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Messages - Jessica Rabbit

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Off-Topic Discussion / Re: The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)
« on: December 20, 2017, 10:34:32 AM »
Again thanks, D & D.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Pushover (1954)
« on: December 20, 2017, 10:33:51 AM »
Thank you, D & D.  O0

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951)
« on: December 19, 2017, 09:46:41 AM »
This is a great review by The Professor, but I can't quite work up the same enthusiasm for the movie as he can. I like my Noir bleak and depressing. :)

Tomorrow is Another Day was directed by strictly B director Felix Feist for WB and is a virtually unknown Noir. The movie basically consists of two distinctively separate parts which makes it feel slightly disjointed. We have two movies in one. The first half has all the high-octane ingredients for a crackerjack Noir, but the movie doesn't play by the (Noir) rules. What promises to be a dark and cynical Bonny and Clyde “couple on the run” picture, then becomes romantic melodrama in the second half which is light on crime. Cynicism melts into sentimentality. In the narrowly confined parameters of Noir Tomorrow is a failure, it doesn’t fulfill genre expectations; but as the Noir formula was written in stone only retrospectively, there’s no reason why this picture shouldn’t break the mold.
What we get is a Noir about redemption. It’s an interesting setup. Is change possible? Can one’s life be ultimately redeemed? Are people forever damned by their past?

After 18 years inside, Bill Clark (Steve Cochran) is released from prison. He was only 13 when he went in, after having killed his abusive and drunk father in what can with justification be called self-defense. After a reporter ruins his chances at a decent job by splashing his picture across the morning papers, Bill takes off to NY where he meats cheap peroxide blonde dime-a-dance girl Cay Higgins (Ruth Roman). Cay is a hardboiled dame if there ever was one. After demurring quite insincerely and playing coy, Cay asks Bill to her apartment where her cop boyfriend Conover is waiting. Boyfriend gets angry and knocks out Bill, Cay shoots him in self-defense and sees her chance to let Bill take the blame. They decide to go on the lam and find work on a farm as lettuce pickers. But they can’t hide forever, in a pulp crime magazine the Dawson family's little boy sees a wanted poster for Bill promising a nice reward…
There is (maybe) some careful criticism of the HUAC committee here. Mr. Dawson wants to rat out Bill to the police, but Mrs. Dawson is adamant that this would amount to blood money. Not before Mrs. Dawson is desperate for the money to pay for her husband’s operation, is she willing to do it.
Cochran - playing against type - truly breathes life into his portrayal of Bill, he simply nails the character. Having spent all of his adult life in prison, he literally never grew up other than in the purely physical sense. He’s a child trapped in a man’s body. He’s still a babe in the woods. He’s completely unprepared to face the outside world and society. He hasn’t changed much since he went in, but the world has.
From the first we’re on his side though we don’t know his whole story yet. Not until at least the halfway mark do we find out that his killing was justified, leaving him essentially blameless. During the trial he just refused to take the easy way out by showing any kind of remorse, instead truthfully stating he didn’t regret his killing. The jury took it as utter cold-bloodedness and handed down a guilty verdict.

The film shines in the depiction of Bill’s first moments of freedom. Bill has never kissed a girl. He’s never had a drink, never driven a car, he has nothing in common with the people outside because he never shared their life experiences. His first few hours in freedom are at the same time funny and heart-breaking. He sees a new snazzy convertible parked in the streets with electric buttons (!) and he’s in awe. He just has to touch them. He sees a pretty girl and simply tries to follow her. His social skills are non-existent. He then goes into a diner and like a child who can’t get enough he orders not one, but three different pieces of pie, as well as his very first beer. Our first reaction is to laugh at him, but we can’t.
Then he goes to a dancehall and sees Roman and one look is all it takes. He uses his prison pay to buy dances and trinkets for her. He’s got it bad. It’s lust at first sight.

