Posts Tagged ‘1940’s film noir’


Saturday, June 15th, 2013


Tagline – The raw, savage, sceen-searing story of the treasury’s tough guys!

Starring – Dennis O’Keefe (Dennis O’Brien), Mary Meade (Evangeline), Alfred Ryder (Tony Genaro), Wallace Ford (The Schemer), June Lockhart (Mary Genaro), Charles McGraw (Moxie).

Released – December, 1947

Directed By – Anthony Mann

Produced By – Edward Small Productions, Pathe Industries

Distributed By – Eagle-Lion Films

Description – The U. S. Treasury Department finally has an opportunity to get their hands on a sample of the paper being used in a large counterfeiting operation. The paper is good… very good, and would prove invaluable to the department’s investigation.

A Los Angeles informant had promised to turn the sample over to a Treasury agent, but before this could take place the informant is killed. Back to square one.

It’s now time for desperate measures and the Treasury Department decides to assign two of its agents to go undercover. The agents, Dennis O’Brien and Tony Genaro, under the assumed names of Harrigan and Galvani, will infiltrate the gang through connections in Detroit.

With the assistance of the Detroit police the agents now have a phony background to go along with their undercover identities. The pair approach local crime boss Carlo Vantucci looking for work. After Vantucci checks them out he hires the men to work in his counterfeit liquor stamps racket. It isn’t long before they learn of the mob’s Los Angeles connection, a man known as The Schemer.

With his new identity, agent O’Brien returns to Los Angeles to find The Schemer. O’Brien locates his man in a bath house and follows him back to a hotel where they both join an illegal dice game. O’Brien uses a phony bill in the game that immediately gets the attention of The Schemer who makes a deal with O’Brien to provide him with a higher quality paper in exchange for his two counterfeit plates.

The first half of the deal takes place with The Schemer providing some of the quality conterfeit paper to O’Brien. However, O’Brien will not turn over the other plate until he gets to meet the boss. Now, O’Brien and Genaro plan to set up The Schemer and his boss Shiv Triano.

Everything is looking good until Genaro and The Schemer are shopping in the Farmer’s Market. While there, Tony is recognized by a friend of his wife. He tells her, in front of The Schemer, that she is mistaken, but the incident makes The Schemer suspicious.

The boss arrives from China along with his second in command Diana Simpson. Diana lacks confidence in The Schemer and considers him a threat to their operation. She orders Schemer to be killed. Before his murder he tells Diana’s henchman Moxie that, on numerous occasions, Tony has tried to call San Francisco.

This information makes Tony very suspicious to Diana and Triano. Tony’s murder is next, as he is shot right in front of his partner, Dennis O’Brien. Once again the whole investigation is threatened and O’Brien may be next in line to die.

NOTABLE: T-Men received one Oscar nomination for Best Sound, Recording.

The motion picture was shot in semi-documentary style and is reportedly based on several actual Department of Treasury cases.


Body and Soul

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Body and Soul [Blu-ray]

Tagline – The story of a guy that women go for!

Starring – John Garfield (Charlie Davis), Lilli Palmer (Peg Born), Hazel Brooks (Alice), Anne Revere (Anna Davis), William Conrad (Quinn).

Released – November, 1947

Directed By – Robert Rossen

Produced By – Enterprise Productions

Distributed By – United Artists

Description – For middleweight boxing champion Charlie Davis, fighting his way out of the slums was the easy part.

Charlie starts boxing as a kid and he’s pretty good at it. Nothing is easy in Charlie’s neighborhood and making matters worse is tragedy. Charlie’s father is hard-working and dirt poor. He runs a family candy store and becomes the victim of a gangland bombing when a local mobster bombs a speakeasy located next to the store.

Against his mother’s wishes, Charlie decides to become a paid prize fighter. With his best friend “Shorty,” acting as his manager, and small-time fight trainer Quinn in his corner, Charlie works his way up to a title shot.

