Monday, February 28, 2011

In Memoriam: Jane Russell, 1921-2011

The Siren has always divided the screen personas of great beauties into two categories: those who would steal your man the second your back was turned, and those who would just as soon knock back a few with the gals, while the man lopes off until such time as his presence becomes nonsuperfluous once more.

Jane Russell, who has died age 89, belonged to the latter category. Her chief asset was likability, but that's a rare quality in a woman so stunning. There aren't many sex symbols who seem chummy on screen. A guy could buy her a beer without being ensnared forever; a woman could lament an errant lover to her without fearing that Russell might snap him up on the rebound. Russell had talent; witness her hilarious courtroom scene in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which she out-Marilyns Marilyn, or her perfect reactions in The Paleface, one of Bob Hope's funnier movies. She had moxie, too; "don't let her fool you," said Hope. "Tangle with her and she'll shingle your attic."

Without hesitation the Siren would name His Kind of Woman as her favorite Russell movie, even if the film really belongs to Vincent Price. Her Lenore Brent is a different noir character from the femme fatale; it's the Gilda type, a woman who seems trampy but really isn't. When Lenore says "Wherever I am, I sing at the drop of a hat," you want to say, "Of course you do, doll."

Mitchum and Russell had liked one another as soon as they met on set; their mutual lack of pretension made them the right kind of friends. It's impossible to view the TCM interview with Russell and Robert Mitchum, filmed not long before Mitchum's death, and not like her even more. (The interview is included as an extra on the Macao DVD.) Mitchum gives one of the most screw-you performances the Siren has ever seen from any actor on any chatfest. Robert Osborne goes from surprise, to discomfort, to outright desperation as he tries to get more than a monosyllable out of the uncooperative legend slumped next to Russell. The actress' treatment of her old co-star is that of a loving spouse after decades of marriage to an impossible coot, as she tries to nudge him into courtesy.

But as biographer Lee Server told it, Mitchum, as much as anyone, had boundless appreciation for the things--many more than two, thank you--that made Russell such fun.
He loved to tell the one about the pestering reporter who couldn't believe a girl with her 'image' read the Bible and went to church each Sunday. 'Hey buddy,' she told him, 'Christians have big breasts, too.'

Oscar Night

The story goes that when D.W. Griffith released The Struggle in 1931, a number of critics refused to review it out of respect for his former accomplishments.

And so it goes with Kirk Douglas at last night's Oscars. The Siren closed her eyes, and thought of Colonel Dax.

There really aren't many observations that the Siren has to make about the awards. They were enjoyable, James Franco is handsome, the actresses wore pretty things, the Siren went to an awesome potluck party and everyone said nice things about her quinoa salad. This ranks as a success in her eyes. The Siren does not look for much justice in this vale of tears, period, let alone at the Oscars. But here goes:

1. The King's Speech is not a bad movie. The Siren preferred The Social Network, like most of her acquaintance, but enough already. She repeats, The King's Speech is not a bad movie, and Colin Firth's speech was pretty charming, despite the old "my career just peaked" opening.

2. Ann Hathaway's best dress was the red one, the worst that sort of gray spidery thing that was number 2.

3. You know, the Siren isn't going to complain about getting a larger dose of Lena Horne than anticipated. But giving the woman a special award while she was still with us, even quarantined at that blasted Governor's Banquet they have now, would have been even nicer.

4. If you are going to include clips of old movies, they should, ideally, have some relation to what's happening on stage. Not just Tara's Theme, then…whatever that award was. This does. not. help.

And now the Siren returns to her regularly scheduled routine of getting more worked up over the 1942 Oscars, say, than she does over this year's. Carry on.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Film Noir Coda: "And Then, Mr. Krock..."

As a small treat, to celebrate the end of a job well done by all, here is the oft-told tale of how James M. Cain came to conceive of Double Indemnity--told exceptionally well by Otto Friedrich in City of Nets.

Double Indemnity…derived from an old newspaper story. Back at the dawn of time, back even before Arthur Krock first arrived in Washington to cover the administration of William Howard Taft for the Louisville Times, a terrible thing happened at the printing plant in Louisville. There was an ad in the paper for women's underwear, as Krock recounted the episode to a young writer on the New York World, and it was supposed to say, 'If these sizes are too big, take a tuck in them.' But as Krock was reading through that night's first edition, he saw that somebody had changed the first letter in the word 'tuck.'

Krock ordered the ad changed for the next edition, then summoned the printer and demanded an explanation. The printer couldn't provide one. He couldn't understand how such an embarrassing accident could have happened. Krock remained suspicious. Two days later, he went and interrogated the printer again, in the interrogatory manner that would daunt future presidents and secretaries of state when Krock became Washington bureau chief for the New York Times. The printer confessed. 'Mr. Krock,' he said, trying finally to explain, 'you do nothing your whole life but watch for something like that happening, so as to head it off, and then, Mr. Krock, you catch yourself waiting for chances to do it.'

The young writer to whom Krock told this story, James M. Cain, was fascinated by the idea of a young man yearning to commit the one crime he is responsible for preventing…Cain had once been an insurance salesman, and his father had been an insurance executive, so as Krock's story floated around in his mind over the course of many years, it acquired a characteristically Cainian form: insurance fraud.

Updated final links, including those who slipped in under the wire on Monday, for the For the Love of Film (Noir) blogathon are right here and right here. Please continue to enjoy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir): Denouement and Big Finish

Thus endeth the second annual Film Preservation blogathon, For the Love of Film (Noir).

Not to put too fine a point on it, the Siren is knackered.

But it's an exhilarated kind of knackered. Damn, look at all those posts. What a torrent of really amazing writing this topic spawned. We really do love film noir, don't we? Maybe, as Ben Alpers suggested, this genre is more American than cowboys. But the Siren by no means wants to bypass the international component of this here blogathon--Denmark, Sweden, Scotland, Dubai, Spain, Australia, England. It was one great party.

And, with apologies to the Hays Office for the second instance of profanity (as if), damn, look at the money we raised. More than $5,000--in small increments. Person after person hitting the hat with whatever they could spare.

To use a term that is almost entirely alien to film noir, it's heartwarming.

