Ten days. 27 films.
All in all, we made it to 16 films: Gun Crazy, Curse of the Demon, Helldrivers, Try and Get Me!, Repeat Performance, A House Divided, The Kiss Before the Mirror, The Sniper, Experiment in Terror, The Other Woman, The Come On, Man in the Dark, Inferno, Street of Chance, The Chase and The Window.
The most valuable day of the festival, for me, was the Cornell Woolrich marathon. As someone who writes about Suspense and the Woolrich stories they adapted for radio, this was a rare opportunity to see three film adaptations of his stories at one time.
Yes, that's a lot of spiraling darkness and tension for one afternoon, but it was worth it to watch three beautiful 35 mm prints in a row. More about that later.
The surprise of the festival, for us, was the 3-D stereoscopic film Inferno. Due to the title, I just assumed this film had something to do with a big fire. But, no! Most of this film revolves around Robert Ryan trying to survive in the desert after being left for dead by his wife and her lover. The 3-D effect in this film is very understated. Watching the story play out against the scenery, the interior locations...and everything else in sterophonic sound and technicolor 3-D was completely absorbing...fascinating.
The 3-D film that preceded this one on Saturday night was, Man in the Dark. All in all, this was an entertaining film, but it caught my interest because radio actor Ted deCorsia had a supporting role as a bad guy. The last time I saw him in a film at Noir City, he was harpooned by Rhonda Fleming in Slightly Scarlet. This time, he falls to his death from the top of a seaside roller-coaster.
I don't think Ted has as many violent death scenes in a noir as Raymond Burr, but I'll start keeping a tally on that.
The Cornell Woolrich marathon was on the second to last day of the festival, Saturday, Feb.2. In the introduction before the film, the host noted that Steven King is probably the only one who has surpassed Cornell Woolrich in the number of stories adapted for film. Altogether, 31 films have been adapted from Woolrich's stories.
The first film of the day was a new, seen for the first time, 35 mm print of the 1942 film Street of Chance, which was adapted from the novel The Black Curtain. Having listened to Suspense's radio adaptation numerous times, I associate Cary Grant with the lead role in this story. But, in the film version, Burgess Meredith plays the lead role very effectively.
Following that was another restoration, the 1946 film, The Chase, which is based on the novel The Black Path of Fear. It has been quite a while since I read the book, so I couldn't remember exactly what was supposed to happen. In this film, that's OK. The Noir City brochure described The Chase as on "one of the strangest films of the 1940's."
The lead character was played by Robert Cummings, who may seem too upbeat for a Woolrich story, but he genuinely fit the role. However, the crowd favorite, was Peter Lorre who played henchman to Steve Cochran's character.
The last of the three was the 1949 film, The Window, which was also a new Film Noir Foundation 35 mm preservation print. It is based on Woolrich's 1947 short story "The Boy Who Cried Murder," which I have not read, so I had no expectations. However, if you know Aesop's fable of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" then you know the basic premise of the story.
The screenplay was adapted by Mel Dinelli, who was also the writer behind some of Suspense's best radio plays. The Noir City brochure describes this movie "the best adaptation ever of a Woolrich story, and one of the greatest suspense films of all times!"
As much as I wanted to, I wasn't able to go for the last day of the festival. So, that was the close of Noir City 11 for me.
This year, everything we saw was great except The Kiss Before the Mirror, a stylish 1933 pre-code film about wife-killing that ended up being more offensive than entertaining. As a woman, I have a right to say that one sucked.
Everything else was a lot fun!
So, until next year...we have the memories.
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...
January is our month for noir here at Escape and Suspense!, and that brought my attention to an interesting new audio drama on the scene. The series is Hothouse Bruiser, and it labels itself as a "Sci-Fi, Neo-Noir Journey through a world of sound. Like the Golden Age of Radio--but with modern sound effects and music."
The series is available as an app through Google Play or iTunes. You can listen to the first episode for free, and if you want to hear the rest, it will cost you $3.99. (The series is also available on CD for $15.99.)
