The first night of the LA Film Noir Festival played to a sold out house. It really warms my hardboiled heart to see so many people coming out to support the preservation of what Czar of Noir Eddie Muller calls “our Film Noir heritage.”
First up, Cry Danger starring Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. A dynamite cast and a classic Noir plot about an ex-marine framed for a stick up he didn’t commit, but the real star of this film is post-war Los Angeles. The movie was made on a shoestring budget utilizing real LA locations and the result is a wonderfully gritty and unglamorous portrait of my beloved adopted city. This is one I really hope will make it to DVD, because I can see myself watching it over and over just for the background street detail, like I do with Blast of Silence. The other thing that really stood out about this film was the crackling dialog, penned by William Bowers.
Danger actors Rhonda Fleming and Richard Erdman were interviewed by Eddie Muller during the intermission. Both had great stories to share about Dick Powell and Robert Parrish. Erdman was hilarious, talking trash and cracking jokes and Rhonda was elegant and glamorous as ever. I was amazed to hear that she’d suffered from acute appendicitis during the filming. What a pro.
The second feature Tight Spot was the unquestionably the homely friend in this pairing. Hardly unwatchable, but pretty stagy and predictable (unsurprisingly so, since it’s apparently based on a stage play.) A gangster’s moll, played by an excruciatingly squeaky Ginger Rogers with an unflattering pixie haircut, is sprung from prison by feds who want her to testify against her boyfriend. (Come to think of it, this was a pixie haircut double bill, although short-haired Joan Banks was much hotter in Danger. All the dames in Danger were hot.) Romantic wackiness and gangster shenanigans ensue. This one also had William Bowers on board for the adaptation, and there’s a lot of sharp, funny back and forth between the leads, but it felt more like a dialog polish to me, whereas Danger felt like his movie from top to bottom.
Tonight it’s a George Raft double bill; Red Light and Johnny Angel. Stay tuned for the blow-by-blow.