Cay is a taxi dancer at Dreamland. Taxi dance halls were incredibly popular from the 20s to the 50s. Patrons bought a ticket for a dime to dance with the girl of their choice. Taxi dancers earned commission on every dance ticket— it wasn’t a bad deal if the girl knew how to milk the customers. It was a gift from God for lonely men, outsiders and misfits and most certainly a place a guy like Bill would gravitate towards. The dance hall scenes are fantastic. They have a wonderfully lurid appeal.
Roman is at her baddest best and is as hard-bitten and calculating a cheap dame as any that can be found in more famous Noirs. Cay’s original career dream as ballet dancer didn’t pan out. Now she’s selling dances, dreams and then some at a dancehall. It is more than strongly implied that she and the other girls are moonlighting as prostitutes, or maybe it’s the other way around. They seductively coo invitations to “private lessons” after hours in the customers’ ears and Cay makes it clear her affections can be bought with pretty shiny gifts, even though she constantly but not very convincingly plays coy. She isn’t above fleecing her customers and stealing other girls’ “suitors” when they’re not looking either. Cay also has a cop boyfriend who -very likely - doubles as her pimp.
Enter Bill who Cay right away sums up as a perfect patsy, ripe for the plucking. She’s not just morally ambiguous, she’s absolutely rotten.

Up until the couple go on the run and stay in a little motel where Bill asks Cay to marry him, the movie is pure Noir. After that we’re in romantic melodrama territory. We go from hard-boiled to soft-boiled. Cay changes her hair color from brassy blond to brunette and from one second to another she’s a changed woman. Her tough facade begins to crumble. The symbolism is all too clear, with her hair color she’s changed her personality. The bad can simply be washed out, and this stretches credibility to the max. Cay’s change is never really explained, it happens out of the blue. Character development is sorely lacking. Roman can pull off both roles, but the script lets her down. One second hard-bitten tramp, next second wholesome and loving wife. The brassy cheap bottle blonde was just an illusion. True Love rears its ugly head (sorry, I had to say it), and really, true love has no business in Noir.

After getting married, Bill and Cay try to make a decent living for themselves as lettuce pickers, living in small shack like other migrant laborers. The picture is a bit Grapes of Wrath light at that point, without the desperation and exploitation. The workers’ lives are depicted with real warmth. For the first time Bill and Cay find contentment in honest hard work and the camaraderie with others.
After seeing the wanted ad though, the Dawsons inform the police about Bill who come for him. Not to let her husband get into any more trouble, Cay shoots Bill in the shoulder and confesses it was she who shot Conover. Both are taken into custody.
And here is where the script really crumbles beneath the actors, this time with a vengeance. They’re taken to the DA who tells them that Conover made a statement before he died that Cay shot him in self-defense. The hack writer of the pulp wanted ad was a bit trigger-happy and concocted a BS story without having all the facts. Bill and Cay are now free to continue their new life together.
The ending is not only laughable, but truly ruined what could have been a great Noir. It is too upbeat and obviously studio-imposed. The PCA didn’t just neuter a good film, it shot it all to pieces. This copout completely dulls all the rough edges set up in the first half by abandoning all kind of political and social criticism. The bad cop wasn’t really so bad and corrupt, the DA is just really a nice benevolent uncle who only wants to help. All authority figures in the movie are simply too benign and sympathetic. The theme of corruption and not giving the downtrodden a (second) chance is blown to bits.
Only Bill’s and Cay’s paranoia made them run. Only in their imagination were they trapped by circumstances. All their fears were really unfounded.

The movie is really quite good and it has a lot to recommend it, though the viewer has to abandon his preconceptions about Noir. But for me the two halves of the film never quite gel. True Love in Noir usually amounts to a useless sentimental pipe dream that only suckers believe in. Tomorrow is a Noir that has a moral center, but that’s not what I’m looking for in Noir.
Other Noirs handled the redemption angle much better. What I wanted was more Bonny and Clyde, Noir to the bitter end. It all should have ended in a hail of bullets. I think the producers owed us a warning in the beginning: soap suds alert.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: The Racket (1951)
« on: December 08, 2017, 10:17:41 AM »
Greenbudgie, there are several Noirs which skip the background music in favor of what could be called the sounds of the city. Call Northside 777, The Dark Corner and The Naked City , or movies where railroads feature prominently, like The Narrow Margin and Human Desire. To me it works just fine.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Favourite Christmas films
« on: December 05, 2017, 07:06:24 PM »
Die Hard (1988). Just watched it, and don't tell me it's not a Christmas movie. It is.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: John Ford
« on: December 03, 2017, 05:01:58 PM »
From what I've read, Ford was considered as way too popular ad not edgy enough by everybody until the 60's, when he was suddenly acclaimed by the intelligencia (starting from the Cahiers du Cinema crowd).

Noodles, that's interesting. I haven't done any extensive research on this at all, but the few things I read seemed to consider him behind the times in the second half of the 20th century. I'll try to find the Cahiers du Cinema article.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: John Ford
« on: December 03, 2017, 11:55:41 AM »
Whaaaaaattttttt? Says who? Ford was, is, and always will be the most honored director of American Westerns.

