Film Noir

All posts tagged Film Noir

Va-Va-Villainess: Leslie Brooks

Published November 21, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

“It’s called tonight…or never!” –  Miss Medwick (Leslie Brooks), Romance on the High Seas.

Crisp and cool, the glorious Leslie Brooks always shot from the hip, especially in 1948, the year that marked her most notorious cinematic undertaking. As the gleefully immoral Claire Cummings Hanneman in Blonde Ice, she calmly manipulates her way through a trio of beaus…including one who winds up dead and another who she frames for his murder. Coming on like a lethal version of Barbara Stanwyck’s fabulously Pre-Code Baby Face, Brooks is unforgettably malevolent here, creating an iconic B-Movie noir monster.

That same year in Romance on the High Seas, a much frothier, big budget Warner Brothers musical, she is less destructive. Still, as Miss Medwick, she makes an obvious play for her married boss, using a seductive tone and an arched eyebrow (or two) to try to sway him into her arms. Capitulating to his devotion to his wife, she eventually becomes a model employee. Thus, in her final scenes, Brooks radiates with a strong efficiency and warmth.

Despite those qualities, seemingly due to a disastrous divorce and vicious custody battle for her daughter that same year, Brooks soon disappeared from the screen. But her work as a worthy femme fatale will never be forgotten.

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: Googie Withers

Published November 13, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

The height of English elegance, the distinguished Googie Withers made appearances in everything from Alfred Hitchcock adventures (The Lady Vanishes) to multiple, stagey dramas with Michael Powell (the director of the controversial Peeping Tom).

If they search their memories, classic horror lovers would find they remember her fondly, as well. As Joan Cortland in the acclaimed 1945 anthology Dead of Night, Withers proved herself to be a cunning adversary for a maniacal spirit that dwells within a mirror in one of the film’s most haunting tales. As Cortland’s husband Peter (Ralph Michael) suffers greatly due to the visions he sees within the spectral looking glass’ reflection, Joan wisely uses her investigative skills to determine its history, learning simultaneously how to defeat it. Working with subtle economy and grace, Withers proves herself to be truly modern, gracefully victorious heroine of horror here.

Nicely, Withers showed the extent of her range by playing the connivingly determined Helen Nosseross in the moody 1950 film noir Night and the City, as well. Teaming up with Richard Widmark’s wild eyed con man, Wither’s spits out Helen’s dialogue with spite and vitriolic vinegar, her disdain for her corpulent businessman husband (Francis L. Sullivan) visible in every frame of film that she imbues with her commanding presence.

Indeed, with dozens of theater projects and distinguished cinematic adventures to her credit, Withers, who died in 2011 at the age of 94, is definitely worthy of significant rediscovery by today’s always hungry celluloid masses.

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Va-Va-Villainess: Geraldine Fitzgerald

Published March 20, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Geraldine Fitzgerald Harry

Best known as Bette Davis’ sympathetic companion in the classic tearjerker Dark Victory, the supremely talented Geraldine Fitzgerald was also renowned to certain cinema goers for her humor filled appearances in such ‘80s comedies as Arthur and Easy Money. Nicely, for our purposes, she also brought a tart acidity to a duo of nasty ladies in successive films in 1940s’ gothic-noir cinema.

Not surprisingly, her Crystal Shackleford in Three Strangers (1946) was a deceptively strong counterpoint to the desperately manipulative Jerome Arbutny (the always masterful Sydney Greenstreet) and the drunkenly con minded Johnny West (the singular Peter Lorre). Able to turn her character’s sweet demeanor into a scalding sense of vengeance in a quick turn, Fitzgerald’s work here sears itself into the viewer’s brain. She proves herself to be as memorable a figure as both Greenstreet and Lorre, two of cinema’s most recognizable characters, with her flirtatiously venomous ways, taking focus as the ringleader of a financial caper that proves to be the downfall of all involved.Geraldine Three Strangers

A year before her committed performance in Three Strangers, she probed even more controversial depths as George Sander’s controlling sister in The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry. As Lettie Quincey, a desperate spinster with a pathological devotion to her brother, Fitzgerald fearlessly dives into the incestuous overtures of her role, never backing down from the intensity of her character’s emotions. Calmly and convincingly destroying the late blooming romance of Sanders’ Harry, Fitzgerald’s deadly sense of the saccharine works an evil magic, pulling cinema lovers into her toxic web with joyous abandon.

