1947 Recap and 10 Favorites List

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What a great year for film noir it was!  I have now seen 75 films that were released in 1947.  A few shorts, documentaries, and B movies were reviewed only here.  The total also includes a few I’ve seen before that were not easily available this time around.  In that category, Raoul Walsh’s Pursued deserves special mention.  As of the time I first watched it, it probably would have made the top half of my favorites list.  It features gorgeous black-and-white cinematography by James Wong Howe and a cast that includes Robert Mitchum, Teresa Wright, and Judith Anderson.  Another film I liked several years ago that I did not see this time was The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Cary Grant, Myrna Loy and Shirley Temple.

There were many, many films that could as easily have filled the bottom three slots on my top-ten list.  The ones I selected mostly reflect my bias for film noir.  As usual, the list represents my personal favorites and does not attempt to arrive at the “best” films of the year.

10.  They Made Me a Fugitive – directed by Alberto Cavalcanti

large_they_made_me_a_fugitive_blu-ray_069. Ride the Pink Horse – directed by Robert Montgomery

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8.  Crossfire – directed by Edward Dmytryk

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7.  Miracle on 34th Street – directed by George Seaton

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6.  Quai de Orfevres – directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot

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5.  Brighton Rock – directed by John Boulting

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4.  Nightmare Alley – directed by Edmund Goulding

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3.  Black Narcissus – directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

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2.  Odd Man Out – directed by Carol Reed

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1.  Out of the Past – directed by Jacques Tourneur

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The Bishop’s Wife, Body and Soul, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer and Pursued dropped out of my predicted favorites list to make way for They Made Me a Fugitive, Ride the Pink Horse, Crossfire, and Brighton Rock.  All but Crossfire were new to me.  The complete list of films I viewed for 1947 can be found here and here.

The Paradine Case (1947)

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Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by David O. Selznick and Alma Reville from a novel by Robert Hichens
1947/USA
Vanguard Films and The Selznick Studio
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

Gay Keane: Well, nice people don’t go murdering other nice people.

This was David O. Selzncik’s last opportunity to interfere with Hitchcock’s movie-making and he went all out, even writing the screenplay. It’s not a terrible movie but it’s not classic Hitchcock. I also have a problem with attempting to sympathize with lawyers who commit malpractice right and left.

Barrister Anthony Keane (Gregory Peck) and his wife Gay (Ann Todd) are very happily married as the film begins.  Then he gets a referral from solicitor Simon Flaquer (Charles Coburn) to defend the young and beautiful Mrs. Paradine (Alida Parridine) who has been accused of poisoning her blind husband and stands to be sentenced to death.  Unfortunately for all concerned, Keane is bewitched by his frosty client on first sight.  At this point, his common sense goes completely out the window.

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Although his marriage is in grave jeopardy, Keane is determined to acquit Mrs. Paradine at all costs.  Against her explicit wishes, he begins to investigate the role of Mr. Paradine’s valet Andre LaTour (Louis Jourdan) in the crime.  The rest of the story is mostly a courtroom drama and I will not reveal it any further.  I will say that Keane makes several bone-headed mistakes including violating a  key maxim of all good trial attorneys:  “Never ask a witness a question if you do not know the answer.”  With Charles Laughton as the judge, Ethel Barrymore as the judge’s wife, and Leo G. Carroll as the prosecutor.

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This is an OK courtroom drama but not particularly Hitchcockian.  Its defects can probably all be laid at the feet of Selznick starting with the casting which resulted in a hodgepodge of accents in its Hollywood London.  It also moves at a sluggish pace, again likely due to Selznick’s omnipresence in the editing room.

Ethel Barrymore was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her three minutes of screen time in The Paradine Case.  Her part was originally bigger but several scenes were lost in Selznick’s extensive cutting of the film.

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Ride the Pink Horse (1947)

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Directed by Robert Montgomery
Written by Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer from a novel by Dorothy B. Hughes
1947/USA
Universal International Pictures
First viewing/Criterion DVD

 

Frank Hugo:  You know, Gagin, I like you.  There are two kinds of people in the world: ones that fiddle around worrying whether a thing’s right or wrong, and guys like us.

I prolonged my 1947 viewing a bit to be able to see this long unavailable film which was just released on DVD March 17.  It was certainly worth the wait!

Tough guy ‘Lucky Gagin’ arrives in San Pablo, Mexico with two aims.  One is to collect blackmail money from Frank Hugo (Fred Clark) for an incriminating check in his possession and the other is to kill Hugo, who had his friend Shorty bumped off when Shorty tried the same stunt.  Gagin is clearly tougher than he is smart and ‘Lucky’ may be quite the misnomer.  On arrival, he acts like the personification of the Ugly American, disrespecting all the Mexicans he meets while lavishly tipping in compensation.

