Armored Car Robbery (1950)

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Directed by Richard Fleischer
Written by Earl Felton and Gerald Drayson Adams; suggested by a story by Robert Angus and Robert Leeds
1950/USA
RKO Radio Pictures
First viewing/Film Noir Classics Vol. 5

Ryan: You should see her workin’ clothes. Imagine a dish like this married to a mug like Benny McBride… the naked and the dead.

Lt. Jim Cordell: Very funny.

This is a tight hard-bitten “B” noir perfect for filling out a double bill at just 67 minutes.

Dave Purvis (William Talman) is a mysterious criminal mastermind with a clean arrest record.  He is one of the few to pull off a successful armored car robbery.  Is is in town again for a repeat performance.  Benny McBride, someone with a long record, helps him recruit more accomplices. Unbeknownst to Benny, Dave is having an affair with his stripper wife.

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Dave has the robbery planned to its last detail.  The men have 3 minutes to empty the armored car before the police arrive.  Everything goes to hell when a passing cruiser happens to hear the call and arrives in seconds.  In the melee that follows one of the policemen is killed and Benny is seriously wounded.

Lt. Jim Cordell (Charles McGraw), the partner of the slain officer, spends the rest of the movie in grim pursuit of the wily gang.

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This definitely cuts to the chase, which moves along at a rapid pace!   Not a moment is wasted.  I love McGraw and Talman in these things.  It’s hard to say whether the cop or the criminal is the more ruthless here.

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The Blue Lamp (1950)

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Directed by Basil Dearden
Written by T.E.B. Clarke and Alexander Makendrick, original treatment by Jan Read and Ted Willis
1950/UK
Ealing Studios
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Diana Lewis: What d’ye think I am? Soft or something?

Spud: Yeah.

What starts out as a rather wholesome police procedural turns into a gritty thriller and fine character study of a punk courtesy of a young Dirk Bogarde.

The movies begins with a plea for more police presence to combat post-war crime and a look at the daily duties of a London bobby.  Eventually the story focuses on PC George Dixon (Jack Warner) who is due to retire soon and PC Andy Mitchell (Jimmy Hanley), the rookie he takes under his wing.  We see the pair on the beat and George introducing Andy to his wife as a potential boarder.  Andy is promptly adopted as one of the family.

This is accompanied by the activities of a couple of delinquent thieves, Tom Riley (Bogarde) and Spud.  Tom has talked seventeen year-old Diana Lewis into running away from home and serving as an accomplice in their next job.  Separately, Andy is assigned to track her down.  He finds her but she cannot be held or forced to go home because she is of age.

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Somewhere along the line,. Tom gets hold of a gun.  He enjoys the power it gives him far too much.  He has fun seeing how much he can terrify Diana with it.  Then he uses it against a policeman in the course of a robbery and the chase is on.

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Bogarde is fantastic in this.  I liked the way he conveyed a kid who is tough on the outside and panicky on the inside and so cocksure he does the first three or four stupid things that occur to him.  There’s quite an impressive car and foot chase at the end, including the cops trying to capture their suspect from a crowded racetrack.  Recommended.

The Blue Lamp won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film.

No movie clip so here is a montage of clips in tribute to Dirk Bogarde set to “As Time Goes By”  sung by Brian Ferry – what an actor!

The Damned Don’t Cry (1950)

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Directed by Vincent Sherman
Written by Harold Medford and Jeronme Weidman from a story by Gertude Walker
1950/USA
Warner Bros.
First viewing/Amazon Instant

Ethel Whitehead: Don’t talk to me about self-respect. That’s something you tell yourself you got when you got nothing else.

Joan Crawford sleeps herself to the top in this melodramatic noir.

Ethel Whitehead (Crawford) hates her life. Her family, a blue-collar worker husband and young son still she adores, still lives with her parents.  The husband is so mean he won’t even let her buy a bicycle for the boy.  She does anyway and her son is killed while riding.  That’s Ethel’s cue to walk out.

