Sunday, June 16, 2024

Walther Huston is caught in Frank Capra’s “American Madness”

American Madness (1932) is a pre-Code drama film directed by Frank Capra and starring Walter Huston. Other members of the cast include Pat O’Brien, Kay Johnson, and Constance Cummings.

Tom Dickson (Huston) is the president of Union National Bank. The bank’s board is concerned that Dickson’s lending practices are too risky during the early years of the Great Depression.

When the bank is robbed, it causes a run and Dickson’s career and the banks survival are in Jeopardy.

Frank Capra (1897 - 1991) was an American film director, producer, and writer. During the 1930s and 1940s, Capra’s films were among the most popular and awarded films. By 1938, Capra has won three Best Director Academy Awards. Born in Italy, Capra immigrated to the United States with his family when he was five years old. By sheer determination and his self-described cockiness, Capra talked his way into the movie business. He found a great home at “Poverty Row” studio, Columbia Pictures. At Columbia he had a major success with It Happened One Night (1934), which swept all the major categories at the Academy Awards that year. This helped turn Columbia Pictures from a Poverty Row studio into a major one. Other Capra successes include You Can’t Take It with You (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), and It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

 

Walter Huston (1883 - 1950) was a Canadian singer, stage, and film actor. He is also the patriarch of the Huston clan which includes his writer-director son John, and his granddaughter, actress Anjelica. Huston worked in the theater, with roles on Broadway where he debuted in 1924. Once talking pictures began in Hollywood, Huston worked as both a leading man and also a character actor. Some of Huston’s films include The Virginian (1929), Rain (1932), Gabriel Over the White House (1933), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, directed by his son John. Huston’s last film was The Furies (1950) co-starring Barbara Stanwyck and Wendell Corey.


American Madness  trivia

  • Frank Capra replaced Allan Dwan as director and started from scratch.
  • Walter Huston was on loan from M-G-M.
  • Capra modeled Walter Huton’s character after A. P. Giannini, the founder of the Bank of America.
  • The film’s original title was Bank Story.
  • American Madness is credited with helping to restore the public’s faith in the banking industry.
  • This was the first collaboration between Capra and screenwriter Robert Riskin; American Madness was Riskin’s first original screenplay.

 

Click HEREHERE to watch the film on YouTube



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Sterling Holloway, Constance Cummings, and Pat O’Brien

Discussion questions

  1. Did the film seem realistic to you?
  2. Was Walter Huston convincing as the bank president?
  3. What did you think of the pacing of the film? After only three years after the first all-talking pictures, American Madness seems fairly modern, especially when compared to other films from 1931. Do you agree?
  4. Do you see some foreshadowing of future Capra movies? If so, which ones?
  5. Did anything about the film surprise you?

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood “Cast a Dark Shadow”

Cast a Dark Shadow (1955) is a British suspense film directed by Lewis Gilbert and starring Dirk Bogarde and Margaret Lockwood. Other cast members include Kay Walsh, Kathleen Harrison, and Robert Flemying.

Edward “Teddy” Bare (Bogarde) has been married to a rich older woman Monica (Mona Washbourme) for a year. When he learns that she is planning to change her will, he murders her, making it look like an accidental death. After her death, he inherits the house but not her money which has gone to her sister Dora (Walsh).

After Monica‘s death, Teddy meets Freda Jeffries (Margaret Lockwood) at a seaside resort. He charms Freda and they marry.

Will Teddy murder again?



Lewis Gilbert (1920 – 2018) was an English film director. Gilbert was a child actor, but decided he wanted to direct. He went on to work with Alfred Hitchcock on Jamaica Inn (1939). During the Second World War, he worked with the Royal Air Force’s film unit, eventually working with U.S. Army Air Force motion picture unit where his commanding officer was William Keighley (The Man Who Came to Dinner), an American film director. Gilber went on the direct Sink the Bismark! (1961), Alfie (1966), and three James Bond movies: You Only Live Twice (1967), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), and Moonraker (1979).