The production quality is smooth, the dialogue is snappy, and the story is engaging from the get-go. Give it a try!
For more information about the series, visit the website at Hothouse Bruiser.
Tonight! January 17, 2013. Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation brings "A Night in Noir City" to Turner Classic Movies. If you can't make it to San Francisco for the festival this time, you can enjoy this four movie marathon in your own home.
The lineup includes Cry Danger, 99 River Street, Tomorrow is Another Day, and The Breaking Point. You can read more about Noir City Night and find the the schedule at Turner Classic Movies. Times appear to be eastern, so for those of us on the West Coast, the show starts at five.
If you are looking for old time radio actors within these noirs, you can find William Conrad, Joan Banks, and Hy Averback in Cry Danger. 99 River Street has Peter Leeds and Ian Wolfe in small roles, but it also has Vivi Janiss and Helen Kleeb in uncredited bit parts. Lurene Tuttle has a role in Tomorrow is Another Day and The Breaking Point has Norman Field--who appears in an uncredited role as a dock attendant. Spot him if you can!
(FYI--You can also catch Eddie Muller's commentaries as a feature on many classic noir dvds.)
So, get your popcorn, grab your bourbon and enjoy!
Below are a few short items that were shown on various nights at Noir City X prior to the main features:
I posted this video last year, but I will post it again since it is still being shown at the festival. "The Endless Night: A Valentine to Film Noir."
Also shown was the video "The Tease" from The Latenight Callers, a band that performed at the Noir City nightclub event on Saturday.
They also showed this short promo for Noir City Magazine. On the big screen this was really effective--and the music got stuck in my head for days.
That's all for now. More later...
While the Film Noir Foundation's annual festival goes on at the Castro Theatre this week, let's all take a trip down to the Screen Director's Playhouse for a double-feature!
Two of the films in this year's Noir City line-up were once performed on Screen Director's Playhouse, so if you can't get to San Francisco this time around, you can kick back and enjoy these intense radio adaptations of the same films.
The Dark Mirror (1946)
Olivia De Havilland stars as twin sisters under scrutiny during a murder investigation. One of them is crazy, but which one?
Jack Rubin adapted for radio, Howard Wyley produced and Bill Karn directed. Also appearing were David Ellis, John Dehner, Frances X. Bushman, Helen Andrews, and Frank Barton. This episode aired on March 31, 1950.
(30 minute episode)
The Dark Mirror can be found on YouTube.
The Lady Gambles (1949)
Barbara Stanwyck stars as a woman who becomes obsessed with gambling. Can the love of her husband save her? Will she escape the control of her bitter unmarried sister? Stephen McNally also starred. Featured in the cast were Tony Barrett, William Conrad, Georgia Backus, Byron Kane, Hal Avery, Ruth Barrett, and John Dehner. Jack Rubin adapted for radio, Howard Wyley produced and Bill Karn directed. This episode aired on December 14, 1950.
(Hour long episode)
On Monday night, as I entered the theatre and made my way up to the balcony seats, I encountered Miss Noir City 2010 slowly descending the stairs in tight skirt and high heels, with a photographer in tow. There was trepidation in her eyes as to how to successfully navigate the grand staircase, but she succeeded, and continued onwards toward the stage to make her one-night only appearance. She then unveiled to the audience the tattoo on her shoulder that landed her the job. (It says "Mom & Dad.")
The first movie of the evening was Suspense (1946), which has nothing to do with the CBS Radio series of the same name. It is primarily known as the most expensive film ever made by Monogram Studios and as vehicle for one-named ice-skating star Belita. According to Martin Grams*, in his book Suspense: Twenty Years of Thrills and Chills (1997): "Although there has been no real connection between the radio show and the Monogram film under the same name, the possibility of the advertising department at Monogram attempting to cash in on the radio program's success is strong."
If you feel that ice-skating noir is something that appeals to you --and you should--then you can purchase Suspense (1946) on DVD through Amazon.com.
