31 Flavors of Noir on the Fringe to Lure you in! Part 2

By now with Parts 1 and 2 under my belt, it’s pretty clear that one theme has emerged. It is my love for three shamefully underrated noir actors that really carry the genre, John Garfield, Victure Mature, and Richard Conte! Victor Mature is a swarthy jewel in his darker noirs, The Long Haul, I Wake Up Screaming, and Kiss of Death. Even in the western noir masterpiece My Darling Clementine 1946 where he plays the brooding Doc Holliday. Conte possesses a sublime brutality, with the lure of a Minotaur charging. Think of him In The Big Combo, Thieves’ Highway, and Brothers Rico. Garfield is deeply vulnerable and edgy, giving off an existential sensuality as in He Ran All the Way, Force of Evil, Body and Soul, and They Made Me a Criminal. I think I’ve fallen in love with all three!


Read: Parts One, Three & Four

12-Cry of the City 1948

From the heart of its people comes the … cry of the city.

Directed by Robert Siodmak (The Killers 1946, Phantom Lady 1944, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry 1945, The Spiral Staircase 1946, The File on Thelma Jordon 1949) with a screenplay by Richard Murphy from the novel The Chair for Martin Rome by Henry Edward Helseth, and an uncredited Ben Hecht.

Editorial use only.No book cover usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by 20th Century Fox/Kobal/Shutterstock (5876973e)
Robert Siodmak, Victor Mature Cry Of The City 1948 Director: Robert Siodmak 20th Century Fox USA On/Off Set La Proie.

The moody black and white photography is by cinematographer Lloyd Ahern Sr. and the music is by Alfred Newman. Eddie Muller refers to Cry of the City as “Siodmak’s most operatic noir.” It is Siodmak’s most focused work, and the first film noir he shot extensively on location. The film reunited Siodmak with producer Sol Siegel who worked on three Paramount B pictures together after the director settled in Hollywood during the early 1940s. The song ‘Street Scene’, a recurring motif heard in several noirs and written by composer Alfred Newman, plays at the opening of the film. The song can be remembered in I Wake Up Screaming, also starring Mature. It is an urban melody that evokes dreamy nightscapes of the city. Siodmak loves a rain-soaked street in his noir films, with its themes of fatalism and obsession, and the shocking story of the clash between law and lawlessness. The story borrows from a familiar plot device which sets up an opposition between two characters who come from the same background as children, but wind up clashing in their adult life.

Cry of the City is the most ‘operatic’ (Muller) film noir not just stylistically, but the theme its essential that you not hate Marty Rome’s character. The whole idea is that these are two boyhood friends who come from the same neighborhood and it’s just through circumstance one becomes a criminal and one a lawman, but they’re basically the same guy. That’s the whole point of the film. It’s essential that he play someone with that swagger (Conte) and that criminal intent, but he also has a vulnerability you can see in both of them. You can see the boy in the man. It ends so tragically that it feels operatic…You could see that Siodmak is using the street like this huge stage.”

Cry of the City stars Victor Mature as Lt. Vittorio Candella, and Richard Conte as the ruthless Marty Rome. Fred Clark plays Cadnella’s partner Lt. Jim Collins whose tongue is fast on the trigger. Shelley Winters is Marty’s old flame Brenda Martingale. Brenda is Martin’s loyal ex-gal who spirits the wounded Conte around the city, while an unlicensed doctor works on his bullet wounds in the back seat of her car.

Betty Garde is Nurse Frances Pruett, and Berry Kroeger is the unsavory, amoral lawyer W. A. Niles. Debra Paget plays angelic Teena Riconti. Tommy Cook plays Conte’s cop-hating kid brother who worships him, and it’s clear is heading down the same doomed path, as his older brother Marty.

Garde and Emerson worked together in John Cromwell’s Caged 1950. Garde is Conte’s sympathetic nurse And Hope Emerson is the darkly imposing Rose Given. Emerson, a masseuse and a sadist, is the nefarious Amazon who desperately wants the jewels that Conte has lifted from sleazy lawyer Kroeger. One of the best supporting roles in Cry of the City is Hope Emerson as the ‘monolithic’ (Dinman) Rose Givens who dominates the scenes with Conte.

In Robert Siodmak’s sublime noir Cry of the City 1948 Emerson plays Madame Rose Given who runs a massage parlor, loves to cook, is a pancake eatin’ -looming ‘heavy’… who loves jewels and just wants a little place in the country where she can cook, eat pancakes and fresh eggs… ‘yeah that’s livin’. From her brawny swagger to her grumbling yet leisurely voice, Emerson’s deliciously diabolical performance is the highlight of the film!


Cry of the City is centered around two Italian American boyhood friends, who both grew up in New York’s Little Italy together. Both take very diverging paths. Candella (Mature) becomes an all-consuming cop and Martin Rome (Conte), a bargain basement hoodlum and vicious cop killer. Lt. Vittorio Candella is a homicide detective and Martin’s proclaimed enemy who’s also a long-time friend of the Rome family.

Mama Roma is a good Italian Catholic who loves her firstborn. Even though he has a bond with Martin’s family, Vittorio Candella has made it his ambition, to deliver him to the electric chair. Even Lt. Collins points out that his partner, after Martin escapes from prison is obsessed, “he’s only been gone one day and you’re making a vendetta out of it.”

Siodmak opens the movie, with a solemn tenor, as the family surrounds the bed of a dying man. A priest is administering the last rites at the bedside of Martin Rome who was wounded in a restaurant robbery shootout with a police officer Martin claims he killed in self-defense. The two detectives disrupt things when they show up at the entrance to the room. The attending nurse asks for Martin Rome’s medical history “no further record?”, when Lt. Collins chides her, “No record!… What do you mean? For five years he’s pulled every trick in the book, last night he holds up a restaurant, kills a cop… no record!” She corrects him, “I mean medical record sir.” The nurse casually mentions that she saw Martin’s wife in his room, and now Candella zeros in on finding this girl.

After Martin’s family and Candella and Collins exit the room, his mysterious Madonna, Teena quietly enters, “Go away Teena don’t get mixed up in this.” “Oh, Marty why did you have to shoot? Why did you kill?” “I had to. I thought we could…” “Does it hurt terribly?” “Kiss me (he smiles) I can’t die now!”

The nurse comes into the room. She sees Teena at his bedside. When she leaves the room, she bumps into Candella and his partner. Collins tells her, “Keep him alive and we’ll give you a bonus.” Should I have his wife send you a release form for his operation?” “Well, I don’t think he has a wife” “Well I thought that girl in there.” “What girl?” “Well, the girls in there now.” By the time they get back to Martin’s bed, Teena is gone.

A short time later, Martin is transferred to the prison hospital, but he refuses to give up the identity of the girl who secretly visited him.

Attorney W.A. Niles shows up at the hospital trying to convince the nurse to let him see Martin, “It’s a matter of a man’s life.” Candella approaches him, “Well counselor I didn’t know that chasing ambulances was quite in your line.” Collins tells him Martin hasn’t got a quarter to pay for his defense.

“I’m interested in defending a cop killer. I knew Macready too.”What do you want to talk to Rome about?” “If he’s dying, I a want a confession from him. He can save an innocent man Candella.” “Confession to what?” “His implication in the de Grazia case.” “De Grazia case, why you’re crazy We’re holding Whitey Ligget on that.” Ligget is Niles’ client and he’s got plenty against him, but he didn’t do the job and if he can talk to Martin Rome he can prove it. Candella laughs it off, “Torturing old ladies, I don’t think Rome goes in for that.”

In front of Candella and Collins, Niles hovers over Martin being wheeled out for surgery. He doesn’t want his client to burn so he urges Martin to confess to another murder, that of Mrs. de Grazia.

“Rome they’re holding Whitey Ligget for the de Grazia case. He didn’t do it Rome. He did not do it. You know that. You can save him. Rome you’re in bad shape You may not pull out. Don’t go with this on your soul. Please Rome, just tell us you were in on the de Grazia case. You don’t have to say anything. Just nod. You killed her. Just nod. You killed Mrs. de Grazia.”

Martin barely gets a whisper out to Niles to Go fry.” The doctor tells the orderly, to take him off to surgery. Collins says “That’s tough,” Niles asks “Did you catch what he said there?” “I heard him, he told you to go fry. I think he meant it. If you want us to say that in court we’d be glad to.”

It’s the light of day on the streets of New York City and Candella grabs a newspaper from Julie the corner hawker who asks if Rome is going to make it. Candella tells him it was a rough few days but he’s gonna pull through. Julie tells him that he’s seen his mother at church every day this week. “I think it’d saved them some grief if he’d a croaked.”

Martin gets a shave in the hospital while cuffed to the bed- he asks Nurse Pruett (Betty Garde, who is another sadly underrated supporting actor) to check if it’s close enough. She cups his face. Candella and Collins come in, she becomes very protective of Martin and sternly asks what they want. “I thought I’d tell you that Rome’s a pretty bad boy with the women.” “Just what does that have to do with me?” She tells him that she’s been working a long time, and doesn’t need to be told how to care for her patients.

Candella and Collins pull up a chair by Martin’s bedside. Martin jokes about Pruett, “She’s pretty hot eh Candella?” Collins “Smart guy we oughta throw you in a cell.” Martin points out, “Bullet holes, everywhere you look bullet holes.” Collins tells him to save it. He just left Mrs. Macready the wife of the guy he killed. Calls him a “murdering rat” She’s crying her heart out and he’s lying there getting a shave. Without any remorse, Martin Rome has no conscience. “Go ahead beat me I’ll die. Yell at me, I faint” He’s a smug unfeeling bastard. Candella shows him a ring from his personal possessions and asks him where he got it. He won it in a crap game a couple of months ago. He’s pretty good with the dice. It was a blonde fella with a droopy eye. Leggit, Whitey Leggit. “Marty this ring is part of the collection stolen from Mrs. de Grazia, $100,000 worth. Maybe you read about it. We’re pretty anxious to get who did it. They tortured the old lady til they found out where she kept the stuff. Then they strangled her.” Not very pretty huh?”

“You got Whitey Leggit, talk to him” “We will, we want to talk to you too.” “Look Candella I shot a policeman, he shot at me. Now I’m going to the chair. Suppose I say I did it, so what? I go twice? I had nothing to do with it. Besides a fella and his girl did the job.” Collins “So you do read the papers.” “You got a smart partner Candella. Look I never worked with a girl in my life. Talk too much. Yakita Yakita.” “Marty who was the girl that was here the night they brought you in?” “I thought it was a dream. There was a girl here huh?… So she was real.” “What did she look like Marty?” “An angel. I thought maybe I was dead.” Candella insists he found the de Grazia ring, they know there was a girl there the other night. Cut out the monkey business and spill who she is. Okay, “but you’ll be seeing her again, ’cause we’re going to find her.”

Nurse Pruett and Martin talk “You see that they say I tortured an old lady… I never did that in my life. Miss Pruett, you’re a nurse. You know people, do you think I’d do that?” ”You killed a policeman.” “He had me down, it was either him or me.” He asks her to help him take care of his girl- he swears she is innocent and not his accomplice. Pruett tells him, “Then she hasn’t anything to worry about.” “But she has, she’s a child. If they pick her up and question her she won’t know what to do. She won’t have a chance. Miss Pruett you’ve got to help me you’ve got to.” “There’s nothing I can do.” “Oh, but there is. Her name is Teena, Teena Riconte. Not even the police know that I’m telling you because I trust you.” He gives her Teena’s address. Tell her to go away and hide. “If you think you can talk me into that you’re crazy.” “Well just see her. Look at her. You’ll know.” She takes the piece of paper from him.