Despite his ill treatment, naive teenage villager Pila spots Gagin as a sure murder victim and persists in sticking to him like glue.  Gagin also finds an ally in Pancho (Thomas Gomez), who runs the merry-go-round at the fiesta then taking place.  (It is from the wooden horses that the film gets its title.)

ride the pink horseIt takes Gagin a while to catch up with Hugo.  In the meantime, he runs into a U.S. government agent who is anxious to get his hands on the check as evidence.  After he does locate his man, Gagin winds up bleeding for most of the rest of the story while being ministered to by Pilar and hidden by Poncho.

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The plot does not bear 5 minutes of serious scrutiny but the whole thing is so stylishly done that I didn’t mind a bit.  Russell Metty’s lighting and the caustic dialogue carried me along oblivious to the many lapses in logic.  My one complaint is that the story had a perfect natural ending but continued for another few minutes so we could all go home happier.

Thomas Gomez was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Ride the Pink Horse.

Trailer – does not reflect the beautiful restoration on the just-released DVD

Lady in the Lake (1947)

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Directed by Robert Montgomery
Written by Steve Fisher from the novel by Raymond Chandler
1947/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

 

Adrienne Fromsett: [to Marlowe] Perhaps you’d better go home and play with your fingerprint collection.

I went into this knowing that the “I am a camera” gimmick does not work for me.  Still, it’s such a noble experiment that I had to see it again.

Philip Marlow (Robert Montgomery) is not satisfied with the miserable fees he gets as a private detective so he decides to turn author.  He is amazingly successful with his first submission to a pulp magazine and called in for a chat with editor A. Fromsett.  This turns out to be the lovely Adrienne Fromsett (Audrey Totter) and she has more on her mind than the story.  She offers Marlow $300 to locate the missing wife of her publisher (Leon Ames), Chrystal Kingsby.  It is clear Adrienne has some ulterior motive as she clearly lusts after the publisher and, more precisely, his money.

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opening credits – set to Christmas carols!

Marlow’s quest leads to multiple beatings, a couple of murders, and assorted run-ins with police and is much too convoluted for me to explain here.  Throughout, one question is “How fatale is Adrienne’s femme?” With Lloyd Nolan as a hostile cop and Jayne Meadows as a survivor.

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It is just amazing that MGM, of all studios, indulged Montgomery in this audacious bit of film-making.  Sadly, the gimmick results in a lot of “deer caught in the headlights” style acting (except on the part of Totter who does very well) and does not advance the story or improve the picture.  One thing MGM did hold on to, however, was its glossy production values so we get a very noir story told in high-key lighting.  I doubt that there is another film like it, though, and it’s worth seeing at least once.

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Boomerang (1947)

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Directed by Elia Kazan
Written by Richard Murphy based on an article by Fulton Oursler
1947/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Films Corp.
Repeat viewing/Netflix rental

 

[Camera close-up on an open book]: The primary duty of a lawyer exercising the office of public prosecutor is not to convict, but to see that justice is done. -The Lawyers’ Code of Ethics.

This is a solid, if unexceptional, film noir in the semi-documentary style favored by Twentieth Century Fox.

The story is based on a true incident.  The setting is a smallish Connecticut town.  There is an upcoming election that the incumbent reform candidates desperately want to win. One night a beloved Episcopal priest is shot down on the street in front of a number of witnesses.  The killer quickly gets away. The media begins to have a field day criticizing the police force for failing to apprehend the murderer or even turn up any clues other than that the man was seen to be wearing a dark coat and light hat.  The reform candidates and police are under incredible pressure to deliver the culprit.  Prosecutor Henry Harvey (Dana Andrews), a friend of the reform party and potential candidate for governor, is as anxious as anyone to find a suspect.

Although a hot line turns up many false leads the police get nowhere until a drifter is picked up in a distant state.   The man, an ex-GI named John Waldron (Arthur Kennedy), left town shortly after the murder and was found in possession of a gun of the same caliber as that used in the crime.

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Waldrop maintains his innocence during an unrelenting interrogation and in face of identification by numerous eye witnesses and a report indicating that the fatal bullet came from his gun.  He finally confesses in a state of total exhaustion.

Harvey comes to believe that Waldrop is innocent.  Can he resist the political imperative to convict at any cost?  With Lee J. Cobb as the Chief of Police, Karl Malden as a detective, Jane Wyatt as Harvey’s wife, Sam Levene as a crusading reporter and Ed Begley as one of the politicos.