If you want to see a noir film with a cast taken from the radio show Suspense, then check out the women's prison flick The Story of Molly X. It, however, is not yet out on DVD.
Suspense was the first film of Monday night's Belita double-feature. The second part of the program was The Gangster, which I had to skip.
I also had to skip Tuesday night's line-up of the The Postman Always Rings Twice and He Ran All the Way, but returned on Wednesday for "Bad Girls" night.
The first film on Wednesday evening was One Girl's Confession (1953) starring Cleo Moore and written directed by Hugo Haas. Although Cleo played a good girl who does just a little-bit-of-wrong, the audience enjoyed it thoroughly.
The second film of the evening was Women's Prison (1955) starring Ida Lupino as the warden and Howard Duff as the prison doctor. Cleo Moore also starred, as well as Jan Sterling, and Audrey Totter. The primary bad girl in this film was Ida Lupino as the "borderline psychotic" warden who followed her own rules. Eventually, she got too tough, and the inmates made a stand for what is right and rioted against her. Oh, and the women's prison was right next to a men's prison, ...and that is what set off all the trouble.
Both One Girl's Confession and Women's Prison are soon to be released on DVD from Sony Pictures. You can find them both on Bad Girls of Film Noir 2. This set also contains the bizarre film Night Editor, which was based on the radio series of the same name.
Here at Escape and Suspense!we are taking a break from our normal programming to attend the annual San Francisco Film Noir Festival. All of the proceeds from the festival go towards restoration of noir films, so we like to support the cause. Many of these rarely-screened movies include performances by our favorite radio actors.
Another part of the fun is being able to watch these films at the Castro Theatre, a 1400 seat movie palace built in 1922. Although, parking around the Castro can be as desperate and hellish as anything seen in a noir film.
The festival opened on Friday to a huge crowd. Lots of folks arrived in 1940's attire, and "vending vixens" went up and down the aisles hawking souvenir programs. Outside, the weather was cold and rainy, but inside, folks were settling in for the first double-feature as a fine cloud of popcorn haze filled the interior of the theatre....and stayed there.
The festival started with an entertaining movie filled with one-liners and clever dialogue called Pitfall (1948). Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott starred in this film about adultery, and Raymond Burr played the menacing bad guy who tries to ruin their lives.
After that, there was a movie called Larceny (1948) which was memorable primarily because of Shelly Winters' performance. I noticed several people around me, including myself, nodding off during that one.
The next day, things got off to a great start with an 86 minute gem of a film called Fly-By-Night (1942). This light-hearted noir moves quickly, goes in unexpected directions, and entertains you all along the way. It was a definite crowd-pleaser.
The second part of the matinee was Deported (1950) starring Jeff Chandler and Marta Toren. I didn't love this movie, but I was interested in it. However, the ticking clock in this noir was the parking meter outside. I had to leave the film twice to go out to the street and feed the meter. My copy editor watched the whole thing, but was overly annoyed by Jeff Chandler's inability to manufacture more than one or two facial expressions. So, I don't know what to tell you about Deported.
Before the evening double-feature, we found a more cooperative parking spot.
The evening double-feature opened with the newly restored version of Cry Danger (1951). Proceeds from last year's festival helped fund the restoration, which was undertaken by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming starred in this story about an ex-con out for revenge on the men who framed him. William Conrad co-starred as the bad guy, and he received a nice round of applause from the audience when he appeared on the screen. Another familiar performer from Escape in this film was Joan Banks, who got the biggest laughs of the evening for her seductive glances towards Dick Powell. Hy Averback showed up briefly as Harry the bookie. Before the film, Eddie Mueller read a letter of support from Rhonda Fleming, and afterward, actor Richard Erdman was interviewed on stage.
After that, Broderick Crawford starred in The Mob(1951), an excellent film about an undercover cop investigating the Los Angeles waterfront. Escape actor Lawrence Dobkin turns up in a bit part as a doctor, and Paul Dubov appears in an even tinier bit part.