Niles (Berry Kroeger) comes in the room, like a crocodile in an overcoat. He tries to sell a deal. He’ll defend him for the cop killing. Say it was self-defense, the cop Macready has killed other men before. The DA is pushing to prosecute the de Grazia case and is under pressure. If he confesses to that, he can get 2nd degree. But he’d have to confess to the murder of Mrs. de Grazia. Martin says that he doesn’t know anything about the case and doesn’t have any idea where the jewels are. But Niles, crafty as he is, tells him he might be able to get his hands on a few of the pieces. Then Martin remembers the other night before surgery him trying to get a confession to the de Grazia case. He’s a rat. Go confess yourself, he tells him. He’s not gonna take the rap for Leggit. Niles presses on, “Be practical you’re going to the chair already.”  Niles threatens to tell the police about his girl. “She must be beautiful Marty. You always could pick ‘em.” Dark, with a face like a Madonna.”

The sleazy lawyer circling his bed like a vulture offers $10,000 if he’ll take the blame and says he’s got evidence that suggests a woman was present during the jewel theft and murder. Since Candella believes that it is Martin’s girlfriend who was involved it’d be easy for him to sell it. This is the first sign of the trail of repugnant characters who cross Martin’s dark path.

Martin kisses off Niles’ offer but the slimy attorney threatens him by invoking his girlfriend, threatening to incriminate her in the crime. Siodmak and Ahern frame the shots in a close-up of the two men, making the visual point of Nile having the upper hand, shot in an emphasized upper angle as he stands behind Martin in his hospital bed. Looking down at him, “She must be beautiful Marty… but if we worked on her for a couple of days… maybe she wouldn’t look the same. Maybe even you wouldn’t recognize her.” The scene ends with Martin reaching up from bed and choking Niles.

Martin sweet-talks Nurse Pruett (Betty Garde) to help hide Teena and Candella goes to visit Mama Roma (Mimi Aguglia). Candella waits with the littlest grumpy Roma, who already distrusts the police. He finally wins the serious little one over sharing a piece of candy and making silly faces at her. Mama comes in with a tray of wine. He tells her Tino (Martin) has been moved to the prison hospital. “Vittorio, what will they do to him?” She can’t understand why he killed the policeman he was always a good boy, he always sent her money. But Candella tries to reason with her that the money is dirty. What did he do to get it? He tells her that Martin should have married and settled down “like you and Papa.”

Martin’s little brother Tony walks in, “Mama that snoopy Candella’s in the neighborhood.”
He realizes he’s already in the apartment, “I’m not telling you, nothin’ copper.” Mama gives Candella soup to bring to Tino ”Tell him we love him. “Goodbye Mama.”

Orvy the trustee is sweeping up in Martin’s room. Ledbetter the unpleasant guard is standing around the cell puffing on his cigar. He yells at Orvy to get moving, “You mallard head, crazy old cluck.”Martin comes to Orvy’s rescue, “Ah don’t let him bother ya, he’s a big boob” “Hey you’re Martin Rome – you killed a cop. I’m Orvy. I’m a trustee.”Hello, Orvy.” Shakes his hand. Martin asks if a breakout is easy. “This ain’t no prison. Just a plain old hospital. You break out then Ledbetter (Roland Winters) gets blamed. You break out Marty huh? They’ll throw him out.” “It’s kind of tough isn’t it?” “It’s nothing, you can do it, Marty.” He shows him how to use a spoon as a passkey, “I’ve been here 3 months. They don’t know I know that.”

Candella shows up with the soup from Mama Roma. Martin asks about his family. Candella tells him that his little brother thinks he’s a hero. “Six or eight years from now I’ll be chasing him too.” “Maybe.”

Martin taunts Candella over his $94.43 weekly paycheck. “Ever go to Florida for a couple of Weeks? Ever bet a hundred bucks on a horse?” Or maybe give a girl a bunch of orchards just because you like her smile?” ‘No’ answers Candella, “But I sleep good at night.”

Marty Rome – “ I had enough of that when I was a kid. Crummy tenements, no food no clothes.”

Candella – “Save it for the jury, Marty. Who do you think you’re kidding? I was brought up in this district too. I heard that dialogue from you pool hall hotshots ever since I was 10 years old. Get hip, only suckers work Don’t be square stay with the smart money. Let the old man get the callouses digging ditches. No food, no clothes, crummy tenements. You’re breaking my heart, Marty.”

“You played it your way, I played it mine.” “Do you think it’s worth the chair” “I don’t know I haven’t fried yet.” “Maybe you won’t mind. You’d be the center of attention” “Me, I think of afterwards. You know when they slide that pine box through the back door? Somebody in the family has to identify the body before they can take it away.”

Candella tells him to stop clowning around and tell him where the girl is. He mentions Brenda Martingale. Names a lot of his old flames. That he’s gonna keep looking. The last name he mentions is Teena Riconte. “Know her?” “I don’t know any Teena.” “I will. I’ll tell you about her.” Candella leaves.

Martin calls for Orvy and asks for the spoon. Orvy will help him during his lunch rounds. Martin hears Ledbetter hitting Orvy off-screen for wasting time. Later Orvy slips him the spoon and leaves a visitor’s pass at the desk for an alias by the name of Tony Carino. Nobody would figure a guy breaking out of there. Martin asks why he hasn’t tried himself, but he’s got a bum ticker, and couldn’t take the stress.

Martin escapes from the prison hospital with the help of the gullible prison trustee (Walter Baldwin-you might recognize as the first Floyd the barber on The Andy Griffith Show).

Wearing a trench coat and hat he picks up his pass at the desk and walks through the long tunnel. It’s a great perspective shot. Martin walks right past the cops. Alfred Newman’s score is fixed with percussive tension as he simply just walks out.

Candella stakes out Teena Riconte’s apartment from across the street in a smoke shop. Waiting for Martin to come out, they realize that it’s his kid brother Tony, who now comes into the shop to make a call. Knowing the brother will recognize him, Candella hides. Collins listens in to Tony’s phone call to Mr. Angelo. Mr. Angelo is Martin. Tony begins to talk in Italian. Collins and the other cop are stumped, they don’t understand what the kid is saying. Candella comes in and asks for the piece of paper Tony is holding with the phone number, but he shoves it in his mouth and tries to eat it, they manage to rip it out of his mouth before he swallows it. Candella reads the phone number but there’s a digit missing. He tells Collins to call them all. “Take him home and have his mama give him a good spanking.”

Martin has been waiting at Nile’s office. This time around, Cameraman Ahern makes Martin the dominant figure in the frame, flipping the advantage and Martin now confronts Niles with an edge, the edge of his switchblade. “Now listen Marty don’t try to get tough. I do business with your kind every day.” Martin slaps him in the face and forces him to open the safe. He flashes the knife in his loathsome face. Siodmak and Ahern shoot from the perspective of Niles lower in the frame, seated at his desk from a high-angle shot. Martin discovers the de Grazia jewels hidden in a secret box within Niles’ safe. Niles has a gun in his desk drawer. Martin threatens him with the switchblade and gets Niles to spill the name of the woman who helped pull off the job. He tells him about Ligget’s friend, Rose Given. When Niles goes for his gun, Martin skewers the pig through the back of his swivel chair. With a touch of graphic detail, with a shocking effect, you can hear the knife pierce the leather.

Martin shoves the jewels in his pocket and then there’s a creaking, metallic sound that resonates like a drum. It catches Martin’s attention. It’s a percussive and eerie moment. Nile’s chair is swinging, his body has fallen to the floor with a thud. As it spins, Nile’s head appears then disappears as the chair orbits in front of his dead body. It’s a macabre scene leaving us with the repetitive sound his the chair, revealing the grim hallmark of the punctured hole from Martin’s blade.

Tony comes out of his apartment onto the street with Collins tailing him. Tony’s no dope he knows he’s there and leads him away from the apartment so Martin can go up and see Mama. Mama Roma enters the room and sees her son, startled in the corner. Dinner is ready. They hear someone come in Martin draws his gun. It is Papa who says, This is my house tell him to get out before I get back. Mama asks, Why must you kill Marty I don’t understand. He is her firstborn, the one who sends her money. The one she prays for every night.

“Why must you kill! I loved you more than the rest of them because you were my first.” She says her sin was not to ask where the money came from. “I did it for a girl.” “Sure Sure Marty with you it’s always a girl.” Mama Teena’s different. “You only care for Marty.” She says he doesn’t care about anybody. “Mama do you believe that I love you?… She’s good and she’s beautiful… This is why I must kill. “No I tell you not to kill, you are bad Martin.” He wants to sleep there. She insists, “This is my home too. There are other children, you must go.” Tony comes in, “How bout that flatfoot going in circles.” He lets Martin know that Nurse Pruett helped Teena hide.

Candella shows up. Mama tries to misdirect him into the kitchen. He smells the minestrone soup and he’s looking for Tony. Martin comes out and pulls the gun on Candella. Candella says to Tony, “So that’s your hero huh Tony? He breaks out of jail, fools the cops, and talks big with a gun in his hand. Look at him Tony his leg is shot full of holes. No place to go no place to sleep. Just run run run til he can’t run anymore. Escape. Escape to where? Look at him Tony, he’s a dead man” Martin quips, “Make an Italian a cop he’s gotta make a speech.”

Martin tells Tony, “Get his gun.” Candella warns,  “Stay where you are Tony. There won’t be any shooting in this house as long as Mama is here. I’m a little disappointed in you Marty.” Martin-“You’re a big boy now. Pretty funny fella. You don’t think I’ll shoot? Just make a move Candella, we’ll see.” Martin escapes once more.

Cry Of The City (1948) | Pers: Victor Mature, Tommy Cook, Richard Conte, Mima Aguglia | Dir: Robert Siodmak | Ref: CRY006AB | Photo Credit: [ The Kobal Collection / 20th Century Fox ] | Editorial use only related to cinema, television, and personalities. Not for cover use, advertising, or fictional works without specific prior agreement
Martin is in the back seat of Brenda’s car, he is sleeping, weakened by his unattended wounds. Brenda hands him a piece of paper. “I found her, Madame Rose.” She tells him that she can’t keep driving around they’ll pinch her. He passes out. She panics and finds an unlicensed doctor, a European immigrant who needs the money because his wife is sick. He tells her to keep driving and then realizes that they are bullet wounds. “You didn’t tell me.” “I was scared you wouldn’t come.” “It’s against the law whatever I do but this will cost you more.” Martin will only be fixed up for the time being. Brenda drops Martin off in front of Madame Rose’s massage parlor.

Like a modern Grimms fairytale, the sequence with Rose Given slowly emerging on screen just emphasizes what an imposing figure she truly will be in the film. It is night, and Siodmak and Ahern stage the scene using deep focus and backlighting. While Martin stands on the doorstep of her massage parlor, they frame the shot over Martin’s shoulder, allowing our imagination to see her silhouetted as a monster emerging from the corridor of a darkened lair. Through the glass, Given begins her stride from room to room, approaching the camera, and turning on each light, she increases in size until she fills up the frame, in all her menacing glory.

Once inside Rome cuts a deal with her for the de Grazia jewels. Martin offers the key to a subway locker containing the de Grazia jewels in exchange for $5000 and steamship tickets to South America. “a car, five thousand dollars, a way out of the country, and a good night’s sleep.”

Siodmak’s direction reveals like Niles, Given to be yet another of the city’s lethal degenerates. She begins to use her trade and starts to massage Martin’s back and shoulders. She begins to give a colorful account of her clientele. “Fat old women who have too much money and too many jewels.” Her sociopathic calm is not unlike Joseph Cotten’s Uncle Charlie’s restrained tirade about fat wives in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt 1943. Measuredly, like a boa constrictor, her hands move up his shoulders and begins to choke him, until he agrees to hand over the jewels. This is the darkest most offbeat moment in the film, as Martin has a revelation, his mind wanders to something Candella shared with him. The elderly de Grazia woman had been tortured to death for her jewels. Given complaints that the old gal had the nerve to put up a struggle.

