It’s a double feature this week. 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:
The World Building. 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.
Think you oughta drink that. Think you oughta drink that.