Before long, our heroine’s looks and figure are noticed and she starts working as a model for a dress manufacturer.  One of the model’s jobs is to entertain the buyers in the evening which earns them some extra cash.  Ethel initially is reluctant to do this but ends up more hard-bitten than the colleague who broke her in.

Ethel meets Martin Blankford (Kent Smith) an accountant.  She gets interested before she finds out he actually doesn’t make much money.  So she introduces him to the owner of a fancy restaurant she frequents.  His accounting skills impress the owner and pretty soon Martin is called for an interview with a syndicate.  It turns out the syndicate is a front for various vice rackets and Martin doesn’t want anything to do with them.  Ethel persuades him to go along.

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Then George Castleman (David Bryan), the boss, makes his move on Ethel.  As part of her advancement she gets a fancy apartment and wardrobe and a new name, Lorna Forbes.  She easily passes in the ritziest of circles.  Martin is understandably peeved but persists in hanging around.

Finally George sends Lorna out west to find out what’s up with his West Coast man Nick Prenta (Steve Cochran).  Lorna gets in deeper than George intended.

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I thought this was OK.  I never can buy Crawford as a man magnet but she is always convincing as a woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  The men surrounding her are, as always, pretty uncharismatic.  There’s something I like about Steve Cochran’s heavies though.

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Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950)

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Directed by Gordon Douglas
Written by Harry Brown from the novel by Horace McCoy
1950/USA
William Cagney Productions
First viewing/My DVD collection

Holiday Carleton: He’s too smart for you!

Ralph Cotter: Oh no, he stopped being smart when he took my money.

This was a bit of a let-down after James Cagney’s inspired Cody Jarrett in White Heat the previous year.  It’s still entertaining though.

The film is bookended by testimony in a criminal trial of a number of the associates of Ralph Cotter (Cagney).  As the story begins, Cotter escapes from prison with a couple of other men. One of his fellow-escapees is shot.  Holiday Carlton (Barbara Payton), the sister of the slain man, is waiting in the getaway car.  Although Holiday blames Ralph for getting her brother shot and swears unending hatred for him, Holiday and Ralph are soon lovers.  Cotter then organizes a heist.

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Violent and corrupt police inspector Charles Weber (Ward Bond) and sidekick John Reece (Barton MacLane) more or less stick Cotter up for the proceeds of the job.  But Cotter has a few tricks up his sleeve and with the help of equally corrupt lawyer Cherokee Mandon (Luther Adler) soon has the cops in the palm of his hand.  Then Cotter makes the fatal mistake of two-timing Holiday with an ex-governor’s daughter.

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This was OK but I was expecting the crazier side of Cagney and he never showed up.  In fact, various characters refer to Cotter as crazy but the character seemed more clever and calculating that anything.  This doesn’t have the script or direction White Heat had going for it but is solid nonetheless.  It was good seeing all those Warner Bros. character actors in supporting roles.

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Cheaper by the Dozen (1950)

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Directed by Walter Lang
Written by Lamar Trotti based on the novel written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Cary
1950/USA
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
First viewing/Netflix Instant

Frank Gilbreth: No person with inner dignity is ever embarrassed.

This film would probably have worked better for me if I had not been looking forward to Clifton Webb once again playing Mr. Belvedere.  Here he is positively avuncular.

The movie is based on a true story and takes place in 1920 New Jersey.  It is narrated by eldest daughter Ann (Jeanne Crain) looking back at her life in a family with eleven siblings.  Pater familias Frank Gilbreth (Webb) is a noted efficiency expert.  He and wife Lillian (Myrna Loy) planned from the beginning to have an even dozen of children.  The sixth boy, precisely timed to match the six girls, is born during our story.

Frank applies his efficiency theories at home in a big way.  He has his children timed to respond to a whistle in a matter of seconds.  He is also quite-straightlaced. He holds family council meetings for democratic votes on various issues, though he is quick to announce a suggestion out of order if he does not agree.  Education is very important in the Gilbreth family and reminders of facts about space, etc. are painted on the walls.  All these idiosyncrasies are displayed along side a lot of love and, in the long run, Frank has a hard time denying the children anything they want.