Geraldine Strange Affair poster


Horror Hall of Fame:

While both these works, directed by such supreme stylists as Robert Siodmak and Jean Negulesco, feature haunting visuals and elements that contain both the supernatural and the fantastical, Fitzgerald fully submerged herself into the horror genre with appearances in 1982’s Blood Link and 1986’s Poltergeist II: The Other Side. Geraldine Poltergeist


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Va-Va-Villainess: Jeanette Nolan

Published February 6, 2020 by biggayhorrorfan

Jeanette Nolan Big Heat

Very few performers have been able to achieve the cold, lascivious evil that Jeanette Nolan is able to generate in the classic 1953 noir The Big Heat. As Bertha Duncan, the conniving wife of a corrupt police official, this distinguished performer uses steely silence and manipulative tears to ensure her character’s chance at a life of wealth and opulence. An unmoving witness to suicide and murder, Duncan is ultimately one of the iciest dames ever to be featured in dark crime cinema, a testament to Nolan’s sophisticated skills. Jeanette Nolan Big Heat 2

Not surprisingly, Nolan’s first major onscreen role was Lady Macbeth in Orson Welles’ adaptation of the classic Shakespearean piece Macbeth. Her work in The Big Heat, though subtle, definitely carries shades of the poetically operatic, earning herself the distinction of being one of the finest actresses who has ever committed herself to the celluloid art form.



Horror Hall of Fame:

Nolan’s long lasting career included many genre credits. She brought a vibrant glow to 1966’s Chamber of Horrors and a similar spark along with a parade of outrageous hair pieces to 1965’s My Blood Runs Cold (pictured). She added a bit more serious contemplation to such television anthology series as The Twilight Zone, Thriller and Circle of Fear, as well.



Jeanette Nolan My Blood

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Unsung Heroines of Horror: K.T. Stevens

Published September 27, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

KT 1.jpg

Sometimes heroines of horror are unsung simply because they don’t have any true horror projects to their credit. Take the unforgettable K. T. Stevens for example. While she doesn’t have a Frankenstein or Dracula on her resume, she did play Vanessa Prentiss on The Young and the Restless for years. Her face hidden behind magnificent veils due to traumatic scarring, this character was one of the more gothic villainesses of the classic early ‘80s of soapdom. The perfect amalgamation of one dark stormy night theatrics, Vanessa made life a living nightmare for Laurie, the soap’s most prominent anti-heroine. In fact, upon learning that she was terminally ill, Prentiss staged a fight with her rival and then threw herself off the balcony of her apartment building. This assured that Laurie would be charged with her murder, a final revenge as surely psychotic as anything that Peter Lorre cooked up in Mad Love. KT 3

Starting out as a juvenile lead opposite Barbara Stanwyck in The Great Man’s Lady, Stevens enjoyed a fairly distinguished career including noir adventures (Port of New York) and guest shots on classic television shows (I Love Lucy, The Big Valley). She even took a shot gun blast to the chest as a supporting player in the T & A thriller They’re Playing with Fire.

Graced with a layered yet formidable presence, she was also a favorite of the producers of Thriller; the Boris Karloff hosted anthology series that always dealt with matters of the macabre. Stevens’ episodes were more criminal minds in nature than exercises in terror, but she got to show some range. She was the Capri pants wearing, con minded other woman in a first season episode entitled The Merriweather File. The second season’s Kill My Love found her calmly enacting calculated patrician control as the wealthy Olive Guthrie. Even though Guthrie is ultimately the victim here, her chilling use of subtle silence lingers long after the episode ends.

KT 2

The eclectic professionalism of Stevens, who passed away at the age of 74 in 1994, should come as no surprise, though. Her father was director Sam Wood (A Night at the Opera, King’s Row) and she made her debut at the age of two in one of his silent features with (child prodigy) Jackie Coogan, later Uncle Fester in the original The Addams Family.

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Barbara Stanwyck

Published September 8, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Barbara The House.jpg

One of the most distinctive and skilled of the golden age performers, Barbara Stanwyck excelled in dramas (Stella Dallas, My Reputation), gritty noir classics (Double Indemnity, The File on Thelma Jordan) and comedy (Ball of Fire, Christmas in Connecticut). Several of the films that she embraced with her throaty presence in the ‘40s and ‘50s, including the tautly melodramatic Two Mrs. Carrolls and the chilling Sorry, Wrong Number, also featured significant elements of the horror canon.

Nicely, she fully embraced the genre in such latter day projects as William Castle’s The Night Walker and ‘70s television films like A Touch of Evil and The House That Would Not Die (above).

As with many silver screen damsels with numerous credits, a percentage of her saucy, hardened characters sang. Occasionally, she was dubbed by more skilled vocalists. But with projects such as the fun and frisky Lady of Burlesque, her own whisky tones were allowed to sell the tune.

Nicely, https://www.barbara-stanwyck.com/, a fan created site, plays eternal homage to this one of a kind icon and golden throat nominee.

Lady of burlesque

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Hopelessly Devoted to: Ann Robinson

Published April 19, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

Ann Bad

Best known for her strong portrayal of Dr. Sylvia Van Buren in the 1954 science fiction classic War of the Worlds, Ann Robinson also proved her versatility in a series of roles in noir films and female focused thrillers.