Charlie’s quick rise has been noticed by a crooked promoter named Roberts who buys his rights and assumes control of his career. It just so happens that Roberts also owns the contract of the current champion and he has his own plans for Charlie.

This new arrangement, and it’s associations with the mob, have an immediate impact on Charlie’s personal life. Charlie has just gotten engaged to girlfriend Peg Born, but his new future prospects, and the promises of Roberts, cause him to cancel the wedding. Peg leaves him, and his mother, now penniless, disowns him. Charlie’s decent is off to a quick start.

But, Charlie is blind to the pain he has caused and has only one thing is sight… to become champion. He believes that as champ he will be able to fix anything that has gone wrong.

Roberts sets Charlie up with a swanky apartment and plenty in cash advances. Charlie falls deeper and deeper into what will be an eventual setup while Roberts gains greater control over him.

Charlie does win the title causing severe injury to the then champ. Best friend Shorty, who has been with Charlie since the beginning, has finally had enough of the whole mob connected and controlled business and ends up both fired… and dead.

The stage is set. Now, Charlie is the champ and there is another up-and-coming fighter looking for his title. Roberts is holding the reins and orders Charlie to throw the fight for a cool $60,000.

NOTABLE: Body and Soul won the Oscar for Best Film Editing, and received nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role (John Garfield), and Best Writing, Original Screenplay.

The innovative camera work in the boxing ring was shot by cinematographer James Wong Howe, who was hand-picked by Garfield for the film. Howe held the camera while on roller skates being pushed around the ring by an assistant.

Many in the cast and crew found themselves victim’s of the House on Un-American Activities Committee. They included writer Abraham Polonsky, actors John Garfield, Ann Revere, Lloyd Gough, Canada Lee, Art Smith, Shimen Ruskin, producer Bob Roberts, and cinematographor Howe.


Out of the Past

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

Out Of The Past [Blu-ray]

Tagline – A MAN – Trying to run away from his past… A WOMAN – Trying to escape her future!

Starring – Robert Mitchum (Jeff Bailey), Jane Greer (Kathie Moffat), Kirk Douglas (Whit Sterling), Rhonda Fleming (Meta Carson), Steve Brodie (Jack Fisher).

Released – November, 1947

Directed By – Jacques Tourneur

Produced By – RKO Radio Pictures

Distributed By – RKO Radio Pictures

Description – When it comes to your past, you can run, but you can’t hide. Jeff Bailey, a man with a mysterious past, pumps gas at a station in the small town of Bridgeport, California. Jeff is dating local girl Ann Miller and, on the surface, life seems good.

However, not everyone is happy about the relationship. Ann’s parents are suspicious of Jeff as is Jim, the local law officer, who also is interested in Ann.

A man arrives in town looking for Jeff and informs him that gambler Whit Sterling wants to see him. This is where Jeff’s past begins to catch up with him.

A little about Jeff’s past.

While Jeff reluctantly agrees and drives with Ann to the meeting he tells her that he was once a private detective who, along with partner Jack Fisher, were hired by Whit to find Whitt’s girlfriend, Kathie Moffat, who shot Whit and left with $40,000 of his money.

He also tells Ann that his real name is Jeff Markham and that he had tracked Kathie to Acapulco where they started an affair. Together they left Acapulco for San Francisco to try and live a quiet life without Whit ever finding them. It didn’t last long.

They were recognized at the racetrack by Jeff’s old partner Fisher. Jeff and Kathie split up, with Jeff intending to throw Fisher off their trail. After believing that he has lost Fisher, Jeff heads for a cabin to reunite with Kathie. Soon after arriving, Fisher also shows up.

Fisher demands the money that Kathie stole from Whitt, and a fight with Jeff ensues. During the fight, Kathie shoots and kills Fisher. She then quickly drives off, leaving Jeff to cover up and run from the crime.

Back to the present.

Jeff and Ann now arrive at Whit’s estate and Jeff goes inside. To his surprise, Whit seems happy to see him and to his greater surprise, Kathie is there. She had gotten back together with Whit shortly after leaving Jeff at the scene of Fisher’s murder.

