Noir City: PLAYGIRL and HELL’S HALF ACRE

This first flick PLAYGIRL was the one I was most looking forward to this year.

So, in spite of the fact that I’m as sick as the morose photographer in this movie, I still dragged myself down to the Egyptian last night. It was so fucking worth it.

I freely admit that there are great movies that I don’t particularly like and terrible movies that I love. The whole point of having a personal, unpaid blog like this one is that I’m free to like what I like and say whatever I think. My opinions are strictly my own and your mileage may vary.

Ok, PLAYGIRL. Is it really noir? Probably not. Do I care? Nope. I loved this one.

This is a very rare film that is tough to see, so I’m gonna go ahead and talk about the plot in detail. If you’d rather wait until you get a chance to see it for yourself, you’ve been warned.

Spoilers Ho!

A beautiful ingenue from Nebraska, played by Colleen Miller, arrives in the big city to stay with her more worldly pal, a nightclub chanteuse played by Shelly Winters at her trashy best. When their upstairs neighbor, a magazine writer, offers to introduce the fresh-faced kid to his boss, who just happens to be having a torrid affair with the chanteuse, well, you can see where this is headed.

Except you can’t really, because this is a rare noir (or really more like noir-adjacent) flick that centers around the theme of female friendship. Which is part of the reason why I liked it so much. You see, boozy, jealous Winters is convinced that the magazine mogul has replaced her with a newer model – he wants to, but is unable to seal the deal with the ingenue – and then winds up shooting him accidentally in a blackout brawl at his private love-nest.

That might be the end of a different movie, but instead we stick with the ingenue, whose implied involvement with the sordid crime of passion has wrecked her friendship and poisoned her budding modeling career. No one will hire her anymore, except sleazy stag-rags that want her to take it all off, so she turns to a broke and morally bankrupt playboy who hooks her up with a gig as a paid escort for an underworld heavy. She winds up mixed up in an assassination plot to take out the heavy, only regretful Winters finds out about it and pulls herself out of her drunken stupor, determined to save her friend’s life. She gets there just in time, but gets a bullet in the belly for her trouble.

Now if this was really noir, that should have been that, but no, there’s the obligatory happy ending. Winters survives and so does her friendship with Miller. However, I can’t be completely mad at it, because I like the message that female friendship matters more than men and is worth fighting for.

I loved this silly, sleazy flick. I loved the hats and the musical numbers, the vintage New York streets (“Oooh look, that’s Times Square!”) and the conversation through the dumbwaiter. I realize that it’s very hard to get your hands on a copy of this one, but totally worth it if you can.

Side note: Colleen Miller was there in the audience last night and she still looks like a million bucks.

The second feature was HELL’S HALF ACRE.

Man, was I sorry to miss this. Tiki Noir! Actually filmed in Honolulu! But I had to tap out at intermission, because nobody wants to be that one asshole that’s coughing all the way through the movies, and that was me last night. Unfortunately, that’s also me tonight. For that reason, I’ll be coughing my ass off here at that Fausthaus and sparing my fellow Noiristas both the disruption and the germs.

Tonight it’s THE BIG COMBO and BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK. I’ve seen and love both of these flicks so I’ll be playing along at home and writing them up tomorrow anyway. Stay tuned…

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