A Preview of Noir City Hollywood 2023
July 26, 2023
Noir City Hollywood returns! This year’s 10-day celebration spotlights the “heart of Hollywood’s noir movement,” films made during the years of 1947 and 1948, and takes place at a new venue: the Aero Theatre.
I’ve seen about half of the 23 films screening, and of the 50% I haven't seen, most of them I’ve never even heard of, which I always love. Since the fest’s new home is quite a hike from me, new-to-me movies will take precedence over films I've watched before. So without further ado, below is a quick rundown of the movies I’m hoping to catch, the ones I may try to see, and the ones I’m bummed to miss out on.
Barbara Stanwyck is fretting over the choices I have to make, too. (From Sorry, Wrong Number)
Key Largo and Sorry, Wrong Number (both 1948)
I actually don’t recall if I’ve seen the classic Key Largo—I know, I know, with Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Edward G. Robinson, and Claire Trevor, I should remember!
I have definitely watched Sorry, Wrong Number, though, and I even experienced the claustrophobic, bedridden Barbara Stanwyck thriller on the big screen. I’d love to catch both of these classics on Noir City's opening night, but I have other plans at the moment. Yes, other plans that even top a Stanwyck film noir. (But if those fall through, you know where I’ll be!)
A Double Life (1947) and The Velvet Touch (1948)
I somehow have gone this long without seeing Ronald Colman’s Oscar-winning performance in A Double Life as an actor who isn’t quite sure if he killed someone, so that will be righted this evening. Plus, a Ruth Gordon-Garson Kanin script directed by George Cukor also starring Shelley Winters?! Honestly, how have I not seen this?!
I would also love to watch The Velvet Touch—in fact, I think I had it on my TCM watchlist not long ago—but I know starting a movie at 9:40pm won’t work out well for me. So, I’ll have to wait until another time to catch Roz Russell in her only noir, in which we know from the start that she kills her producer/former lover accidentally. That said, she's backed by the likes of Claire Trevor, Sydney Greenstreet, Frank McHugh (in a noir!) and more, so maybe I will find the power to stay up late for this screening...
Call Northside 777 and Larceny (both 1948)
I feel like Noir City Hollywood 2023 for me is about new discoveries featuring actors who normally didn’t do noir—Ronald Colman, Roz Russell, and in this case, Jimmy Stewart. Call Northside 777 is a title I’ve heard about, but it's escaped me all these years. So, I'm very much looking forward to finally seeing it! Plus, this movie was the first Hollywood feature to be fully filmed in Chicago, and I think it will be entertaining to watch Stewart unravel a murder mystery in the Windy City.
Double features at night are hard for me, but I’m hoping to make it for Larceny, in which grifters Dan Duryea and John Payne try to get war widow Joan Caulfield into investing money in a fake war memorial. (I mean, you can’t get much lower than that, even in noir.) Add Shelley Winters to the mix, and yes, I really need to see this “riotously entertaining” flick.
I Walk Alone (1947)
I’ve seen the second half of this bill, T-Men (1947), in a theater, and it’s great. But since it’s the second movie screening, I already know I’m sitting it out. So, I may or may not make my way to Santa Monica to catch the first feature, I Walk Alone, because somehow this is a Lizabeth Scott noir that I’ve never watched! (And she’s playing a nightclub singer, one of my favorite Scott roles.) Plus, Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas play bootleggers—now that’s something I need to see.
Cry of the City (1948)
Once again, this is another double feature where I’ve seen the second film (1948’s The Naked City) and not the first one, which is exactly how I like my double bills! With that said, I’ll probably only stay for Cry of the City, a Robert Siodmak-directed, Ben Hecht-co-written noir I’ve never even heard of. Cop Victor Mature chasing convict Richard Conte across Manhattan, with masseuse Hope Emerson stealing scenes in her film debut? Sign me up for all of that, please. Also, Mature’s daughter Victoria will be introducing the film, and it’s always a pleasure hearing her speak.
Blood on the Moon (1948) and Pursued (1947)
Blood on the Moon has evaded me ever since it screened at TCMFF this year. I missed that opportunity and another one at the Autry, so I’m glad I can (hopefully!) catch it at Noir City. I’m not normally a Western fan, but Robert Mitchum + noir = something I’m always down to see.
Sticking with Mitchum and the West, Pursued is another new-to-me movie that I’m excited for. First of all, the set-up, a “compelling (and uncompromisingly violent) exposition of noir family values transposed onto the American West,” sounds quite unique to me. Plus, Pursued co-stars Teresa Wright and Judith Anderson and was shot on location in New Mexico by the legendary James Wong Howe, all of which pique my interest even more!
Oh boy, that tagline...
To the Ends of the Earth and Whiplash (both 1948)
To the Ends of the Earth is yet another completely new discovery for me. Any movie with a subject (in this case, the narcotics trade) that goes against the Production Code is a movie I’m intrigued by, which easily makes this Dick Powell-vehicle one of my most anticipated films of the fest.
The summary for Whiplash reads: “An artist who falls for a mystery woman, pursues her to the Big Apple, and ends up fighting for the middleweight championship!” I’m all for wacky-sounding plots, so this new-to-me entry is near the top of my list. Plus, a cast that includes Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Alexis Smith and Dane Clark? Yes, please!
Raw Deal (1948)
As Marsha Hunt’s number one fan, I feel like I should attend this screening, but I’ve watched Raw Deal numerous times on the big screen, including with her in attendance. Plus, He Walked By Night (1948), the second movie on the bill and another fantastic noir, is also a film I’ve already seen in a theater. So, my brain says it may be smart to take a break this evening, but my heart says GO! We’ll see which one wins out.
SUNDAY 8/13 matinee
I'm starting to lose track of all the new-to-me movies I'm going to get to experience at the festival, Bodyguard included! I’m very curious to witness the combination of Lawrence Tierney and Priscilla Lane—especially seeing the former in a good guy role (I think?) as a former cop who goes undercover to reveal some bad stuff in the meat-packing world. Plus, Bodyguard clocks in at a cool 62 minutes, which is a runtime I can get behind.
SUNDAY 8/13 evening
Night Has a Thousand Eyes and The Big Clock (both 1948)
Night Has a Thousand Eyes is yet another movie I’ve never heard of before (are we sensing a theme here?). This line from the summary, “In this rarity, Edward G. Robinson stars as John Triton, a phony vaudeville mentalist who is one day cursed with the actual ability to predict the future” makes this film a must-see for me on so many levels. (Not to mention the participation of Robinson, Gail Russell, and director John Farrow!)
On the other hand, The Big Clock, another Farrow-helmed film, is a movie I’ve heard of many times but never got around to watching. I’m excited to close out Noir City Hollywood 2023 with this Ray Milland-starring vehicle in which the actor plays a true-crime magazine editor accused of murdering his publisher’s mistress. I also can’t wait to see how Charles Laughton chews the scenery here!
Considering how many times I've attended Noir City in the past decade, I'm surprised that I haven't seen or even heard of so many of the titles screening. If you’re attending the festival, what films are you most looking forward to?
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