The next day was a Marilyn Monroe double-feature starting with Niagara. Having only seen this movie on a 19" tv, all I can say is that it was much more impressive on the big screen. It is a film meant for the theatre. Suspense's Lurene Tuttle pops up in this film as Mrs. Kettering.
The second movie of the day was The Asphalt Jungle, but having just seen that very recently, we decided not to stay.
So, that is all for now. Next up, Suspense (1946)!
Here at Escape and Suspense!, the end of January is the time for noir-- that dark and rainy time of year when we switch our focus from vintage radio to big screen. The San Francisco Film Noir Festival arrives at the Castro Theater for ten days starting on January 22.
Well, we don't really take our attention off radio. Our purpose in attending the festival is to catch those rarely-screened noirs that include radio performers and writers from both Suspense and Escape. As usual, we will be reporting back on what we liked.
This year the festival really means business because they have put a hitchhiker on their advertising. As Suspense fans know, a "stranger on the road" is the ultimate symbol of danger.
So, what kind of trouble is Miss Noir City 2010 trying to lure us into? The theme for this year's program is lust and larceny. Each night two films are paired into a double-feature that represents these two motivators.
The program guide is available online at the Noir City website.
If you live in Seattle, keep in mind that a short version of the Noir City 8 line-up will be hosted by SIFF Cinema from February 19 - 25th. For more information visit SIFF Cinema.
Here at Escape and Suspense! we love to watch old film noirs that star our favorite radio actors. Often, we have to go out to film festivals to catch some of these flicks, but here is one that is available for download from The Internet Archive.
Suspense favorite Ida Lupino directs Edmund O'Brien, William Talman, and Escape regular Frank Lovejoy in her 1953 classic The Hitch-Hiker. This film is considered to be the first noir directed by a woman, and it was chosen for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry in 1998.
The screenplay (also co-written by Lupino) was based on the actions of a psychopath named Billy Cook and true events that occurred in California in 1950. The Doors song "Riders on the Storm" was also loosely based on Cook's crimes.
To visit The Internet Archive and download The Hitch-Hiker click HERE!
I went to the final matinee of the San Francisco Film Noir Festival today, and now it is time to wrap things up. Of the 22 films that were presented, there were five movies that I didn't have time to see and three that I saw on DVD before the festival --Ace in the Hole, The Big Clock, and Slightly Scarlet.
Among those, which did I consider the the best? Desperate, Two O'Clock Courage, Deadline U.S.A., Night Editor, Scandal Sheet, Chicago Deadline, Wicked as they Come, Sweet Smell of Success, Ace in the Hole, The Big Clock, and The Killers made the festival worthwhile.
Among the bad guys in these films, there were a few well known actors from Escape who stood out: Berry Kroeger in Chicago Deadline, Ted de Corsia in Slighly Scarlet, and William Conrad as a hitman in The Killers. As good as they were, Raymond Burr,a familiar voice from Suspense, played a seriously menacing bad guy in Desperate, one that you wouldn't want coming after you!
Of course the bad guy gets it in the end, but how the bad guy gets his payback can really put that final artistic flourish on a film. In Chicago Deadline, Berry Kroeger gets gunned down by Alan Ladd in a parking garage, and in Slightly Scarlet Ted DeCorsia gets harpooned by Rhonda Fleming, but Raymond Burr got the best bad-guy payback in Desperate. After being shot, his body falls down, down, down the center of a dark stairwell right at the stroke of midnight, the very same minute that his brother is getting the electric chair for killing a cop. Good stuff! You can't pull of endings like that on radio... but where would these films be without these great radio actors?
Aside from those mentioned previously, other familar radio actors that popped up were Escape's Lawrence Dobkin and Suspense's Lurene Tuttle, who both have bit parts in Sweet Smell of Success. Suspense's June Havoc co-starred in Chicago Deadline, and William Conrad co-starred in the swamp drama Cry of the Hunted.
So, that is the end of our foray into the world of film noir in search of our favorite radio actors (and writers). We'll see what they come up with next year!
