Friday, July 29, 2011

Jake Gyllenhaal at a private gun range for "End of Watch" in Los Angeles

Jake Gyllenhaal at a private gun range with Michael Peña in Los Angeles for "End of Watch" on 25th July 2011

Dream Dump, Gulf City, L.A. noir: The City as Character

"This was the final dumping ground. He thought of Janvier’s Sargasso Sea. Just as that imaginary body was a history of civilization in the form of a marine junkyard. The studio lot was one in the form of a dream dump. A Sargasso of the imagination". -NATHANIEL WEST
(The Day of the Locust novel, 1939)

Karen Black and William Atherton in "The day of the locust" (1975) directed by John Schlesinger

"On 70th anniversary of The Day of the Locust, West’s picture of the “Dream Dump” still rates Number One. “West’s ‘Locust’ captures Hollywood. Novel’s portrait still strikingly relevant 70 years on” -Variety, May 8, 2009.

Lizabeth Scott as Dusty Coral Chandler and Humphrey Bogart as Capt. 'Rip' Murdock in Dead Reckoning (1947) directed by John Cromwell

"Rip follows the clues to Johnny’s hometown of Gulf City. (It’s unclear where Gulf City is supposed to be, but it has to be somewhere along the Gulf Coast. There are palm trees, and Bogie refers at one point to “Southern hospitality.” There is a real Gulf City in Florida, but it’s an unincorporated little town that had a population of zero by the 1920s.)
Rip rolls through the microfiche in the Gulf City public library until he finds a newspaper article dated September 3, 1943, with the headline “Rich realtor slain.”

The motive was jealousy — both men loved a woman named Coral Chandler — and Johnny confessed to the murder, but disappeared before he could be sentenced, and enlisted in the army under a false name.
Rip tracks down the woman in the case, the beautiful and statuesque Coral “Dusty” Chandler (Lizabeth Scott), a singer in a Gulf City nightclub". Source:

“Walking through a city like New York or Los Angeles is like walking through a dream—or a nightmare,” writes Nicholas Christopher in Somewhere in the Night, and he catalogs elements of that hallucinatory promenade: “Corridors, stairwells, precipitate rooftops, towers, and antennae, streets that can be shadowy or frozen in time or frenetic with flashing steel and chrome, forbidding doorways, gigantic windows that with a subtle change of light can become funhouse mirrors. Not to mention the ever-changing faces and grotesqueries— the city of dreams differs very little from the city of reality.” Dream and reality are the touchstones of film noir".
-"L.A. Noir: The City as Character" by Alain Silver and James Ursini

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Linda Darnell: a femme fatale of sorts, more fallen angels

"Linda Darnell works as a waitress at the local restaurant run by Pop, played by Percy Kilbride, who would in the fifties click big opposite Marjorie Main in the successful Ma and Pa Kettle series from Universal. Pop has a crush on the younger woman as does another regular patron, a former New York City police detective played by Charles Bickford, who has come to California allegedly to improve his health. Meanwhile Darnell is also seen dating traveling salesman Bruce Cabot.

Andrews experiences Darnell’s toughness in his first visit to Pop’s restaurant. The gentle and accommodating Kilbride tells new man in town that he does not have to pay for his coffee. Darnell tartly demurs, telling her boss that he had provided a coffee for the town’s new visitor and that he should have to pay for it.
Far from being repulsed by Darnell’s toughness, Andrews is instead instantly smitten. He feels a camaraderie. She is, like him, someone from the wrong side of the tracks and he can relate to her, which means that Darnell has picked up one more male admirer in Walton, and this one is determined to proceed to great length to win her over.

Tough girl Darnell, after telling Andrews about her impoverished youth in San Diego, delivers an ultimatum. She wants marriage to a man of means, not a drifter who will move her from town to town. Andrews will either obtain sufficient funds to keep her in style or she will have nothing to do with him. She had earlier coldly abandoned Bruce Cabot for not measuring up to her expectations.

Faye fits into the classic definition of the strong supporting woman of film noir, but what about Darnell? Can she be classified as a femme fatale? She is definitely tough, uncompromising, and selfish. Darnell feels no compassion for Faye after learning that Andrews’ game plan revolves around a brief sham marriage to grab her money.
If Darnell is a femme fatale then it is one without the noticeable deadly sociopath’s demeanor of classic noir leading ladies Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” and Jane Greer in “Out of the Past”. Murder is an intrinsic part of doing business to Stanwyck and Greer. Tough Darnell could therefore be called a femme fatale with qualification. She is a femme fatale of sorts". Source:

Linda Darnell in one of her best performances ("Fallen Angel" in 1945).