Rose- “hmmm…It is good isn’t it. I have the touch. It’s only given to a few. It’s a matter of knowing the currents of the body. Why waste this on fat old women who think they can lose a few pounds and be beautiful again… Fat old women who have too much money and too many jewels. They think the jewels make them beautiful and they fight to keep them like they fight the years that make them ugly.”

The next morning, after Martin’s one night of sleep, Rose Givens stuffs her face with pancakes, talking with her mouth full, “Yeah I like to cook I wanted those jewels so I could get a place in the country fresh eggs every day. Milk, cream.”

Suspicious of a double cross, Given forces Martin to go with her to the subway station to make the trade and retrieve the jewels from the locker where he hid them. He has already given Candella the heads up on where to find the menacing Madame, but he wasn’t supposed to be with her. As she opens the locker, she spots the police closing in, and during the struggle, she aims her gun at Martin but winds up wounding Candella. While the cops are arresting Given, Martin escapes yet again.

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Candella rounds up Orvy the unlicensed doctor, and the drunk who identified Brenda. Ledbetter gets fired after 20 years. Orvy gets five more years but gets the chance to say “Goodbye Cluck!” as he waves at the Ledbetter the bastard.

Candella, still bleeding from his gunshot wound, visits Nurse Pruett who winds up telling him that Teena is a sweet kid who had nothing to do with the jewel heist or murder and that she is meeting Martin at their neighborhood church, because Tony said he was hurt. Martin wants to meet up with his mythical Madonna to try and get her to leave with him.

Before going to the church, Martin walks with Tony “You know where Mama keeps her money on the shelf in the kitchen.” Marty I can’t take that.” “Why not?” “Well, it’s all they’ve got.” “So what I gave it to them didn’t I?… Get it I said.” he goes to strike Tony.

There Martin tells Teena, “I’ve kept you in my heart always,” he tells her. “Wherever I went, you were my strength. You’re my life, I’ll do anything in the world for you.”

Candella finds them. “You may be leaving but not the girl. You told her everything? This is a good place for confession. She knows that you killed two men? Does she know about Orvy, the poor little cluck trustee who’ll get five years for helping you break jail? Does she know about Brenda the girl who sheltered you? She’ll serve time Marty. So will that doctor with the sick wife. You forgot all about them, didn’t you? No, he didn’t forget them. He didn’t even think of them. He used them and brushed them aside just like he’s used everybody he’s ever known. Including his own family. And he’ll use you too if he has to… He says he loves you, but if he did, would he ask you to share the kind of life he’s got to live?”

Teena hears the truth, she realizes that she has no future with Martin. She crosses herself and fades away. The two men walk out of the church. Candella tries to get Martin to hand over his gun, but Martin pistol whips Candella who falls to the ground. Siodmak shows Martin swiftly dragging himself down the wet city pavement, the streetlights and neon signs against the stark black spaces, framing Martin’s dark form as a fatalistic dead man.

Candella finally collapses on the street from loss of blood he yells “In the name of the law, Rome Stop!” before pulling the trigger. Bad fortune finally catches up to Martin and he winds up with a bullet in his back, the steamy rain rises up from the pavement like smoke. His last movements, trying to lift himself up, holding his switchblade that gives off a fragment of light in the dark, except for dead silence, a police whistle pulses, it’s an eerie effect.

Even when he tries to rise up from the ground, with the last breath he draws, he still points his switchblade. It’s his instinct. As Martin rests lifeless on the sidewalk, Tony arrives crying, he was unable to steal from their parents. Candella walks off with Tony who is redeemed in Martin’s place.

The aria of Cry of the City’s staged climax comes full circle to Its ‘operatic’ conclusion. Siodmak is a master storyteller.

13-The Threat 1949

Arnold ‘Red’ Kluger (Charles McGraw) “Give me your watch!” [Smashes it].. Now you don’t have to worry about the time!”

14-Impact 1949

“Have a heart son, you trying to wreck the engine.”

Wanted By Two Women! One For Love! One For Murder!

Directed by Arthur Lubin with a screenplay by Dorothy Davenport and Jay Dratler. With music by Michel Michelet and cinematography by Ernest Laszlo (D.O.A. 1949, Stalag 17 (1953), Kiss Me Deadly 1955, The Big Knife 1955, While the City Sleeps 1956, and two rare horror/sci-fi’s Attack of the Puppet People 1957 and surreal Tormented 1960, Airport 1970, and Logan’s Run 1976)

Impact stars Ella Raines as Marsha Peters and Brian Donlevy as Walter Williams. Charles Coburn as Lt. Tom Quincy, Helen Walker as Irene Williams, Tony Barrett as Jim Torrence, and Anna May Wong as Su Lin Chung.

Brian Donlevy plays Walter Williams, a savvy San Francisco industrialist. Williams is about to have an attempt on his life by his cheating scheming wife Irene (Helen Walker) and her lover Jim Torrence (Tony Barrett.) Irene pretends to be suffering from a headache, and won’t be able to make the trip to Lake Tahoe with her husband who’s being set up by the ruthless pair, to get whacked on the road trip. Irene tries to pass off Torrence as her cousin and asks Walter to give him a lift while he’s traveling to Tahoe.

On the highway, they get a blowout and Torrence takes a tire iron and violently wallops him in the head – off camera. “This is from Irene and me sucker!” But Walter survives the attack, and Torrence drives his car, while making his escape, has a head-on collision with an oil tanker, and goes over a cliff, in a fiery crash. Burned beyond recognition Torrence is mistakenly identified as Walter Williams, who is badly injured from the trauma to his head. Disoriented, Williams falls asleep in a moving van (a large white van owned by Bekins Moving and Storage Co. It’s the same company, the same size and color van that hid the title character Might Joe Young that same year) and winds up in Larkspur, Idaho.

Meanwhile, Irene has made arrangements with Torrence to meet her at a hotel in Oakland under the names Mr. and Mrs. Jack Burns. Emotionally ransacked by his ordeal, he assumes the name of Bill Walker and takes up a quiet life in the small town where he is hired as a mechanic in a gas station owned by war widow Marsha Peters (Ella Raines). Since he’s settled down to a quiet life with Ella Raines, we’ll call Williams, Walter now. He follows the newspaper headlines and learns that Irene is the prime suspect in the plot to murder him, and is sent to prison.

Walter and Marsha fall in love and he settles into a very different life than he once had. A quaint and contented life, putting the cut-throat pace and his unscrupulous wife behind him. He finally tells Marsha the truth about his identity and she urges him to return to San Francisco and clear his faithless wife. Once back, Irene accuses him of murdering her lover, and now it’s he who has to prove his innocence.

Irene “You let me rot in this stinkin’ jail.”

Su Lin Chung (Anna May Wong) plays Walter’s panicked housekeeper who believes only her silence can repay his great kindness to her. On the day of the murder, Su Lin hears him fighting with his wife, a flower vase smashing to pieces. Irene will try to make it look like Walter is prone to violence. Su Lin believes her testimony will do him more harm. Lt. Tom Quincy (Coburn) who had indicted Irene for his murder, is very shrewd and figures out the truth while helping Marsha put the pieces of evidence together, that will prove Walter’s innocence.

Walter Williams “In this world, you turn the other cheek, and you get hit with a lug wrench.”

15-Thieves’ Highway 1949

Rackets Ride The Roads!

Directed by Jules Dassin (The Canterville Ghost 1944, Brute Force 1947, The Naked City 1948, Night and the City 1950, Rififi 1955) Thieves’ Highway was Dassin’s last film before director Edward Dmytryck named him during the furor of HUAC. Dassin exiled himself to Europe but ultimately his spirit was not broken by the ordeal. He went on to direct Rififi 1955, one of the best caper films of all time, his later work includes, He Who Must Die 1957, Never on Sunday 1960, and Topkapi 1964.

Working from his novel ‘Thieves’ Market’ and the script by A.I. Bezzerides, Dassin made this headlong, free-flowing film noir with gritty naturalism in 1949, after both his masterpieces, Brute Force 1947 and The Naked City 1948.

Thieves’ Highway’s neorealism is an existential journey with an American pulse, that beats a shared rhythm of exposure to uncertainty and the distress of primal survival. The film is a great companion piece to his Europe masterpieces Night and the City (1950) set in the London underworld and his caper film, Rififi (1954) set in Paris. These masterworks alone are the reason Jules Dassin is one of my favorite directors.

The film is a collaborative effort partly due to its screenplay by A.I. Bezzerides who also wrote the scripts for They Drive By Night 1940 (based on his novel Long Haul), On Dangerous Ground 1951 (directed by Nicholas Ray, a gritty urban noir with closed in spaces that becomes transported to a rural redemption fable set in wide open spaces) and for Robert Aldrich’s Kiss Me Deadly 1955). Eddie Muller says of Bezzeride’s novel, “His novel Thieves’ Market, upon which the film is based, offered a hard-edged look at how greed and chicanery infect the agri-business system. Call it Steinbeck noir.” 

In addition, there’s a dramatic old-world score by Cyril J. Mockridge (My Darling Clementine 1946, The Dark Corner 1946, Nightmare Alley 1947) and Alfred Newman.

In They Drive By Night, the prevailing superficiality of the narrative is flanked by two themes, social commentary about the perils of independent hauling and the trope of the femme fatale mixed up in a murder plot. In contrast, Thieves’ Highway possesses a parablesque narrative structured around the classical quest in a hostile universe, with the montages of spinning tires and speedometers and wavy highway lines suggest not mere exhaustion but the testing of the hero’s soul… When a truck careens off the asphalt and bursts into flames at Altamont, it marks a spiritual as well as a practical defeat for the brotherhood of the road.- (Sragow)

Cinematography by Norbert Brodine (The House on 92nd Street 1945, Somewhere in the Night 1946, 13 Rue Madeleine 1946, Boomerang! 1947, Kiss of Death 1947) Brodine’s camerawork offers versatile shots, the odd angle at the Garco home when Nick discovers his father’s legs are missing, the full lighting at the apple orchard, or the more constricted frames with traffic in motion, the headlights streaking through the cab subverting the steady composition. The scenes in Rica’s place are backlit to expose the subtle details of the lovers and the use of mid-shots emphasizes the unfolding sexuality of Conte and Cortese.

Thieves’ Highway stars Richard Conte as Nick Garcos. Conte has forged an identity as a darker noir anti-hero, here he plays a virile, unyielding incorruptible leading man. Conte whose real name is Nick, has at least 100 films and television appearances to his credit. 18 of which were film noir, The Big Combo and Cry of the City being my favorites. He was discovered by Elia Kazan and John Garfield while working as a singing waiter in a Catskills resort.

Valentina Cortese plays Rica, an Italian refugee, a sensual woman, while her persona does not conjure one who walks the streets at night looking for clients, it is suggestive that she is a prostitute. Bezzerides had an aversion to casting Cortese in the role, he wanted the character to be an average American girl down on her luck who turns to prostitution. He sooner envisioned Shelley Winters to play it that way, as in the original story. Bezzerides felt that Dassin romanticized the character because he had been having an affair with the actress. Set apart from some of the other Italian stars of the day, Anna Magnani or Sophia Loren, Cortese eludes the voluptuous mystique. She has an ‘angular grace’ and more ‘sly humor’ (Muller). After she made The House on Telegraph Hill in 1951, she moved back to Italy with her husband, actor Richard Basehart who she met on the set of Robert Wise’s thriller. Her most lauded role is as the aging Diva Séverine who can’t remember her lines, in Truffaut’s Day for Night 1973 which she was nominated for Supporting Actress.

Lee J. Cobb gives an outstanding performance as crooked produce broker Mike Figlia, who cheats small operators by ‘fixing’ them when they dissent. He’s an amoral smug slimeball, whose remorseless braggadocio primed him for his role as crooked union boss Johnny Friendly in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront. At the time of the film Cobb and Dassin were best friends but that tragically came to an end when he named Dassin as a communist sympathizer in a closed-door session of HUAC. 