In the last week I have seen Cry of the Hunted, Ace in the Hole, Alias Nick Beale, and Night Editor. The San Francisco Film Noir Festival continues through this weekend, but before I wrap things up for this year, let's stop and talk about Monday night's presentation of Night Editor .
Fans of old time radio should take note of this movie because it was based on an episode from the radio series Night Editor. Fans of trashy B movies from the '40's should also take note of Night Editor because it is so very, very trashy.
As the film begins, it is late at night and the editor of a newspaper is sitting around with his fellow employees playing cards. In the background is a young, sleepy cub reporter. For reasons that I don't quite remember now, the night editor starts telling everyone a story he remembers from a few years back...
From there the story revolves around a police detective who witnesses a murder while out on Lover's Lane with his wicked, high society girlfriend. Both of them are married, so they can't admit they saw the crime. He feels terrible about what happened, but she is turned on by it. The next day, the detective is assigned to the case. From there, it has to be seen to be believed.
The radio series Night Editor ran from 1934 to 1948 and starred Hal Burdick. It also became a short-lived television series in 1954.
This film was supposed to be the first in a series, but unfortunately, there wasn't a follow-up. Again, let's hope this one makes it to DVD someday.
Well, Saturday's evening double feature with Arlene Dahl was a lot of fun. Early in the evening, there was a special reception for her in the mezzanine of the Castro Theatre. This was an opportunity for people who had bought festival passes to meet the star of the evening.
Glamorous Arlene, with her son Lorenzo, greeted fans and posed for a flurry of photographs. The reception started out calmly, but the crowd, and its excitement, quickly grew. Down the middle of the room there was a long line of fans waiting to meet Arlene. Parallel to that, was another long line of people waiting to get to the bar. (...The noir bar that only served bourbon or vodka.)
I was able to snap a few fuzzy pictures of Arlene, but because I didn't immediately jump into line when I first arrived, I missed my chance to meet her. That's OK because there were diehard Arlene Dahl fans in attendance who needed that time.
The first film of the evening was Wicked As They Come starring Dahl and Phillip Carey. The theatre was packed, and when "Noir Tzar" Eddie Mueller finished his introduction to the film, he said, "San Francisco, when we show a bad girl film -- you turn out in droves!"
Well, Wicked As They Come absolutely lived up to the hype. I was impressed by this movie, partly because I had watched Arlene Dahl and Phillip Carey back in the early '80's when they were both on the soap opera One Life to Live. They had great chemistry on screen. Let's hope this film makes it to DVD someday soon.
After Wicked As They Come, Eddie Mueller interviewed Arlene Dahl onstage and the crowd gave her a standing ovation.
Then it was time for the second movie on the bill, a movie quite different from the first...
Slightly Scarlet, which is considered a classic film in France, is primarily a showcase for Rhonda Fleming's bustline. When it isn't, it becomes a showcase for Arlene Dahl's legs. In the background of all of this is Escape regular Ted de Corsia, who gives a standout performance as the bad guy. Slightly Scarlet is based on the novel Love's Lovely Counterfeit by James M. Cain, and it is available on DVD. Catch it if you get the chance!
That is all for now, more later...
The San Francisco Film Noir Festival opened on Friday, and I have spent most of my weekend watching movies at the Castro Theatre. So, my regular schedule of posting new items on Sunday is a bit off this week.
Soon, I will have to run to catch the matinee of a "swamp noir" with William Conrad called Cry of the Hunted, but before I do, I want to recap some of what I've seen.
For the the first two nights of Noir City 7, the Castro Theatre was filled to its 1400 seat capacity despite the rainy weather and traffic. The festival began with a tribute to those who had passed away in the previous year: Evelyn Keyes, Ann Savage, (Director) Jules Dassin, and Richard Widmark.
Then, the "Tzar of Noir," Eddie Mueller, introduced the first two movies and explained the "newspaper noir" theme of this year's festival. According to him, the first movie of the festival, Deadline U.S.A. isn't technically a noir, but it is the "secret favorite of newspaper men."