The Siren here takes off her net-veiled hat to Greg Ferrara, the source of the gorgeous visual accoutrements for the blogathon, as well as some behind-the-scenes code-decoding that he's too modest to take credit for.

And she drops a deep curtsy to that torrent of energy, organization and enthusiasm, in whom all points of this blogathon meet, the fabulous Marilyn Ferdinand. She and I will be posting the results of the raffle drawings, final totals etc., later this week.

Now, through the efforts of us all, partners, bloggers and (bless you) donors, there's more than five grand the fine folks at the Film Noir Foundation can count on to restore The Sound of Fury, and bring back Lloyd Bridges, Frank Lovejoy and Cy Endfield, whose career was too short, to their full glory. To refer back to something Eddie Muller of the FNF said, a ghost film no more.

Speaking of Eddie Muller, the Siren here appends his personal thank you.

The Film Noir Foundation is immensely gratified by the remarkable response to this year’s film preservation blogathon. The quality of the contributions was exceptional, and conclusively proved that the best contemporary writing on cinema is happening on the Internet. We will eventually thank, personally, every blogger and every donor, but for right now we’ll bestow all our thanks on the two remarkable women who conceived and executed this extraordinary event: Marilyn Ferdinand and Farran Smith Nehme—no finer friends of film exist. Thank you, ladies!

During much of the blogathon I was in Seattle, presenting another NOIR CITY festival by night and visiting a series of colleges on weekdays, screening clips and discussing film noir, cinema history, and cultural preservation. These face-to-face encounters with the next generation always fill me with hope. At every stop I was greeted by eager youngsters—you’ll recognize them in the mirror—who had light in their eyes and questions on their tongue, crackling with the electricity that comes from plugging into the culture’s cinematic circuitry in a meaningful way.

There was some grousing during the blogathon about the lack of “big” donors this year, leaving this year’s final tally below last year’s, even though there were more individual donors. That doesn’t bother me––I’ve lived long enough to learn many things, and one of the essential truths is that folks who can’t afford to be generous are always the first to share. Every donation, whatever amount, is valuable and appreciated. We raised a portion of the total cost of restoring The Sound of Fury, but in truth it is the spirit with which people rallied in support of the cause—at a difficult time both economically and politically, worldwide—that is even more crucial to our mission than the dollars taken in.

Money is money. You always find it somewhere, somehow. Passion is sacred. Thanks to everyone for sharing their passion this past week. Let’s keep carrying the torch, not only for our favorite art form, but for all the things we cherish and refuse to relinquish.

—Eddie Muller

Friday, February 18, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir): The Take So Far, With Links

At this link, stirring words from the witty, self-effacing and gloriously great Kevin Brownlow, on the occasion of his receiving a special Oscar for his efforts on behalf of preserving film history. You will hear him mention the silent-film cache from New Zealand--two films from which were preserved with funds from last year's blogathon. Just hearing him talk about black-and-white is enough to make the Siren's heart leap with joy.

The Siren, as she said, is not by nature an optimistic sort of person, except when it comes to film. So first, the good news: in terms of small donations from interested individuals, this year's For the Love of FIlm blogathon is as good as or better than the last. The number of bloggers participating is up, and the quality of contributions on this topic has been gratifyingly high. All very, very good.

To elaborate on Marilyn's note below, however: Our deep-pocketed angels from last year so far appear to be MIA. And the bad news is, that leaves the rest of us poor suckers to do the heavy lifting.

Which is, if nothing else, very noir.

Classic film, as a populist art form without as much traction on red carpets and in three-star restaurants, may be in need of a higher profile where rich people congregate. Should you know a couple of what business magazines call "high net-worth individuals," ones who just happen to have a strongly developed taste for chiaroscuro cinematography, by all means, give them an extra poke.

All of kinds of things can happen in the last reel. If you haven't already thrown some dough in the kitty, today is an excellent day to do so.

As the man said in Gun Crazy, "Honey, I'll make money like you want me to. Big money. But it takes time, you gotta give me time."

The Siren also repeats this from the fair Marilyn, from yesterday:

VERY IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT! There is a donation link that bloggers are using that does not work. We are very behind last year’s donations, and I can’t believe that it’s because nobody cares. I think it’s because people can’t get through. If you have posted for the blogathon or intend to, PLEASE USE THE FOLLOWING LINK: Correct it wherever you have a link, either text or behind the donation button. THANK YOU! Back to the blogathon.

The links from earlier in the week are below.

Links from Friday, Saturday and Sunday below. Aaaaaand, right here, the links for today, the last day of the blogathon.

Monday, February 21

A new participant, Clara at Via Marguta 51, chips in with the delightful "30 Reasons Why You Should Donate." The Siren's favorite, because, well: "Because Dana Andrews would approve and sleep near your portrait."

"Love came crashing down on them in a frantic crescendo of turbulent passion"--sounds like the ideal date. One movie, and another, and the crescendo movie, at Scenes from the Morgue: Retro-Pulp Movie Ads.

"Sexy in a sluttish way": Bill Wren at Piddleville makes Dennis Hopper's The Hot Spot sound like another ideal date.

Ed Howard at Only the Cinema uses the movie we're trying to restore, The Sound of Fury, for his valedictory post, and finds it " a bold plea on behalf of justice and order, a rejection of the bloodthirsty drive for revenge."

Sunset Boulevard, avers another new participant, Dave Enkosky, is "really about artistic collaboration." And his artist's rendition of an ideal artistic collaboration is worth the click all by its lonesome.

Is noir more American than cowboys? For his final entry after a week of thoughtful, energetic posts, Ben Alpers ponders that question and others at the U.S. Intellectual History Blog.

From "Son of Noir," a whither-film-noir wrap-up essay by Richard T. Jameson at Parallax View: "Whenever a new movie comes along in which the atmosphere is wishfully sinister and oddball characters proliferate to the confounding of any hope of lucid plot explication, [reviewers have] learned to dive for prototypes in The Big Sleep the way a seal dives for a fish."

Christiane at Krell Laboratories writes a review of Shutter Island with which the Siren does not agree. But who cares, because Christiane wrote it really well.

Catherine Grant runs the indispensable Film Studies for Free, where she provides groups of links to a huge variety of film topics. She has a blogathon post today with a roundup of links about film noir, as well as a gorgeous essay on Gilda.