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There are no surprises here but a cast such as this is always worth seeing and Kazan does quite a competent job keeping the story moving.  Fans of courtroom dramas might particularly like this film.

Boomerang was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Writing, Screenplay.

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The Upturned Glass (1947)

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Directed by Lawrence Huntington
Written by John Monaghan and Pamela Mason
1947/UK
Sydney Box Productions
First viewing/Amazon Instant

 

Michael Joyce: Up to this point in the present series of lectures, we’ve dealt exclusively with abnormal mentalities. I emphasise the fact that in civilised communities eighty percent of our murderers and violent criminals were those whose minds had been conditioned by exceptional nervous stress and unhealthy environment. Last Friday we dealt with the smaller group of strictly moronic criminals. And now we come to that much more interesting phenomenon – the sane criminal.

The rest of this film is just not up to James Mason’s awesomely brooding performance.

The film opens with prominent neurosurgeon Michael Joyce (Mason) lecturing an avid medical school class on criminology.  When he starts in on “sane” criminals his case study focuses on a doctor who killed and we segue into the voice-over narration that accompanies the long flashback that tells the tale.  Michael was an unhappily married man whose whole life had become his work.  Then he examines a young patient who is losing her eyesight and slowly becomes attracted to her mother, Emma.  The girl’s father is overseas on a work assignment.  The pair begin a friendship that quickly builds to love but Emma gets cold feet and it goes no further.

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Then Emma dies when she falls out a window.  Michael blames the death on Emma’s sister-in-law and the rest of the story is devoted to his plans for revenge.

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This had potential but just didn’t amount to much.  Despite Mason’s dulcet tones, the lecture gimmick does not add to the drama of this oddly slight story.  I thought the ending was especially awkward and  anti-climactic.  Too bad.

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The Long Night (1947)

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Directed by Anatole Litvak
Written by Jacques Viot and John Wesley
1947/USA
Select Productions
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Maximilian: You know, it’s not too easy to kill a man. I ought to know.

Despite the unfortunate Hollywood ending, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this remake of Le Jour se leve (1939).

The film begins with the sound of a shot and a man falling down the stairs dead.  It sets up the character of Joe Adams (Henry Fonda) barricaded in his apartment with no means of escape and contemplating how he got himself in this mess.  The story then segues into flashback.

Joe is an ordinary working class guy who returned from the war to take up his old job as a welder.  He meets young, naive Jo Ann (Barbara Bel Geddes) who comes to his workshop to deliver flowers.  The two are taken by how much they have in common, starting with their first names.  In addition, they were both raised in the same orphanage and seem to share a fundamental loneliness.  It is love at first sight for Joe.  The two start seeing each other.

long night priceUnfortunately, magician Maximilian the Great (Vincent Price) has already set his sights on the gullible girl.  He is the worst kind of cad  as is well known by his former mistress and assistant Charlene (Ann Dvorak).  Charlene ends the relationship and tries flirting with Joe but he only has eyes for Jo Ann.  Maximillian remains intent on getting into the pants of his victim and resorts to increasingly desperate lies and intimidation.  The rest of the story focuses on Joe’s disillusionment and rage.  With Elisha Cook Jr. as a blind man.

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This film gets kind of mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it despite the corny Hollywood ending that undercuts the tragic tale told in the original.  I really like Fonda when his character is at war with the world and he is excellent here.  It was a treat to see Ann Dvorak back on screen after too long.  I didn’t even recognize her until I saw her name in the credits.  Price is suitably smarmy and despicable.  Added to all these pleasures is some gorgeous noir cinematography by Sol Polito and excellent staging by Anatole Litvak.

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Daisy Kenyon (1947)

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Directed by Otto Preminger
Written by David Hertz from a novel by Elizabeth Janeway
1947/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Mary Angelus: Want to tell me where you’re going, so I’ll have something to lie about?

I like Joan Crawford least when she is playing the most desirable thing on wheels.  Here she is all that and too old for the part to boot.

Career girl Daisy Kenryon (Crawford) has been having an affair with hot-shot attorney Dan O’Mara (Dana Andrews) for some time.  O’Mara is saddled with a neurotic wife (Ruth Warrick) and two children and with the extremely irritating habit of calling everybody of whatever gender or age “honeybunch”.  Daisy is conflicted about the relationship but doesn’t do anything to end it until she meets returning serviceman Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda).  Lapham is suffering from the after-effects of combat and the sudden death of his wife in an accident.

