Sunday, November 15, 2015

Film Pairing — So So Noir And Not So Noir

I’m not sure you’d call them curiosities. Maybe movies that might have slipped by everyone except the most devout followers of old crime films.

Fred MacMurray And Kim Novak
Pushover — The movie Double Indemnity is regarded as a classic and classic “noir.” Fred MacMurray played his first bad guy and did it well, giving him a whole new life as an actor in1944. In1954, MacMurray essentially reprised his role as a decent guy lured into murder by a twisted, beautiful, evil woman.  In this case we see for the first time in a major role Kim Novak as the Barbara Stanwyck character. Roy Huggins wrote the screenplay, based on two novels, The Nightwatch and Rafferty by Thomas Walsh and Bill S. Ballinger, respectively. For me, the dialogue was the only bright spot in this theft of the classic.  The cinematography, though attempting to create the dark, shadowy mood of most film noir was flat, and the soundtrack was distracting. Richard Quine directed. Philip Carey, Dorothy Malone and E. G. Marshall co-starred.

Lloyd Nolan And Mary Beth Hughes
Dressed To Kill  — Not to be confused with an earlier Sherlock Holmes film or the later erotic thriller by Brian DePalma, this is one of the films featuring popular fictional private eye Michael Shayne. The character came to life in 1939 in the first of 50 novels by Davis Dresser under the nom de plume, Brett Halliday. Shayne was so popular in the 1940s and ‘50s, the character was on radio and in comic books and eventually on TV (1960) with Richard Denning as Shayne. There was even a popular Michael Shayne Mystery Magazine featuring short stories. Dressed To Kill was one of seven Shayne films starring Lloyd Nolan.  I wasn’t expecting much. And during the first few minutes I was sure my doubts were justified.  Not so. The 1941 black and white film turned out to be a lot of fun. Shayne comes upon a couple of dead bodies in a hotel room, cons a newspaper and a couple of suspects to pay him to investigate. He continually cons the cops and his supposed bride to be (Mary Beth Hughes) in the kind of well-plotted but slightly silly drama in The Thin Man tradition. Good banter. Interestingly, Richard Burke wrote the novel on which Shayne creator Brett Halliday based the screenplay. It was directed by Eugene J. Forde and also featured William Demarest (later of “My Three Sons” with Fred MacMurray). Actor Hugh Beaumont would go on to play Shayne in a series of even lower budget films in 1946.

I’d go for something light and bubbly as an accompaniment despite the intended serious nature of Pushover. The sassy dialogue of the second light-hearted movie calls for it.

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