One of her bigger roles was as Nancy in The Glass Wall. As the protective girlfriend of a musician needing a break, she radiates with proud concern. Meanwhile, as the wealthy, flirtatious Lucille Grellett (with Charlton Heston, above) in Bad for Each Other, she shows another side of her talents – a strong sex appeal and a talent for comedy. Her capriciousness also resonates magnificently on an episode of the original Perry Mason, as well. Here, as the spoiled daughter of a wealthy businessman she tries her best to charm her military husband into a number of suspect deals.

Ann Julie 1Referred to as “99 minutes crammed with suspense” by John Douglas Eames in The MGM Story, 1956’s Julie found Robinson co-starring, side by side, with the magnificent Doris Day. As Day’s co-stewardess (left and below), Robinson acts with appropriate surprise as the plane she is assigned to risks crashing unless Day is able to fly it to safety. More of a resilient victim here than some of her more manipulative assignments, Robinson proves she had the versatility and presence to be a major star. It is every celluloid buff’s loss that she wasn’t.

Ann Julie 2

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Ida Lupino

Published March 17, 2019 by biggayhorrorfan

ida-lupino food of the gods

Fierce and independent, Ida Lupino was the only female director working in Hollywood for many years. She was just as memorable in front of the camera, establishing herself as a prime example of the tough hearted film noir broad.

As was typical of many women in that genre, she played nightclub singers in both The Man I Love, the inspiration for Martin Scorsese’s New York, New York, and the atmosphere soaked Roadhouse, which had absolutely nothing to do with the Patrick Swayze cheese-fest of later years. Although dubbed in the former, she was able to display her own smoky, mood soaked voice in the latter.

Not expectedly in her fading years, Lupino found herself battling off gigantic feathered foes in Food of the Gods and Ernest Borgnine’s horned cult leader in The Devil’s Rain. Her last role was of a magnificent Norma Desmond take-off in an early episode of Charlie’s Angels, a fitting finale for one of the grand queens of the cinema.

ida_lupino_gallery_12

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Music to Make Horror Movies By: Lizabeth Scott

Published June 17, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

Lizabeth Scott

Best known as one of the true goddesses of film noir, the divine Lizabeth Scott got to show off her goofier side in the fun horror spoof Scared Stiff, a virtual remake of the Bob Hope-Paulette Goddard classic The Ghost Breakers.

Scott, whose smoky vocals practically make her kin to Julie London, has often been classified in groups with other such illustrious scene stealers as Tallulah Bankhead and Greta Garbo due to rumors of her Sapphic interests. But ever the committed performer, you believe her when she declares her devotion to a mere masculine mortal with her take on He is a Man.

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Lizabeth Scott Scared Stiff

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Sharkbait Retro Village: This House Possessed

Published March 17, 2018 by biggayhorrorfan

THP4The essence of cool, conniving film noir, the legendary Joan Bennett definitely presented herself as a horse of a different color with her appearance as the Rag Lady in the 1981 television terror This House Possessed. Here, roaming far from the perfect iciness of her roles in films like Scarlet Street, the adventurous Bennett plays a shabby small town oddity, driven to isolated madness by the secret at the heart of the film.

THP3This mystery, of course, revolves around the titular mansion. Interestingly, taking its cues from other small screen genre projects that revolved around such possessed inanimate objects as bulldozers, taxidermy displays and hobby horses, the residence here is not haunted by ghosts or some hidden psychotic killer, but actually causes the movie’s mayhem through a monstrous will of its own. THP5

…and the body count here is fairly high. A librarian dies in an explosion. A veteran character actor is finished off with a jagged shard from a trembling mirror and Bennett, herself, is exposed to the bubbling depths of an overheated pool. Add in a bloody shower and a very aggressive water hose (or two) and you have a project that has lived on in the memories of those who caught it on its original broadcast at impressionable ages.

Nicely, the more outrageous circumstances here are grounded by the gentle and committed leading performances of Parker Stevenson, as a rock star whose emotional collapse brings him to the malevolent domicile, and Lisa Eilbacher, as the nurse who helps him recover and soon wins his heart. Stevenson radiates with a genuine kindness and the music he performs comes off more like a softer version of the balladic work of Justin Timberlake than the cheesy pop that one associates with multiple television stars of that era.THP2

Eagle eyed horror lovers will also delight to the presence of A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Amanda Wyss, billed here as Mandy, whose opening act frolicking with actor John Dukakis (Jaws 2) is wetly interrupted by the angry residence. She and Bennett, who became well known for her role on the beloved gothic soap opera Dark Shadows during the middle range of her career, also make this enjoyable oddity a happy exercise for lovers of the femme form in terror, as well.

THP1

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