Film Noir

All posts tagged Film Noir

Va-Va-Villainess: Claire Trevor

Published July 6, 2022 by biggayhorrorfan

My mom has never wished me a Happy Pride Month or asked if I am dating anyone. Her husband believes Black people would avoid getting shot if they just did what law enforcement figures asked them to do & they both vote via the Pro-Life agenda. Not surprisingly, our phone conversations are laced by all that goes unsaid, the overpowering dearth that comes from avoiding topics that would surely destroy the hesitant calm that it has taken us years to achieve. But my mom loves shopping for me for Christmas and my birthday. It’s a superficial connection for sure, but you take what you can in a world that is ever-spinning in a chill glow of uncertainty. We even have a sweet tradition established now – I pick an old school film diva and ask for books & films on them. She will, happily, read up on each of my choices and then spend quality time deciding what items I would like best from the lists I provide her. It’s exactly what any proud momma would do for her very gay, cinema obsessed son & it provides a light in the midst of all that is murkily unexpressed. I can’t produce a left wing glow from my maternal entity, but I can squeeze out a bit of appreciation for Claire Trevor.

Of course, Trevor, my latest choice, is well known for her heartbreaking Academy Award winning work as a drunken, aging gangster’s moll in the classic noir Key Largo. I also love her effortlessly comic antics in a movie called Borderline with Fred MacMurray. There, as a policewoman trying to infiltrate a criminal’s lair by posing as a dance hall girl, she is a bundle of perfectly timed awkwardness. 

But her gritty, no-nonsense demeanor also lent itself well to acts of ruthlessness. 1938’s The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse found her playing a more lighthearted figure of crime – the leader of a gang of thieves whose affection for Edward G. Robinson’s academically awkward title character leads to her downfall.  But the 1951 sports-noir Hard, Fast and Beautiful! definitely utilized her knack for portraying women with sophisticated, underhanded charms. As Millie Farley, the mother of a female tennis prodigy, Trevor radiates with a seductive sense of calculation. She obviously knows how to subtly bring out all of Farley’s ambitious qualities. In fact, she positively brims with truth as she enacts Farley’s seduction of prestigious figures and calculated justifications for compromising her talented offspring’s future for a bit of cash and extra press attention. 

Not surprisingly, Trevor is directed here by Ida Lupino, the actress-writer, who definitely played her own share of bad ladies in gothic melodramas and crime flicks, as well. According to Derek Sculthorpe, Trevor’s biographer, the two strong willed creatives occasionally had artistic differences on set, but they respected each other – and happily worked together again on an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. With those successful collaborations behind them, it’s unfortunate that the two never made another film together. Millie is one of Trevor’s most popular creations and it would have been nice to see her play more characters with this level of determined wickedness. 

Until the next time, SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!

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Va-Va-Villainess: Agnes Moorehead

Published April 4, 2021 by biggayhorrorfan

Noted for her acerbic antagonism as Endora on Bewitched, arguably her most famous role, the significant, always striking Agnes Moorehead resonated with a much more slithery, maliciously evil context in the noted 1947 film noir Dark Passage. Indeed, Madge Rapf, the character portrayed by Moorehead, undermines and manipulates the lives of Humphrey Bogart’s maligned Vincent and Lauren Bacall’s overly supportive Irene with such devious finesse that, even at the film’s semi-happy fade-out, their lives have been irreparably altered by her sadistic manipulations.

In fact, with the strategic aid of Bernard Newman’s glorious costumes, Moorehead’s Rapf may be one of celluloid’s most notoriously nasty characters. And while some casual fans may be surprised at the ferocious energy that she ultimately exhibits here, she is definitely this film’s most uninhibited pleasure.

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Horror Hall of Fame:

With credits like The Bat, Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Night Gallery and Dear Dead Delilah, this one of a kind performer has irrevocably earned her stripes as a dignified goddess of terror, as well.


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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.

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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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