Sunday, September 28, 2014

Film Pairings — Farley Granger Times 2

Granger and O'Donnell
Farley Granger had a look — corruptible innocence — that worked for those mid-century film noir and black & white B movies. Nice guy makes a mistake and things run amok. Granger turned out to be an Alfred Hitchcock favorite (Strangers on the Train and Rope). However earlier in his gracefully-aged, long career, Granger made a couple of movies that put him on the road to stardom. In the following two movies he is paired with Cathy O’Donnell, the feminine version of corruptible innocence. There was something oddly and attractively androgynous about both of them. There was magic between them.

Edward Anderson's Novel
They Live By Night (1948) — Veteran gangsters help a young and green prisoner (Granger) escape. In return, they expect him to help them in their chosen field of employment.  When he meets a semi-tough daughter (O'Donnell) of grifters (O’Donnell), they both see a way out of their current existence.  The movie, directed by the highly regarded Nicolas Ray (Rebel Without A Cause), was based on a depression-era novel, Thieves like Us by Edward Anderson. Escaping his fellow escapees, as well as the police, proves to be more than he can handle. Character actor Howard Da Silva gives an outstanding performance as “One-eye” Mobley.

Side Street (1950) — While current critics seem to dote on the noir qualities of They Live By Night, I favor this one right up to, but not quite all the way to the end. What could have been the perfect noir turned out to be a perfectly fine police procedural with exquisitely photographed scenes of 1950 Manhattan. Granger plays a down-and out, part-time postman whose wife (O’Donnell) is pregnant. He engages in what he believes to be a petty theft. The opportunity (temptation) practically falls in his lap. Unfortunately there’s nothing petty about his crime. And each time he tries to clear himself, he gets in deeper. Blackmail and a couple of murders later, Granger’s character is running for his life. Anthony Mann directed.

Both films are not only blessed by great cinematography both are able to draw from a stable of under-rated character actors, many of whom will be familiar to fans of “B” films of he era.

Netflix has put both these films on one disc.  If you are staying in and you are looking for some spirits to get in the mood, get a blanket, dim the lights and pour a glass of whiskey. Somehow wine spritzers and tough guys and gals don’t go together.

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