Thursday, May 23, 2019

Tonight's Movie: The Scarlet Hour (1956) at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival

On Friday afternoon at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival I saw the first of four new-to-me films that weekend, THE SCARLET HOUR (1956).

THE SCARLET HOUR is a relatively obscure crime film directed by Michael Curtiz. I had missed the opportunity to see it last year at the Noir City Hollywood Festival, so I was quite happy to see a restored 35mm print turn up on the schedule for the Arthur Lyons Fest.

The movie proved to be a very entertaining 95 minutes. A classic film fan could have a good time just watching all the great character faces who parade across the screen, but the twisty story is quite enjoyable as well.

The film opens with Pauline (Carol Ohmart) and Marsh (Tom Tryon) parked behind some bushes, having a secret tryst. They're sneaking around as Pauline is married to a very jealous man (James Gregory) -- who is also Marsh's employer!

A couple cars pull up on the nearby road, and the lovers stay hidden in order to avoid detection. To their surprise, Pauline and Marsh overhear plans made to rob a fortune in jewels from a nearby mansion when the owners are on vacation.

Pauline gets the idea that if she and Marsh crash the robbery and take the jewels themselves, she'll be able to leave her wealthy husband and run away with Marsh. Of course, these things never quite work out as say more would be to spoil some surprises, so let's just say it's quite enjoyable to watch unfold.

Ohmart is effective playing an elegant woman with ice water in her veins; she married her husband for his money, then lures Tryon into a steamy affair -- and worse. Tryon similarly works well as the pretty boy dupe, but for my money it's the supporting cast which makes the movie extra-enjoyable, starting with the dependable James Gregory (NIGHTFALL, THE BIG CAPER) as Pauline's suspicious husband.

Elaine Stritch lights up the screen as Pauline's old pal who unknowingly provides an alibi on the night of the robbery. E.G. Marshall and Edward Binns are the cops on the case, and I was particularly delighted to discover David Lewis as one of the men plotting the robbery. Viewers who watched GENERAL HOSPITAL in its '70s-'90s heyday will fondly recall Lewis for his Emmy-winning role as wealthy Edward Quartermaine.

Jody Lawrance is excellent as a secretary carrying a torch for Marsh, and the cast also includes Jacques Aubuchon, Benson Fong, and Almira Sessions. Familiar TV faces Richard Deacon (Mel on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW) and Joe Conley (Ike Godsey on THE WALTONS) turn up too -- and best of all, Nat King Cole makes an appearance entertaining at a nightclub!

Everyone's favorite "dress extra," Bess Flowers, is standing behind Ohmart in the nightclub scene -- this wasn't in her IMDb credits but I was able to add her to the listing.

THE SCARLET HOUR was filmed in black and white by Lionel Lindon.

For a little more on THE SCARLET HOUR, here's a short 2012 review by Steve at Mystery File.

THE SCARLET HOUR is not available on DVD or Blu-ray. I'd enjoy seeing it again and hope the movie will find a wider audience, so here's hoping that the restored print will make it to home viewing formats in the future.


Blogger KC said...

I love that you added Flowers to the IMdB! I caught this at Noir City and enjoyed it, but I didn't like how Ohmart ended up whimpering instead of having a more explosive ending befitting her character.

2:12 PM  

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