"In 1945, a year after the tremendous success of Laura, director Otto Preminger again uses Dana Andrews, this time as as a drifter, Eric Stanton , who is thrown off a San Francisco bus for limited funds to continue.

A survivor, with use of his charm and well dressed demeanor, falls almost immediately for a waitress named Stella (Linda Darnell), who half the town appears to be nursing a huge crush on. Even though she only shows her mean-spirited side.

Film clips: Des films noirs et des autres genres de films, les femmes fatales avec les yeux des anges. Clip with scenes starred by femme fatales with angel eyes. Song: "Angel Eyes" music by Matt Dennis, lyrics by Earl Brent. Performed by Bruce Springsteen.

Marie Windsor in THE NARROW MARGIN (1952)
Cleo Moore in ON DANGEROUS GROUND (1951)
Claire Trevor in BORN TO KILL (1947)
Veronica Lake in THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942)
Ella Raines in PHANTOM LADY (1944)
Louise Brooks in PANDORA'S BOX (1928)
Jean Gillie in DECOY (1946)
Jane Russell in HIS KIND OF WOMAN (1952)
Anne Baxter in THE BLUE GARDENIA (1953)
Lauren Bacall in THE BIG SLEEP (1946)
Jane Greer in OUT OF THE PAST (1947)
Rita Hayworth in THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI (1948)
Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann in PERSONA (1966)
Simone Simon in CAT PEOPLE (1942)
Clara Bow in MY LADY OF WHIMS (1925)
Ingrid Bergman in ARCH OF TRIUMPH (1948)
Monica Vitti in L'ECLISSE (1962)
Marie Windsor in THE NARROW MARGIN (1952)
Anna May Wong in PICCADILLY (1929)
Ella Raines in PHANTOM LADY (1944)
Gloria Grahame in THE BIG HEAT (1953)
Ava Gardner in THE KILLERS (1946)
Lizabeth Scott in DEAD RECKONING (1947)
Hedy Lamarr in ALGIERS (1938)
Ella Raines in PHANTOM LADY (1944)
Gene Tierney in LAURA (1944)
Joan Crawford in MILDRED PIERCE (1945)
Dorothy Dandridge in ISLAND IN THE SUN (1957)
Constance Dowling in BLACK ANGEL (1946)
Mary Meade in T-MEN (1947)
Rita Hayworth in GILDA (1946)
Peggy Cummins in GUN CRAZY (1950)
Lizabeth Scott in DEAD RECKONING (1947)
Fay Helm in PHANTOM LADY (1944)
Louise Brooks in PANDORA'S BOX (1928)
Marlene Dietrich in SHANGHAI EXPRESS (1932)

Jane Greer and Lizabeth Scott in "The company she keeps" (1951)

"John Cromwell went on to direct the important noirs, The Racket (1951), Caged (1950), and The Company She Keeps (1951), but he had no track record in noir in 1946, and the team of writers behind the screenplay doesn’t amount to the usual suspects to any degree – but for one exception. The script was adapted from a story by Sidney Biddell and Gerald Adams. Adams went on to script The Big Steal (1949) and Armored Car Robbery (1950), and wrote the story for His Kind of Woman (1951 uncredited). Allen Rivkin who wrote the film treatment, later scripted Gambling House (1950) and Tension (1949). The screenplay was a joint effort of Oliver H.P. Garrett and Steve Fisher. Garrett has no other noir credits, so the perp has to be Fisher who had form. Fisher wrote the stories for I Wake Up Screaming (1941) and Johnny Angel (1945), and scripted Berlin Correspondent (1942) and Lady in the Lake (1947).