The film also co-stars Barbara Lawrence as the girl next door Polly Faber, Jack Oakie as Slob, Joseph Pevney as Pete, Morris Carnovsky as Nick’s father-Yonko Garcos, and Tamara Shayne as Nick’s mother. With a bit part by Hope Emerson who’s buying the apples when Figlia is selling them right off Nick’s truck.

Thieves’ Highway begins in the farmlands of central California, Nick Garcos is a noir hero who operates with more dynamism than the typical downfall hero. What emerges from the brightly lit environment of Fresno’s sunlit clarity is made a visibly darker world that has turned into an agonizing personal reality for his family. When Nick returns to his childhood home and finds his father destroyed, he begins a mythic quest for revenge.

He’s a World War II veteran who has returned from a temporary job earning money as a ship’s mechanic on a Far East voyage. He plans on joining his father in his trucking business and marrying his sweetheart Polly. From the beginning, the contrast between Nick’s two women is established. Polly is small-town, shallow, and very white. She is the extreme opposite of Rica who becomes Nick’s dark, enigmatic muse. “Bezzerides objected to several alterations to his book and deplored the casting of Dassin’s then-girlfriend Cortese in a role originally called “Tex.” (Michael Sragowessay Dangerous Fruit) Also Sragow points out in his incredibly thoughtful essay Dangerous Fruit, unlike the virtuous Catholic girl in Kazan’s On the Waterfront who leads the working-class hero toward redemption, Dassin flips that narrative, instead it is an Italian streetwalker who delivers Nick.

Dassin and Bezzerides somehow managed to sneak Rica’s sexuality past the production code, perhaps because of her foreignness, it makes her tolerable for certain American provincial audiences. In 1949, people would have to be asleep not to recognize that she is a whore. “In her garret, we’re treated to scenes that combine Rica’s lonesome stranger-in-a-strange-land pathos with a tense erotic charge.” (Muller)

Nick arrives in a taxi, he hears his father Yonko Garcos singing. He cannot wait to share the tacky yet meaningful gifts he has brought home, Japanese earrings for his mother (Tamara Shayne), and a geisha doll wearing an engagement ring for Polly. Nick is disturbed to see his beloved family living in poverty.

He also brings with him, a pair of Mandarin slippers for his father. It is when he goes to fit his father, a wheelchair reveals a shocking discovery, he has been left disfigured, and has no legs, he lost them in a suspicious ‘accident’ after selling his cargo of tomatoes to a devious San Francisco produce wholesaler Mike Figlia. Nick learns that after his father comes to from the crash, the money Figlia paid him for his load, is missing. 

After Papa Garcos’ truck is wrecked in the accident, he sells it dirt cheap to an acquaintance, a weary driver Ed Kinney (Millard Mitchell). Ed is a bad-tempered cynic who was also tricked by Figlia and is in the business of looking out for himself. Nick vows to avenge his father for the injustice perpetrated by Figlia who uses dirty tricks to steal from truckers. Nick buys back the truck from Ed who is busy trying to salvage the truck. He tells Nick that he’d gladly sell his Pop’s truck back to him, he just needs one last haul. Ed knows of a secret orchard of early Golden apples, and the two strike a deal. Conte warns Ed not to try anything funny, ‘I worked like a dog for that dough. Gyp me and I’ll cut your throat.”

Nick invests his savings and partners up with Ed to sell a haul of the early harvest of Golden Delicious apples to Figlia at his market in San Francisco. With Nick driving the retired Army surplus rig, and Ed driving his father’s truck which is being held together with spit, he now has a fleet of two.  ‘All the symbols in this movie are rock-hard and understated. The white military star on Nick’s truck makes a mute, omnipresent comment on postwar disillusion.’ -(Sragow)

On the road, the broken-down rickety trucks pitch and toss down the highway as they carry their impossibly heavy loads until Nick gets pinned under his truck when it slips off the jack, while he’s trying to fix a flat tire. When Ed saves him it is a moment in the film where he becomes redeemed, after he tries to cheat a small family of immigrants when they bought the apples from their orchard.

Brodine’s camerawork conjures little paintings, capturing split seconds, still lifes of beautiful human wreckage within the soul of Americana.

Nick struggles throughout the night with road fatigue. At first Nick and Ed’s relationship is founded on opportunity not camaraderie, but after Ed rescues Nick who is nearly crushed under the weight of his truck, buried alive face down in the soft shoulder’s gravel, the back-breaking challenge manifests a masculinity pact, where Ed even winds up bandaging Nick’s neck. After his father’s tragic accident that leaves him a cripple, Nick’s brush with death further defines the story’s allegory of the precariousness and threat along his journey.

The two men are followed by rival truckers, Ed’s former partners, Pete Bailey (Joseph Pevney – gave a terrific performance in Body and Soul 1947 – and later became a director) and Slob played by Jack Oakie. Ed gets mocked by Pete and Slob because he can’t keep up the pace in the truck that is literally falling apart. Pete and Slob figure to scavenge their load, by the looks of Ed’s broken down rig.

Night has fallen and strong side lit, low angle, and overhead shots continue to appear after Nick gets to where he’s going. He arrives exhausted from his eventful trip, and parks in front of Figlia’s wholesale mart amidst the throng of common people gathering at the pier-side haunts of San Francisco’s marketplace. Bezzarides details the marketplace as an ‘arena of cutthroat business as the all-American sport.’ (Muller)

Nick begins his confrontation with Figlia, as they thrash about in some crude bargaining. He decides to wait for Ed before he sells his load. Figlia pays off a beautiful Italian refugee, Rica – to get Nick up to her apartment and seduce him, while he sells Nick’s apples on consignment, right out from under him. 

Rica entices Nick in her room while Figlia swindles him, but as she spends time with him, she realizes that she is drawn to Nick and is touched by a wave of conscience. Cortese’s performance is filled with an inward eroticism, a humanness that becomes the soul of the film. Nico ‘Nick’ Garcos – “Hey, do you like apples?” Rica – “Everybody likes apples, except doctors.” Nick- “Do you know what it takes to get an apple so you can sink your beautiful teeth in it? You gotta stuff rags up tailpipes, farmers gotta get gypped, you jack up trucks with the back of your neck, universals conk out…” Rica – “I don’t know what are you talking about, but I have a new respect for apples.”

After falling asleep for a bit, Rica wakes him up to let him know that Figlia has stolen his haul. Dassin and cinematographer Brodine make use of the night and the frantic pace of the crowded market with its rain-oiled streets. Nick appears displaced and confined by the anarchy of commerce. It is after Nick’s visit to the produce market that he starts to face a conflict of personalities, with Figlia playing drivers against each other as he exploits their need for money.

When Nick finds out how much Figlia made off his load of apples, he forces him to turn over the profit. After he calls Polly, he starts to head back to Rica’s apartment. While they walk by the trainyard, Rica tries to convince Nick to leave Polly, when they are jumped by Figlia’s two goons, Nick is beaten. Rica tries to stop them, but she runs away with Nick’s money until she is cornered, with them taking the cash back to their boss. He wakes up in Rica’s room, she must convince Nick that she had nothing to do with the ambush. While he rests, she goes to the bus depot and picks up Polly bringing her back to see Nick.

Polly learns that Nick has lost all his money. At that moment she reveals herself to be an opportunist as she breaks off their engagement. The hero’s golden apple girl is an imposter. Rica smiles impishly, “Polly and I have one thing in common, she loves money too.”

He decides to rest and wait for Ed before he can confront Figlia. As a refugee of the war, Rica weaves a thread into the story of the working class. A woman of doubtful morality, she is the perfect soul that lay in ruin, showing off her earthy charisma. From her stance like a chanteuse in a raincoat to her drying her rainy hair with a towel. Between her allure and Nick showing off his chest, appearing like Adonis, the scenes are so sensual, it’s a wonder that the code did not have a spell trying to keep it off the screen.

The scenes with Conte and Cortese are vividly suggestive, Dassin and Bezzerides had to maneuver the steamy scenes in a way that subverts the code. Ironically while there were rules against women showing too much flesh, there was nothing inhibiting men from doing the same. When Rica plays tic tac toe on Conte’s bare chest, there is nothing in the code that argues against it. Lucky for us, because it is one of the sexiest scenes in the film, to this day I would wager.  Nick “Soft hands.” Rica “Sharp nails”, while stroking his chest tracking a flirtatious game on his skin.

Pete and Slob poke fun at Ed’s truck, First, it overheats, then as it putters down the winding road, “sounds like he’s dragging can’s up that hill.”

Nick doesn’t realize that Ed has lost control, cursed by a busted drive shaft, his brakes fail, and the truck goes over a steep grade on Altamont Pass, outside the city, and is killed when it crashes down an embankment and goes up in flames. The harvested gold scattered, rolling down the hill along with smashed crates, an avalanche of apples.

Dassin shared in an interview, that the scene with the apples rolling down the hill after Ed’s crash was actually an artistic accident. The sequence turned into visual memorable magic and powerful imagery.

When Pete (Pevney) and Slob (Oakie) arrive with this news of Ed’s death, Figlia offers Pete 50 cents a box to retrieve the apples scattered from Ed’s truck. Pete accepts the offer and goes out with Figlia. Slob is disgusted with Pete for taking money from Figlia, for the dead man’s load.

Enraged by the beating Figlia set up, Nick goes to Figlia’s warehouse where Slob tells him about Ed’s death. Together they go to the site of the crash and confront Figlia at a roadside cafe run by character actor Percy Helton. Pete discovers that Figlia does arrange ‘accidents’ for drivers that go against him. Pete and Slob, initially blowhards with their good-natured teasing finally reveal their decency.

Nick smashes Figlia’s hand with an axe handle and forces him to admit that he shorted Pete on the apples. Figlia exposes himself as the spineless coward, no more of the overbearing bully, he literally throws crumbled money on the counter begging for his life. But Nick gives him a savage beating “This is for my pop, this is for my pop, this is for my pop!” until the police show up after Rica calls them. Conte gives a painful performance as a man who musters the wounded wreckage of a man who feels so much love for his father.

Figlia feels that retribution is upon him, yet the film does not follow Bezzeride’s novel, the way it dispenses with the story. Thieves’ Market takes a more ‘literary and ambiguous’ (Muller) approach at the end of the novel. Instead by the film’s climax, the story takes a positive turn as Nick heads to San Francisco and proposes to Rica. 

“The book leaves us dangling as Nick takes off after Figlia crazy for revenge but Bezzerides refused to show the vicarious thrill of retribution because he felt no real victory had been earned –Nick ended up a cynical angry and hard hearted as the crooks he despises”(Muller)

Zanuck and Fox stuck their hand in the fluidity of the film at the end but, “Dassin managed to wring every drop of suspense out of that scene. They were guilty of stilted square ups. Despite that ineptly inserted shot of the cop preaching the law to Richard Conte.”

16-The Sound of Fury 1950 aka Try and Get me

The Sound of Fury a film that was abandoned in limbo for decades is directed by Cy Enfield, with a screenplay and novel “The Condemned” written by Jo Pagano, who was a contract writer at RKO for several years. His work ‘used shifting perspectives and stream-of-consciousness monologues to tell an updated version’ (Muller) of the crime, which shocked the world in the wake of the kidnapping, murder, and the aftermath.

Based on real-life events that occurred in 1933, with the shocking story of the kidnapping and murder of affluent college student Brooke Hart. The two men were subsequently arrested, confessed to the crime, and were lynched by a mob of locals. The film is one of the bleakest, rawest, and most disturbing noirs that stars Frank Lovejoy as somnambulist Howard Tyler, Lloyd Bridges as the narcissist psychopath – Jerry Slocum, Kathleen Ryan as Judy Tyler, Richard Carlson as journalist Gil Stanton. Katherine Locke as the odd Hazel Weatherwax and Adele Jergens as a bit of cheesecake – Velma. Music by Hugo Friedhofer and cinematography by Guy Roe. It was shot in Arizona, using locals as extras in the striking climax where the last ten minutes smolder with excruciating friction.

