Noir City Hollywood 21 Preview

March 18, 2019

Noir City Hollywood is finally of age! In honor of their 21st year, the fest continues a theme they’ve celebrated previously, showcasing A and B films released in the same year—this time focusing on the 1950s. Last year my valiant attempt to attend as many screenings as possible ended in seeing 11 of the 20 scheduled titles, a decent 55%. This year I’m shooting for at least 12 movies; let’s see if I can make it happen, as the program features a hearty mix of very well-known pictures (that I haven’t yet watched) and a handful of new-to-me rarities, which I always love. That said, below is my preview of Noir City Hollywood 21!

Friday 3/29

Trapped (1949)

This may be the first Noir City Hollywood opening night in a long while that I sit out, and not because of the quality of the pictures or anything like that, but rather the fact that I just saw Trapped one month ago at the UCLA Festival of Preservation. I certainly enjoyed it, but I’m not sure I’ll be in the mood to watch the exact same print again so soon! (Though Noir City’s opening night parties are usually not to be missed.)

 

The File on Thelma Jordon (1950)

I’ve seen Thelma Jordon before, but it’s been many years… and it’s hard to pass up Barbara Stanwyck on the big screen—as a femme fatale, no less!

Saturday 3/30

Appointment with Danger (1951)

Alan Ladd as a postal investigator—what is that? A reluctant nun as the only witness to a homicide? Jack Webb as a murderer? Shot on location in Illinois and Indiana? Ultra-rare 35mm print? Yes to all five of these, please!

 

Shadow on the Wall (1950)

This is one of this year’s selections that I’ve never heard of, but it sounds intriguing, particularly the cast: Ann Sothern, Gigi Perreau, Zachary Scott, Nancy Davis. Plus, children-witnessing-murder plots are always super screwy: i.e. a murderer apparently trying to “wipe out” Perreau’s memory after she sees her stepmother killed. WTF?

Sunday 3/31

Sudden Fear (1952)

Somehow, I’ve managed to miss seeing this Oscar-nominated Joan Crawford film. Noir queen Gloria Grahame and Jack Palace lead serious credence to this picture (as if it needs any more), and just reading the short summary on the Cinematheque’s website describing the “stylish and suspenseful” story has me enthused for this one!

 

The Narrow Margin (1952)

The Narrow Margin is one of the most famous noir films, especially in the low-budget category, and has screened, to my knowledge, a few times in LA over the last several years. I caught it online recently, but it’s probably worth it to see Marie Windsor and Charles McGraw trade jabs aboard the most stressful train ride ever—and on an archival 35mm print.

Monday 4/1

City That Never Sleeps (1953)

To be honest, I frequently get confused between all the noir titles that feature the words ‘city’ and ‘sleep.’ (There are probably only like 2 of them, but still.) That said, I’m not sure if I’ve seen this movie, but “ingenious plot twists,” “eccentric characters,” and “life-or-death struggles” sound right up my alley. Plus, Marie Windsor (again!), Edward Arnold, William Talman, AND the city of Chicago narrates this whole ride? I’m in.

 

99 River Street (1953)

I’m pretty sure I’ve watched 99 River Street before, but a dark—literally, taking place wholly at night—noir starring the great Evelyn Keyes and John Payne never hurt anyone. (The film, not the characters, that is; Payne does play a boxer, so punches are indeed thrown.)

Tuesday 4/2

Playgirl (1954)

They got me at “vaulted for over half a century.” And the fact that it sounds like Shelley Winters goes all-out surrounded by a bevy of shady characters.

 

Hell’s Half Acre (1954)

Hell’s Half Acre is another new-to-me title, a “wonderfully trashy” entry in the noir canon! With a cast featuring Evelyn Keyes (again), Marie Windsor (again), Wendell Corey, and Elsa Lanchester, you can’t really go wrong, can you? Plus, Honolulu has/had a Red Light District? I’m curious to see what that looks like!

Wednesday 4/3

The Big Combo (1955)
This evening boasts two more famous noir titles... both of which I’ve never caught before. I’m not as familiar with the names in this cast, but I put my trust in Noir City’s programming—and famed cinematographer John Alton and director Joseph H. Lewis (who directed one of my favorites, Gun Crazy).

Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)
Spencer Tracy, Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, Anne Francis, Walter Brennan. I mean, wow. I should probably see this movie—and it’s screening on 35mm, to boot.

Thursday 4/4
A Kiss Before Dying (1956)

Another night featuring films I’ve long heard about but am 95% sure I’ve yet to experience, certainly not on a big screen. I had no idea this noir was shot in color, which always intrigues me as I think it’s an odd choice for dark suspense flicks. Plus, Robert Wagner as a “ladykiller” and Mary Astor in any form? Sold.

The Harder They Fall (1956)
Somehow, all these years I’ve managed to miss out on witnessing Bogie’s last film performance! This role (as a sportswriter) and the bleak tone fit his persona like a glove, and I’m looking forward to watching him own the role.

Friday 4/5
The Midnight Story (1957)

Now we’re back to two films I’ve never heard of! Tony Curtis and Gilbert Roland make for interesting co-stars, not to mention the vigilante storyline sounds mighty compelling.

Monkey on My Back (1957)
This dark tale of gambling and drug addiction features episodes “straight out of THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI”?! Those scenes are sufficiently twisted, which definitely intrigues me if these trips are comparable.

Saturday 4/6
Touch of Evil (1958)

Another truth: I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen this Orson Welles classic. Welles’ direction is obviously a selling point, as is the cast (Welles, Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, Marlene Dietrich, oh my!) and all the superlatives I’ve heard heaped upon it regarding the cinematography, stark style, and the shadowy story.

 

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)

I’ve caught Elevator to the Gallows on the big screen several years ago, but I don’t think I fully understood or appreciated its significance at that time, especially as one of the films that helped usher in the French New Wave. Not to mention it was the feature directorial debut of legendary French helmer Louis Malle and helped propel the sultry Jeanne Moreau to stardom—what’s not to admire about this?

Sunday 4/7

I Want to Live! (1958)

Not gonna lie, I’ve seen this movie once and I just can’t bring myself to watch it again. Susan Hayward is phenomenal, but it’s just too much, especially the last sequence. Even though I know what’s coming, I don’t know if I could handle that on a big screen! It will certainly be an experience, though.

 

Cry Tough (1959)

Though I’ll most likely skip the first feature of closing night, I definitely want to see this rarity. I’ve never heard of the cast members, I’m not familiar with the director, and it’s not on DVD? YES, PLEASE.

Are you attending Noir City Hollywood this year? If so, let me know what movies are on your must-see list!

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I See a Dark Theater is a website dedicated to classic movie-going—and loving—in the City of Angels. Whether it's coverage on screenings, special presentations, or Q&As around Los Angeles that you're looking for, or commentary on the wonderful and sometimes wacky world of classic cinema, you've come to the right place for a variety of pieces written with zeal, awe, and (occasionally) wit. Enjoy.

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