The 11th annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival opened this weekend at the Castro Theater and runs from January 25 to February 3, 2013.
As usual, I will be attending the festival with my mother/copyeditor/"retro consultant." Every year, we try to see as many of the films as we can, but we have yet to make it to all of the films in a single festival.
Why do we go? Film noirs from the 1940's and 1950's contain screen performances by radio actors, particularly those we are familiar with from Escape and/or Suspense. William Conrad, Barry Kroeger, Cathy Lewis, and a few others achieved co-star status in this era, but for the most part, radio actors usually turn up in small roles. The actors and writers who simultaneously worked in radio/film form a unique and recognizable group within the noir genre. In some cases, their films can't be seen anywhere else but Noir City.
The opening weekend kicked off with a screening of Gun Crazy (1950), which was attended by its star, Peggy Cummins. The tiny, eighty-six year old British actress looked fantastic and was greeted by enthusiastic applause and standing ovations. Afterwards, there was an onstage interview in which she expressed her gratitude and her thoughts about the enduring interest in Gun Crazy.
The next day, the tribute to Peggy Cummins continued with Curse of the Demon (1957), which is the film adaptation of the story "Casting the Runes" by Montague R. James and a tense and gritty film called Hell Drivers (1957). These two films and the one that followed were written/cowritten by Cyril Enfield, who worked under psuedonyms because he was blacklisted in Hollywood.
On Saturday evening, the marathon continued with the world premier of new 35mm restoration of Try and Get Me! (1951), which starred Frank Lovejoy and Lloyd Bridges. This film was based on the novel, The Sound of Fury, which was based on a true event that happened in San Jose, California, in 1933. Both the novel and the film adaptation were written by Jo Pagano.
The Hoodlum (1951) followed, but after three films, I had to call it quits for the night.
Sunday morning, the marathon continued with the world premier of the brand new 35 mm restoration of Repeat Performance (1947).
We did not stay for the next film, Sunset Boulevard (1950) because my mother thinks Gloria Swanson is "kinda creepy." When I countered that we should stay because this was a chance to see a classic on the big screen, she explained that she did that back when Sunset Boulevard first came out. Now...she wanted to go to the grocery store.
By that time, I was starting to miss sunlight, so that was the end of the first weekend for us. We made it to five of the seven films and liked everything we saw...plus--we made it to the grocery store.
Which radio actors were to be seen? Well, Frank Lovejoy was never just a radio actor, but if you are familiar with his work on Escape, then you will probably appreciate the kind of role he plays in Try and Get Me! It is definitely one of his more interesting and sympathetic performances.
If you know Barry Kroeger's voice from Escape, but have never been able to place the face, then you should check out Gun Crazy. He plays Packett, the carnival owner. See below.
Finally, screenwriter/Sound of Fury author Jo Pagano was the author of a Suspense episode called "Death has a Shadow" (episode #339), which starred Bob Hope and aired on May 5, 1949.
That's it for now. More later...