Whit says that he wants to make things right between himself and Jeff. He offers Jeff another job. Whit needs to recover some tax records that are being used to blackmail him and he says Jeff is the man for the job.

There’s a familiar ring of deceit in Whit’s plan. Another murder will soon follow and, for Jeff, the future doesn’t seem too promising.

NOTABLE: In 1991, Out of the Past, was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

Actor Humphrey Bogart wanted to play the part of Jeff in this film, but Warner Brothers was not interested in the script. RKO was and Robert Mitchum got the role. The lead had been offered to, and turned down, by both John Garfield and Dick Powell. A great break for Mitchum.

Personal Note: Another of my personal favorite film’s noir. This is classic and masterful noir right from the storyline, the cinematography, a lethal femme fatale, and great dialogue. A web of double-crosses and murder.

Nightmare Alley

Sunday, April 28th, 2013

Nightmare Alley (Fox Film Noir)

Tagline – He was all things to all men …but only one thing to all women!

Starring – Tyrone Power (Stanton “Stan” Carlisle), Joan Blondell (Zeena Krumbein), Coleen Gray (Molly Carlisle), Helen Walker (Lilith Ritter).

Released – October, 1947

Directed By – Edmund Goulding

Produced By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Distributed By – Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Description – Small-time huckster Stan Carlisle has taken a job with a traveling carnival, as an assistant to Mademoiselle Zeena and her husband Pete. At one time, Zeena and Pete, who work a very impressive mind-reading act, only worked with the top carnival’s as the top-billed act.

Then, something happened. Zeena has committed an offense that drove her husband to drink. So much so that his alcoholism has reduced their act to now only third-rate carnivals. While the act itself has fallen, the elaborate word code secret that sells audiences on Zeena’s psychic ability is worth its weight in gold.

This fact has not escaped the notice of Stan. Many have tried to buy the secret from Zeena, but she has refused, wanting to sell only when she and Pete retire. The amoral Stan tries to romance Zeena into giving him the secret, but she resists believing that after their life in the carney she will send husband Pete to an alcoholic rehab facility and they can begin a new life.

It is now that fate decides to take an ugly turn. One evening in Texas, while Pete and Stan are together, Stan gives a bottle to Pete. The bottle, wood alcohol, and not moonshine, poisons Pete killing him.

After the death of her husband, Zeena, in an effort to keep the psychic act going, tells the secret of the acts success to Stan so that he may continue in the role of her assistant. Stan so efficiently learns the mind-reading secrets that he begins to hatch a plan of his own.

Stan focuses his attention on young Molly, convincing her that his only interest in Zeena was to get the code, and seduces her. This does not sit well with the other members of the carnival, who like Molly, and insist, “shotgun wedding” style, that Stan marry Molly and that he is no longer welcome to remain with the carnival.

This is no disappointment for Stan as he has much greater ambitions. He starts a show of his own and assumes the identity of “The Great Stanton,” someone with the ability to communicate with the dead.

Working with the assistance of crooked psychologist Lilith Ritter, who gives Stan information regarding her patients, it isn’t long before “The Great Stanton” is playing the top nightclubs.

Stan’s fraudulent act sets it’s sights on a path to swindle wealthy Ezra Grindle. Complications ensue, Stan may just find himself the target of a scam while developing an alcohol problem of his own. Molly will refuse to participate in Stan’s heartless scheme, while Lilith Ritter proves to be even more crooked than she appears.

If only this phony psychic could have seen his own future.

NOTABLE: In Nightmare Alley, the role of Stan Carlisle, was a successful attempt by Tyrone Power to escape being typecast as just a romantic, swashbuckler in film.

To lend authenticity to the picture, the producers build a full-size carnival on the Fox back lot and hired over 100 actual carnival acts and workers.

Initially, the film had very limited box office success, partly due to content that was considered too scandalous. Over time, the films acclaim grew and Nightmare Alley is now considered a film noir classic.