Deadline U.S.A., starred Humphrey Bogart, but in the background, there were a number of actors from Escape, including Joe Di Santis, Parley Baer, Lawrence Dobkin, Paul Dubov, Barton Yarborough, and Tudor Owen. Unfortunately, they were so far in the background, even I couldn't find them. The only one that had a noticeable role in this movie was Parley Baer, who played the head waiter in a scene with Humphrey Bogart and Kim Hunter.
Next up, there was Scandal Sheet, with Broderick Crawford, Donna Reed, and John Derek. One of the three people with screenwriting credit for this film was James Poe, my favorite writer from Suspense. It lived it up to my expectations! (The screenplay itself was based on the novel The Dark Page by Samuel Fuller.) What a solid, tense little movie this was. Broderick Crawford did a great job as a newspaper editor who murders his estranged wife and is then forced to stay one step ahead of his newspaper's own investigation of the crime.
After the movie, many of the women in the lobby could be heard commenting on John Derek as being "...so pretty, but he really couldn't act..." Well, nevertheless, the movie was well liked by all.
On Saturday, there was a matinee of a movie called Blind Spot during which I had a hard time staying awake. I thought this film was too slow, but one of the film noir fans we met defended it by explaining that this was a satire of locked-room mysteries. Perhaps.
The second matinee feature of the day was Chicago Deadline and it quickly snapped everyone out of the afternoon stupor that Blind Spot had left them in. Alan Ladd, Donna Reed and June Havoc star in this story of a newspaper reporter who investigates the death of young woman found dead in a fleabag hotel. Escape regular Berry Kroeger played the bad guy in this film and did a perfect job.
Well, after the mantinee there was the evening double feature with Arlene Dahl, but I'll cover that in my next post. Cry of the Hunted is waiting...
For more information about the San Francisco Film Noir Festival click here to visit the Noir City website.
The San Francisco Film Noir Festival returns to the Castro Theatre for ten days between January 23 and February 1, 2009. This year, the theme of the festival will be stories about the newspaper industry.
Ultra-glamorous Arlene Dahl, the special guest star of the festival, will make a personal appearance on Saturday, January 24, for screenings of Wicked as They Come and Slightly Scarlet. Below is a trailer for Wicked as They Come that speaks for itself.
Of course, we aren't really taking a break from radio noir. Many of the radio actors who appeared on both Suspense and Escape turn up in film noirs of the same era. A good example of this, from last year's festival, was The Story of Molly X, a rarely screened gem with a cast that included many actors from Suspense. This year, the festival lineup seems to favor actors from Escape in roles that range from uncredited bit parts to co-starring roles. We'll be reporting back from the festival on what we see.
Here is the original trailer from Wicked As They Come (1956). Note Herbert Marshall as conquest #3.
The Noir City Film Festival is just about over, but I was able to catch Night Has a Thousand Eyes, D.O.A., and The Story of Molly X.
Arriving early for Night Has a Thousand Eyes, it didn't appear that this Cornell Woolrich film was much of a draw, but the crowd quickly grew. One guy even cut in front of me in the line to get in! The movie is interesting enough, but different from the book. A lot of the screen time focuses on Gail Russell's hypnotic eyes. (For a half-hour radio version of this movie, go to the end of this post.)
D.O.A. was a crowd favorite, not only because it is noir classic, but because there are quite a few scenes that are impossible to watch without chuckling. It is a weird film with a complicated plot, but the crowd enjoyed it thoroughly. D.O.A. played on a double feature with The Story of Molly X. Though it was a cold and rainy Thursday night, more than 900 people attended!
For fans of Suspense, The Story of Molly X is a treat. June Havoc stars as Molly, the lady-boss of a gang of criminals. She is caught after a heist and sentenced to several years in a women's prison. (Note: The correctional facility in this movie is more like a sorority house than a prison.) When Molly arrives at the prison, we come across some familiar voices... Sandra Gould, who can be heard in the commercials for U.S. Savings Bonds in Suspense episodes from the late 1950's, plays the inmate who welcomes Molly to prison life. Then, there is Suspense regular Cathy Lewis, who plays Molly's cell-mate! Other Suspense regulars who turn up in this film are Wally Maher and Elliott Lewis. One of the film's co-stars, Dorothy Hart, made one appearance on the television show Suspense in the episode "Vacancy for Death."