After moving his family west to struggle, living in a shanty town on the outskirts of Los Angeles, troubled veteran Howard Tyler (Frank Lovejoy) so driven by desperation to support his pregnant wife and young son, gets involved with a sociopath, who convinces him to pull small time rip-offs. He moved his family to Santa Sierra looking for a better life. “How’d I know a million other guys would have the same idea.” Howard storms out into the night looking for a job he’ll never get and a cold beer to wash down his angst. He meets another veteran in a bowling alley and lets himself fall under the influence of a charismatic psychopath two-bit criminal Jerry Slocum (Lloyd Bridges in an uncharacteristic role) Howard, down on his luck, revels in Slocum’s sleazy strut smelling of expensive cologne, monogrammed shirts, and fancy cufflinks, “Those are platinum… you know, not silver.”

Slocum indulges his fingers by running them through his sleek blonde hair, caressing it with an erotic flair, “What outfit were you with?”, “No outfit, really” mumbles Howard,  “I never got over. Took my basic at Fort Roberts.” A flicker of Slocum’s sociopathic grin, “So did I… what a lousy joint – I couldn’t wait to get over.” Howard says, “So you got over. Pretty rugged huh?” – “That’s the rumor I heard in Paris… ah Paree. You know what I could get for one lousy pack of cigarettes? Boy, the markup was terrific… I wish a guy could get a buck that easy these days… Got a car? Maybe I can put you onto something.”

Slocum entices the reluctant Howard to join him in merely a few nights’ work, committing petty crimes, while his wife Judy (Kathleen Ryan) thinks that he’s working the night shift at a factory. Bridges plays Slocum with psychopathic abandon, who struts like a plumed peacock and is one of the most strong-willed lowlifes of any film noir.

Slocum tempers himself between his smooth fascination with his silk shirts and the hostility that bubbles underneath his shark-like smile. Howard becomes the wheel man while Slocum pulls small-time hold-ups of gas stations until he asks him to go in on one last big job. They kidnap Donald Miller, the son of a wealthy Santa Sierra family, in order to collect a sizable ransom. But Slocum, resentful of the college boy’s privilege – “Where’d you get the suit?” Fingering the material, the kid tells him, “New York.”You guys sure treat yourselves right, don’t you.” He winds up brutally killing him in cold blood and forces Howard to help him bury the body in a quarry.

Frank Lovejoy (top left) and Lloyd Bridges (bottom right) in TRY AND GET ME a.k.a. The Sound of Fury (1950), directed by Cyril Endfield.

Howard has a breakdown, he can not reconcile with his guilt, and he begins to drown himself in alcohol, while he and Slocum hide out. Slocum picks up two girls (one Adele Jergens) in another town and shoves Howard along on a double date. Haunted by his paranoia, Howard twisted up in knots and stinkin’ drunk, goes back to the lonely, pathetic Hazel Weatherwax’s (Katherine Locke) apartment, where she appears to be a bit of a nut case. Her performance is off-putting, which adds to the uncomfortable atmosphere that starts winding up the film.

When Howard passes out on Hazel’s couch, he wakes up with her going through a moment of creepy arousal. That’s when she finds Donald Miller’s tie clasp in the cuff of Howard’s pants and in a panic, he tries to strangle her, though she gets away and runs to the police.

Howard winds up cowering in the shed in the back of his house, surrounded by the cops while his son laments “What did my daddy do?” Howard turns on Slocum and tries to blame him for the murder, but it does no good. The media and the public taste blood in the water and see no difference between the sociopath and a misguided down-and-out acolyte.  After both men are arrested, Newspaper columnist Gil Stanton (Carlson) is sent by his publisher Hal Clenndending (Art Smith- Body and Soul, In a Lonely Place) to write a series of articles highlighting the brutality of the crime. Part of the social conscience of the film points the finger at the press’ accountability for stoking the fires and making a connection between mob violence and sensationalist journalism. Sheriff Demig urges Stanton not to publish his piece, or else it will throw gasoline on the fire, but he goes ahead with disastrous results. While Howard sees his destiny closing in on him, Slocum paces in his cell like a wild animal as his killer adrenaline rushes to his mouth with rocket-fueled rage-“Try and get me!”

Just as in the true-life events, by the paralyzing climax, Enfield’s film combusts as ordinary citizens, riled up by Stanton’s editorials turn into rampaging vigilantes who storm the police station, beating the men to death as if they are being carried off by a sea of arms and hands. Guy Roe shoots the mob from below, an early suggestion of hand-held camera work, that is highly effective parting imagery.

The fear and confusion rampant in the studios in the 1950s was exemplified by UA’s wildly misleading advertising for the film (Source) United Artist re-released the film with the title Try and Catch Me, in order to change the socially conscious impression that materialism leads to crime, adding a new tagline-“6000 people including the blonde with the ice cold never and the deep warm curves!” (The blonde referring to Adele Jergens who was literally in the film for ten minutes), and “now you can join. Every excitement packed step of the way.. from the first angry cry.. to the roar that explodes the climax!” What was a condemnation of mob violence was repackaged as a sensationalist crowd pleaser.

Apparently, United Artists buried the film soon after its release, and Cy Enfield wound up making it on the blacklist of names during HUAC’s witch hunt. Right after he released another noir, The Underworld Story, he went back to England.

According to Eddie Muller, “producer Stillman let Pagano adapt the screenplay which led to disagreements between writer and director Enfield. In the book the Italian physicist serves as a one man Greek Chorus who lectures, lamenting about the social problems at the root of all crime. Stillman bravely considering the tenner of the times, kept the message mongering intact… “ Concerning the media’s responsibility to resist sensationalism by the news.

17-Night and the City 1950

Directed by Jules Dassin who is perhaps my favorite director, having put forth not only this noir masterpiece, but includes Thieve’s Highway and The Naked City. With Dassin’s sensibility of Neorealism and his use of on-location movement in the underworld of London, as with The Naked City’s vision of people hustling around the urban haunts of the streets of Manhattan, the film draws you into a finite noir world.

Night and the City stars Richard Widmark as Harry Fabian, Gene Tierney as Mary Bristol, Googie Withers as Helen Nosseross, Francis L. Sullivan as Phillip Nosseross, and Hugh Marlowe as Adam Dunn. The film co-stars Herbert Lom as Kristo, Stanislaus Zbyszko as Gregorius, and Mike Mazurki as The Strangler. Both Stanislaus Zbyszko (Dassin saw him fight as a kid) in his only role and Mike Mazurki were professional wrestlers, Mazurki   (The Canterville Ghost 1944, Murder My Sweet 1944, Nightmare Alley 1947, Dark City 1950, Some Like it Hot 1959, Donovan’s Reef 1963) enjoyed a long career in film and television.

Cast as Helen Nosseross, Googie Withers was an actress who echoed the ordinary women with an extraordinary allure, with post-war British audiences during the 1940s and 50s. In 1935, director Michael Powell discovered her as an extra and wound up starring as Sally in his film, The Girl in the Crowd. She went on to appear in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes in 1938, and the classic ghost story Dead of Night in 1945. One of her memorable roles is that of Rose Sandigate a beleaguered housewife who hides her ex-lover, an escaped convict, in the British noir classic It Always Rains on Sunday 1947.

Jules Dassin’s Night and the City comes out of the period of the director’s work before the dark days of the witch hunt conducted by HUAC, which wound up putting him in the crosshairs after he refused to testify against his colleagues. Dassin would wind up blacklisted. After he wrapped up shooting, the film was sent to Hollywood, he followed but was not allowed back on studio property to edit the film. After that, no Hollywood studio would hire him. After Night and the City, Dassin left for Europe in 1953 wandering around the continent trying to find work.

In 1954 director Jean Pierre Melville scheduled to film a caper film in Paris told the producers to hire Dassin instead even though he hadn’t worked in four years. Dassin came cheap rewrote the script directed the film and appeared in it as an Italian safecracker. The film was Rififi. It would be hailed internationally as one of the greatest caper movies of all time. It would win Dassin the best director award at the 1955 Canne Film Festival – that’s where he met Melina Mercouri he’d spend the rest of her life as well as directing several of her classic films. He retuned to America in the 1970s but most of his life he lived in Greece.

Zanuck who wanted to do Dassin a kindness, and just having seen his work on Thieves’ Highway, sent him to London in 1949 to start working on what would be his last American film for decades. Dassin’s sensibility of Neorealism, and his use of on-location movement, as with The Naked City’s vision of people hustling around the urban haunts of the streets of Manhattan. Night and the City is set in London’s Soho East End. The film was not received well perhaps due to the panic of communism and Dassin’s trouble with The House on Un-American Activities Committee.

It pushed him to leave the U.S. in 1953 and settle down in England. His film is one of the quintessential noirs with haunting, labyrinthine, grimy, often sweat-soaked, merciless scenes of bleak nihilism, resignation, and the deterministic forces of a noir universe. There are several moments of volatile colloquy, ending with the brutal climax, a vivid passage like the visual music of fatalism and futility. It’s a beautiful closed-in ordeal, a close-up of the spirit of human wreckage that reveals vulnerability and fate’s design to single out life’s misfits, all populating a bleak allegory of social disintegration.

Night and the City is archived at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. It was shot in the fall of 1949 and two different versions of the film were released in the spring of 1950. One for the British Market and another for American audiences.

The British version is noticeably different from the American release, for one thing, it is six minutes longer. There is a  prelude and a coda, that embraces Dassin’s Neorealism sensibility including scenes of bridge workers rushing off on one’s feet during their daily shift. Also, the first interaction between Harry and Mary is extended, but it lacks the focused intensity of the edited-down American version. Withers and Sullivan are also given more screen time which includes the reveal when Helen finds out after her husband’s suicide that he’s left all his money to Molly the flower lady played by Ada Reeve.

The longer British release is scored by composer Benjamin Frankel (The Seventh Veil 1945, Mine Own Executioner 1947, The Man in the White Suit 1951, The Long Dark Hall 1951). There is a typical musical narrative in the background, which features standards by Cole Porter which Dassin used to underscore the atmosphere of displaced Americans in London. Fox Studios refused to pay for the rights to those songs so they were removed from the U.S. cut.

The American version was replaced and substituted by  Franz Waxman. “Not that there’s anything lacking in Waxman’s frantic and fantastic US score which gives the film propulsive energy right from the start” (Muller). Waxman’s dramatic, heart-pounding flair underscores Fabian’s trajectory as he races through the streets at the beginning and the dramatic conclusion of the film. Meanwhile, the British climax coexists with silence from Frankel.

Night and the City 1950 paints a grim picture of the London Underworld with its reservoir of repulsive creatures streaming around an especially loathsome protagonist with ambitious delusions. All, populate this bleak allegory of social disintegration. It’s one of the most notable films that center around sports rackets, (The Set Up, The Harder they Fall, Body and Soul) with a protagonist who is not a wrestler himself, is a ‘scrappy combatant’ (Muller) and he does not have the beauty of redemption awaiting him at the end, with no strength that will help him transcend the noir kick in the teeth with his body as a weapon. And as Muller imagines, he probably fled the States to escape some dangerous loan sharks. Fabian, an American who now barely exists in London, longs for a piece of the action, but winds up in the river.

Shot by Mutz Greenbaum (So Evil, My Love 1948) who worked with Fritz Lang, Robert Siodmak, and Karl Freund, all immigrants who fled Nazi-occupied Europe and came to work in Hollywood. “a graphic showcase of the style at its most extreme”(Glenn Erickson). Greenbaum composes unforgettable images of a system of pitfalls and deadfalls.