Lizabeth Scott and Humphrey Bogart in "Dead Reckoning" (1947)

The intrepid Bogie in mufti tracks down the girlfriend, Scott, an ex-chanteuse in a casino fronting as a cabaret, who after reprising her recent chart-hit and making an impression, introduces Bogie to the casino-operator, a suave foreigner engagingly played by Morris Carnovsky, and his sadistic henchman (a great camp turn by Marvin Miller). Well one drink leads to another – the last one spiked – and Bogie wakes up with a heavy hangover in his hotel-room and a stiff in the other twin-bed for company. You get the picture? Then all proceeds apace as Bogie endeavors to find out who killed his buddy and why. There is a double and later a triple-cross, with Bogie falling hard for Scott. The femme-fatale smells of jasmine not honey-suckle, and she just happens to be the casino guy’s wife! The final shoot-out is Out of the Past out of The Big Sleep. Source:

Lizabeth Scott in Too Late for Tears (1949) directed by John Cromwell

Lizabeth Scott plays Ivy Hotchkiss in "You came along" (1945) directed by John Farrow

Lizabeth Scott and Dick Powell in Pitfall (1948) by André De Toth

"Pitfall" now ranks as classic noir: French filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier considers it one of the genre's masterpieces.

Kristen Stewart as a warrior Snow White and Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen

"A lot of hot hype has come out of the 2011 Comic-Con, but as the dust settles in San Diego, perhaps the most exciting movie (at least for us at SheWired) promoted was Snow White and the Huntsman.

Starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as a warrior Snow White and Oscar-winning film goddess Charlize Theron as a very wicked (and stunning!) Queen, the first official photos of the cast in costume were released by Universal in conjunction with their Comic-Con panel. The stars promised this version is far from a fairy tale dream.

“I wasn’t initially jumping at the chance [to play Snow White] but she is one of the most heavy-handed, sincere [characters], seriously doesn’t let her heart cloud her mind,” Stewart told fans when asked why she was drawn to the role. “Also, I get to have a sword and stuff.”

"Trust me, she's dark,” she promised of her Evil Queen.
“I'm preparing to play a serial killer. Watch out, Kristen." "And I'm ready for it, bitch!" Stewart shot back. "Let's go!" Source:

Pattinson -- who plays chivalrous vampire Edward Cullen -- describes being taken by surprise on the set of the first Twilight film in 2008, when a fan handed her 3-month-old baby over to a mystified Rob.

Pattinson, at first, thought she wanted him to autograph her baby. But in fact, her request was even weirder.
"I didn't really understand the reality of the situation at this point, that anybody would actually see this picture", Rob admits. "So there's a picture somewhere on the Internet of me biting this baby". "You bit the baby?" exclaims Kristen. "That's so weird".

Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart attending Comic Con at San Diego, on 21st July 2011

After trying to sheepishly justify his action ("I didn't actually touch it!"), Pattinson cracks a joke to further provoke Stewart. "It's kind of a funny picture. The baby is so young, its entire head fits in my mouth", Pattinson deadpans, getting a laugh from his costar/girlfriend.

Robert Pattinson & Kristen Stewart in a promotional still of Twilight saga "Breaking Dawn"

Robert Pattinson on the set of "Cosmopolis", June 2011

As for Pattinson, he'll be appearing next in the period piece Bel Ami, as an amoral cad who climbs the social ladder by seducing powerful men's wives. And he's sporting that weird half-shaved hairdo for the recently wrapped David Cronenberg thriller Cosmopolis, just in case he needs to do some re-shoots.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"The Noir Thriller": pessimism epitomised in The Waste Land

"Murder. Lust. Greed. Despair . . . And Literary Criticism. No wonder they called it the Waste Land" -Martin Rowson, "The Waste Land"

"The noir thriller is one of the most durable popular expressions of the kind of modernist pessimism epitomised in The Waste Land. This relationship is wittily suggested by Martin Rowson’s comic-book version of the poem, conflating Eliot’s vision of modern life with the quest of a hard-boiled detective".

Lizabeth Scott appeared in 21 films between 1945 and 1957, mostly for Hal B. Wallis and Paramount, and was promoted by the studio as a Lauren Bacall or Veronica Lake-type.

The underlying ‘message’ of dangerous woman films is often that ‘the male ideal of self-sufficiency is not only impossible to achieve but in many ways self-destructive’: women are ‘merely catalysts, and in the end it is often the men who are destructive to themselves’.

Between 1942 and 1949, there were 11 Woolrich novels or stories made into films, the protagonists of which include a man hypnotised into thinking he is a murderer (Fear in the Night) and a mind-reader who predicts his own death (Night Has a Thousand Eyes), as well as alcoholics, amnesiacs, hunted men and fall guys.

Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott in "Dead Reckoning" (1947) by John Cromwell

Private eye films continued, of course, to be made, but if investigative figures were included, they tended to become increasingly vulnerable and flawed –for example, Bogart’s confused, hunted Rip Murdoch in John Cromwell’s Dead Reckoning (1947), Robert Mitchum as the traumatised Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947), Edmund O’Brien as the dying protagonist hunting his own killers in Rudolph Maté’s D.O.A. (1950)

Gene Tierney in "Laura" by Otto Preminger (1944)

In 1946, echoing the Gallimard label, the French critics Nino Frank and Jean-Pierre Chartier wrote the two earliest essays to identify a departure in film-making, the American ‘film noir’. Although they were not thought of in the United States as films noirs (the French label did not become widely known there until the 1970s), numerous postwar Hollywood movies seemed to confirm the French judgement that a new type of American film had emerged, very different from the usual studio product and capable of conveying an impression ‘of certain disagreeable realities that do in truth exist’.

The Hollywood releases of 1945 included Edgar G. Ulmer’s Detour, Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce and three films noirs directed by Fritz Lang – Ministry of Fear, Scarlet Street and The Woman in the Window. In 1946 David Goodis published the first of his crime novels, Dark Passage, and Delmer Daves began filming it; in the spring and summer months of 1946 alone, Hollywood released Blue Dahlia (George Marshall), Dark Corner (Henry Hathaway), The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett), Gilda (Charles Vidor), The Killers (Robert Siodmak) and The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks). In the same year Gallimard brought out French translations of two of Horace McCoy’s novels, the first American novels to be included in the Série Noire.

Lizabeth Scott and Charlton Heston in "Dark City" (1950)

"Hollywood, however, constrained not only by the Hays Code but by conventional expectations about the ultimate repression of the sexual, aggressive woman, tended to package the femme fatale narrative in ways that limited the ‘progressiveness’ of the cycle and confirmed popular prejudices by figuring the defeat of the independent female and the reassertion of male control.

Novelists were free to play much more extensively against stereotype, often setting up plots that initially lead us to judge according to stereotype and then reversing our expectations" -"The Noir Thriller" (Crime Files) by Lee Horsley (2009)

Frank Sinatra and Doris Day in "Young at heart"

Frank Sinatra & Doris Day in a scene from "Young at Heart" (1954)

In ‘Young at Heart’ (1954) a remake of ‘Four Daughters’ (1938) and ‘Always in My Heart’ (1942), Doris Day plays Laurie, the eldest of the Tuttle sisters, all eager to fall head over heels in love and sing away the day. They travel around as a singing quartet with their father and fear that their answers are somewhere out there in the big wide world away from the small homestead.

That is until Alex (Gig Young) walks into their lives and brings piano man Barney Sloan (Frank Sinatra) with him. Surly Sloan seems a fish out of water amongst the happiness of the Tuttle existence, but this only serves as a mission for the ever so happy Laurie to place a smile on his grim face and change his outlook to the world.

Dorothy Malone as Fran Tuttle, Doris Day as Laurie Tuttle, Elisabeth Fraser as Amy Tuttle and Robert Keith as Gregory Tuttle

"You get Doris Day delivering a range of delightful, sweet numbers such as "Ready, Willing and Able", "Hold Me in Your Arms" and "There's a Rising Moon for Every Falling Star" whilst Sinatra in fitting with his darker character gives us more bluesy almost down beat songs such as "Someone to Watch Over Me", "Just One of Those Things" and also "Young at Heart" which he duets with Doris Day on. The contrast of music makes it quite interesting and each song is perfectly pitched to fit in with the emotions of the scene.

Performance wise well Doris Day is as delightful as always, perky, fun loving and optimistic yet she also gets chance to show that she is more than capable as an actress. There are scenes within "Young at Heart" which allow Doris Day to show her range of emotion and in certain more serious scenes it's all quite touching and even realistic as she emits sadness.

Frank Sinatra plays Barney Sloan in "Young at heart" (1954) directed by Gordon Douglas

Alongside Day is Frank Sinatra cast as a complete opposite to the perky Laurie, he's on a permanent downer, the glass is always half empty and as such Sinatra is surprisingly convincing, delivering the believability of someone who just can't get a break". Source:

Frank Sinatra with Doris Day and Lauren Bacall at the Sands in 1955