The Story of Molly X is a short film, but a good one. Let's hope they put it out on DVD one of these days.
The Noir City Film Festival is held annually at the historic Castro Theatre.
If you are interested in the movie Night Has a Thousand Eyes, there is a half-hour radio version that was done for The Screen Director's Playhouse. It will give you the quick version of the movie's plot-line. Director John Farrow and two of the film's stars, Edward G. Robinson and William Demarest appeared. This episode aired on February 27, 1949.
Here in San Francisco, it is just about time for Noir City, the annual film festival presented by the Film Noir Foundation. This year, the festival runs from January 25 to February 3rd. Even if you can't attend, a quick look at the Noir City program guide may be of interest. Ida Lupino, Van Heflin, June Havoc, and other familiar Suspense performers are all on the line-up.
Cornell Woolrich fans should take note that there will be a screening of a new 35 mm print of the film Night Has a Thousand Eyes on January 27th.
Another film of interest is Dangerous Crossing, which was written by Suspense's John Dickson Carr.
The film Hangover Square features the music of Suspense composer Bernard Herrmann.
(If you can't make it to the festival, Dangerous Crossing and Hangover Square are available on DVD.)
Suspense's "Angel Face" is a radio noir set in New York City and narrated in the first person by Jerry Wheeler, a girl with an angelic face and a hard life as a nightclub performer. She does it all for her kid brother, Chick, whom she wants to see rise above their circumstances.
Chick gets himself into a serious mess when he hooks up with Ruby Rose Reading, the girlfriend of a mobster named Milt Militis. Over his sister's objections, Chick plans to go with Ruby on a trip to Chicago. When Ruby is murdered that evening, Chick takes the fall. Jerry knows her kid brother didn't commit the murder and she sets out, with the help of one of the detectives, to prove his innocence. As Chick heads for the electric chair, she has to work fast to find the real killer.
This episode was based on Cornell Woolrich's short story "Face Work" which was first published in the October 1937 issue of Black Mask magazine. Columbia Pictures bought the rights shortly after it was published and turned it into the 1938 B-movie Convicted starring Rita Hayworth.
Suspense's version of "Angel Face" retains portions of the original text in the dialogue but changes the story, particularly at the end. Their version does keep the quick pace and the basic plot, but it was reduced in a number of ways to accomodate a half-hour radio format. Not surprisingly, Suspense' s version skips over the scene where Jerry is branded on the hip with a hot poker by Milt Militis.
Although the announcer states that this episode was "an original play written for radio by Cornell Woolrich," it was not. It is generally believed that Woolrich did not write the adaptations of his stories that appeared on radio.
"Angel Face" stars "Queen of Film Noir" Claire Trevor and Joseph Kearns. It was produced, edited and probably adapted for radio by William Spier. (The obvious problem with this recording is that it seems to run a bit fast, particularly at the beginning. After checking a few other OTR repositories, a better recording was not to be found.)
This episode aired on May 18, 1950.
(Image by Clayton Lord from Word for Word Theater's current production of Angel Face in San Francisco. Pictured above are Paul Finochiarrio and Laura Lowry as Milt and Jerry. )
Suspense's "Lady in Distress" showcases Ava Gardner. The radio-play was written by John Michael Hayes, who also wrote the screenplays for the Alfred Hitchcock films Rear Window, The Trouble With Harry, and The Man Who Knew Too Much. So why isn't this episode better? It could have been a neatly packaged radio noir but it isn't.