Dirk Bogarde (1921 – 1999) was an English actor who was a matinee idol early in his career with films such as So Long at the Fair (1950),  Doctor in the House (1954), The Spanish Gardener (1956), and Song Without End (1960). Later in his career he co-starred with Judy Garland in I Could Go On Singing (1963) and made The Servant (1963), Darling (1965) co-starring Julie Christie and Laurence Harvey, and A Bridge Too Far (1977).

Margaret Lockwood (1916 – 1990) was an English actress who began her career on the stage but gained fame as one of Britain’s most popular movie stars during the 1930s and 1940s. She had a starring role in Bank Holiday (1938), directed by Carol Reed. The movie was a huge success and made Lockwood a star. Next up would be The Lady Vanishes (1938), which brought her to the attention of Hollywood. Lockwood didn’t take to Hollywood and soon returned to England where she made a series of popular costume dramas including The Wicked Lady (1945) co-starring James Mason.

 


Cast a Dark Shadow trivia

  • Charlotte’s automobile repaired by Edward is a 1950 Jaguar Mark V.
  • The 200 pounds left Emmie is approximately $8,000 today.
  • Margaret Lockwood had hoped her role in the film would revive her movie career.
  • Dirk Bogarde persuaded Lockwood to co-star with him.
  • The film was a modest success but it failed to revive Lockwood’s film career. Her next move was in 1976.

 

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube



Click HERE for to join the online discussion. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. Would you classify this movie as a film noir? If yes, why?
  2. What did you make of Dirk Bogarde’s characterization? Was he believable?
  3. The film had a few plot twists. Did they surprise you?
  4. Margaret Lockwood generally performed upper class characters. Her role as Freda was a woman of the lower classes. Was she convincing?
  5. The supporting cast was strong. Did you have a favorite?
  6. What do you make of the magazine Teddy was ready when he met Freda?
  7. Did the ending surprise you? Was it satisfying?

 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Michael Rennie is the visitor from space in “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) is an American science fiction film directed by Robert Wise and starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, and Hugh Marlowe. The supporting cast includes Sam Jaffe, Frances Bavier, and Billy Gray. Lock Martin portrayed Gort, the robot.

A flying saucer lands in Washington, D.C. and is quickly surrounded by the United States Army. The alien says he comes “in peace and with good will.” But when he displays an object that looks like it a weapon, a nervous soldier shoots and injures the spaceman. Gort, a tall and imposing robot destroys the soldiers’ weapons causing the amassed crowd to run in fear.

Klaatu, the alien, is taken to Walter Reed Hospital and recovers quickly. He escapes from the hospital and finds himself at a boarding house where Helen Benson (Neal) and her son, Bobby (Gray) live. “Mr. Carpenter” befriends the Bensons and tries to learn more about the people on the planet he has come to warn.

Slowly, it becomes obvious that Mr. Carpenter is the man from space. Helen’s boyfriend Tom Stevens (Marlowe) discovers this and is willing to turn him in for the “prestige” he think it will bring.

Klaatu’s message for the world: stop fighting with one another and be careful in your development of nuclear weapons or we will destroy your planet!

 


Robert Wise (1914 - 2000) was an American director, producer, and editor. Wise began his movie career at RKO as a sound and music editor. For several years, he worked with senior editor William Hamilton. Wise’s first solo film editing credits were on Bachelor Mother (1939) and My Favorite Wife (1940). He was the film editor on Citizen Kane and was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing. Wise got his chance to direct at RKO from Val Lewton, the producer of horror classics like Cat People (1942). The Curse of the Cat People (1944) was the first film that Wise received director credit for. He eventually directed films noir, westerns, melodramas, and science fiction. Some popular films directed by Wise include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Executive Suite (1954), I Want to Live! (1958), which earned Wise his first Oscar nomination for Best Director. He went on to win Best Director Oscars for West Side Story (1961) and The Sound of Music (1965).

Michael Rennie (1909 – 1971) was British stage, film, and television actor. Rennie was a popular leading man and character actor in Hollywood during the 1950s. Perhaps his most famous role is as space visitor Klaatu in the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). Rennie played St. Peter in The Robe (1953), the first movie filmed in Cinemascope. That same year he starred opposite Jeanne Crain in the mystery Dangerous Crossing. He continued to play lead and supporting roles throughout the 1950s and also acted in live television.