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Despite little encouragement, Lapham falls madly in love with Daisy.  They marry and Daisy gradually warms to him.  Then O’Mara is caught trying to patch things up with his former mistress and his wife asks for a divorce.  Daisy must now decide between her two loves. That is basically the whole story.  Any one aware of the requirements of the Hayes Code will be in no doubt as to the outcome.

1947 Joan Crawford in Daisy-KenyonThis is a very well-made product of the studio system with the class one would expect from director Otto Preminger, cinematographer Leon Shamroy, and composer David Raskin.  Your reaction will depend on your feelings about Crawford and the subject matter.  I was not keen on either.

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Secret Beyond the Door (1947)

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Directed by Fritz Lang
Screenplay by Silvia Richards; story by Rufus King
1947/USA
Diana Production Company
First viewing/Olive Films DVD
#214 of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Of all of Fritz Lang’s American films, the authors of The Book select this one??? Incomprehensible.

Long stretches of the film are accompanied by the whispered interior monologue of Celia Lamphere (Joan Bennett).  Celia inherits a fortune when her older brother dies of a heart attack.  Safe, steady Bob, who has been appointed to help administer the money, loves Celia and says he will propose when the time is right.

Celia travels to Mexico to forget her grief. There, she witnesses a couple of thugs fight with knives in the street over a woman.  This awakens her inner animal.  Mark Lamphere (Michael Redgrave), another bystander, is similarly inspired.  He soon makes Celia forget all about Bob and they are married without futher ado.  But on their honeymoon, Mark suddenly departs for New York when Celia playfully locks the door to their hotel room.

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Celia is elated when Mark finally sends for her and rushes to his family manse in upstate New York but his sister Caroline (Anne Revere) is the one who meets the train.  Mark turns up the next day, his odd behavior undiminished.  To add to that, Celia discovers her husband had a first marriage and a young son he didn’t tell her about.  The son and Mark are not on speaking terms.  Furthermore, a Miss Robey is living there as his assistant.  She lurks mysteriously, one half of her face always obscured by a scarf.

We gradually learn that Mark, an architect, has a real problem with female authority figures.  Among other quirks, he collects rooms.  That’s right, entire actual rooms complete with their authentic furnishings.  He is especially fixated on rooms in which murders took place.  One of these rooms is ominously locked.  Celia cannot resist finding out what is the Secret Behind the Door.

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To start with the good points, this movie is visually gorgeous with the typical Fritz Lang Expressionistic flare and all the actors do their best with the rather pretentious script.  For me the good points end right there.  I find the interior monologue (as opposed to standard voice-over narration which I quite like) to be an irritating gimmick and here it is delivered in such hushed tones that I had a hard time following it.  The story, which is loaded with Freudian symbolism and Oedipal complexes, is a mess.  The ending abruptly abandons all the many established plot strands and makes little sense.

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Johnny O’Clock (1947)

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Directed by Robert Rossen
Written by Robert Rossen; original story by Milton Holmes
1947/USA
J.E.M. Productions
First viewing/YouTube

 

Chuck Blayden: You get in my way and I’ll kill you.

Johnny O’Clock: You took the words right out of my mouth.

You can’t go too far wrong with a title like Johnny O’Clock.

Johnny O’Clock (Dick Powell) is an elegantly-dressed, tough gangster who has managed to keep his nose clean for years.  He is a partner in an illegal gambling operation with muscle man Guido Marchettis (Thomas Gomez).  Although he has nothing on Johnny, Police Inspector Koch (Lee J. Cobb) keeps hounding him for the whereabouts of crooked cop Chuck Blaydon who is taking pay-outs from the mob.

Meanwhile, Johnny has befriended Blaydon’s pathetic girlfriend Harriet Hobson (Nina Foch).  She wants to make up with her man but he is having none of it.  Johnny is also being pursued by Marchettis’s wife Nelle (Ellen Drew), with whom he previously had a relationship.  He now wants nothing to do with the married woman but she won’t leave him alone.

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The plot is fairly Byzantine from here on out.  The next major development is that Harriet is found as a presumed suicide.  This sparks a visit from her sister Nancy (Evelyn Keyes). Nancy and Johnny quickly become an item.  A bunch more stuff happens but this is more enjoyable for the dialogue than for the plot.

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I’m a Dick Powell fan, especially in his noir incarnation and this did not disappoint.  He might rank next to Bogie in his ability to utter stylized hard-boiled dialogue with just the right mixture of deadpan and humor.  The ladies don’t quite match his aplomb.  It’s an entertaining outing though.

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