Okay Marilyn, I'm sorry, but I'm stealing your limerick about Hilary Barta: There was a blogger named Barta /Whose poems were terribly smart(a) / He wrote for the fun / But when he was done / He had fans from Nome to Jakarta. Hilary's last limerick, right here.

DeeDee at Wonders in the Dark issues thank-yous (don't do that, Greg blushes easily) and, god love her, DeeDee joins Kim Morgan and the Siren in calling for the great John Garfield to get his filmography restored and his own damn box set.

Speaking of Greg Ferrara, who contributed the beautiful logos, the fine video commercial and the Maltese Falcon donation button, which even turned heads on the august New York Times editorial board--Greg has a wrap-up post. Go over there, please, and tell him how great he is.

Elvis Costello's Man Out of Time, 2001, Westerns, Metropolis, Lonely Are the Brave, and the impossible good looks of the young David Hemmings all figure in Ariel Schudson's last post for us--and yes, it all ties in to noir, and preservation.

Why does film preservation cost so much? Lee Price has some answers for us at Preserving a Family Collection. And his final post at June and Art looks at the noirs his parents may have seen over the nine months of their courtship, which list, oddly, made the Siren get a bit misty.

"To put it bluntly, both chicks know how to work it": Ryan Kelly of Medfly Quarantine brings up Brian De Palma, a director heretofore absent, with a post on Femme Fatale, and the opening shot that melds Rebecca Romijn with the greatest noir lady of them all.

Mr. Peel delves into the life of Maxine Cooper, who played Velda in Kiss Me Deadly, and likes what he finds very much; so did the Siren. That, and much more about the film, at Mr. Peel's Sardine Liqueur.

Gautam Valluri at Broken Projector says "Scarlet Street talks of more things than a regular film noir cared to get into."

Arthur S., who often graces the Siren's comments section, has a fine blog, This Pig's Alley. Here he gives Beyond the Forest the intense, serious treatment it deserves, with great screen caps.

"If there is anything film noir fans love, it’s waxing philosophical about film noir"--amen to that! Jen at DeliberatePixel dedicates her regular Monday noir feature to the blogathon.

Ben Kenigsberg of Time Out Chicago devotes his post to a Chicago-shot noir, City That Never Sleeps (wait, New Yorkers, isn't that OUR line?). He says it's actually narrated by Chicago; this the Siren must see.

A beautiful, heartfelt post on Joseph Mankiewicz's No Way Out, and Sidney Poitier's performance, with some love too for the marvelous Linda Darnell. From Caroline Shapiro at Garbo Laughs.

Dennis Cozzalio (whom the Siren is just crazy about, ok?) has a fantastic post about Stranger on the Third Floor, weaving through its influence not only on noir in general, but how it sparked his love for the genre.

Hind Mezaina of The Culturist is back, with a must-read post about an Egyptian noir that the Siren was completely unfamiliar with: Henry Barakat's A Nightingale's Prayer.

And another treasured Siren regular adds to the international flavor of the blogathon. Gloria, who blogs from Spain at Rooting for Laughton, takes up The Paradine Case--and the case of the difficult Laughton, who apparently gave no trouble on that set. Also with notes on the film's deleted scenes. The Siren's always liked this much-maligned Hitchcock.

Kenji Fujishima posts about noir's attractions from a personal angle with "Darkness Falls: The (Black) Beauty of Film Noir," at My Life at 24 Frames Per Second.

Karie Bible at Film Radar has a great post about film noir locations in Los Angeles, including those for Criss-Cross, which the Siren always found very beautiful.

One last from Dennis Cozzalio at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule, on John Flynn's The Outfit.

At The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, Kevyn Knox gives some more love to Stranger on the Third Floor, which seems beloved by a good many bloggers hereabouts, and a fine thing too.

A wrap-up post from Mark Edward Hueck at The Projector Has Been Drinking, on more noir and guitars.

And another film noir wrap-up from Paul Etcheverry at Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog.

Gareth at Gareth's Movies shows his exquisite taste with warm words for Kathleen Ryan in the magnificent Odd Man Out.

Sunday, February 20

At the blog run by my goddess blogathon partner, Ferdy on Films, Roderick Heath gives us a closer look at Cy Endfield, the blacklisted director whose film The Sound of Fury we're raising money to restore. Rod gives us a picture of Endfield as a well as a close reading of Hell Drivers, the noir that the director made in England after he was forced to leave the States. Everyone involved in this blogathon should be taking a look.

This one did the Siren's heart good. Five superlative reasons you should donate to the Film Noir blogathon, from Andreas at Pussy Goes Grrr.

At Twenty-Four Frames, John Greco takes on The Killers, and gives the kind of extensive background and production history that the Siren adores. With a wrap-up that includes thoughts about Don Siegel's 1964 remake.

At Scenes from the Morgue: Retro-Pulp Movie Ads, W.B. Kelso has Act of Violence, The Set-up, The Phenix City Story and The Big Sleep, Kiss Me Deadly. And as usual, the Siren can't keep her eyes off the other parts of the bill. Tell me, would you pair Robert Ryan with...Roy Acuff?

Sometimes the Siren has to wonder if she's living under a rock, or possibly her own DVD collection. Why, for example, has she not been aware of the blog Olivia and Joan: Sisters of the Silver Screen? She's extremely happy to redress the omission with Tom's entry for the blogathon, about the wonderfully titled Kiss the Blood Off My Hands, starring an actress the Siren should really mention around here every once in a while...

The Siren is also envisioning some sort of post-blogathon gathering, wherein we all sit around and have a friendly argument over which film constitutes the first noir, or proto-noir, or proto-forerunner-grandaddy noir. At The Fine Cut, Steven Santos has a fine video essay about his contender, and it's a heavyweight indeed: Fritz Lang's M.

"For the exact same reasons many historians absolutely loathe Columbia cartoons - its randomness and complete disregard for anything remotely resembling the fundamentals of story/sight gag construction (even as loosely practiced in animated cartoons) - I love this." The Siren loves that line, and the embedded cartoon is pretty funny, too, so clearly random goes down well with her. Cartoon noir, from Paul at Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog.

