Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

The dark arts at
the Castro Theatre


James Stewart is a Manhattan photojournalist in Alfred Hitchcock's scary Rear Window (1954).
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This year's Noir City film festival (Jan. 22-31) at the Castro Theatre shows that artists can be dangerous or find themselves at risk. The Art of Darkness series opens with Alfred Hitchcock's scary Rear Window (1954). Manhattan photojournalist L. B. Jeffries (James Stewart) breaks his leg on a shoot. Confined to his apartment, he spies on neighbors with his camera. When one disappears, he fears she's been murdered. Sexy fiancee Grace Kelly gets into trouble investigating. Shrewd Thelma Ritter is his nurse, and cold-eyed Wendell Corey the skeptical detective. Gay Raymond Burr, before TV's Perry Mason, thinks he has committed the perfect crime. Hitchcock combines humor and romance, and builds to an unforgettable climax. Screenplay by John Michael Hayes from a short story by gay noir master Cornell Woolrich. Costumes by Edith Head. Franz Waxman wrote the effective score. "The Great Bernzini" (Joe Pesce) is The Public Eye (1992), set in the grim underworld of 1940s Manhattan. Bernzini's knowledge makes him a threat to many. Loosely based on the career of news photographer Arthur Fellig. Written and directed by Howard Franklin. (1/22, evening)

Before becoming TV's Lucy Ricardo, Lucille Ball spent 18 years in movies playing beautiful, smart women. She's at her sharpest trapped in The Dark Corner (1946). As private eye Mark Stevens' savvy Girl Friday, she helps him solve a murder in the world of fine arts, personified by the gay screen metrosexual Clifton Webb. With a brutish William Bendix before he became lovable on TV's The Life of Riley. Excellent direction by Henry Hathaway. Screenplay by Jay Dratler and Bernard C. Schoenfeld. Based on a Leo Rosten story. Atmospheric cinematography by Joe MacDonald. George Steele (Pat O'Brien), an art curator in a small museum, knows a trainwreck caused his Crack-Up (1946). But almost everyone thinks he's crazy, including his boss, who fires him. Fortunately, reporter Claire Trevor believes him. With Herbert Marshall and Ray Collins, later Lt. Tragg on TV's Perry Mason. Solid direction from Irving Reis. Screenplay by John Paxton, Ben Bengal, and Ray Spencer, from a story by Frederic Brown. (1/23, matinee)

Argentine noir Los Tallos Amargos (The Bitter Stems, 1956) finally has its American premiere, thanks to a restored print from the Film Noir Foundation. Buenos Aires reporter Carlos Cores joins a correspondence school scam, with unforeseen consequences. Fernando Ayala directed. Screenplay by Sergio Leonardo, from a novel by Adolfo Jasca. Flicka och hyacinter (Girl with Hyancinths, 1950) is a rarely seen Swedish noir. A young couple is stunned when their beautiful neighbor commits suicide. They learn they're her heirs. Her estate includes a mysterious portrait of herself with hyacinths. The husband investigates. Directed by Hasse Ekman. Hailed as a masterpiece by Ingmar Bergman. Both films with English subtitles. (1/23, evening)

Classical pianist Bette Davis commits Deception (1946) when her old lover, cellist Paul Henried, unexpectedly re-enters her life. She's now the mistress of a malevolent maestro, the great Claude Rains. This menage a trois turns deadly. Davis and Rains are mesmerizing. Irving Rapper directed, from a screenplay by John Collier and Joseph Than, based on Louis Verneuil's play. Music by Ernest Wolfgang Korngold. In Humoresque, glamorous, wealthy Manhattan socialite Helen Wright (a riveting Joan Crawford) is drawn to poor but virile violinist Paul Boray (John Garfield). "Bad manners – the infallible sign of genius," she purrs, initiating a doomed romance. The finale has Crawford, gowned by Adrian, walking into the sea listening to Wagner's Liebestod . It's irresistible. With wisecracking Oscar Levant. Top-notch direction by Jean Negulesco. Sharp screenplay by Clifford Odets and Zachary Gold, from Fanny Hurst's novel. Magnificent cinematography by Ernest Haller. (1/24, matinee & evening)

The terrific Gloria Grahame is In a Lonely Place (1951) when she meets a volcanic Hollywood writer (Humphrey Bogart) whose career seems over. She can provide an alibi that may clear him of murder. He falls in love with her, but his volatility scares her. Nicholas Ray directed this emotionally authentic noir, and had a hand in the screenplay, officially by Andrew Solt and Edmund H. North, who adapted Dorothy B. Hughes' novel. Grahame was Bogart's best co-star in his post-Lauren Bacall period. The inevitably compelling Barbara Stanwyck falls in love with mentally ill artist Bogart and becomes one of The Two Mrs. Carrolls . Gorgeous Alexis Smith was the first. Did she really die of natural causes? Overwrought, operatic but fascinating. Directed by Peter Godfrey. Screenplay by Thomas Job, from a play by Martin Vale. (1/25, evening)

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) is surprisingly faithful to gay Oscar Wilde's suggestive, sinister novella. Hurd Hatfield is beautiful, ageless, corrupt Dorian. Oscar- nominated Angela Lansbury is an exquisite Sybil Vane – anyone who would hurt her is truly cruel. George Sanders is a flawless Lord Henry Wooten. Lowell Gilmore is painter Basil Hallward. With Donna Reed and Peter Lawford. The homoeroticism is palpable. The reasons for Dorian's nocturnal visits to seedy waterfront dives remain mysterious, and intriguing. Directed and adapted, brilliantly, by Albert Lewin. Eric Portman walks through A Corridor of Mirrors thinking he's a reincarnated Renaissance artist and Edana Romney is his lover from the past. Reality clashes with this dangerous fantasy world. With Christopher Lee in a bit. Directed by Terence Young. Christopher Massie adapted his novel. (1/26, evening)

Doris Day plays 1920s singer Ruth Etting pleading Love Me or Leave Me (1955). Oscar-nominated James Cagney is the gangster who wants to control her in the name of love. Both stars are at their best. This dark mix of music and melodrama is upsetting and touching. Charles Vidor directed. Adapted by Daniel Fuchs and Isobel Lennart from Etting's autobiography. Costumes by Helen Rose. Kirk Douglas is a Young Man with a Horn (1950), paying heavily for success. He's torn between supportive Day and dangerous, bisexual socialite Lauren Bacall. Directed by Michael Curtiz. Written by Carl Foreman and Edmund H. North, from a novel by Dorothy Baker. (1/27, matinee & evening)


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