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The story covers episodes during several years of family life ranging from new schools to mass tonsillectomies, to dating.  One of the most memorable is when the Planned Parenthood lady (Mildred Natwick) unsuspectingly comes by to ask Lillian to serve as chairperson of the local chapter.  With Edgar Buchanan as the family doctor and Sara Allgood as their housekeeper.

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I couldn’t help thinking about how happy Joe Breen would have been with this script and its good American Family Values.  Clifton Webb manages to disappear into his character but I kept wanting Mr. Belvedere back.  Despite all that and dragging somewhat, this is a basically enjoyable family film.

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Mystery Street (1950)

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Directed by John Sturges
Written by Sydney Boehm and Richard Brooks; story by Leonard Spigelglass
1950/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
First viewing/Film Noir Classics Vol. 4

This is a well-paced police procedural with nice flourishes from director Sturges and noir master cinematographer John Alton.

The setting is Boston.  As the movie open, we see blonde Vivian Heldon (Jan Serling) arguing with somebody on the phone while her landlady Mrs. Smerrling (Elsa Lanchester) nags her in the background for the rent.  She isn’t able to get the person on the other end of the line to come to her so she gives up and goes to work.  It develops that Vivian is a “bar girl” with plenty of numbers in her little black book.

Vivian heads off to “work” where she spots Henry Shanway (Marshall Thompson) who is busy drinking away his troubles, having left his wife in the hospital where she is being treated following a miscarriage.  She makes another phone call then takes off with Henry in his car.  He is drunk and she is driving.  She asks him to trade places and, while he is walking to the driver’s side, takes off with it.  Soon enough, we see a shadowy figure approach her in the parked car and shoot her.  Segue to some time later and Henry is collecting on his car insurance, having reported the car as having been stolen from in front of the hospital.

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Segue to months later and a skeleton is found on the beach.  Detective Peter Moralas (Ricardo Montalban) is assigned to the case.  He takes the bones to the Harvard Legal Medicine Department where he works closely with Dr. McAdoo (Bruce Bennett) to determine the identity and cause of death of the victim.

When the body is discovered to be Vivian’s, Moralas interviews Mrs. Smerrling at the boarding house.  She proves to be quite the detective herself, in the service of a possible blackmail scheme.  As soon as the car is tied to Henry he is in a world of hurt.  The only person who believes in him is his wife Grace (Sally Forrest).  With Betsy Blair as another resident at Mrs. Smerrling’s boarding house.

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This is a tight little police procedural and looks beautiful.  My favorite shot was of Jan Sterling at the bar next to a swaying hula dancer lamp.  It just said everything about her character that you needed to know.  Elsa Lanchester is a real hoot!  Recommended.

I should have mentioned before now that all the films in Volumes 1 – 4 of the Warner Brothers Film Noir Classics Collection have excellent commentaries by film historians, sometimes with input from participants in the production.  I hadn’t known before listening to the one for this film that Betsy Blair had been blacklisted for campaigning for women’s rights within the Screen Actor’s Guild despite the fact that she was never affiliated with the Communist Party.   She got back to work only after husband Gene Kelly refused to do any more pictures for MGM unless the ban was lifted.

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Stromboli (1950)

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Directed by Roberto Rossellini
Written by Roberto Rossellini, Sergio Amedei et al
1950/Italy
Berit Films/RKO Radio Pictures
First viewing/Hulu

 

Karin: [Last lines] God… my God… help me! Give me the strength… the understanding… and the courage. God, God, God, oh my God, merciful God… God, God, God!

Beautifully shot, powerful, yet frustrating film.

Karin (Ingrid Bergman), a Lithuanian refugee, sits in an Italian woman’s camp after a bunch of hard knocks during the war.  Antonio, an inmate of the men’s camp, has fallen in love with her through the barbed wire fence.  He is about to be released and wants to marry her and take her with him to his island home.  She figures she might take him up on the offer if she doesn’t get her visa to go to Argentina.  The visa is denied and they are married.

