Stanley Kubrick & Marie Windsor

September 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Marie Windsor

I didn’t know I was doing film noir, I thought they were detec­tive sto­ries with low light­ing! Even Kubrick, in 1955 dur­ing film­ing of The Killing, never used the term film noir to my knowledge.

Kubrick had all his shots laid out before he started, all sketched out by his wife, who was quite a good artist. He had them all around his office. I guess that’s why we made it in 21 days, with very few takes. The scene where I took my eye­lashes off we did in two takes.

He didn’t direct in front of any­body else. He’d say, Marie. Come over here a minute. We’d go behind the scenery, and he’d say, In this scene I want you to be really tired and lazy. I’d had some stage train­ing, and he was try­ing to get me not to use my big voice. Read more

Two From Siodmak: The Killers & Criss Cross

August 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Robert Siodmak 1948

Robert Siod­mak 1948

While such stu­dios as Twen­ti­eth Cen­tury Fox, RKO, Para­mount, United Artists and even MGM, pro­duced the pro­fu­sion of movies in the Film Noir cycle, it was Uni­ver­sal who dis­pensed two gen­uine pearls of the genre…
The Killers (1946), and Criss Cross (1949).

Here I dis­cuss these two intrigu­ing and well dis­ci­plined films, both pro­duced by Uni­ver­sal and both directed by Robert Siod­mak. Siod­mak like the other Ger­man emi­gre direc­tors Billy Wilder, Fritz Lang, and Otto Pre­minger dom­i­nated the field of Film Noir. Robert Siodmak’s Noir cred­its also include Phan­tom Lady (1943), Cry of the City (1948), and The File on Thelma Jor­don (1949), but his sin­gle Oscar® nom­i­na­tion was for The Killers based loosely on the Ernest Hem­ing­way short story of the same name.

The Killers, opens as a pair of hired killers drift into a small New Jer­sey town with the inten­tion of gun­ning down a local gas sta­tion atten­dant named Swede, Burt Lan­caster in his film debut. The Killers await their prey at the local diner. When he fails to appear as sched­uled they locate the board­ing house where he lives, force their way into his room where he sto­ically awaits them. Mak­ing no attempt to escape, he is killed in a blaze of gun­fire. His final words, “I did some­thing wrong—once.” The film unfolds with sim­i­lar dis­con­nected flash­back tech­niques used ear­lier in Cit­i­zen Kane (1941), and mas­ter­fully applied here. Read more

Film Noir and the Femme Fatale

July 16, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

High Heels on Wet Pavement

Los Ange­les 1948

Femme fatale—is defined as “an irre­sistibly attrac­tive woman, espe­cially one who leads men into dan­ger or dis­as­ter”. To me the most engag­ing sem­blance of a “femme fatale” is the stun­ning image of Lana Turner, as the cam­era pans from her ankles upward in that breath­tak­ing shot from The Post­man Always Rings Twice 1946. Read more

Double Indemnity & Film Noir

July 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Double Indemnity book cover

The per­fect Film Noir, weak man, strong woman

By the fall of 1943, Bar­bara Stan­wyck had starred in 43 films. She had shown ver­sa­til­ity with many styles. How­ever, there remained one type of role, and an inte­gral part of the spec­trum of any actress, that she had never done, and the time seemed right for it. It was still early enough in cin­ema his­tory for audi­ences to be shaken up by a thor­oughly evil woman.Stanwyck was well aware of the poten­tial in the role of Phyl­lis Diet­rich­son in Billy Wilder’s Dou­ble Indem­nity, Wilder remarked later how Bar­bara jumped at the chance of play­ing it. In an inter­view for Movie Digest in 1972, Bar­bara, recalled, “when Billy Wilder sent me the script of Dou­ble Indem­nity, and I read it, I real­ized that I had never played an out–and–out killer. I had played medium heav­ies, but never an out–and–out killer. And because it was an unsym­pa­thetic char­ac­ter, I was a lit­tle fright­ened of it. I went to his office, and I said to him, I love the script and I love you, but I’m a lit­tle afraid, after all these years of play­ing hero­ines to play the part of an out–and–out cold– blooded killer… Read more

Out of the Past: An In-depth Review

July 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Virginia Huston Robert Mitchum

Vir­ginia Hus­ton, Robert Mitchum

In the lit­tle town of Bridge­port, Cal­i­for­nia, Jeff Bai­ley runs a gas sta­tion with the assis­tance of a mute boy, Jimmy, and courts Ann. One autumn day, Joe Ste­fanos dri­ves into town and informs Jeff that Whit Ster­lin a rack­e­teer, wants to see him. Jeff relates his life’s story to Ann as they drive to Sterling’s Lake Tahoe man­sion. As a pri­vate detec­tive named Jeff Markham, he was hired to find Sterling’s mis­tress, Kathie Mof­fett, who had shot Ster­ling and escaped with $40,000. Jeff found Kathie in Mex­ico but fell in love with her and believed her claim that she did not steal any money. They moved to San Fran­cisco and lived anony­mously until Fisher, Jeff’s for­mer part­ner, found them. Kathie killed Fisher and Jeff dis­cov­ered evi­dence that proved she lied about the money. Dis­il­lu­sioned, Jeff moved to his new life at Bridge­port. Arriv­ing at Sterling’s, Jeff assures Ann before she departs that he no longer loves Kathie. Meet­ing with Ster­ling, Jeff is sur­prised to see Kathie. She secretly tells him that Ster­ling is black­mail­ing her about Fisher’s mur­der to stay with him. The rack­e­teer black­mails Jeff to obtain tax records from Eels, a rene­gade accoun­tant of Sterling’s gang, but Jeff is being used as a patsy: Eels is to be killed by Ste­fanos, who will frame Jeff for the mur­der. Read more

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