Saturday, March 17, 2007


We've been delving for several months into the black & white movies made after World War II and up into the early 1950s, the movies our parents went to see but wouldn't let us attend, stories about strong women and weak men where everyone was smoking all the time (in more ways than one), and the narratives -- often difficult to follow in their twists and turns -- hinged on murder and betrayal and defeat. These movies were NOT known at the time as "film noir." They were more often called "crime thrillers" or "suspense." Film noir (literally, dark film) is the term given them a decade or more later by certain French critics who fell in love with their look, their mood, their aroma of desperation.

Get yourself on down to Fat Cats and look for these titles:

Night and the City 1950 (memorable in every way, from Richard Widmark as a pathetic loser, to the circumstances of its making ... filmed in London because its director, Jules Dassin, had been fingered by the black list as a dangerous subversive)

Gun Crazy 1949 (it's a woman, first, who matches the description of that title)

Out of the Past 1947 (Robert Mitchum, caught in a web, with Kirk Douglas as the head spider and Jane Greer as a great assistant spider)

Detour 1945 (the appropriately named actress Ann Savage plays about the nastiest femme in film noir)

Thieves Highway 1949 (getting golden delicious apples to the San Francisco vegetable & fruit market was never more difficult, with Richand Conte, who went on to be a two-bit hood in The Godfather)

He Walked By Night 1948 (in fact, anything with Richard Basehart, including especially the incredible man-on-a-ledge 14 Hours. Whoa!)

No Way Out 1950 (Richard Widmark playing a rabid bigot in Sidney Poitier's first movie)

The Lady from Shanghai 1948 (Orson Welles, with his recently divorced ex-wife Rita Hayworth, as a blond)

The Postman Always Rings Twice 1946 (not the Jessica Lange/Jack Nicholson so-so remake but the Lana Turner/John Garfield original. Lana's entrance in white-white shorts is not to be missed, nor is John Garfield's personal life story ... another actor fingered as a subversive and ruined by the Commie scare of the early 1950s)

The good news is that all of these old movies -- and a whole bunch more! -- are out on DVD. If you used to like movies but find less and less at the modern, over-priced box office to tickle your intellect, these old titles will reinvigorate your love of film.

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