Patricia Neal (1926 - 2010) was an American film and stage actress. Neal gained fame on Broadway, winning the 1947 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in Another Part of the Forrest. Coincidentally, 1947 was the first year the Tony Awards were presented. Hollywood came calling and Neal signed a contract with Warner Bros. In 1949, she made three films including The Fountainhead co-starring Gary Cooper. In 1951 she starred in the science fiction classic The Day the Earth Stood Still. In the early 1950s, she left Hollywood to go back on the stage. She returned to the screen in 1957's A Face in the Crowd co-starring Andy Griffith. She co-starred with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard in Breakfast at Tiffany's and she won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1963 for Hud. Neal continued to act in film, stage, and television until 2009.

Hugh Marlowe (1911 – 1982) Was an American stage, radio, film, and television actor. He is probably most famous for portraying playwright Lloyd Richards in All About Eve (1950). Other famous roles include The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956). Some of his other films include Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Twelve O’Clock High (1949),  Night and the City (1950), Rawhide (1951), and Monkey Business (1952). Later in his career, he played family patriarch Jim Matthews on the NBC soap opera Another World from 1969 until his death in 1982.

 


The Day the Earth Stood Still trivia

  • Lock Martin who played Gort the robot was nearly seven-feet tall.
  • Patricia Neal had no idea the film would become a classic. Supposedly, she had a tough time keeping a straight face when she said, “Gort, Klaatu barado nikto.”
  • Broadcast journalists from the 1950s were used in the film to make it seem more realistic.
  • Spencer Tracy was interest in playing Klaatu, but the producer, Julian Blaustein thought the audience would have many expectations about the character with Tracy in the lead. Blaustein held out for Rennie, then unknown to most Americans.
  • Frank Lloyd Wright influenced the design of the flying saucer.
  • Sam Jaffe had an engineering degree which was a perfect background for his characterization in the film as Professor Jacob Barnhardt.

 

Click HERE to watch the film on YouTube.

 


Click HERE to join the discussion on June 3, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you’ll receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 


Discussion questions

  1. Did you find this film was realistic?
  2. This film was made in the early years of the Cold War. Do you think that influenced the plot?
  3. This was one of the first science fiction films with an A budget and cast. Did the production impress you?
  4. What did you think of the casting of Michael Rennie as Klaatu? Do you think the producer was right to cast him rather than a well-known actor like Spencer Tracy?
  5. Did anything about the film surprise you?
  6. Given the fact that it was made in the early ‘50s, does the film hold up in the 21st century?
  7. What did you make of Klaatu taking the name of Carpenter? 

Monday, May 20, 2024

Garbo and everyone laughs in Ernst Lubitsch's "Ninotchka"

Ninotchka (1939) was the movie that proclaimed, “Garbo laughs!” The great Great Garbo is Ninotchka is a sophisticated delight. The supporting cast includes, Sig Ruman, Felix Bressart, Alexander Granach, and Bela (Dracular) Lugosi. Ninotchka, a special Russian envoy tasked with completing a deal to sell some jewelry that once belonged to an exiled member of Russian royalty (Ina Claire) now living in Paris. Ninotchka is all business and refuses to be taken in by the luxury and romance of the city of lights until she meets Count Leon d’ Algout (Melvin Douglas). Leon flirts with Ninotchka and shows her what a wonderful city Paris is and what it’s like living in a free society. Does Ninotchka hold fast to the tenets of Stalin and the Soviet Union or does she give in to the lure of democracy and capitalism? Directed by the legendary Ernst Lubitsch and written by Billy Wilder, Charles Brackett and Walter Reisch,

Greta Garbo and Melvyn Douglas


Ninotchka was a radical departure for Garbo. It was her first full-blown comedy film and it remains one of her most popular. Her performance garnered an Oscar nomination for Best Actress (she lost out, of course, to Vivian Leigh in Gone with the Wind). The film was also Oscar-nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Story, and Best Screenplay.