“Dassin and Berlin born Mutz Greenbaum matched the intensity of Widmark’s performance by creating some of the most go for broke images as if the three of them relentlessly pushed eachother to take this whole sort affair to the edge, featuring an incredibly grotesque supporting cast.” – (Muller)

Zanuck hired Jo Eisinger (who adapted E. Ellington’s story Gilda (1946) to rewrite the script, based on Gerald Kersh’s well-known novel published in 1938. Eisinger was one of the original scriptwriters. Charles Feldman purchased the rights to the book in 1946, with director Jacques Tourneur in mind. But the script passed through seven different screenwriters who couldn’t wrap their brains around the narrative, Feldman threw up his hands and sold the rights of the book, and it’s forsaken drafts to Fox.

Eddie Muller refers to the book as a work of “High-minded pulp fiction. A Dickens style picaresque that follows the lives of shady characters scrambling for survival in the underbelly of London’s underworld… crime infested precursor to the slice of life kitchen sink dramas that would emerge in England after the war.” 

Zanuck told Eisenger to make all the action flow non-stop through Harry Fabian who was reconceived as a displaced American hustler instead of the native Londoner from the book. As for how to make a compelling leading man out of a reprehensible spiv, Zanuck had the answer under contract – Richard Widmark. (Muller)

Richard Widmark, a notable noir fixture plays Harry Fabian, Nosseross’ club tout, a petty thief, a misfit and a worthless hustler, who is the antithesis of Skip McCoy in Sam Fuller’s similarly quintessential noir masterpiece Pickup on South Street (1953).

“Richard Widmark, one of the true noir artists, suffuses Fabian with a maniacal intensity that makes his headlong rush to hell uncomfortably exhilarating… his naked desire is so wretched that it repulses the crooks who aspire to respectiability.” (Muller)

Widmark had become box office magic for Fox, with his Chesire cat grin, playing “rotten bastards with a giddy flourish that audiences couldn’t resist.” (Muller)

He will always be remembered for his sadistic chortle as the jubilant psychopath Tommy Udo in Henry Hathaway’s Kiss of Death 1947, as Alec Stiles in The Street with No Name 1948, and as Jefty in Road House 1948 which I covered in Part One. Supposedly Widmark agreed to take the role of Fabian, adding one more unstable anti-heroes to his collection of repugnant archetypes “So you think you done me in ha!? Well you’re wrong”, if he could break typecasting and be given a leading role in the upcoming socially conscious noir by director Elia Kazan, Panic in the Streets 1950. Everything was set and the actor signed on and gave an epic performance, with a distressing and cringe-worthy wretchedness, that would become one of the greatest roles of his long career.

Night and the City also co-stars Gene Tierney as Fabian’s girlfriend Mary, who puts up with his worthless, unscrupulous schemes. In the novel, Fabian pimps out his girlfriend, “not a character easily translatable to the screen.” –(Muller). While he hustles to make his mark as a legitimate promoter, Mary urges him to get an ordinary job, but Fabian is incapable of adapting to an ordinary life, rather he remains persistent in his vision to chase deception after deception.

Zanuck cast Tierney as Mary Bristol, hoping the role would be a remedy for her personal struggles with depression, believing the long hours of work and being on-location in London would be a good change for the actress. Tierney had many tragedies in her life, including a disabled daughter, a tumultuous marriage to fashion designer Oleg Cassini, and several suicide attempts that culminated in electro-shock therapy that left her memory impaired, affecting her ability to remember her lines. Zanuck instructed Eisenger to alter the character from the streetwise prostitute to a stoic, kind cabaret singer who puts up with Fabian’s devious mischief. I will always remember her stunning performance as the malevolent Ellen Berent in Leave Her to Heaven.

He’s always stealing money from her, scurrying around the streets and hangouts of the underworld. Fabian is like a sewer rat scavenging for the next big thing that can’t lose. He isn’t even regretful about his way too often rifling through Mary’s purse for money. Harry Fabian is not just harmlessly flawed, he’s hopelessly irredeemable.

Widmark is so adept at playing squirrely petty criminals, in Dassin’s Night and the City, he takes on perhaps one of his most dynamic roles as small-time hustler Harry Fabian, “an artist without an art” whose inflated ambitions in the end gasp their last dying breath. “I just want to be somebody.”  Fabian’s frenetic energy runs him around the darkened city streets of London like a sewer rat. His latest scheme is to take over the wrestling racket in London, currently controlled by underworld boss Kristo (Herbert Lom), who has the influence and power to wipe out any competitor who tries to challenge his hold on the sport.

“The night and the city. The night is tonight, tomorrow night, or any. night” voice over

The film opens with the conventional aura of noir fatalism that creeps and choreographs the shadows that introduce us to the ‘anti-hero running in diagonal planes, passing derelict structures, stumbling through the dark passages and alleyways, until he becomes an ejected silhouette in an anonymous cityscape on the Thames River. This shifting figure is being chased, he drops something, picks it up continues his fluid movement, and somehow manages to ditch his pursuer. He had dropped a carnation and now places it back on his lapel.

His name is Harry Fabian. a hapless figure hunting for the easy life, (without the psychopathic breadth of Widmark’s Tommy Udo). As he returns home visibly out of breath. Lingering shadows expand and resolve at the bottom of the stairs following Fabian who is spent, leaning against the interior wall, caught halfway transfixed within the iconography of the staircase gasping for air. Fabian knocks on his girlfriend Mary’s door and goes inside like so many times before he is there to borrow money. When he enters the apartment he doesn’t see Mary, but he spies her purse and creeps over to it to grab some cash. Mary comes out of the bedroom and catches him trying to steal from her yet again. “You won’t find any money there Harry.” He grits his teeth, sweat pooling above his brows, “What do ya mean spying on me!”

Harry tells her he needs $200 for an investment in a Greyhound racetrack. “I Just want to be somebody.” But Mary tries to reason with him. Mary looks out the window, and sees someone lurking down in the darkened streets, most likely waiting to collect money from Harry. She winds up giving him what he came for after she goes upstairs to borrow money from her neighbor Adam (Hugh Marlowe) who’s surrounded by wet smoke from burning pasta.

After Fabian gets the money from Mary, he heads to the nightclub Cafe Anglais American Bar run by Nosseross (Francis L.Sullivan). He visits the man’s wife Helen (Googie Withers), who happens to be his old lover. He shills for them bringing in tourists looking for a good time. At another night spot, using his lost wallet routine, he rooks three out-of-town suckers to come to Nosseross’ cafe. Fabian then goes to a wrestling match to continue to work his swindle on more customers but is caught by one of Kristo’s (Herbert Lom) goons. Kristo is the kingpin of the wrestling world in London.

While looking for marks in the wrestling auditorium controlled by Kristo, Fabian sees an opportunity to weasel his way into the playing field. Before Kristo’s men come to evict him from the arena, Fabian overhears a conversation between Kristo’s beloved father Gregorius a legendary figure, and his protége, Nikolas of Athens (Ken Richmond). Gregorius (Zbyszko) renowned classical Greco-Roman wrestler who is protesting crooked wrestling and is ashamed of his son who makes his living promoting the fake matches. Fabian observes Gregorius’ contempt for what he considers a degrading exhibition. He meets the old man outside and appears to share the same artistic indignation and sets out to con Gregorius into believing that he can promote the art of Greco-Roman wrestling bouts that will rival Kristo’s sensationalist wrestling matches.

Fabian’s new scheme, to become a new fight promoter in London, pushes Kristo’s dominance over the sport aside. The next step is to ingratiate himself with Gregorius. Now he just needs the money to book a featured match with the old man’s mentee.

At that moment, he decides to exploit Gregorious’ integrity and con him into believing that he can bring back the tradition of the true art of wrestling to London. Gregorious and his young wrestling prodigy Nikolas sign a contract with Fabian which prevents Kristo from retaliation because it would fall upon his dear father.

Despite his self-assurance for his latest racket, he’s found a path into the profitable world that Kristo now monopolizes, Fabian cannot convince Nosseross to loan him the money to fund his new enterprise. (Francis L. Sullivan who has the menacing bulk of Sidney Greenstreet) owns the nightclub where Fabian’s a tout, luring gullible tourists in with the suggestion of illicit adult entertainment. Despite his self-assurance that he’s found a path into the profitable world that Kristo now monopolizes, Fabian can’t persuade Nosseross to give him the cash he needs to fund his new enterprise. He can’t find anyone to loan him the money, none of the underworld will go against Kristo.

Phillip Nosseross, estranged from the beautiful wife, has bought and paid for her. But the greedy Helen (Googie Withers) despises his touch. He is photographed from a low angle that emphasizes his enormous frame, while lit from below casting ominous shadows across his face. Looking like some caged beast, Nosseross is observed frequently throughout the bar-like windows of his office. Greenbaum also photographs Sullivan with a wide-angle lens that seems to enhance his bulk.

Nosseross self-loathing is palpable and turns it inside out as a belligerent obsession to hold onto his treacherous wife Helen. Helen offers to give Fabian the money, as a way to get out of her stifling life with her boorish husband. He promises to bribe officials to get her the forged liquor license she’ll need to open her own nightclub. Nosseross overhears their secret plan and begins to machinate over getting back at Harry.

Fabian buys her the counterfeit license – Googin the Forger- “If you ain’t got socks you can’t pull ’em up, can you?” and then uses her money to entice funds from Nosseross. The bombastic nightclub owner suspects Fabian and Helen are having an affair. When she walks out on him he goes to the one man who has a common interest, in their hatred of Fabian. So Nosseross tells Fabian that he’ll be his silent partner.

Nosseross persuades Kristo to fix it so his regular star The Strangler is on the first ticket. But Kristo’s wrestler fights dirty. Gregorius will never go for it. Nosseross and Kristo conspire with an appetite for revenge, to entrap Fabian. Nosseross threatens to withdraw his backing unless Fabian secures a match between The Strangler and Gregorius.

Harry has a plan, Kristo doesn’t know that it’s his own father Gregorius who is his business partner. When Kristo finds out he threatens Fabian directly that he better deal fairly with his father. Fabian thinks he has finally made it. But his scheme will ultimately spiral downward. The double cross leads right back to him.

In one of the most evocative scenes in an already focused film, the most evocative and grueling, is the fight scene between the Strangler and Gregorius. Fabian baits the Strangler into coming to the empty gym where they get into an argument and he challenges Nikolas to wrestle. Gregorius agrees to let Nikolas fight the man he despises for what he represents. Nikolas winds up spraining his wrist. But while Fabian prepares the contract, the drunken wrestler, filmed in close-up, Gregorius clashes like two titans out of a Greek myth, with Gregorius showcasing his classical Greco-Roman style of wrestling. Gregorious superior talent wins the fight, but the aggressive strain causes Gregorius to have a stroke. It will be Fabian who is blamed by Kristo for his father’s death. Kristo will be out to draw blood.

Mike Mazurki (Moose Malloy – Murder, My Sweet 1944, Splitface -Dick Tracy 1945, Strongman Bruno – Nightmare Alley 1947)  ‘The Strangler’ feels terrible remorse while Fabian watches helplessly as his dreams are shattered. Greenbaum’s camerawork and lighting contort Fabian’s features with an infliction of pain that signals the price he will pay, for what he has done. Fabian will have a bounty on his head.

Kristo arrives as his father is dying, asking him to close the window that he imagines is open. The noble old man dies and Fabian’s fate is sealed. In a fevered panic, he flees in terror as Kristo rallies the London underworld, offering a large reward to find Fabian.

Manic, he runs to Nosseross who takes great joy in telling Fabian about his treacherous pact with Kristos, “You have it all Harry, But you’re a dead man, Harry Fabian, a dead man.” In a two-shot, Nosseross looms over Fabian in a claustrophobic frame.

Desperate he calls Mary, luring her out of her apartment so he can run up and grab money again. Adam sees him, and Mary catches him stealing. Adam Dunne (Hugh Marlowe) “Harry is an artist without an art.” Mary Bristol (Gene Tierney) “What does that mean?” Adam Dunne “Well, that is something that could make a man very unhappy, Mary, groping for the right level, the means with which to express himself.” Mary Bristol “Yes, he is that. Is it not he? I like that, Adam. It is a very nice thought.” Adam Dunne “Yes, but it can be dangerous”

In the meantime, Helen leaves Nosseross and tells him about her new nightclub with Fabian. He tells her that Fabian is finished, but she leaves and walks out on him. Nosseross- “You don’t know what you’re getting into.” Helen-“But I know what I’m getting out of.”

