(Updated to correct Tyrone Powers to Ronald Coleman. D’oh.)

It’s a double feature for this week’s Black and White World. Neither is true noir, as we understand the term here. You need cops, venetian blinds, lots of smoking, hats, sweat, dead-end streets, guys who know all the angles except for the one that ends up sticking out of their backs. Sirens of the automotive and female kind.

Is this a noir title card?



Close, but something’s wrong. Too. . . feminine. Sounds promising, though; who wrote it?



That’s right: the old lady from “Harold and Maude.” With her husband, Garson Kanin. It’s a movie about an actor – sorry, and Ahc-torh – who goes mad, mad, MAD I TELL YOU while playing Othello. He cannot separate the role from his own self. Happens all the time, that; explains why the cast of West Side Story regularly goes mad and starts Robbining  down the street snapping their fingers. 

It begins on Broadway, around 40th street:



And I’ll be damned if I know what that building is. I can see it on Google Earth, but not Google street views. The theater is the Empire, now lost. Take a look at the ground floor:


The DeSoto-Plymouth store is pretty cool, and I would have been happy if the movie had gone there and told the tale of a car salesman who went mad Mad MAD I TELL YOU, or got involved with a racy dame. Like this. 

But no. I’ll spare you the details; Ronald Coleman is good, but once we get the basic idea you know where this is going. As usual, it’s the actors in the smaller parts that catch your eye.

Recognize the floozy who invites the actor up to her room, and doesn’t kick him out even when he gets a vacant look and starts mumbling Shakespeare while looking at himself in the mirror?



Most people today might recognize her later incarnation, swimming through flaming wreckage in “The Poseidon Adventure.” Then there’s this, which drove me nuts:



The guy on the right is the ever-present Whit Bissell, who had a name that fit him with wonderful precision. But the guy on the left! Who? WHO? You know how you can picture an actor in a scene, walking around, but you can’t tell what he’s saying or where he is? 

Later: ding. But I’ll let you work on it for a while. 

The other movie:



This was an attempt to make a heart-throb idol out of French actor Jean Gabin, and it didn’t quite work. He was difficult on the set – da noive of da guy, da Gaul! – and the director, Fritz Lang, quit the picture after a few weeks. 1941, a French actor, a German director – what could go wrong? Of course Lang had come to America to flee from the Nazis; just kidding. Gabin has a genial charisma, and you can see what they were trying to do – one part Bogart plus one part Spencer Tracy – but he seemed ill-suited to a Hollywood movie. Also, his pants made him look short. Maybe it was as simple as that. Why did you fail in Hollywood? (shrug) Ze pants.

 I liked it, though. Ida Lupino is terrific; Claude Rains is on hand to add his special flavor of charm – slightly cynical, always amused, inevitably decent, but never the guy who gets the dame. He’s the classic example of a guy who gets a peck on the cheek from the gal who’s running off to be with Her Man, and he takes it with a smile, even though he loves her, because he knew there was never any hope. He contents himself with an epigram and a drink. Don’t know if he actually played that role, but he would have been perfect. 

It has a noir conclusion, though. You do not want to be this guy . . .




. . . when this guy is coming through the mist. 



Especially when the cameraman is on his side, and making you look small. 



It has one of the best alcoholic montages I’ve ever seen. Salvador Dali was brought in to create the images of Cabin’s bender. The results were too disturbing for audiences, so they redid the sequence. They kept his Booze Clock, though. What time is it? It’s Drunk o’Clock. You’ll find it HERE. It’s worth it. 








31 Responses to Think You Oughta Drink That

  1. Deana says:

    Well, I’m scared straight. That was the *not* disturbing version?

  2. Lars Walker says:

    The guy you’re wondering about is Millard Mitchell, who played Gregory Peck’s old buddy in “The Gunfighter.”

    But you knew that.

  3. Bruce Armstrong says:

    The guy in the shot with Walt Bissell is Millard Mitchell, best known for being Jimmy Stewart’s pal in Winchester ’73 and General Pritchard (Gregory Peck’s boss) in Twelve O’Clock High.

  4. Raintree says:

    Millard Mitchell was also the studio boss in Singin’ in the Rain.

  5. Gina says:

    Yep, you can’t stump a “Singin’ in the Rain” fan when it comes to Millard Mitchell. :-) Or a “Winchester ’73″ fan, for that matter.

    The star of “A Double Life” is Ronald Colman, not Tyrone Power. (Can’t stump a “Tale of Two Cities” fan . . . )

  6. Lileks says:

    Oops, you’re right. Added that from memory. Thanks, memory! And you’re right about Millard – it was the Singin’ in the Rain role I couldn’t place at first.