Backstory: By 1939, Great Garbo’s popularity was beginning to wane. Under the direction of Ernst Lubitsch, Garbo gives a wonderfully shaded performance as a woman whose life changes under the spell and romance of Paris. Garbo’s next film, Two-Faced Woman, also costarring Melvyn Douglas, was supposed to capitalize on Ninotchka’s success, but turned out to be a critical and commercial failure. It was Garbo’s last film. After the film was completed, she retired from the movies and acting altogether. Attempts to bring her out of retirement—and there were many—were unsuccessful.

The movie which pokes fun at Stalin and the Soviet Union was banned in that country, but was enormously popular in Europe.

 


Ernst Lubitsch (1892 – 1947) was a German-born film director who became famous for his sophisticated comedies during the pre-code era. Silent film star Mary Pickford lured Lubitsch to Hollywood in 1922. He directed Pickford in Rosita, which was a huge, hit and cemented his reputation in Hollywood. Lubitsch’s films were so unique that they were described as having the “Lubitsch touch.” Some of Lubitsch’s classic films include Trouble in Paradise (1932), Design for Living (1933), Ninotchka (1939), The Shop Around the Corner (1940), Heaven Can Wait (1943), and Cluny Brown (1946). Lubitsch was awarded an Honorary Academy Award for his work in film.

Ernst Lubitsch directs Garbo


Greta Garbo (1905 – 1990) was a Swedish-American actress. Greta Garbo was a major star during the silent and golden eras of Hollywood. She was famous for playing tragic figures in films like Mata Hari (1931), Grand Hotel (1932), Queen Christina (1933), and Anna Karenna (1935). With the beginning of World War II in Europe, Garbo’s career began to decline. Partly due to the fact that her films weren’t distributed in Europe during the war, where she was enormously popular. When she received terrible notices and poor box office with Two-Faced Woman, Garbo retired from acting and never looked back.

Melvyn Douglas (1901 – 1981) was an American actor. Douglas was a popular leading man during the 1930s working with some of Hollywood’s most famous leading ladies including Greta Garbo, Claudette Colbert, Joan Crawford, Claudette Colbert, Marlene Dietrich, Myrna Loy, and Merle Oberon. He won two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards late in his career for Hud (1963) and Being There (1979). Douglas’s last film role was in Ghost Story (1981) co-starring Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Fred Astair.

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.

 


Click HERE to join the discussion online on May 27, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. What did you think of Greta Garbo in a comedic role?
  2. Do you think there was some seriousness between the laughs?
  3. Did Garbo and Melvyn Douglas have good chemistry?
  4. A big part of the success of this movie is the character actors in the film. Did you have a favorite?
  5. Garbo retired from acting in 1940 after the failure of Two-Faced Woman. Do you think she made a mistake in retiring so young?

 

 

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

George Sanders and Lucille Ball are “Lured” into danger and intrigue

Lured (1947) is an American film noir directed by Douglas Sirk and starring George Sanders, Lucille Ball, Charles Coburn, and Boris Karloff. Lured is a remake of a French film directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers, The Spiral Staircase). It was titled Personal Column in the United States.

Sandra Carpenter (Ball) is an American in London. She came to the U.K. with a show that closed. To make ends meet in the meantime, she works as a taxi dancer. One of her colleagues was a victim of the “Poet Killer” who lures women through newspaper ads in the personal columns. Sandra meets with the Scotland Yard Inspector Harley Temple (Coburn) about her fellow dancer’s disappearance. Temple, appealing to Sandra’s concern for her friend, convinces her to work with the Yard as an undercover agent. She will be used to lure the killer out in the open.

During her undercover work, Sandra comes in contact with Robert Fleming (Sanders), a stage producer who is attracted to her. Fleming shares his home with his business partner and friend Julian Wilde (Sir Cedric Hardwicke).

Sandra responds to several personal ads but none seem to be the “Poet Killer.” Will Sandra find the killer or will she become his latest victim?