Anuj Malhotra of Floatin’ Zoetropes shows some love for Jacques Tourneur, with a post about Out of the Past and Nightfall. The screencap is a dose of everything the Siren adores about Tourneur.

Fredrik Gustafsson of Fredrik on Film is back with a post celebrating the collaboration between Anthony Mann and the great John Alton.

David Steece is back to pay tribute to another great cinematographer, Leo Tover, and pays special attention to an old favorite of the Siren's, The Snake Pit.

Christiane at Krell Laboratories writes about a film that has been on the Siren's to-see list for a long time, due to the presence of the fabulous Joan Bennett: The Scar.

At Laughing Willow Letters, Mary Hess (who had a fine post for last year's blogathon) covers one of the few films Max Ophuls made that can be called noir: The Reckless Moment.

What's an Erich von Stroheim movie's intertitle doing in our film noir blogathon? David Cairns explains--and it fits.

"What always strikes me is what a mean-spirited, spiteful bastard Glenn Ford is as Johnny Farrell": Bill Wren on Gilda, and the Siren completely agrees. Rita's much better off with George Macready.

The oft- (and oft unjustly) maligned Fred Zinnemann gets his due from Adam Zanzie at Icebox Movies, in a post about the fantastic Act of Violence.

Beth Ann Gallagher wins the hearts of bookworms everywhere with a post on Dorothy Malone's delicious little part as the "Bookseller Babe" in The Big Sleep.

Director Jeffrey Goodman, at his blog The Last Lullaby (and Peril), talks about noir: "my first cinematic companion."

At June and Art, Lee Price posts a Night and the City letter from June to Art.

"Similar to the way that a fusion restaurant might pair up the foods of two different cultures on one plate, Noir Fusion does the same thing but with noir and 'insert chosen film genre here.'": Ariel Shudson plumps for a Noir Fusion candidate, Escape from New York.

Jesse Ataide on Dark Passage, the Bogey-Bacall outing that is usually a stepchild to the other three, and why she prefers it to Key Largo. At Memories of the Future.

More at Marilyn's Ferdy on Films: Guest blogger Robert Hornak on Touch of Evil, a film where the "melodrama is as corpulent and sweaty as Quinlan."

"If snakes could walk, they’d all strut like Lee Van Cleef": Novelist Thomas Burchfield chips in a post about the actor and his amazing sneer, at A Curious Man.

At Limerwrecks, "Push and Shovel": another delectable five-line noir, from Hilary Barta.

Ah, the Siren loves her character actors, and so does Wallace McElvey of In Widescreen, putting the spotlight on the lesser-known duo in Born to Kill.

Capsule reviews of the marvelous The Bad Sleep Well and Blade Runner, from Stu at Undy-a-Hundy.

Darren Mooney completes his heroic efforts on behalf of the blogathon (seven days, fifteen posts!) with Sin City, Infernal Affairs, Outrage, and "Batman Noir."

"According to the "rules" of movies, you can pull the rug out from under the audience, but you're supposed to have a floor under it. Lang pulls the rug and you end up in the middle of a busy freeway": Jaime Christley of Unexamined Essentials on the superbly twisty Ministry of Fear.

Emma at All About My Movies, who once ran a great blogathon herself (about "The Performance That Changed My Life") picks Maxwell Shane's tidy, low-budget Fear in the Night, from 1947.

A lively, funny, loving tribute to the battily wonderful Secret Beyond the Door, from Hedwig at As Cool as a Fruitstand. And the Siren loves Hedwig's kicker line.

David Fincher's noir stylings--in his music videos. Part 2 of Mark David Hueck's "Of Noir and Guitar," at The Projector Has Been Drinking.

At True Classics, a great, pic-heavy post about Douglas Sirk's Lured, with special attention paid to Lucille Ball.

G.K. Reid ("I sound more like a hard-boiled detective if I use my initials") dedicates his inaugural post at Restless Eyebrows to the blogathon, with a meditation on the shady ladies of noir, as a teaser for tomorrow's unveiling of his favorite dame.

And Neil Sarver at The Bleeding Tree pulls up at Road House, and finds "an unstudied cynicism that most imitators try to match with a concerted cynicism."

Saturday, February 19

No blogger writes with deeper understanding of actors and acting than Sheila O'Malley, an actress herself. Here she gives us Five Things About Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy.

This has definitely been the most poetic blogathon the Siren has yet seen. At Dereliction Row, the Derelict (aka Jenny Baldwin, who also writes for Libertas) gives us a quartet of haikus about Coleen Gray, who still flutters many male hearts hereabouts.

And of course, there is the daily dose of limerick from Hilary Barta, this time on Stranger on the Third Floor.

And the great David Cairns gets in on the limerick act as well, as part of his mighty effort to scale the K2 of noir, Sweet Smell of Success: "J.J. Hunsecker apparently never sleeps, towers over everybody, can crush them on a whim, but expends the precise minimum energy required to smoke a cigarette with total poise."

"Follies honors a noir heritage and also works as an ideal text for thinking about artistic preservation": A twisting, turning, lovingly detailed meditation on how noir influenced Stephen Sondheim, from his days as a clapper boy on Beat the Devil to his career as Broadway's finest, from Brian Doan at Bubblegum Aesthetics.

Ed Howard pays tribute to Edgar Ulmer, "a true poet of the noir," with a gorgeously screen-capped tribute to the magnificent Detour.

Wild Bill Wellman's Western noir, Yellow Sky, gets the Vanwall Green treatment at Vanwall Land, with more great screencaps, including one of Gregory Peck with his shirt off, not that this should influence anybody to click or anything.

Quai des Orfevres, Le Corbeau, oodles of the Siren's beloved Simone Signoret--DeeDee at Wonders in the Dark has a list of the 10 Best French Films Noir that the Siren can only heartily second.

A dedicated contributor from last year's blogathon was Hind Mezaina of Dubai, whose blog is called The Culturist. She further demonstrates the international character of noir with a post about Cairo Station, one of the greatest films of the great Egyptian director Youssef Chahine; she includes a scene from the film.

And the blogathon's reach expands much further north, to Sweden, where Frederik Gustafsson of Frederik on Film posts about the essential elements of noir.

At Parallax View, another archival essay from Richard T. Jameson, this one about the eternal masterpiece Touch of Evil.

