Okay America and Afraid to Talk
Before I get on to last night’s films, I need to mention something I forgot to include in yesterday’s write up. There’s a foot fetish scene in Private Hell 36! I only remembered about it because there’s also a not-nearly-as-visually-appealing foot fetish scene in Okay America, which features Edward Arnold instead of Ida Lupino.
But never mind my sex life, on to the movies.
Last night was a pre-code “Proto-Noir” double bill of rare films from the 1930s. First, Okay America.
Lew Ayers is a Walter Winchell knock off who plays both sides against the middle while snooping around the sensational kidnapping of a young heiress.
The story is histrionic and over the top in that early 30s kind of way and I think the weird racist half-naked dance number (skull pasties!) immediately followed by an ever weirder musical number with women in Aunt Jemima outfits gave me some kind of sexual whiplash. But the dialog is sharp and snappy and there’s plenty of sex and violence. Plus, it was directed by Tay Garnett, who would go on to direct The Postman Always Rings Twice. It’s not Noir, but you can see the roots of Noir in certain shots or certain lines. And I love Louis Calhern’s awesome schnoz.
Speaking of Calhern’s schnoz, Afraid to Talk.
A bell hop witnesses a mob hit and winds up framed for murder by a pack of corrupt politicians when the real killer reveals he’s got proof of all their dirty dealings.
Great noirish premise and once again we get plenty of pre-code sex and violence, though this time our un-PC dance number features a chain gang of sexy, scantily-clad jailbirds joined together by chains attached to heavy leather collars. (!!!) Here too, you can see the roots, the images and ideas that would some day grow up to be Noir.
Last night was fun for me, because I probably never would have chosen these movies on my own. I’m glad I saw them.