Saturday, December 22, 2018

Noir Year 2019: Coming Soon

Every December for the past several years the Film Noir Foundation has presented a one-night-only "Noir City Xmas" screening at San Francisco's Castro Theatre. This year that night was December 19 and the film was The Night of the Hunter (1955). The only film Charles Laughton ever directed, it is a chilling masterpiece, a tale told in images both beautiful and terrifying, with unforgettable performances by Robert Mitchum and Lillian Gish.

Noir City 17 film schedule (that's Barbara Payton and Lloyd Bridges)
A high point of the evening is always the announcement by FNF founder/Czar of Noir/Noir Alley host Eddie Muller of the full schedule for the upcoming year's Noir City festival. San Francisco's Noir City 17 is set to run January 25 - February 3, once again at the Castro. The festival theme is "Film Noir in the 1950s" and, just as the 2018 festival chronologically paired films of the 1940s, the 2019 event will similarly wend its way from 1949 through the '50s and into the early '60s. The double bill for the final Saturday night, February 2, boggles the mind, Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless (1960) followed by Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).

24 films in all will screen over the 10 day event and among those on the program are William Wyler's Detective Story (1951), Otto Preminger's Angel Face (1953), Sam Fuller's Pickup on South Street (1953), Richard Quine's Pushover (1954), Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly (1955), Stanley Kubrick's Killer's Kiss (1955), Orson Welles' Touch of Evil (1958) and Sam Fuller's Underworld U.S.A. (1961). Opening night will showcase the FNF's newest 35mm restoration, Richard Fleischer's Trapped (1949), starring Lloyd Bridges and the all but forgotten "scandal-plagued" starlet Barbara Payton

San Francisco's Noir City is the largest annual film noir festival in the world and kicks off the series of satellite noir fests around the country. See the box below for a list of cities and dates.

Click here for ticket, lodging, and other information for one of the best, most exciting film festivals in the U.S.

Not just in San Francisco! Watch for Noir City Seattle, Hollywood, Austin, Boston and Chicago.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Obscure "Christmas Carols" of Christmases Past




This month, The Film Detective, a two-year-old streaming service that refreshes its film library monthly, presents “25 Days of Christmas.” So far, offerings have included Peter Pan (1955), the live NBC production with Mary Martin famously starring as Peter Pan, and a 1990 Lifetime TV production, Home for Christmas, in which Mickey Rooney stars as a homeless ex-con taken in by a family at Christmastime.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

George Bancroft: What a Star, What a Character!

Big, blustery George Bancroft was in his mid-40s when he became a film star, breaking out in 1927 with a linchpin performance as mob boss "Bull Weed" in Underworld, Josef von Sternberg's prototypical gangster film. Bancroft was third-billed under dependably wooden Clive Brook, fluttery leading lady Evelyn Brent, and he stole the show with his powerhouse portrayal of a hoodlum with a heart.

Bancroft would team with von Sternberg again in 1928 for another of the director's great silent classics, The Docks of New York, and become Paramount Pictures' top star. He followed with the titular role in The Wolf of Wall Street (1929), a title that would be appropriated many decades later by a New York stock trader as his nickname, the title of his memoir and Martin Scorsese's 2013 film adaptation. Bancroft's next film would take him to the peak of his career as a lead actor when, in 1930, he earned a Best Actor nomination in the second year of the Academy Awards for his star turn in Thunderbolt (1929). This would be his third and final film with Josef von Sternberg, who then moved on to discover and mentor Marlene Dietrich.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Underworld (1927), at the dawn of the modern gangster film

I hadn’t seen Underworld before, but I knew enough about it to be intrigued. To begin with, it was directed by master filmmaker Josef von Sternberg, a man of remarkable cinematic ingenuity who is mostly remembered today for having discovered Marlene Dietrich and stage-managed her rise to stardom. Also of interest when considering the subject of outlaws on film, Underworld was, to quote its introductory title,  “…unusually bold both in subject matter and in treatment at the time it was made. It introduced a fashion for gangster pictures.” Specifically, the film, a runaway hit on release, is credited with establishing many conventions for what would emerge as the gangster genre a few years later, in the early sound era. Another attraction Underworld held for me was that genius costume designer Travis Banton, who would become Paramount’s Chief Designer and go on to mentor Edith Head, costumed the film. For leading lady Evelyn Brent, starring as “Feathers McCoy," he created an endless variety of trendsetting feather-swathed hats, wraps, jackets and dresses, enough to fill at least one sizable closet. And so, early last week I sat down to watch Underworld and begin my post for the Classic Movie Blog Association's Fall 2018 OUTLAWS Blogathon.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Vive La Moreau! Celebrating A French Icon

Femme Immortelle du Cinéma

Don Malcolm's MidCentury Productions will kick off its 5th festival of French film noir at San Francisco's venerable indie house, the Roxie Theater, on November 15. Each year the festival has grown, building on the excellence and success of the previous year, and so in 2018 the film schedule will, for the first time, span six days, all featuring eclectic, obscure and exciting French noir. Each festival has had a particular focus, and this year the spotlight will shine on twenty films made in France between 1949 and 1959, "The Frenetic Fifties." Click here for the full schedule, including program details, times and ticket information.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
Several great stars of the French cinema appear in the films included on this year's "French Noir 5" program: Jean Gabin (of course), Simone Signoret, Danielle Darrieux, Arletty, Anouk Aimee...and Jeanne Moreau. Moreau, who passed away in July 2017 at age 89, will be honored at the festival on Friday night, November 16, with screenings of two of  her pre-New Wave pictures, Until the Last One/Jusqu'au Dernier and The She-Wolves/Les Louves. Both were released not long before she shot to prominence in young Louis Malle's Elevator to the Gallows (1958).

In an age long past, when art and revival movie houses flourished in urban centers and university towns across the country, I saw my first Jeanne Moreau films. The very first was Francois Truffaut's Jules and Jim (1962), the story of a doomed romantic triangle revolving around a beguiling and impulsive woman named Catherine (Moreau). Next came Truffaut's The Bride Wore Black (1968), his experiment-in-pure-cinema homage to Hitchcock, in which a bride whose groom is gunned down on their wedding day methodically tracks down and dispatches his killers. And then came the film that initially launched Moreau and helped launch the French New Wave, Louis Malle's downbeat noir thriller Elevator to the Gallows.  I found her moody intensity riveting. By now I'd been keeping an eye out for her films.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Guest in the House (1944) for Noir November

The Film Detective, a classic film streaming site that recently launched a 24/7 programmed channel on Sling TV, is about to kick off Noir November. I was invited to review one of several films being added to the Film Detective app in November. I picked Guest in the House (1944) starring young Anne Baxter as...well, read on...


Wednesday, October 17, 2018

GILDA (1946), Celebrating Rita

The legend of Rita Hayworth has it that her mother, formerly of the Ziegfeld Follies, wanted her daughter to be an actress, but her father, a professional dancer, wanted his little girl to be a dancer, too. Eduardo Cansino, the dad, won out and little Margarita Carmen Cansino would begin dancing at age three.

She was born on October 17, 1918 – one hundred years ago – in Brooklyn. At age four, as a member of the family act, the Four Cansinos, she was on stage dancing at the Winter Garden Theatre in a Broadway production of The Greenwich Village Follies. Eduardo Cansino would come to believe that the movies needed more professional dancers and so, in 1926, the Cansinos moved to Hollywood.