Lucille Ball, Charles Coburn, and George Sanders

 

Douglas Sirk (1897 – 1987) was a German film director best known for his Hollywood melodramas of the 1950s. Sirk is identified with melodramas but he worked in many genres including comedies, westerns, film noir, and war films. Sirk came to Hollywood in 1937 because of his Jewish wife who was being persecuted by the Nazis. Sirk’s first American film was Hitler’s Madman (1943). Sirk hit his stride with a series of popular Technicolor melodramas’ including Magnificent Obession (1954), All That Heaven Allows (1955), Written on the Wind (1956), and Imitation of Life (1959).

George Sanders (1906 – 1972) was a British film and stage actor who also had a fine singing voice. Hollywood was looking for a villain to star opposite a young Tyrone Power in Lloyd’s of London (1936) and Sanders more than fit the bill. His performance in that film would forever stamp him as a sophisticated bad guy. Before his acting career, he worked in the textile industry, which must have helped him with his role in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. In the 1960s, Sanders played Mr. Freeze in the Batman (1966) television series.

Lucille Ball (1911 – 1989) was an American actress. Ball started her career as a model and later appeared in films while under contract to RKO Radio Pictures during the 1930s and 1940s. At RKO, she starred in B-pictures and had supporting roles in A-pictures like Stage Door (1937) co-starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Ball left RKO for M-G-M in the mid-40s but major stardom eluded her. Ball had a hit radio show, My Favorite Husband. CBS wanted her to develop the show for television but Ball insisted on having her real-life husband Desi Arnaz co-star with her. The studio wanted her to star with her radio husband, Richard Denning, but Ball held out for Arnaz and I Love Lucy was born. During her television career, Ball was nominated for 13 Primetime Emmy Awards, winning five times. Ball’s reputation as one of the world’s great comedians has never been disputed.

Charles Coburn (1877 – 1961) was an Academy-Award-winning character actor. Coburn was one of the most popular character actors in film during the 1940s. He was nominated for three Best Support Actor Academy Awards for The Devil and Miss Jones (1941), for The More the Merrier (1943)—won, and The Green Years (1946). Other classic films featuring Coburn include The Lady Eve (1941), Kings Row (1942), The Constant Nymph (1943), Monkey Business (1952), and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953).

Boris Karloff (1887 – 1969) was an English actor famous for playing Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein (1931). The film and its sequels Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Son of Frankenstein (1939) established him as a horror movie icon. Karloff starred in many silent films before successfully transitioning to talkies. He also had success on Broadway, most notably with the original production of Arsenic and Old Lace (1941). Karloff also won a Grammy Award for his narration of Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).

 


Lured trivia

  • The title was changed to Personal Column during its initial release because the Production Code Administration thought the word lured sounded like lurid. Douglas Sirk thought the name change was confusing the theater goers and contributed to its failure at the box office.
  • Boris Karloff, George Zucco, and Sir Cedric Hardwicke all starred in classic Universal horror movies.
  • Alan Napier who played Alfred the Butler on the TV show Batman, which also had Neil Hamilton playing Neil Hamilton Commissioner Gordon, plays a police inspector named Gordon in Lured.
  • The voice of the blonde nightclub singer is that of Annette Warren. Warren dubbed the singing for Lucille Ball in Sorrowful Jones (1949) and Fancy Pants (1950). She was also the singing voice of Ava Gardner in Show Boat (1951). Warren is still with us as of this writing. She’s 101.
  • Charles Coburn and George Sanders were both Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winners.

 

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.

 


Click HERE to join the discussion online on May 20, 2024 at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. Did Lured fell like a film noir to you? If yes, what characteristics did you find fit the genre?
  2. This was a serious role for Lucille Ball; what did you think of her performance?
  3. Was the plot of the film believable to you?
  4. This was an early film by director Douglas Sirk. Do you see any touches in this film that showed up later in his more popular movies?
  5. Did anything about this film surprise you?
  6. Was the ending satisfying and believable?



Lobby card with the “new” title



 

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming “Cry Danger”

Cry Danger (1951) is an American film noir drama directed by Robert Parrish and starring Dick Powell, and Rhonda Fleming. The supporting cast includes Richard Erdman, William Conrad, Regis Toomey, and Jean Porter.