Once in her nightclub, by chance, a cop recognizes the permit is a fake. She is forced to close down. When she returns to Nosseross, she is shocked to find he has shot himself.

Scrambling to find sanctuary, Fabian runs blindly through London’s dingy untraveled back streets to escape Kristo’s retribution for his beloved father’s death. There isn’t one hustler that is willing to stick their neck out for him. Toward the end, it is one prolonged race in and out of construction sites, dockyards, and crumbling stones that can be seen as a metaphor for the inevitability of his collapse and the world’s hostility in favor of that outcome.

Fabian’s flight comes full circle in a coda, intense and frenetic scrambling to find sanctuary as he runs blindly through London’s dingy untraveled back streets to escape Kristo’s retribution for his beloved father’s death.

Like a trapped rat, we see him scurry within the murkiness of London, through the darkness of night. It is the anti-hero’s sad transgression known to film noir. Widmark performance is a distilled tour de force, as Eddie Muller says, “The greatness of this film is its stubborn refusal to allow the tiniest ray of light into Harry Fabian’s descent into hell.”

He scrambles in a greasy sweat desperately trying to stay one step ahead of his impending death sentence. Kristo- “Born a hustler, you’ll die a hustler.” 

His life has been meaningless. Mary finds him, “Harry. Harry. You could have been anything. Anything. You had brains… ambition. You worked harder than any 10 men. But the wrong things. Always the wrong things…”

And as he sits with his back to her, he utters, “How close I came’ and the things I did.” The film opens with him running, toward his end, and by the end, he arrives.

Realizing there is no escape, Fabian runs out and is executed by The Strangler, who throws his body into the Thames.

As one of the bleakest of noir endings, Harry Fabian is so wretched his only shot at redemption is to let himself be killed.

18-The Breaking Point 1950

The smugglers… the blood-money chiselers… and the danger-dame …they all owned a piece of the guy they called ‘Trouble’.. A guy who had nothing to sell but guts! 

Harry Morgan – “A man alone ain’t got a chance.”

Directed by Michael Curtiz as one of his lesser-known works, with a screenplay by Ranald Macdougall based on the story by Ernest Hemingway- To Have and Have Not published in 1937 that was adapted to the screen in Hawskian style that possessed more of the soul of sentimentality. Hemingway called The Breaking Point, the best film adaptation of any of his books. Cinematographer Ted McCord (The Treasure of the Sierra Madres 1948, Johnny Belinda 1948, Flamingo Road 1949, The Sound of Music 1965). The director would team up with Garfield several times, in particular, I loved their collaboration in The Sea Wolf 1941.

Curtiz’s film is a meditation on the vulnerability of a masculine identity crisis in the quiet suffering of post-war America trying to keep their spirits buoyant in sometimes antagonistic waters.

The Breaking Point stars John Garfield as Harry Morgan, Patricia Neal (coming off of her role as Dominique Francon in The Fountainhead 1949) as Leona Charles, and Phyllis Thaxter as Lucy Morgan. Juano Hernandez as Wesley Park (Afro–Puerto Rican actor who played Lucas Beauchamp’s adaption of William Faulkner’s Intruder in the Dust 1949, Kiss Me Deadly 1955, Something of Value 1957, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs 1970) and underappreciated character actor Wallace Ford  (Phroso in Browning’s Freaks 1932, Shadow of a Doubt 1943, T-Men 1947, The Set Up 1949, The Furies 1950, He Ran All the Way 1951, Flesh and Fury 1952), as F.R. Duncan.

More faithful to Heminway’s story than Howard Hawk’s To Have and Have Not 1944, Garfield plays Harry Morgan, the ideal archetypal defeated noir anti-hero whose life is touched by the spoils of futility.

In a small seaside town in Southern California, Harry Morgan lives in a modest little house with his solid wife (Thaxter) and his two little girls. He is the skipper of the small charter fishing boat he owns named The Sea Queen, taking sightseers and amateur fishermen out on the sea. Morgan feels the pressure and high expectations he set for himself, to provide for his family as his dead-end business takes him away for long stretches of time and work is rare.

The underrated Phyllis Thaxter plays his loving wife Lucy who just wants him to give up his business venture and go to work on her Uncle’s lettuce farm. “I’m a boat jockey and that’s all I know.”

Lucy is a realist who possesses faithful winsomeness, and her love for her husband is embedded in her tenderness. Morgan has just spent the last of the money they need to survive, to purchase the gas (he still hasn’t paid his outstanding bill yet) he needs to take out a good-paying charter.

In one of the film’s tender moments, as he’s about to head out to sea, gently but amorously Lucy says to him,  “I can think about you anytime and get excited.” this scene is stripped down to a simple truth that there is passion in their marriage.

Morgan reflects on better days, “Ever since I took that uniform off,” he says, “I’m not exactly great.” a sentiment felt by many after WWII and the trauma of disillusionment and the changing world.

He is hired to take a showy slob, Hannagan, a supposed high-roller who wants to gamble in Mexico and is accompanied by his blonde mistress Leona Charles (Patricia Neal) who immediately begins to get pleasure out of trifling with Morgan.

Harry “You women – you remember everything a guy says and then you hit him with it.”


Harry “Don’t you like cock fights?”

Leona [dismissively] All that trouble for an egg.


Harry [to Leona as she reaches into his shirt pocket for a cigarette] Yuh know, one of these days you’re gonna get your arm broke reachin’ for something that don’t belong to yuh.

Leona “It’s all in a good cause.”


Once they arrive in Mexico Hannagan strands them there without paying Morgan, leaving him without any money to pay his docking fee. With no prospects, he gets mixed up with a sleazy, shady, sweaty (maybe he still thinks he’s in the steam room) lawyer, F.R. Duncan (Wallace Ford who would work again with Garfield in what was to be his film, He Ran All the Way 1952). Duncan offers him a proposal that he isn’t in a position to refuse. He’ll get $200 for each boatload of illegal Chinese immigrants he will smuggle into the U.S. from Mexico.

But things go terribly wrong when the leader of the smuggling ring, the sneaky Victor Sen Young (Charlie Chan fame) double-crosses Morgan who shoots him in self-defense. He drops the illegal immigrants off in shallow waters to be picked up by immigration agents. While the Mexican government investigates the incident, back in U.S. waters, Morgan’s boat is impounded by customs agents who get wind of his boat being used for a smuggling operation out of Mexico.

Harry Morgan [to Lucy] I get teed off sometimes. No sooner do I get my head above water than somebody pushes me down again!

Unlike other noir femme fatales, Leona isn’t responsible for Morgan’s ill-fated path, part of which is his bad choices along the way. Though Lucy is the center of his world, Leona’s persuasive sexual energy throws him off kilter, “A man can be in love with his wife and still want something exciting to happen,” This he comes to realize when he gives into his weakness and they start an affair. Leona is strong and intelligent and Neal is masterful at her provocations. As Stephanie Zacharek in her review “All At Sea” – brilliantly, poetically calls Neal’s voice  “burnt brown sugar.” and describes her languid seductions- “She likes the back of his neck, blowing on it as if dispersing dandelion tufts.”

Harry “You’re a nice girl, now be nice.”

Leona Charles (Patricia Neal) “Yeah, nice, no future in it.”

Lucy realizes that he is slipping into a dream that is taking his full attention away, but she isn’t ready to give up on him. When she meets Leona and Morgan sharing drinks in the local bar, she maintains her equilibrium as she contends with both her jealousy and her determination to hang onto Morgan. She cuts her hair and lightens it to look more sophisticated. Morgan loves it.

Harry “You know, my wife dyed her hair.”

Leona “Coincidentally I’ve been thinking of letting mine grow out. Speaking of coincidences, I live in Number Seven. My friends just kick the door open.”

Wallace Ford invokes some of that smarminess he had as Schemer in T-Men and secures a court order to get Morgan’s boat released. Duncan (Ford) then goes on to blackmail Morgan into taking on another illegal charter. This time he is to take a gang of thugs led by Concho (cult actor William Campbell) to Catalina Island. The gang is planning a race track heist and the trip is to deliver the stolen receipts. Morgan takes his first mate Wesley Park (Juano Hernandez) with him on this run. When Wesley is murdered by the criminals, Morgan realizes that they will kill him next.


Concho (William Campbell) “Wanna drink?”

Harry “I never drink.”

Concho “You’re very nervous.”

Harry “That’s because I’ve never been killed before.”


19-The Prowler 1951

WHAT woman would welcome THE PROWLER.

Film Critic Dave Kehr calls The Prowler “A hallucinatory film noir! Losey’s best film!”

Directed by Joseph Losey    (M (1951), Eva 1962, The Servant 1963, Accident 1967, Boom! 1968, Secret Ceremony 1968 Mr. Klein 1976) with an uncredited screenplay by one of the most prolific screenwriters Dalton Trumbo who had been blacklisted. The script was credited to his alias – Hugo Butler. Losey was one of the most esteemed filmmakers of the 1960s, but despite the impressive collaboration and its complex and highly nuanced narrative, The Prowler fell into obscurity. No one but Losey, Houston, and Spiegel knew that Trumbo was the screenwriter of the film. Trumbo was one of the most prominent members of the Hollywood Ten and was found in contempt of Congress when he refused to testify against his colleagues. He took the project, desperate to make money before he was sent to prison. Losey, Losey got caught up in the witch hunt himself and wound up relocating to England, The Prowler is considered to be his best picture.

The Prowler is a twisted vision of the American dream that skids along like a snake shedding its skin in the desert of an American nightmare. Novelist James Ellroy (“L.A. Confidential”, “The Black Dahlia”) once called this his favorite film and described it as “a masterpiece of sexual creepiness, institutional corruption, and suffocating ugly passion.”

The cinematography is by Arthur C. Miller (How Green Was My Valley 1941, The Song of Bernadette 1943, uncredited for Lifeboat 1944, Dragonwyck 1946, The Razor’s Edge 1946,A Letter to Three Wives 1949) takes the internal machinations of the players, the subtexts (usually themes of alienation) and either the pervasive or subtle moralizing, and transposes them onto the landscape as either closed-in spaces or vastly wide open in contrast. The evocative score is composed by the greatly underrated Lyn Murray

The Prowler stars Van Heflin (who established himself in noir as Robert Taylor’s loyal alcoholic friend in Johnny Eager 1941, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, and Act of Violence) as creepy antisocial Webb Garwood and Evelyn Keyes who plays the discontented Susan Gilvray. John Maxwell as Bud Crocker and Katherine Warren as Grace Crocker. Emerson Treacy as William Gilvray, and Madge Blake as Martha Gilvray.

Evelyn Keyes (Johnny O’Clock 1947, The Killer Who Stalked New York 1950, Iron Man 1951, Hells Half Acre 1954) has a natural gutsy sex appeal and does a superb job playing a repressed suburban California housewife Susan Gilvray married to the older William (Emerson Treacy) Gilvray, who works nights as a late night radio personality. Keyes had felt unfulfilled by the lack of challenging roles she was offered while under contract to Columbia. John Houston who was estranged from his wife Evelyn Keyes, partnered with Sam Spiegel to form the independent Horizon Pictures which produced the film. They bought the rights to the story, Houston insisting that the role of Susan Gilvray was perfect for her and was finally the part she had been looking for.

Susan’s husband, William Gilvray exists mostly as an intangible voice emanating from the radio like a ghostly witness with his nightly sign-off, “I’ll be seeing you, Susan.”

One night she reports a prowler outside her house and two cops respond to the call. Patrolman Webb Garwood  (Van Heflin) and his partner Bud Crocker (John Maxwell) investigate, but don’t find anyone lurking around the house.