"Lady in Distress" begins with a hitch-hiker, which is always a good start, but then Ava Gardner's character, Mrs. Harris, and the hitch-hiker named Sullivan start talking while she is driving. We find out that he is an escaped criminal, and that now she is in danger. They keep talking and driving, driving, driving. The humm of the motor, the sound of rain, the endless dialogue...zzzz. Suddenly, they stop in a diner for hamburgers and coffee in a completely unnecessary scene. Then there is more talking, driving...motor humming...rain sounds...zzz...zzzz.
When we wake up again we find out that the escaped convict wants revenge on the policeman who put him in prison. That man just happens to be the husband of Mrs. Harris! Of course, that's no accident. She hates her mean, crabby husband and wants to help Sullivan accomplish his revenge. They arrange to put a bomb in her husband's car but things don't go as planned. It would be a surprise if they did because neither of these two seems that bright. In the end, the bad people get their come-uppance through their own evil work.
So, that's that.
You really have to listen closely to this story to appreciate it but due to the somnolent sound effects, this is hard to do. "Lady in Distress" was Ava Gardner's only appearance on Suspense. The previous year she had starred in the film noir The Killers by Ernest Hemingway. Also featured in this episode were Howard Duff as Sullivan and Wally Maher as the husband. It was produced and directed by William Spier, who later worked with Gardner on the film Tam Lin. "Lady in Distress" aired on May 1, 1947.
Claire Trevor, the Academy Award winning actress and "Queen of Film Noir," made one of her five appearances on Suspense in the drama "The Blue Hour." Here she plays Lois LaPaul, a Chicago dancer who becomes a media darling when her wealthy paramour is murdered. Instantly in demand, she accepts an offer to perform at an "extremely chic" nightclub called the The Blue Hour in New York City. At the airport she meets Alec Mahoney, a reporter with whom she shares some saucy banter.
When she arrives at the sparkling blue nightclub she soon discovers that the owner, Anthony LaCada, has no real interest in her dancing talents. His icy interest is in her murdered boyfriend, Jason White.
Not knowing what to do, she turns to Mahoney for help. Together they discover the blue diamond worth half a million dollars that Jason White was hiding.
"The Blue Hour Diamond" at the center of this story was probably based on the Hope Diamond, pictured to the right. This episode was written by Marty Schwartz and includes a number of moments of entertaining dialogue.
"The Blue Hour" was produced edited and directed by William Spier. The music, more prominent and detailed than usual in this episode, was composed by Lucien Moraweck and conducted by Lud Gluskin. At the time Claire Trevor appeared on this episode she was promoting the movie The Velvet Touch. Also featured were Hans Conried, Wally Maher and Sydney Miller. This broadcast aired on September 25, 1947.
(Photo of the Hope Diamond from Morguefile.com)
"Deadline at Dawn", the last of the 19 episodes of Suspense made in 1948 for an hour-long format, was based on the 1944 novel by William Irish (aka Cornell Woolrich). There is also a 1946 film noir of the same name, but the radio version and the movie differ. Francis M. Nevins, in his 1988 book Cornell Woolrich: First You Dream, Then You Die, described Suspense's adaptation of Woolrich's story this way: "Deadline at Dawn, as adapted by Irving Ravetch, stayed reasonably close to Woolrich's 1944 novel and avoided all resemblences to the eccentric 1946 movie version. ...It was a workmanlike episode, emphasizing romance rather than the noir coloration of the novel, and doesn't rank with the series finest Woolrich adaptations."
"Deadline at Dawn" was one of four Woolrich stories that were expanded into hour-long episodes in 1948. It may or may not be one of Suspense's finest, but once the story gets going it is worth the time.
This episode, Suspense's last one-hour show, aired on May 15, 1948. It stars Helen Walker as Bricky and John Beal as Quinn. Also appearing are Lillian Buyeff, William Johnstone, Buddy Gray, Edith Tackner, and Rye Billsbury.
If you are in San Francisco this week be sure to check out the 5th annual Noir City Film Festival at the Castro Theater. The Festival runs from January 26 - February 4th.
For more information check out the festival web site for shows and times.
For more information about the Film Noir Foundation click here.