By the time the 60s and 70s came around, there were quite a lot of people who considered Ford old-fashioned, offering up slices of Americana that were overly nostalgic and sentimental about a West that very likely never was. I don't have a problem with Ford whatsoever, but I read quite a few reviews who considered Ford and his movies simple, probably also because none of his movies are in any way avangarde.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: John Ford
« on: December 03, 2017, 09:03:45 AM »
Thanks all for the documentary recommendations about Ford. I'm a big fan. Ford is probably the director whose stock has fallen further over the years than any other.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: The Racket (1951)
« on: December 03, 2017, 08:51:46 AM »
No, you can put that on the back burner with a clear conscience.  ;)

Off-Topic Discussion / The Racket (1951)
« on: December 01, 2017, 10:37:51 AM »
The Racket is another fair to middling Howard Hughes offering that is less outright Noir than straightforward crime thriller. It was a remake of Hughes own 1928 movie of the same name which in turn was based on a 1927 stage play. The play daringly suggested that crime was not only practiced by gangsters, hoodlums and career criminals, but also by guardians of law and order and scions of society. Gasp! By 1951, especially after the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime, this was a bit of an old chestnut and nobody was particularly shocked anymore.
On top of that, the picture can’t hide its stage origins, especially in the precinct scenes. Characters enter and exit stage right and stage left, as if they’re on Broadway.

Mobster Nick Scanlon (Robert Ryan) has been running Anytown, USA for years by having several local government and law-enforcement officials in his pocket. However, he can't touch incorruptible police captain Tom McQuigg (Mitchum), who refuses all attempts at bribery. He’s continually transferred from one precinct to another because he’s stepped on too many toes. When Johnson (William Talman), one of his best and most honest officers, gets killed by Scanlon, McQuigg wants to bring down Scanlon once and for all with the help of nightclub singer Irene Hayes (Lizabeth Scott).

Hughes overzealous supervision created another movie that if not an outright mess, certainly could have been tighter and more streamlined had Hughes kept his harebrained ideas to himself. No such luck. As he was want to do, he not only couldn’t leave a picture alone during filming, he had to tinker with it even after wrapping. Again he spent thousands of dollars on editorial revisions, retakes and reshoots, especially after Kefauver and his Hearings had become trendy. With predictable results.
Sam Fuller wrote the script’s first draft, but of course Hughes scrapped it. I assume it wasn’t quite safe enough. He had the more  conventional William Haines rewrite it, then tossed his script too and drafted W. R. Burnett to do the deed and add more action.
Though John Cromwell was the credited director, directing duties were shared by many, including Mel Ferrer and Tay Garnett. Hughes even pressed producer Edmund Grainger and film editor Sherman Todd into (directing) service. In the end it was Nicolas Ray who was left with the thankless task to pick up the pieces and make a decent film out of the chaos. Needless to say, even he couldn’t make a purse out of a pig’s ear.
What Hughes never understood was that you can’t make a good film out of bits and pieces of material, sewn together like a patchwork quilt. It has to be built from the ground up with a solid foundation. His tinkering was supposed to achieve perfection, but it actually yielded a product that was uneven, choppy and occasionally schizophrenic.
What stays though is an amazingly dark vision about Anytown, USA, a city like a hundred others that is completely in the hand of a corrupt mob. It almost seems as if the entire city is mob-affiliated with no way out.

In the wake of the Kefauver Hearings on Organized Crime (1951) - alluded to on the movie poster - a wave of crime films followed which purported to tell exposé stories of stalwart lawmen and their fight against organized crime. In the beginning of the movie we get the obligatory preachy “crime doesn’t pay” message, this time not delivered by a governor, but the a Crime Commission clearly modeled after Kefauver’s Investigating Committee.
Crime had moved out of the hood into the boardroom, from smuggling illegal booze across state lines to buying judges and rigging elections. Crime had not only gone corporate, it had gone national. It now functioned as a partnership of corrupt politicians, judges and business men with methods a lot less crude than Prohibition-era strong-arm tactics. Crime as a sophisticated well-oiled machine.