Rocky Mulloy (Powell) was sentenced to life in prison for a robbery and murder that he did not commit. He is released five years later when an “eyewitness,” a one-legged ex-Marine named Delong (Erdman) said he didnt do it. The alibi by Delong is a fake one, but ever the opportunist, by freeing Rocky, he hopes to share in the missing $100,000 from the robbery. However, Rocky says he wasn’t involved with the robbery and is determined to find out who framed him and his friend Danny Morgan, whose wife Nancy (Fleming) was involved with Rocky before she married Danny. Nancy seems to want to start where they left off many years ago which makes Rocky uncomfortable and complicates his quest to clear himself and Danny.

Will Rocky uncover who framed him and will he be able to clear his name.

 


Robert Parrish (1916 – 195) was an American film director, film editor, and former child actor. As a child, Parrish appeared in many silent films, including the classic Sunrise: A Story of Two Humans. He transitioned to talking pictures including Anna Christie (1930) with Greta Garbo, The Big Trail (1930) with John Wayne, and Forbidden (1932) with Barbara Stanwyck. Parish, with John Ford’s encouragement,  began working behind the scenes as a film editor. He worked with Ford on Stagecoach (1939), Young Mr. Lincoln (1939), and The Grapes of Wrath. Parrish won an Academy Award (shared with Francis Lyon) for editing Body and Soul (1947). Cry Danger (1951) was Parrish’s first directorial effort. He went on the direct major stars like Jane Wyman, Charlton Heston, Rita Hayworth, Jack Lemmon, and Michael Cain.

Dick Powell (1904 - 1963) was an American actor, singer, producer, and director. He began his movie career in musicals and comedies but eventually toughened up his image in the mid-1940s where he became a popular star of films noir. He was the first actor to portray Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944). After appearing in his last film, Susan Slept Here, Powell started directing. In the 1950s he was one of the founders of Four Star Television along with Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. Some popular films starring Powell include 42nd Street (1933), A Midsummer's Night Dream (1935), Christmas in July (1940), Pitfall (1948), and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

Rhonda Fleming (1923 – 2020) was an American actress and singer. Fleming was discovered walking to high school by agent Henry Willson. She was signed to a seven-year contract without a screen test, “it was a Cinderella story, but those things could happened in those days,” said Fleming. She had bit parts in Since You Went Away (1944) and When Strangers Marry (1944). Fleming had her first substantial role in Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound starring Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck. In 1949, Fleming won the female lead in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1949) co-starring Bing Crosby. In that film, she got to show off her singing ability. Also in 1949, she co-starred with Bob Hope in The Great Lover. Ten years later, she co-starred with Hope again in Alias Jesse James. After her film career slowed down, Fleming worked in television starting in the 1950s. She worked for several charities and established the Rhonda Fleming Mann Clinic for Women’s Comprehensive Care at the UCLA Medical Center.

Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming


Cry Danger trivia

  • Actress Jean Porter said that Dick Powell directed the film but gave the screen credit to Robert Parrish.
  • This is Rhonda Fleming’s personal favorite of all her films.
  • Fleming donated to restore the film by the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA’s Film and Television Archive.
  • There is a credit for the song “Cry Danger” but no song by that name is heard in the film.
  • $100,000 in 1946 (when the film took place) is equivalent to over one million dollars today.

 

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.

 


Click HERE to join the discussion May 13, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. How do you think this film compared with Pitfall?
  2. Does this film fit with your idea of a “classic” film noir?
  3. Film noir plots are notoriously complicated and hard to follow. Where you able to follow the plot of Cry Danger?
  4. What did you think of Fleming’s performance? Was she a typical femme fatale?
  5. Did this film surprise you in any way?

 


Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Dick Powell and Lizabeth Scott in “Pitfall”

Pitfall (1948) is an American film noir drama directed by Andre de Toth and starring Dick Powell, Lizabeth Scott, and Jane Wyatt. The supporting cast includes Ann Doran, John Litel, and Raymond Burr.