"Body Heat is so smooth, and Double Indemnity is so rough": Kelli Marshall asks her film noir students which one is sexier, at Unmuzzled Thoughts.

At the U.S. Intellectual History Blog, Ben Alpers breaks his policy of no weekend blogging for a loving, beautifully detailed look at Moonrise, that focuses in particular on the film's view of race.

MP of idFilm muses on the elements of storytelling in noir, and the recurring narrative patterns across several movies.

"While casting Crack Up, the filmmakers must have made a clerical error. How else to explain Pat O'Brien playing an art critic and Herbert Marshall a cop?" Jenny the Nipper, the rare blogger who can get you laughing from the first line, at Cinema OCD.

Friday, February 18

A belated link for Bryce Wilson's wry, funny, lusciously screen-capped tribute to Robert Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly. The love for Gaby Rodgers' performance is echoed by the Siren. Not to be missed, at Things That Don't Suck.

The Film Noir Foundation has worked to preserve films from many countries, so Peter Nellhaus’ posts on international noir have been particularly welcome. He closes out his great work this week with The Equation of Love and Death from China.

For those who recognize the Siren's still above, there's more of that towering movie, from Richard T. Jameson at Parallax View.

Two of the greatest noir icons of them all go toe-to-toe, as goddess Kim Morgan continues to beat the drum for the blogathon from her pedestal at MSN Movies.

An old and trusty friend to this blog, a font of acerbic wisdom--and Master Banner Changer; all those things are Ray Young. The Siren's banners pale next to those of the inimitable Flickhead. He rises to the blogathon occasion with a terrific post about Cutter's Bone.

For lovers of Ida Lupino (all of us--right? right?) there's a triple feature from Sean Axmaker at MSN Movies Videodrone: The Man I Love, Road House, and The Hitch-hiker.

At Cinema Ramble, Michael C dives into Phenix City Story, which he finds " a docu-style traipse through small-city USA in the 1950s.” Yes, and the docu-style truth hurts...

Home-movie noir: the genre for those who really, really had a bad time with the in-laws at Christmas. The Siren is kidding, but Lee Price is not; he's got a rundown on amateur noir – at Preserving a Family Collection. Plus, art and Scarlet Street, at June and Art.

Maybe marrying gorgeous Veronica Lake expended his reserves of Hollywood luck, because to the Siren's mind, Andre de Toth is a bit neglected. Here to add to the plus column is Christianne Benedict at Krell Laboratories, with musings on Crime Wave, “a damn near perfect B-movie.”

"The rare topical film that reaches across time to retain its power in the modern era": Ed Howard at Only the Cinema on Edward Dmytryk's Crossfire.

The most pitch-dark cynical film the master Billy Wilder ever made, which makes it a strong contender as the most pitch-dark cynical movie, period: John Greco writes up Ace in the Hole.

At Sinamatic Salve-ation, Ariel Schudson goes deep undercover with The Big Combo, a film that showed the Siren that even torture scenes filmed in 1955 could have her curled up into a ball.

"Once an approach or style is identified, like film noir, subsequent movies taking that approach are self-aware": Bill Wren on "Chinatown and the Self-Aware Noir," at Piddleville.

At Randomaniac, David Steece presents a psychosexual Freudian analysis of Edmund Goulding's Nightmare Alley.

"Walk away. Drop it": The 2005 Brick is getting some more love from the blogathon, via Venetian Blond at Edward Copeland on Film.

Tinky Weisblat explains why everyone in Paris had heard of her godmother's small corner of the U.S., and adds a recipe for a Hurricane, which the Siren could use right about now...

The Blue Dahlia, in five lines, at Hilary Barta's Limerwrecks. The Siren's loved every one of these things.

Lauren Hairston, at her eponymous blog, devotes her regular Friday "Dinner and a Movie" feature to our blogathon, and Witness to Murder. More recipes!

Ah, somebody always has to bring up Frank Borzage here, don't they? This time it's KC at Movie Classics, discussing the gorgeous, haunting Moonrise.

Jacqueline Fitzgerald quotes a great man on the most famous wig in film noir history, and posts a photo to illustrate its unexpected, but continuing influence. At her very appropriately titled blog.

Tom Block brings up a film the Siren loves and was hoping to see here, The Window, a movie that shows the loneliness and isolation of a child can be very noir indeed.

At Rob Byrne's Starting Thursday, little-remembered proto-noir star Louise Platt, who once a made a Western someone here just described as noir...

David Cairns' "The Forgotten" is one of the Siren's favorite film columns on the Web. This week he devotes it to the rare British noir forerunner, On the Night of the Fire. And because he loves us, he also brings up Caged, the best women's prison film ever.

Nicholas Pillai of Squeezegut Alley on Will Eisner's The Spirit, and why it's all Michael Chabon's fault...

Vince Keenan has his last dispatch from Noir City Northwest, on Loophole and "a deranged delight," Crashout.

TV Noir puts in an appearance at Darren's Mooney's place, with the Miami Vice pilot, as does Christopher Nolan, with Insomnia.

"At this point I ask the class how many of them have seen Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), and a light bulb appears almost visibly over most of their heads." At Virtual Virago, Jennifer Garlen talks about teaching noir to freshmen.

Another belated link, and a good one: R. Emmet Sweeney at TCM's Movie Morlocks blog takes on the "scorcher" of a movie we're trying to restore, The Sound of Fury.

Every blogathon needs an evil twin: Ivan G. Shreve of Thrilling Days of Yesteyear has a typically affectionate, funny post up about Robert Siodmak's The Dark Mirror, and Olivia de Havilland in it--he says he likes her better here than in the performance that won the actress her first Oscar.

The Flying Maciste Brothers have shown up at Destructible Man, with a post on Phil Karlson's Phenix City Story that includes wonderfully lurid posters from Karlson's films, as well as screenshots of intertitles. Dig the one that says Phenix City "is now a model community--orderly, progressive"--that was the part that used to have the Siren's late father doubled over in laughter.

Talented, insightful film writer Imogen Smith has joined our blogathon with a post at The Chiseler about the philosophical and political ties that bind Pre-Code and noir: "Films such as Joseph Losey’s The Prowler...and Cy Endfield’s The Sound of Fury...are scathing attacks on a materialistic society, unmasking the American dream as a shallow and shabby illusion that breeds crime and shreds the social fabric."