Garwood is the first one who investigates the inside of the house like a prying spider intruding on her personal space while his partner is getting the details from Susan. Webb examines a framed photo of her. He goes outside and with a smirk on his smug face suggests that she imagined it. “That is quite a dish,” he tells his partner. He wonders what her angle is and if she’s married.

There’s something seedy and intrusive about Webb who turns up a second time. “To check up on things.” Susan is more like a shut-in so she invites Webb in for a cup of coffee.

He kicks back in the easy chair like he belongs there already. They both trade stories about growing up in Indianapolis. When he leaves he tells her he’s gonna drop by from time to time to check in on her. “After all, we Hoosiers have to stick together.” You get an uneasy sense about this creep, and Heflin is adept at making your skin crawl with apprehension. He makes a pass at the unwilling Keyes who slaps him, “You’re a real cop… You want everything for free.”

Van Heflin manages to create one of the most despicable noir sickos and killer cops. To understand the evolution into the hacked-off Webb Garwood, a resentful beat-cop and a malcontent, looking back, he was a high school basketball hero who failed out of college and grew a whopping chip on his shoulder. He has one big dream now, to run his own motel in Las Vegas. “which will make money for you even while you sleep.”

When he discovers that Mr. Gilvray has made a will that leaves sixty-two thousand to Susan, and knowing how she feels trapped married to an old man. Garwood wants to step up in class and Susan wants the respectability of motherhood with a husband her own age.

He seduces her and they begin an affair. Once Gilvray grows suspicious, she wants to break things off with Garwood. For two outcasts, this is a doomed combination from the beginning. Webb [working on picking the lock of her husband’s storage box] Does he keep everything locked up? Susan Mostly. Webb You, too? Susan That’s a leading question. Webb Ha probably does. A mean, jealous guy like that wants his wife all to himself. I can’t say I blame him, though. I’d do the same myself… Webb [he’s managed to pick the lock and open the storage box] There. See how silly it is to keep things locked up? Susan Maybe. But it did delay you for a little while. Webb Is that all he wants, just to delay things? Susan Sometimes a little delay does the trick.

One night, Garwood pretends to be the prowler outside the house and then responds to the police call for help. Gilvray goes outside with a gun and Garwood orders him to halt. He begs him not to shoot but Garwood kills him, then shoots himself with Gilvray’s gun so it’ll appear he got shot at first, mistaking him for the prowler.

Susan does not reveal their affair as a coroner’s jury rules her husband’s death an accident. Convinced of Garwood’s innocence Susan marries him and they use the insurance money to buy a motel in Vegas.

Bud’s sharp-witted wife Grace (Katherine Warren) senses that Garwood could care less, hearing about their exploring ghost towns, suspecting that it’s just a way for him to plan their getaway.

Susan Gilvray (Evelyn Keyes) “There’s nothing wrong with being a policeman.”

Webb Garwood (Van Heflin) “Nothing wrong with digging ditches, either. Or delivering the mail. I’d rather be one of those guys who shows up around ten in the morning after having a big argument with himself over whether he’ll drive the station wagon today or the convertible.”

Garwood soon uproots them and moves to an abandoned ghost town after Susan reveals that she is pregnant and Garwood panics that the baby will shed light on the truth, Gilvray was sterile, and they were having an affair before his death. This would point to the motive, that he likely murdered her husband to have Susan, and this would prove it. We also begin to wonder if Garwood plans on killing her to cover up his near-perfect crime.

Garwood prepares to deliver the baby himself, but there are complications with the labor and he is forced to call a doctor. Susan gives birth safely. Raving with anxiety Garwood finally confesses he murdered Gilvray.

Susan You murdered my husband. You would’ve killed a doctor.

Garwood So what? So I’m no good! Well, I’m no worse than anybody else! You work in a store, you knock down on the cash register. A big boss, the income tax. Ward heeler, you sell votes. A lawyer, take bribes. I was a cop… I used a gun. But whatever I did, I did for you.

Susan helps the doctor escape and he calls the police. Garwood tries to run and ignores their warning shots. He is gunned down trying to climb up the twisted American dream, with noir fate pulling him down the falling surface of grit. Susan framed behind the window of their shack, is left with the one thing she wanted all along, her baby.

Film historian/Writer Eddie Muller who hosts Noir Alley for Turner Classic Movies – formed The Film Noir Foundation in 2005. The Prowler was the first film they set out to rescue. While he recognizes that there is a familiar noir trope of the ‘bad cop’, who seduces a woman, and her husband winding up murdered, Muller puts forth the idea of a parallel theme. That of a woman who has an unstoppable desire to have a baby, the husband can’t give her. Muller had the wonderful opportunity to interview Keyes in later years, and the two became close friends after she found out that he, unlike most fans, wanted to talk about her picture The Prowler, and not her role in Gone With the Wind. Evelyn Keyes felt that Susan Gilvray was the best role and performance of her career.

20-Tomorrow is Another Day 1951

Directed by Felix Feist (The Devil Thumbs a Ride 1947, The Threat 1949, the science fiction noir Donovan’s Brain 1953 written by Curt Siodmak) with a screenplay by Art Cohn who did the final draft (he worked on Roberto Rossellini’s Stromboli 1950)and Guy Endore.

Cinematography by Robert Burks (Hitchcock’s guy who shot – Strangers on a Train 1951, Rear Window 1954, Dial M for Murder 1954 To Catch a Thief 1955, The Man Who Knew Too Much 1956, Vertigo 1958, North by Northwest 1959, The Birds 1963, Marnie 1964 and uncredited for House of Wax 1953, The Wrong Man 1956). Tomorrow is Another Day is a rare known jewel that has managed to fall through the holes in the floorboards, that fits tucked in amongst other love on the Lam noirs, Gun Crazy 1950, They Live By Night 1948, and Shockproof 1949, though the previous two are essential masterpieces, Feist’s film would be a great double bill with Shockproof.

It stars the earthy Ruth Roman who started out modeling for the covers of pulp fiction True Detective Magazine and by the 1950s she had already appeared in major motion pictures, here playing hard-hearted taxi dancer Cathy ‘Cay’ Higgins. Prior to this film, she made Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train.

Sexy Steve Cochran (The Chase 1946, White Heat 1949, Private Hell 36 (1954), The Damned Don’t Cry 1950) plays Bill Clark. In the 1940s Cochran played mostly villainous macho hunks. While under contract to Warners was cast as the swaggering stud in White Heat 1949, The Damned Don’t Cry 1950, Highway 301 (1950), and Storm Warning 1951. With his more nuanced role as the sympathetic protagonist Bill Clark, it just might have drawn the attention of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni to cast him as his lonely drifter Aldo in Il Grido 1957.

Character actor Lurene Tuttle (Ma Barker) plays Stella Dawson, and Ray Teal as Henry Dawson. Co-stars Morris Ankrum as Hugh Wagner, John Kellogg as Dan Monroe, and Lee Patrick as Janet Higgins.

Ruth Roman (Three Secrets 1950, Down Three Dark Streets 1954) is one of my favorite, supremely underrated actors, with an earthy sensuality and a sexy voice like whisky neat. She fits fluidly into the role of a noir beauty with a seductive edge. Roman can swing a phrase and hit you over the head with it. In Tomorrow is Another Day, both Roman and Cochran might be noir flawed because they never got a break, still, neither needing to find redemption, they only needed to find each other. Two unpretentious acting forces, coming together, makes for good chemistry. Cathy Quick on the trigger, aren’t you? Bill [angrily] What do you mean by that? Cathy {smiling] Simmer down, you’ll live longer.

Cochran plays Bill Clark an ex-con imprisoned when he was thirteen for killing his father because he “slapped my mother around once too often.” With his official release minutes away he swears to the Warden…

Bill (Steve Cochran) [about prison] Nobody’ll ever put me in a stinking cage again.

Prison Warden That’s up to you son. It’s not going to be easy. The average person outside won’t accept you, Bill. Won’t hire you. Won’t trust you. You won’t even have a vote.

Bill [looking at the clock] You’re talking on my time, warden. It’s 8 am.

Prison Warden And for your own good. Good luck.

On the day of his release, Bill wanders around in his clumsy prison-issue suit, exploring his newfound freedom, taking in everything he’s missed behind bars. When he drops into a hamburger joint and orders three pieces of pie, a reporter starts up a friendly conversation, having pegged him for an ex-con, he actually prints it with the headline “Exclusive Interview with Local Killer.” Later Bill sees his face splashed across the front page. Feeling betrayed by small-town sensationalism, he decides to go where he’ll be anonymous.

Bill travels to New York City where he falls for a beautiful, but jaded peroxide blonde taxi dancer (you get a ticket for a dime, you get one dance with the girl of your choice) Cathy Higgins (Ruth Roman) known as Cay. “I came to New York from upstate. I was gonna be a dancer. I was a brunette. Started on my toes and wound up on my heels.”  Cathy (who is fascinated by his odd naiveté) You worked a whole day just to dance a minute at Dream Land? Bill, It was worth it.


Cathy [Bill clumsily dances with her] You can’t dance. What did you come up here for?

Bill To meet somebody.

Cathy [releasing his grip] I don’t give private lessons.

Cay and Bill go on a date sight-seeing and afterward, she invites him back to her place. When Cay’s detective ‘friend’ George Conover (Hugh Sanders) a cop with a nasty jealous streak, shows up at her apartment, he starts slapping her around. This is the worst thing you could do in front of Bill, who tries to protect her until George pulls his gun on him. Bill gets the weapon away from George, but Bill gets knocked unconscious for his trouble. Panicked Cay shoots George in self-defense before he can beat her, as he’s done so many times before.

When Bill wakes up he knows nothing about Conover being shot. Cay heads for her brother’s place in Jersey, to hide out. When Bill reads the newspaper and learns Conover was shot, he hunts her down and asks her how it happened. She realizes that he doesn’t remember anything about the confrontation and manages to convince him that he’s the one who fired the gun. She tries to them him that the police might go easier on him if he claims self-defense, but he shows her the clipping from the hometown newspaper about his prison record.

They lam it out of there, The police aren’t going to believe either of them so, they borrow a car and head for the state line. Both decide they need to take a breather at a motor lodge and pretend to be married. Bill leaves for a bit and returns with a cheaper-than-dirt wedding ring which breaks through Cay’s steely façade, and for the first time, she opens herself up to kindness. She goes through a transformation back into a girl who once dreamed big and the Dreamland dancer vanishes. Cay becomes her real self, a brunette, stripping away the bleach in her hair. But Cay holds onto one secret. What really happened the night Conover was shot, fearing that she’d lose Bill?

On their journey, they wind up falling in love, getting married, set up a house, while Bill works as a lettuce picker in a small shanty community. But their past catches up with them when Bill’s photo appears in a pulp-style magazine offering a thousand-dollar reward for any information that will lead to his capture. This becomes a temptation to their new friends Henry and Stella Dawson (Teal and Tuttle) who reluctantly turn them in for the money…

Cay tries to convince Bill that she’s the one who really shot Conover, but he just thinks she’s trying to take the rap, believing that they’ll go easier on her because she’s going to have a baby.

Bill still remains true to his word, that he will never be put in a stinkin’ cage again, and is ready to go against the cops.  But Cay picks up Conover’s revolver and shoots Bill with it before he destroys his life. “I couldn’t let you get into more trouble on account of me.” It ends in the Manhattan D.A.’s office, with each trying to take the blame.

This is your EverLovin’ Joey saying hope the road leads you back to The Last Drive In for Part 3 and the final installment of this tribute to Noirvember!

Just a few extra hidden noir gems-

Down 3 Dark Streets, The Mugger, Private Hell 36

Coming up!

He Ran All the Way, Pickup on South Street, Man in the Dark, The Big Combo, Shack Out on 101, The Harder They Fall, The Killing, The Burglar, The Long Haul, Plunder Road, and The Lineup.


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