Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Deadline for Noir City


Noir City Film Fest continues at Palace of Fine Arts &Balboa Theatres

Rita Hayworth, as Carmen, in 1948. (Photo: ImageMakers)
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The final week of Eddie Muller's spellbinding Noir City Film Festival brings more troubled policemen, untrustworthy dames, and their victims to the screens at the Palace of Fine Arts and Balboa Theatres. A gritty Chicago is the fabled City that Never Sleeps (1953), about one long, rough night in the urban jungle. Gig Young is a cop fighting temptation in the form of tough Marie Windsor and Mala Powers. William Tallman (soon to be famous as the eternally losing DA Hamilton Burger on TV's Perry Mason) and the always impressive Edward Arnold are among the suspicious denizens of these mean streets. The Hollow Triumph (48) is another interesting take on the good twin/bad twin dilemma. Crook Paul Henried impersonates his psychiatrist brother, but gets involved with Joan Bennett (years before Dark Shadows). (Palace of Fine Arts, 1/20)

A new feature this year will be readings from classic noir stories penned by Dashiell Hammett, Cornell Woolrich, James M. Cain, Raymond Chandler, bisexual Patricia Highsmith, James Ellroy, and others. (Palace of Fine Arts, 1/21, 3 p.m.) Jack Nicholson takes The Pledge (2001) as a ready-to-retire cop who promises a mother he'll find her son's killer. The cop is racing to honor his word before losing his mind. Directed by Sean Penn, featuring Robin Wright Penn, Patricia Clarkson, and Benicio del Toro. At 9:15 p.m., Penn will appear onstage to introduce his favorite noir thriller from the classic era, but you'll have to be there to see which one it is. (Palace of Fine Arts, 1/21)

Deadline at Dawn (46), based on Woolrich's novel, was the only film directed by theatre legend Harold Clurman. Susan Hayward is riveting as a hooker helping sailor Bill Williams prove he's not guilty of murder. With Paul Lukas. Woolrich's The Boy Who Cried Wolf became The Window (49), about a kid who witnesses a murder, but the only one who believes him is the killer. With Bobby Driscoll, memorable as the boy, Ruth Roman, Arthur Kennedy, and Barbara Hale, long before playing Della Street on Perry Mason. At 8 p.m. on Sunday, 1/22, The Film Noir Foundation and San Francisco Jazz will co-sponsor a concert of music from movies included in this year's fest, and original compositions by Charlie Haden and Quartet West. (Palace of Fine Arts, 1/22)

The festival returns to the Balboa Theatre with films from 1946, the year all Hollywood studios started making noirs. Night Editor is a rare feature about a cop having an affair with a married society woman. While being passionate in Lover's Lane, they witness a murder. He's got an ethical problem. She doesn't, but gets aroused by the situation. Directed by Henry Levin. In Nocturne, George Raft is a detective investigating the murder of a philandering composer. Most of the suspects are women. Lynn Bari, a veteran of B-movies for more than a decade, is one of them. (Balboa, 1/23)

Monogram was a poverty-row studio, but with Suspense, they were copying their betters. It's a Cain-like story set in the world of ice carnivals. Barry Sullivan, Bonita Granville, gay actor Albert Dekker, usually comic Eugene Pallette, and celebrated skater Belita star. In Crackup, art curator Pat O'Brien lives through a train wreck only to be told   it never happened. Was it the train that crashed or his mind? The splendid Claire Trevor may know the answer, but can she be trusted? (Balboa, 1/24)

Black and blue

In The Black Angel, Dan Duryea is a drunk pianist whose wife is murdered. Blonde chanteuse June Vincent offers to help him find the killer. Broderick Crawford is a cop, and the fascinating Peter Lorre is a slimy saloon owner. The Blue Dahlia was the fourth, final pairing of classic noir lovers Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. He's a soldier who returns from the war to discover his wife was unfaithful. She's killed, and he's determined to find out who did it and why. Tautly directed by George Marshall from Raymond Chandler's Oscar-nominated screenplay. (Balboa, 1/25)

"There never was a woman like Gilda! " proclaimed the ads, featuring the glorious Love Goddess Rita Hayworth. The opening is astonishingly homoerotic. The cold, wealthy, articulate Banyon (George Macready) prowls the docks of Buenos Aires and picks up a gambler named Johnny (Glenn Ford). They hit it off very well and agree that women are only trouble. Then, one evening, Banyon surprises Johnny by introducing him to his glorious bride. Inviting his pal into the bedroom, he inquires, "Gilda? Are you decent?" Hayworth tosses back her gorgeous hair and purrs, "Who, me?" It doesn't take long for her to break up the boys' beautiful friendship. Hayworth, in a famous dress by Jean Louis, memorably lip-synchs "Put the Blame on Mame" while stripping. It's one of the most erotic numbers in movie history, yet she only removes a glove. A hot, buffed Burt Lancaster became a star as the Swede, an ex-boxer waiting for The Killers in this loose adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's short story. Beautiful Ava Gardner is his love interest. Exquisite cinematography. Grippingly directed by Robert Siodmark. (Balboa, 1/26)

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