Sunday, February 13, 2011

For the Love of Film (Noir): Let the Links Begin

On Wednesday, the New York Times editorial page recognizes our efforts on behalf of The Film Noir Foundation. Note the construction--"a number of film bloggers." That's everyone here. Eddie, and the Siren, and Marilyn, and Greg, applaud you all.

And since the Times was good enough to mention Greg's flat-out gorgeous Maltese Falcon donation button, the Siren is moving it right up here. And she hopes many more people use it. Onward!

And thick and and fast they came at last, and more, and more, and more…

Scroll down for the links to the participants in the For the Love of Film (Noir) Blogathon.

It was at the French cinema, under summer light, that the expression "film noir" came to be. In July 1946, the lottery of "les années eblouissantes" introduced, simultaneously and out of order, several American movies released at different times: Laura (1944), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Murder, My Sweet (1944), Double Indemnity (1943) and The Woman in the Window (1944). These movies all told a story of crime, but did so in a new, dark and harsh way. And more importantly, there was neither sentimentality nor morality. The influence of certain 1930s novelists, Dashiell Hammett, James Cain and Raymond Chandler, was plain. Nino Frank, who charmed us with his Latin accent, the extent of his culture and his lightheartedness, told us when he published his article in August 1946: "Now, that's film noir."

(translation via kindness of the Siren's in-house service)

In their book Les Années Eblouissantes (The Dazzling Years), film director Jean-Charles Tacchella and journalist Roger Therond described their filmgoing in the years immediately following the Occupation. All the American movies they had missed during the years of the war began to flood Paris, and they were, as they say, dazzled. Naturally their book contains a large section on film noir, and their delight and fascination with it. It's hard even to imagine the impact--years of cinematic famine followed by this feast, trends and themes and techniques snapping into focus for Tacchella and Therond as they sat through film after film.

The Siren has always happily described herself as an evangelist--but only for our great film heritage. And with movies, she's always been able to summon an optimism she doesn't really have for most other things. Maybe nothing could be quite like seeing those five movies in a Paris cinema, in 1946, in the space of less than a month. But even in 2011, discovering a great film noir, and then another, and another, and another, must rank with the biggest thrills of a cinephile's life.

This week's blogathon, as Eddie Muller spells out in his interview below, gives us a chance to make sure that experience can continue for those who come after us. Of all the passionate things he has to say, this leaped out at the Siren:

It’s also important to understand that restoring a film isn’t merely about posterity. It can give a film new life, and in some cases led to a reassessment of an artist’s work, and a very valuable sense of cultural completion. I think of some of these missing titles as “ghost films,” and when we restore them we are actually bringing them back to life.

"There's no such thing as an old movie," Lauren Bacall once told Robert Osborne. "If you haven't seen it, it's new." Miss Bacall--who could tell us all a few things about film noir--is a wise woman. There's a lot that has been lost, but a lot still waiting to be returned to its former glory--The Sound of Fury is one.

That's why the Siren is firing up her credit card today to make her own donation. So is her esteemed blogathon partner Marilyn Ferdinand, whose own post and links collection (complete with a photo of us in a car--no really, that's us, we were going to the mall) can be found here. We hope you donate as well.

And so do the writers who are contributing their intelligence, their time and their energy to this week's blogathon.

Please join us in donating to the Film Noir Foundation.

For those participating, should you want a spiffy donation button like the one above, and really, why wouldn't you, slink over to Greg Ferrara's place and download one.

Let the linking begin, and bless you all!

Thursday, February 17

It is no secret to anyone who his blog The New York Post that critic Lou Lumenick is a serious old-movie hound, one who can play “stump the Siren” and usually win. Here he is with Street of Chance, a B-noir from Paramount that’s “in serious need of TLC.”

“I admire his loyalty in working with [Cy] Endfield again — he must have known that his previous work for the director was his very best”: David Cairns on The Limping Man, the film Lloyd Bridges and Cy Enfield made after The Sound of Fury.

Glenn Kenny has a brilliant post up about the noir side of uber-nerd Tommy Noonan, and how Richard Fleischer’s brilliant Cinemascope, Technicolor Violent Saturday let him “wed nerdy to dirty.”

Kim Morgan at MSN’s The Hit List has another dose of Barbara Stanwyck for us all to savor: The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, a deep personal favorite of the Siren's.

Korea’s Kim Ji-woon “is something of a visual virtuoso,” says Peter Nelhaus, in discussing Kim's noir, A Bittersweet Life, which certainly looks gorgeous in the screen grabs.

Dennis Cozzalio, so dear to the Siren’s heart, has a highly entertaining post with pictures of movie marquees and newspaper ads, at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule.

Hilary Barta summarizes one of the Siren’s favorite noirs, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, in five lines at Limerwrecks.

Wit, raconteur, bard of the underrated Burt Reynolds and proud Floridian Larry Aydlette shows us the real-life Florida locations for Body Heat.

At AV Preserve, Joshua Ranger contemplates noir as the omnivore’s dilemma.

"Is the Psychological Western just film noir on horseback?" asks Toby Roan of the fine film blog 50 Westerns from the 50s.

Bright Lights After Dark is one of the best film blogs around, and today C. Jerry Kutner makes a case for Mervyn Le Roy's Two Seconds as the first film noir. To what year would that date the birth of noir? 1932.

Ed Howard points out that the asphalt-tough Born to Kill contains a classic women's picture choice in men: safe and dreary, or dangerous and exciting? The noir element comes when you make Mr. Dangerous an actual psychopath...

"RHUMBAS! ROMANCE! RACKETS! A PRC Mystery With Music," was the tagline for Edgar Ulmer's Club Havana, and Doug Bonner goes in-depth at Boiling Sand.

Thinking of noir at Javabean Rush, and most of all thinking of--guess what?

Wonders in the Dark lists the Top 10 Characteristics of Noir, complete with luscious vintage posters.

“He’s a wonderful pure pathological study. A psychopath with no inhibitions": At Edward Copeland on Film, J.D. looks at Don Siegel's tidy procedural, The Line-Up.

