Saturday, November 6, 2021

FRENCH NOIRVEMBER RETURNS: The French Had a Name for It 2021

On October 24, a rare and potent combination of “atmospheric river” and “bomb cyclone” generated a ferocious storm that pounded Northern California, dumping more than a foot of rain in some areas. As high winds blew and heavy rains fell, streets and roads flooded, power lines and trees came down and wildfire areas were slammed with mudslides. Many events and gatherings in the region were scrapped due to the weather, but the show would go on at San Francisco’s venerable Roxie Theater. It was here, beginning early in the afternoon, that a four-film French noir program honoring two gods of the French cinema, Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Gabin, went ahead as scheduled. Reflecting on the impact of the storm, Don Malcolm, whose Midcentury Productions produced the show, said, “We got hit about as bad as you can get hit without having to evacuate and have the event cancelled.” He reported that 60 “incredibly hardy and loyal fans showed up and were thrilled by all the films.” Don noted that the Jean Gabin sleeper People of No Importance/Des gens sans importance (1956) particularly pleased the crowd. Given the severity of the weather, it seems several attendees were especially hardy and loyal – it was their first time in a theater since the pandemic began. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them, forced instead to hunker down at home in one of the most storm-battered towns north of the city.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

To Be or Not to Be (1942), a Daring Mixed-Genre Satire from Ernst Lubitsch

This Hollywood-savvy item appeared in the December 1932 issue of Vanity Fair,   “…although a German director [he] is now claimed by America. His gay and cynic touch, his dramatic use of detail, have reconditioned many an otherwise anemic script and saved it from the shelf – until at one time the studio wise-crack of the hour was always, “For God’s sake, send for Lubitsch.”

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Belmondo before "Breathless" and the comeback of Jean Gabin

Tributes to Belmondo and Gabin Kick Off a 17-Film Noir Series

One Sunday near the end of February 2020 I spent a sunny afternoon in the dark at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco watching the first two films in what was to be a monthly program featuring French, American and British screen adaptations of the fiction of Georges Simenon, one of the fathers of film noir. The program, curated and produced by Don Malcolm and his MidCentury Productions, was called “Simenon 2020” and, as fate would have it, the series began and ended on that day, a day that also marked the last time I was inside a movie theater. Covid 19 was about to change everything.

But that was then. Now, this month, French noir returns to the Roxie when MidCentury Productions resurrects its groundbreaking annual series, The French Had a Name for It. Seventeen films made over five decades, most of them rarely seen outside of France, will be shown in three installments, on October 24, from November 12 – 14, and on December 12.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A New Edition of the Seminal Noir Classic, Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir

Eddie Muller's Original Noir Bible in an Updated and Expanded Edition

Eddie Muller
Before he was film noir's czar and long before he was a TCM host, Eddie Muller made a decision to take a leap and, as mythologist Joseph Campbell would've put it, follow his bliss. Muller had been a writer with a 16-year run as a print journalist. Now he would become a "wordslinger," peppering the page with gritty prose on a subject about which he was passionate, film noir. The first edition of Dark City: The Lost World of Film

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Old Hollywood Haunts, Pt. 3: The Hollywood Canteen, 1942 - 1945

Clockwise from top: Bette Davis and John Garfield; Rita Hayworth; Hedy Lamarr and Bob Hope; GIs at the Canteen

 A Very Special "Old Hollywood Haunt"

In her 1987 memoir, This 'n That, Bette Davis remembered a day not long after World War II began when fellow Warner Bros. star John Garfield sat down next to her in the studio commissary. He told her he'd been thinking about all the GIs who were then streaming through the area and said he thought Hollywood ought to do something about welcoming and entertaining them while they were in town. "I agreed," she wrote, "and then and there the idea for the Hollywood Canteen was born."  Bette approached her friend and agent, Jules Stein, president and co-founder of MCA, with their plan to create a nightclub for servicemen and women and invited him to head its financial committee.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer's Here and the Time is Right for ... SUMMER MOVIES

Just in time for summer, TCM and Running Press offer John Malahy's delectably readable Summer Movies: 30 Sun-Drenched Classics. Featuring summertime-set films dating from the '20s (Lonesome/1928) to the present day (Call Me by Your Name/2017), it's a wide-ranging collection, detailed, photo-packed and filled with tantalizing backstory.

Friday, May 21, 2021

I Know Where I'm Going! (1945), a Black & White Jewel from Powell & Pressburger

Rich, vivid Technicolor is one of the hallmarks of the most well-known and celebrated of the gorgeous, masterful films from the production team of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, The Archers. From the mid-1940s into the early '50s, almost all of their films were shot in striking 3-strip Technicolor, often by cinematographer Jack Cardiff. Cardiff had been a camera operator for Denham Studios when the American Technicolor Company recruited him as their first technician in Great Britain. He would shoot England's first color film and initially work with Powell and Pressburger as a second unit camera operator on their first Technicolor film, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). He would graduate to cinematographer on their second color outing, A Matter of Life and Death/Stairway to Heaven (1946). But there would be a lengthy delay in the production of the second film because of a limited availability of Technicolor cameras and film stock in England at that time. 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

For National Classic Movie Day: 6 Films - 6 Decades

May 16 is here and it's National Classic Movie Day. Hooray! Happily, Rick over at the Classic Film & TV Cafe is once more hosting his annual blogathon in honor of this special day. The theme this year is "6 films - 6 decades," with each participant focusing on a favorite classic from each of six decades. Selecting just a few films from hundreds of favorites is never easy so I came up with a secondary theme of my own to simplify the task. I'll be spotlighting a film of each decade from the '20s through the '70s that also features a favorite pairing of lead actors.