Johnny Forbes (Powell) works for an insurance company in downtown Los Angeles Johnny is introduced to the case of Mona Stevens and Bill Smiley by former policeman and private investigator J.B. “Mac” MacDonald (Burr). Smiley has been showering Mona with expensive gifts with money he embezzled. Johnny gets involved with Mona Stevens (Scott) the girlfriend of jailed criminal Bill Smiley (Byron Barr) while working on the investigation and Mona’s possible involvement. Johnny who has become disillusioned with his “happy” suburban life with his wife Sue (Wyatt) and his young son Tommy (Jimmy Hunt), finds himself attracted to Mona.

Will Johnny’s affair with Mona damage the investigation of Bill Smiley, and more importantly destroy his marriage to Sue?

 


Andre de Toth (1913 – 2002) was a Hungarian-American film director. De Toth directed films in Europe before World War II. He went to England and then to Los Angeles in 1942. De Toth worked in a variety of genres including films noir and westerns. He directed Gary Cooper in Springfield Rifle (1952) and Vincent Price in House of Wax (1953), the most popular 3-D movie during the 3-D movie craze. Later in his career, he worked as a second-unit director on Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Superman (1978). De Toth was married seven times. One of his wives was Veronica Lake with whom he had two children.

Dick Powell (1904 - 1963) was an American actor, singer, producer, and director. He began his movie career in musicals and comedies but eventually toughened up his image in the mid-1940s where he became a popular star of films noir. He was the first actor to portray Philip Marlowe in Murder, My Sweet (1944). After appearing in his last film, Susan Slept Here, Powell started directing. In the 1950s he was one of the founders of Four Star Television along with Charles Boyer, David Niven, and Ida Lupino. Some popular films starring Powell include 42nd Street (1933), A Midsummer's Night Dream (1935), Christmas in July (1940), Pitfall (1948), and The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).

Lizabeth Scott (1922 – 2015) was an American actress dubbed “The Threat” because she had a similar husky voice and screen persona as Lauren Bacall. Scott was an understudy to Tallulah Bankhead in The Skin of Our Teeth but never got the opportunity to replace Bankhead’s run of the play. When Bankhead was replaced by Miriam Hopkins, Scott did go on for one night and received good reviews. It wasn’t long for Hollywood to take notice and producer Wallis signed her to a contract. She made her film debut as Ivy Hotchkiss in You Came Along (1945) with Robert Cummings. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) was Scott’s second feature. She went on to star in Dead Reckoning (1947) with Humphrey Bogart, I Walk Alone (1947) with Burt Lancaster, and Dark City (1950) with Charlton Heston in his film debut. She had a falling out with producer Wallis after starring in Loving You (1957) with Elvis Presley and another Wallis contract player, Wendell Corey. She basically retired from film after Loving You but appeared on television sporadically during the 1950s and 1960s.

Dick Powell and Jane Wyatt


Pitfall trivia

  • There is a shot of the May Company department store on Wilshire Blvd. It’s now the home of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.
  • According to TCM host Eddie Muller, this was Lizabeth Scott’s favorite role.
  • This was an independent production for Regal Films owned by producer Samuel Bischoff. Dick Powell was on the company’s board of directors.
  • The comic in John’s son’s bedroom is Flash #77 which is worth over $500 in very good condition.
  • John’s personal car is a 1947 Ford Super Deluxe convertible which was the top-of-the-line model.
  • John’s company car is a 1948 Studebaker Commander Land Cruiser.

 

Click HERE to watch the movie on YouTube.



 

Click HERE to join the discussion on May 6, 2024, at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Once you RSVP, you will receive an invitation and a link to join the discussion on Zoom.

 

Discussion questions

  1. Most film noirs aren’t set in suburbia. Did the setting enhance or harm the film’s narrative?
  2. Was Dick Powell’s affair with Lizabeth Scott’s character believable?
  3. Is Lizabeth Scott’s character the typical femme fatale?
  4. What did you think of the performances? Powell, Scott, Wyatt, and Burr?
  5. Did this movie remind you of any others you’ve seen?

 

 

 



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