At the U.S. Intellectual History blog, Tim Lacy examines Touch of Evil for what it says about America in the 1950s, and says our blogathon may lead to noir making an unscheduled appearance in his classroom...

Trish, a familiar name in the Siren's comments section, has a shiny new blog, a shiny new post, on Tension, and the pertinent question: "Even in the best film noir, isn't there always a moment when you ask yourself 'what the hell is going on?'"

Noir on Blu-Ray: Sean Axmaker of MSN Videodrone continues his tireless efforts for the blogathon with an article about the new release of Kansas City Confidential.

At The M0vie Blog, Darren Mooney is back with the most neo of all neonoirs, Blade Runner, as well as Dark City (The Director’s Cut)--AND a philosophical post, "Why Sci-Fi is Better Hardboiled."

Vince Keenan has another dispatch from Noir City Northwest, including a film the Siren adores, Jean Renoir's The Woman on the Beach.

Do you love Lee Remick as the Siren does? Click on Bill Wren at Piddleville. You'll thank me, gentlemen.

More roots of noir at Hollywood Revue: Asphalt--from 1929. Top that, C. Jerry.

If it has a happy ending, is it still noir? Sure, says Pamela L. Kerpuis at Scarlett Cinema, and here's two films to prove it.

And if it's animated, is it still noir? You betcha, says David Robson at House of Sparrows.

Another essay from the Parallax View's archives: Richard T. Jameson on Marilyn Ferdinand's favorite noir, Gun Crazy.

Rob at Starts Thursday is back with a great colored slide for The Woman in the Window.

"The end of noir as we know it": At, Peter Gutierrez takes a look at Taxi Driver, which turns 35 years old this month.

In today's episode, Lee Price asks whether mom June is The Seventh Victim--and talks about the value of film preservation at Preserving the Family Collection.

And Donna of Strictly Vintage Hollywood gives us some ravishing costars and ravishing posters.

Finally, what's neo-noir got that classic noir doesn't? Nothing, the Siren was about to snap--until Dan Callahan, who loves old movies like she does, came along to remind her. Oh, that.

Wednesday, February 16

The mighty James Wolcott, ardent supporter of last year's blogathon and a longtime friend to this blog, talks about the beautiful noir forerunner City Streets, and lends his sonorous voice (and a donation, too) to the blogathon. Thanks, Mr. Wolcott.

Kim Morgan's shimmering Nightfall essay, part of her fabulously generous daily efforts on behalf of this blogathon and the genre she writes about so well, has been cross-posted at the Huffington Post. And her Barbara Stanwyck marathon at her MSN Hit List blog, which the Siren has been rushing to every day like it's Christmas morning, continues with a post about a film starring Babs, "the great, underrated Barry Sullivan" AND "ohhhh…Ralph Meeker!"

Is it not enough to read about film noir? Are you yearning to truly step into one, as long as you don't have to take the rap? At his Scanners blog, Jim Emerson of the Sun-Times invites you into The Dark Room. Sui generis, and amazing fun.

Poor Ralph Bellamy, did he ever get the girl? Well, he got the noir at least once, as well as a "spectacular line in dollarbook Freud." David Cairns, ladies and gentlemen.

The roots of film noir? Two words, one name: Dashiell Hammett. From Joe Thompson, of The Pneumatic Rolling Sphere Carrier Delusion.

Because sleuthing is too a feminine art: Film programmer extraordinaire Miriam Bale looks at Lady Sleuths, and Manhattan as a Mystery, at her blog The Nibbler: Tidbits and Tangents.

Down Argentine way (or with Argentine curators, anyway), via Michael Guillen at The Evening Class, more adventures in film preservation with our fearless leader Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation--and Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

"I firmly believe in noir as a genre, despite what Paul Schrader might think": Michael Phllips, aka Goatdog, aka blogger the Siren has loved for yonks, throws down the gauntlet and tackles the noir-or-not-noir question via a look at Tomorrow Is Another Day.

Paul Etcheverry of Way Too Damn Lazy to Write a Blog has a clip-laden post that includes some ravishing Duke Ellington.

"The 1943 film The Seventh Victim saw producer Val Lewton take the psychological horror that he had pioneered in the classic Cat People, and add a noirish feel": Rob Wickings of Excuses and Half Truths argues for the great producer/auteur's place in the noir pantheon.

Lee Price's parents, June and Art, wonder if someone has got The Wrong Man. And a meditation on film noir, German Expressionism, and lost films, at Preserving a Family Collection.

Toward "a common style construction of the femme fatale," using two of the greatest of all, from Meredith at Or Maybe Eisenstein Should Just Relax.

At Drew's place, The Blue Vial, an in-depth look at The Big Clock. The first set of screencaps alone make this one worth the click.

"It is obvious that he wanted his American debut to be a film that meant something": Ed Howard is back with a look at Fritz Lang's Fury.

Edward Copeland didn't love The Woman in the Window like the Siren did, but he's back today with another Fritz he does love: Scarlet Street. And he adds Jean Renoir’s La Chienne, the film that Scarlet Street remade—complete with a chart so you can keep track of the characters across movies.

An old comrade from last year's blogathon, Marc Heuck of The Projector Has Been Drinking, points out that film noir's influence extends to all sorts of places we may not have thought about--such as, for example, music videos.

"A genuinely evolved noir film": Roderick Heath, Marilyn’s estimable partner at Ferdy on Films, on Michael Mann’s Miami Vice.

Ariel Schudson at Sinamatic Salve-ation is back to discuss Electra Glide in Blue, “a film about fetishes and fetishizing.” And, for added kink, Robert Blake.

“He was hardboiled reading the newspaper,” remarked a Siren commenter once about Charles McGraw, and that made him a noir icon. John Greco eyeballs the actor, from a safe distance, at Twenty Four Frames in a post about Roadblock.

More vintage newspaper ads from WB Kelso of Scenes from the Morgue: Retro-Pulp Movie Ads, this time on Anthony Mann’s Raw Deal. The incongruous lower part of the bill cracks the Siren up.

At The M0vie Blog, Darren Mooney writes up Black Swan, which the Siren will allow has at least as much to do with noir as it does with ballerinas, and what Marilyn calls “the original and inventive Brick.”