  7. TeeOc says:

    And let us not forget to acknowledge the (then) beautiful Shelly Winters, who I remember more as a game show/talk show diva than from the shipwreck film. Wasn’t she in a Batman episode as a villianess? By the way, where is the Star Trek Tie-In portion???? (It would be Whit Bissel, I know.)

  8. Crabtree says:

    You would be right, TeeOc, Whit Bissel played Commissioner Lurry in “The Trouble with Tribbles.”

  9. Gina says:

    I’m honored to have been of service to one of my idols! I mean Mr. Lileks, not Mr. Colman, though I’m fond of Mr. Colman too. (I’M NOT WORTHY!!)

    By the way, Shelley Winters looks very like Rita Hayworth in that picture. I know it is Shelley, but the resemblance is weird!

  10. jeischen says:

    Gina, I also thought it was Rita Hayworth. I enjoyed the “bender” clip. You knew when you saw him sitting down to that unrecognizeable bowl of Chinese vittles (stir-fried dog?), he would be calling for Ralph by early morning.

  11. Mxymaster says:

    Shelly was Ma Parker, I believe, in a couple of Batman episodes. And that building is the World’s Tower building, besquished a bit more these days:

  12. Mike Gebert says:

    A Double Life was one of the last Best Actor Oscar winners I caught up with. After I saw it, I knew why! Really, a major misfire from people who pretty much only turned out great stuff. Colman campaigned like hell for his Oscar and basically got it for having been around forever.

    There’s some movie whose trailer spells out the cast and then says… “And introducing a major new screen talent… Whit Bissell!” (I think it’s Brute Force, even though he has half a dozen credits before then.) Hard to say whether the bigger laughs came from people who had no idea who he was, or people who knew perfectly well that he was one of those reliable faces who made up the wallpaper against which more flamboyant performers cavorted.

  13. Mike Gebert says:

    Oh, and hate to blow the budget on corrections today, but there’s no E in Colman.

    If you ever get a chance, see him in his SECOND Bulldog Drummond movie. If you didn’t know he made a second Bulldog Drummond movie, well, that hints at the problem….

  14. roger h (bgbear) says:

    I also remember Milliard Mitchell from Winchester ’73, I forgot the Singin in the Rain role. I always forget his name and call him the guy who looks like Art Carney.

    Got beat to the Star Trek connection. Oh Whit, you’ve done it again.

  15. CharlesH. says:

    That bender montage is a Theremin or a Novachord away from being out-right, 100% creepy.

    And ditto on thinking Shelley was Rita….

  16. David Adcock says:

    That “Tyrone Powers” mentioned in the first sentence… Is he related to Tyrone Power?

  17. “da Gaul!” — priceless. Want that clock, too – there’s a big blank wall in our living room that needs it.

  18. Rich Cox says:

    It was like something from David Lynch.

    But backwards.

  19. JDB says:

    I prefer to remember Ruth Gordon as the wacky neighbor in “Rosemary’s Baby”. Truly chilling.

    Shelley looks great in that picture and was a proto-Paris Hilton of her era.

    And Ida Lupino–more than a pretty face (and hot bod). She directed some good stuff, too, and ought to be held up as more of a small ‘f’ feminist icon.

  20. Lileks says:

    The World, you say. Damn: I knew it looked familiar.

  21. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – piccy i took of the world building back in 2003…

  22. shesnailie says:

    _@_v – it’s squished between a couple buildings but you can make out the water tower…

  23. Cory says:

    Claude Rains greatest movie role?
    Many people say it was The Invisible Man.
    I never saw him in it but I heard he was terrific.

  24. Mr_Lilacs says:

    Except for the fighting, the drunk sequence was better than any Super Bowl commercial. Alas, drunk o’clock never seems to arrive. It’s always no better than a quarter ’til.

  25. Tom S says:

    Doesn’t the now-identified mystery actor look just a touch like Peter Boyle of “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Not old enough for that film, I realize, but still . . .

  26. Baby M says:

    That bender montage was pretty much the definition of spiraling, frentic doom.

  27. MadderRose says:

    Shelley Winters was also in Winchester ’73, as the showgirl. Love that movie.

  28. JWE says:


    Except for the big bazooms and the accent, sure.

  29. Cuneo says:

    I look at the picture of Millard Mitchell and wonder if that’s how Montgomery Clift would have looked had he lived long enough to turn into a very old man.

  30. definitemaybe says:

    Is everybody freakin’ insane?!? It’s Thomas Mitchell, not Milliard, it even sez it in the screen shot.

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