The small island Antonio takes Karin to is dominated by an active volcano.  The last eruption destroyed many of the houses and caused many islanders to emigrate.  The remaining inhabitants are ultra-conservative and traditional.  Karin loathes the place on first sight. She openly says she is too civilized for such a place.

Antonio is surprisingly accommodating at first.  He gets a job as a fisherman and brings his meager wages home to Karin.  Karin goes to the priest to complain about the impossibility of her situation and he advises her to pray and try to make a good home for Antonio.  She brings a huge cactus into the house, takes down the family portraits and photos, and paints a bright mural on the wall.  Antonio is perplexed and dismayed.

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Karin makes no attempt whatsoever to fit it.  All the women on this island are apparently in mourning and dress head to toe in black.  Karin bares her midriff and legs or wears trousers.  She disregards warnings from visiting a woman of ill-repute who has a sewing machine she wants to use.  She rows out to visit Antonio while he is trying to work.  She is caught in what she thinks are innocent embraces with other men a couple of times. Naturally, Antonio is taunted as a cuckold.

Then the volcano erupts.  The experience is horrifying.  Karin announces she is leaving. Antonio tries to lock her up.  Karin seduces the lighthouse keeper into freeing her and giving her a little money.  The pregnant Karin must climb the still smoking volcano to catch a boat on the other side of the island.

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Karin is one seriously mixed up person in my opinion.  I could not figure out whether we were supposed to sympathize with her plight.  I both felt sorry for her and was totally exasperated by her.  Bergman is really good here.  You would not know she was a Hollywood movie star but for her exceptional beauty.  There are a couple of amazing documentary-like sequences — one of catching a feeding frenzy of huge tuna and one of the eruption and panicked evacuation of the village.  Worth seeing but I won’t be revisiting it any time soon.

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Annie Get Your Gun (1950)

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Directed by George Sidney
Written by Sidney Sheldon from the book of the musical “Annie Get Your Gun” by Herbert and Dorothy Fields
1950/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Repeat viewing/TCM DVD

 

If I went to battle with someone’s herd of cattle/ You’d have steak when the job was done/ But, if I shot the herder, they’d holler bloody murder/ And you can’t shoot a male in the tail like a quail/ Oh you can’t get a man with a gun — “You Can’t Get A Man With A Gun’,  lyrics by Irving Berlin

Nice solid rendition of a classic stage musical.  Betty Hutton is no Ethel Merman but you can’t have everything.

It is the second half of the 19th Century.  Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show arrives in an Ohio town.  PR man Charlie Davenport (Keenan Wynne) tries to set up a shooting contest on an innkeeper’s property in exchange for rooms.  The innkeeper is having none of it.  Then he is offered game birds by backwoods Annie Oakley (Hutton), who has downed them with a single shot to the head – no buckshot in his diners’ teeth.  After more demonstrations of her shooting prowess, the innkeeper decides to take the show up on its bet – $100 if his “man” can beat sharpshooter Frank Butler (Howard Keel).

Annie takes one look at ladies man Butler and swoons.  She has never seen anything so pretty.  But she easily defeats him in the contest and his ego can’t handle it.  Nevertheless, Wild Bill (Louis Calhern) needs a gimmick for his failing show and decides a female sharpshooter is just the thing.

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Annie starts out more or less as Frank’s second banana and the two fall in love.  Then Buffalo Bill and Charlie talk her into doing her special surprise trick to bring in a crowd. The spectacular sends Frank running for the hills.  Chief Sitting Bull (J. Carol Naish) is so impressed, though, he adopts her as her daughter and invests in the show.  Annie then makes a big splash with the crowned heads of Europe.  She finds Frank waiting when she gets home.  Who will blink first in the battle of the sexes?

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This movie is faithful to the play and is more or less one hit song after another.  It is opened up to show several wild west show acts but has little to no dancing.  Howard Keel sure had a beautiful baritone.  I like the musical play and enjoyed this.

Annie Get Your Gun won the Academy Award for Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture.  It was nominated in the categories of Best Cinematography, Color; Best Art Direction-Set Decoration-Color; and Best Film Editing.

