet (1967). You can imagine the thoughts that went through my head! I enjoy that sturdy noir tale and believe it is somewhere among my DVD collection. You have firmed up plans for the predicted rainy Friday.

6:29 AM  
Blogger Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I really enjoyed Appointment with Danger too! My favorite Ladd roles tend to be the ones where he starts out utterly convinced that he's totally hard-boiled and then gradually realizes that nope, he's got a soft heart he'd forgotten about. And this is one of those :-) Enjoyed your thoughts on it! And, as always, am envious that you got to see it on the big screen. Closest I've come to seeing one of his films in the theater is the little smidgen of Shane that's included in Logan. One day...

1:16 PM  
Blogger Jerry Entract said...

I have the impression that Alan Ladd has been viewed unfairly in recent years with much made of the rather fast ageing of his appearance. Happily, at LMM, no such negativity about Ladd is to be found.

I like "APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER" but I am envious of your being able to see it in 35mm print on the big screen, Laura.

Thanks also for the delightful additional thoughts on the appearance of Gigi Perreau and her interesting snippets of information.

2:38 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

So glad to know this was enjoyed! Thank you all.

Caftan Woman, it's definitely odd watching "Friday and Gannon" so creepy in this!

Hamlette, hope you get that big screen chance sooner rather than later!

Jerry, in his introduction Eddie Muller was musing about how Ladd was such a huge box office star yet today isn't as well known as some other big actors of the era. I really love him and am happy that so many of his films turn up at the film noir festivals I attend!

Best wishes,

7:09 PM  

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