Dark Passage

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013

Dark Passage [Blu-ray]

Tagline – Two of a kind!… Tough!… Torrid!… Terrific!

Starring – Humphrey Bogart (Vincent Parry), Lauren Bacall (Irene Jansen), Bruce Bennett (Bob), Agnes Moorehead (Madge Rapf).

Released – September, 1947

Directed By – Delmer Daves

Produced By – Warner Brothers

Distributed By – Warner Brothers

Description – Vincent Parry, convicted of murdering his wife, has just escaped from San Quentin prison by stowing away in a garbage truck. He is out to prove his innocence.

Eluding police, Parry hitches a ride with a man named Baker. While driving, a radio broadcast announces the escape and Baker realizes that he may have given a lift to the escaped convict. His suspicions provoke Parry into knocking him out and stealing his clothes. While attempting to hide the unconscious Baker, and planning to steal his car, another motorist stops.

Painter Irene Jansen, who somehow knows Parry’s name, offers to help him. She brings Vincent to her San Francisco apartment and tells him that she had followed his trial very closely and believes him to be innocent. She goes on to tell him that her father was also wrongly convicted of his wife’s murder and ended up dying in prison.

Irene goes out to buy some new clothes for Vincent while he remains in her apartment. There is a knock at the door and a woman asks for Irene. Vincent, without opening the door, tells her that Irene is not home. This, however, was not just any woman’s voice. Vincent recognizes the voice to be Madge Rapf, a former flame, who testified against Vincent at his trial. This coincidence is more than a little too suspicious.

When Irene returns, Vincent asks about her relationship with Madge. Irene tells him that she is dating Madge’s former friend Bob. This explanation raises more questions then it answers for Vincent.

Later that evening, Vincent leaves Irene’s apartment to begin his search for evidence that might help clear him. He is picked up by a taxi driven by a man named Sam who also recognizes Vincent and is sympathetic to his situation.

Sam tells Vincent that he can’t successfully search to clear his name with a face that just about anyone in the city will know. He suggests Vincent see Dr. Walter Coley, a plastic surgeon, who can alter his appearance.

Vincent agrees to the idea and arranges to stay with his only friend George Fellsinger while he heals from the surgery. Dr. Coley performs the operation and Vincent, with his face wrapped in bandages and unable to speak, returns to George’s apartment. When arriving he finds his friend dead.

Vincent returns to Irene’s apartment noticing Baker’s car parked outside. Too weak to think of this as anything other than a coincidence he collapses at her door. Irene brings him inside and begins to nurse him back to health.

It isn’t long before Vincent and Irene learn that he is now suspected of murdering George Fellsinger.

Once healed, Vincent checks into a hotel using the name Alan Lynell. He has been followed and is soon accosted by Baker who demands $60,000 in blackmail money to keep quiet. Vincent tells Baker that he has no money, but Baker informs him that Irene is wealthy and he can get the money from her. If Vincent does this, Baker will get him a fake passport.

While driving to Irene’s apartment, Vincent overcomes Baker and questions him. Baker tells him that he was followed by someone in an orange convertable when Vincent went to his friend George’s apartment.

Another struggle ensues between the two men and Baker falls over a cliff to his death. Now, not only will Vincent have to prove himself innocent of killing his wife, but also innocent of George’s murder, and now Baker.

It’s beginning to look as if Vincent was better off in San Quentin. And as for Irene Jansen, her sympathy for Vincent’s dilemma is a mask for an agenda all her own.

NOTABLE: Dark Passage was the third of four films made by husband and wife Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.

This was the first motion picture where Humphrey Bogart would wear a full hairpiece. Bogart’s hair, at this time, was rapidly falling out due to a severe vitamin deficiency.

Dark Passage is notable for the first third of the film being shot from the point of view of Bogart’s character. His unseen face is not seen clearly until the scene where he removes the bandages from his character’s plastic surgery and looks into a mirror.

At the time of the films production, Humphrey Bogart was Hollywood’s highest-paid actor earning in the neighborhood of $450,000 a year.