Clip – “There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Bonus Clip – Judy Garland sings “Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly” before she left the production for health reasons.

Stage Fright (1950)

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Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Whitfield Cook; adapted by Alma Reville from a novel by Selwyn Jepson
1950/USA
Warner Bros.
Repeat viewing/Amazon Instant

Eve Gill: I’m afraid the murderer might come here madam. Might get into the dressing room. Might even murder me madam. I’m surprised you’re not a bit afraid yourself.

This is not one of Hitchcock’s more memorable films but second-tier Hitchcock is still enjoyable.  The inclusion of my beloved Alistair Sim kicks it up a notch.

Eve Gill (Jane Wyman) is studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.  She is sweet on fellow student Jonathan Cooper (Richard Todd), who is having an affair with married stage star Charlotte Inwood (Marlene Dietrich).  One day Cooper arrives with a bloody dress and tells Eve he witnessed Charlotte murder hr husband.  The police are now after him.  Eve helps him dispose of the dress and takes him to hide with her father (Sim).

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Eve decides to investigate to prove Charlotte’s innocence by posing as a dresser substituting for her regular.  While doing so, she gets to know the Scotland Yard investigator on the case, Mr. Ordinary Smith (Michael Wilding).  Eve’s affections gradually start to shift.  With Sybill Thorndyke as Eve’s mother, Kay Walsh as Charlotte’s regular dresser. and Patricia Hitchcock as a student.

SF_117This film depends on an unusual gimmick that I shall not reveal.  Your mileage may vary as to its effectiveness.  My husband groaned but it didn’t bother me much.  The performances are all very good and I find Sim and Wilding really appealing in anything.  Dietrich’s rendition of “The Laziest Gal in Town” is the icing on the cake.  Worth seeing.

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Wagon Master (1950)

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Directed by John Ford
Written by Frank S. Nugent and Patrick Ford
1950/USA
Argosy Pictures
First viewing/Netflix rental

[repeated line] Uncle Shiloh Clegg: You boys ever draw on anybody? Travis Blue: No, sir. Just snakes.

This is on Ford’s lighter side with lots of singing and frontier humor.  It’s entertaining.

In one of the first pre-credit scenes I have seen, the story begins with the Clegg gang robbing a bank and shooting a teller in cold blood.  They make a get away and, after the credits roll, Travis (Ben Johnson) and Sandy (Harry Carey Jr.) ride into town with a number of horses they are looking to trade.  After pulling a practical joke on the marshall with a particularly wild horse, they are approached by Mormon elders who need both some horses and help with guiding their wagon train to the San Juan Valley where they will prepare the way for further Mormon settlement.  The leader of the party is the volatile but jocular Elder Wiggs (Ward Bond).  Sandy and Travis initially refuse.  Then Sandy gets a look at a certain red-headed Mormon lass and changes his mind.  The money is good so Travis accepts as well.

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Before the wagon train has got very far, they stumble upon a medicine show whose cast is living on its own magic elixer, having run out of water in the desert.  Elder Wiggs looks at the meeting as providential and the show accompanies the wagon train west.  Among the cast is the lovely Denver (JoAnne Dru).  Travis takes a liking to her and now has even more reason to stick around.

Before long the wagon train itself is running very short of water.  Right after it reaches the river that saves it, the Cleggs arrive, guns at the ready.  The Mormons reluctantly help the gang under duress.  But when one of the boys tries to rape a Navajo (apparently, given her tears), Elder Wiggs has him whipped.  After that, the Cleggs become even more troublesome.  With Alan Mowbray as a quack doctor, Jane Darwell as a settler, and James Arness as one of the Clegg boys.

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This film is Ford in his homespun mode.  Generally, I find him not to have a flair for comedy but here the humor works pretty well.  All is backed by assorted songs from The Sons of the Pioneers. Bond has one of his most prominent roles here and he is very likable in it.  It’s all on the light side despite the presence of the evil Cleggs.  I enjoyed it.

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