If this movie belongs to anyone, it is scenery-chewing Robert Ryan. He’s at his psychotic, deranged and snarling best. Ryan is incredibly intense and literally seething with venomous rage, but at the same time manages to come off as a tragic figure. He is oddly sympathetic when he has to see in the end that his days are numbered. He’s a man who has outlived his time. As a Prohibition-style enforcer, a streetwise tough guy, muscle and violence is all he knows when it comes to protecting his two-bit territory. But times are changing as even his goons notice, Scanlon just didn’t get the memo. It is a battle for dominance between Nick Scanlon and the (never-seen) Old Man, between old-school gangster and the new faceless Syndicate.
It is to Ryan’s credit that his Nick Scanlon doesn’t end up as a one-note caricature.

Mitchum though is a different matter. He’s on the other side of the fence, in true 30s gangster fashion a former boyhood pal of Ryan’s. Honest, stolid, upright, righteous…stop! hold it right there. A squeaky-clean Mitchum? Say it ain’t so. To say he’s playing his role with indifference would be an understatement. He sleepwalks through the movie. He even gives the cops in his new precinct the requisite “stay on the straight and narrow, boys!” speech. But it comes off as anything but motivational, as if Mitchum knows he’s really not the guy to pontificate, especially after his own marihuana bust. One reviewer called him “Eliot Ness with a hangover”. Spot on.
He’s never even tempted once. The script gives him nothing to learn about himself, nothing to work with. He’s the same man at the conclusion of the movie as in the beginning. He has almost the entire town against him, his house is blown up and his wife almost killed yet he faces no internal conflicts at all. His character doesn’t evolve.
McQuigg must be one of Mitchum’s least interesting roles, and he knows it too. It’s a toothless performance. He’s not so much understated as bland.
Mitchum only comes to live in his last standoff with Ryan. It’s a collision of two giants.
However, as RKO’s No.1 star he dutifully did his job as Hughes asked, even if the material was beneath him.

As always Liz Scott is good in her role as yet another nightclub singer. No-one could ever mistake her for a great actress, there’s always something slightly wooden about her acting, but with her husky breathy whiskey-soaked bedroom voice she could hold any man’s attention. She doesn’t so much give a performance as take up space on the screen and that's okay with me. Given the right material, she is very effective.

William Tallman is cast against type as goody two shoes rookie officer who gets killed by Scanlon. But the real scene stealer here is gum-chewing William Conrad as another crooked cop who brings to live his character more than anybody else on screen.

In the end the picture doesn’t amount to much. The stuff of greatness is there, it’s just that it is all too moralistic, too simplistic, too clear-cut. The good guys are good, the bad guys bad. Nobody’s motives and intentions are in the least bit murky, there’s no ambiguity here.
There is something incredibly old-fashioned about this film which is simply out of whack with Noir. The punch is missing.
The star power of Ryan and Mitchum counts for a lot, but the very good cast is hampered by an outdated story and trite cliches.
Hughes may have tried to update his Prohibition era play, but ultimately he got a 1920 crime melodrama that should have stayed in the past. I give it an A for effort.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Make Way for Tommorrow (1937)
« on: December 01, 2017, 07:24:22 AM »
It is a great film and you need a whole box of Kleenex at the end. The ending of the film is like a punch in the gut. It's a difficult film to watch, I haven't rewatched it in a couple of years.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: November 28, 2017, 02:17:08 PM »
CJ, I'll check it out and also on youtube is Double Deal with Marie Windsor and Richard Denning. Unfortunately Windsor plays the good girl here, but still a nice time waster.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Night and the City (1950)
« on: November 28, 2017, 09:17:46 AM »
Thanks again, D & D, for uploading Eddie's intros.  O0

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Casablanca (1942)
« on: November 27, 2017, 01:34:14 PM »
Thanks for posting John Anderson's article. It hits the nail on the head.

Off-Topic Discussion / Re: Rate The Last Movie You Saw
« on: November 27, 2017, 01:24:52 PM »
CJ, I saw No Man's Woman a while ago and agree. It was good as long as Windsor was alive, after that not so much. This is what I wrote last time:

This is (quasi) Noir only by virtue of Marie Windsor’s presence. In the best Crawford and Davis tradition of gloriously over-the-top bitchiness, Windsor hams it up for all it’s worth and could give those two a run for their money. The movie is not nearly in the same league as the brilliant The Narrow Margin or The Killing, but Windsor obviously had fun playing the part though her performance verges on cartoonish occasionally. She’s a Bad Bad girl, a “witch...whichever way it's spelled” and gets herself killed for her antics. Once she’s dead though, the fun and excitement come to an abrupt halt, because the rest of the cast can’t compete in the ham and cheese department. Unfortunately, the script writers didn’t get the memo that says you shouldn’t kill off the most entertaining character halfway through. Watch it for Windsor.

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