MONDAY, AUGUST 29
The Sniper (1952) Dir. Edward DymtrykThe Sniper is really the first Hollywood mainstream film about a serial killer. And it’s all set in San Francisco. It is one of the early films that delves into psychology and kind of what is retrospectively a ham-fisted manner with censorship and so on, but it’s really a serious movie.
The Face Behind the Mask (1941) Dir. Robert FloreyThis stars the great Peter Lorre in what is really kind of a bookend performance to his unforgettable turn in Fritz Lang’s M, where he plays an immigrant coming to New York, passing the Statue of Liberty, and he gets horribly scarred in a fire, and he has to turn to crime to make a living. It’s like the American immigrant story, turned on its head.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 30
All the King’s Men (1949) Dir. Robert RossenNow there’s a film that has relevance. Someone could flip a coin and say maybe Willie Stark (Broderick Crawford) is preferable to what we’ve had in the White House recently. All the King’s Men was the Best Picture winner for 1949. Crawford won the Oscar for best actor. Mercedes McCambridge, in an unforgettable performance, won best supporting actress. It’s really a great, dark film.
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Scandal Sheet (1952) Dir. Phil KarlsonAnother Broderick Crawford film, Scandal Sheet was really the emergence of one of the great action directors of the 1950s, Phil Karlson. Scandal Sheet was adapted from Sam Fuller’s novel The Dark Page, starring Broderick Crawford and John Derek. Karlson made a whole slew of really gritty, violent film noirs in the 1950s. After Scandal Sheet there was Kansas City Confidential, 99 River Street, Hell’s Island . . . One of his last movies was the 1973 film Walking Tall, which set new standards for violence. And made him a millionaire in his retirement.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 31
Detective Story (1951) Dir. William WylerThat was based on a very famous Broadway play, directed by William Wyler, and includes great lead performances by Kirk Douglas, who’s turbocharged in this, and Eleanor Parker, who was nominated for best actress for her performance. The thing that Wyler did is that it’s a filmed play, but he took it and he let it breathe. He also used a lot of the original Broadway cast, including Lee Grant, who is still with us, who was blacklisted shortly after this movie.
711 Ocean Drive (1950) Dir. Joseph M. NewmanKind of a weird title, but it’s really something that gave birth to the 1950s Kefauver hearings on organized crime. It’s where Edmond O’Brien is this electronic phone company whiz who parlays his talent into running a wire service for the Mafia in Los Angeles. He climbs to the top of the heap and finds out it’s a long fall down to the bottom. It was shot all over Los Angeles on location and also shot in Palm Springs. A lot of great location photography, and it ends with this spectacular climax filmed at the Hoover Dam.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 1
Playgirl (1954) Dir. Joseph PevneyWe close with two films that are not on DVD, Blu-ray, or streaming. One is called Playgirl with Shelley Winters as a chanteuse in New York trying to protect her friend—from the heartland of America—from the predatory designs of all these bad New Yorkers. This is really Shelley Winters unbound. You want to see the ultimate Shelley Winters scenery-chewing performance? This is it. This film was essentially in a vault until 2019, when I was able to talk to Universal and they made a DCP (digital cinema package) for us to show. We screened it in Hollywood at Noir City there and I screened it in 2021 in Palm Springs. And that’s been it. It’s not anywhere else, but it’s quite a picture.
The Cruel Tower (1956) Dir. Lew LandersThis is another overlooked, forgotten movie with John Ericson and one of my favorite noir actors, Charles McGraw, as steeplejacks cleaning the tops of churches. You’ve got a love triangle, double crosses, and everything just piles up like a blender running on high speed. It’s a campy, fun movie. And so I’m excited that the audience in Chicago is going to be able to see both of these movies that are not available to be seen presently anywhere else.
Noir City: ChicagoAugust 26-September 1Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. SouthportFull schedule and pricing at musicboxtheatre.com/events/noir-city-chicago-2022