Cornell Woolrich "is one of those writers...who never seems to show up at used bookstores. People don't part with his books." And for good reason. Christianne Benedict at Krell Laboratories on a Woolrich film adaptation, No Man of Her Own.

Another Limerwreck from Hilary Barta, this one on Phantom Lady. The Siren is gobbling these like potato chips.

At These Amazing Shadows, Kurt Norton tells of his personal connection to one of the greatest of all noirs, Out of the Past.

Bill Ryan of The Kind of Face You Hate links two movies, City of Fear and Panic in the Streets, as “plague noir”—men carrying literal death with them. Can’t get more noir than that.

When Arthur Penn died recently, film bloggers mentioned one movie again and again as a favorite: Night Moves. Susan Doll of Facets Features examines the late director's unique approach to neonoir.

Kevin Olson of Hugo Stiglitz Makes Movies finds a little optimism—and an eye-popping collection of beautiful stills—in Force of Evil. How the Siren does love John Garfield…

“Detour: Closing Down the Open Road”: an article by David Coursen on Edgar Ulmer’s masterpiece, posted on Parallax View.

Sean Axmaker looks at how Anthony Mann gave us The Black Book and The Tall Target, working “with impoverished budgets but an extraordinary cinematographer, John Alton.” On MSN Movies Videodrone.

The Coen Brothers’ extraordinary debut, Blood Simple, gets a loving look from Jacqueline Fitzgerald at the Film Noir Blonde.

"A field day for de Havilland": More from Vince Keenan at Noir City Northwest, on The Dark Mirror and Crack-up.

Tuesday, February 15

The one and only Leonard Maltin has issued a preservation call to arms and name-checked our blogathon at his site, for which we are most grateful. So has Jim Emerson, that gentleman and scholar, at his very fine Scanners blog at the Chicago Sun-Times.

Because what every blogathon needs is a chicks-in-jail movie: David Cairns unlocks day two with Women's Prison, which boasts Ida Lupino in rare sadistic mode, as well as Jan Sterling, who makes a movie that much tougher just by showing up.

Dario Loren posts about Road House, a movie that the Siren loves to pieces. And Dario knows how to butter up the Siren, with kind words for Jean Negulesco, a director she's been touting for quite some time.

Only the best at Only the Cinema: Ed Howard is back with a searching look at Edmund Goulding's towering Nightmare Alley. Oh Tyrone my love, if only they'd let you do more like that one…

Vince Keenan checks in from Noir City once more, with a post about The Hunted, and also Angel Face, the Preminger noir that boasts an exceptionally fatale femme played by Siren darling Jean Simmons. What she went through to make that movie, but oh the movie they made…

Treasured Siren regular Vanwall Green always has an original insight, and his post at Vanwall Land, on the noir influence in Westerns, is no exception. He makes a case--and a damn fine one, at that--for John Ford's eternal Stagecoach as a noir.

Our worldwide reach expands to a Spanish-language post from Jaime Grijalba of Exodus 8:2, on The Great Flammarion, an Anthony Mann the Siren hasn't caught yet. Gloria Porta, where are you?

More cross-ocean noir love, from Michael C. at Cinema Ramble. This Australian loves the New York feel of Allen Baron's Blast of Silence: "Greasy food, mouldy apartments, early morning air." Visited our fair city before, haven't you Michael?

At Sinephile Salve-ation, Ariel Schudson talks about seeing This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key at the New Beverly--one of the few Los Angeles perks that can make a hardcore New Yorker hardcore jealous--and the strong influence the latter film had on the Coen brothers' great Miller's Crossing.

Beth Ann Gallagher of Spellbound meditates on Christmas Holiday, a movie that demonstrates why home for the holidays is as noir as it gets.

WB Kelso at Scenes from the Morgue: Retro-Pop Movie Ads shows us what ad campaigns used to look like with a fabulous set of newspaper ads for The Blue Dahlia.

Bill Wren of Piddleville on I Wake Up Screaming: "This should not be a good movie…[but] somehow it manages to be a good movie. How does that happen?" His answer, in part: Betty Grable. To which the Siren responds, amen!

Lee Price has his own charming take on I Wake Up Screaming at June and Art.

Darren Mooney is well into the land of neo-noir at the m0vie blog, with Se7en (seen it) L.A. Confidential (seen that too, HA) and Heat (see-whoops. Getting to it).

Peter Nellhaus is back, with a look at "film noir's younger, colorful, and sometimes flamboyant sibling, giallo." The film: Le Orme (Footprints).

Just click on all of Hilary Barta's limericks. You'll thank us. “Maltese Falcon Crest” at Limerwrecks. It's a hoot.

And because if you've had enough of The Maltese Falcon, you've had enough of life, sex and chocolate too, Donna Hill returns with a poster-rich post on that dreamy movie.

Edward Copeland, are you trying to get the Siren's attention with that post title, you sly puss? You didn't have to; you had her at Fritz Lang's The Woman in the Window.

Great noir cinematographers. Screen caps. Oh my stars this post is heaven. Mat Viola at Notes of a Film Fanatic.

"For Polonsky, the real crimes aren’t just muggings and murders, but all the backroom arrangements made by amoral bureaucrats with more concern for statistics and legal loopholes than all the lives they’re ruining.": Andreas at Pussy Goes Grrr, on Force of Evil, the one masterpiece Abraham Polonsky ever got a chance to direct in his prime.

"A paranoid murder thriller that, for all of its budgetary constraints, took viewers on a spiral of justified paranoia": Sean Axmaker goes deeper into Stranger on the Third Floor at Parallax View.

"The now famous blond wig, a sexy, cynical smirk and (dear God!) that anklet": From her best-in-the-house table at MSN Movies, The Hit List, noir maven Kim Morgan gives us more Barbara Stanwyck to love with a post on the great lady in Double Indemnity.

Marya knows it's Oscar season--so how has film noir fared over the years? She fills us in, at Cinema Fanatic.

Ah, the Siren had forgotten this line: “We didn’t exactly believe your story, Miss O’Shaughnessy. We believed your 200 dollars. I mean, you paid us more than if you had been telling us the truth, and enough more to make it all right.” Retro Hound jogs her memory.

Sean Axmaker puts on his MSN Movies Videodrone fedora, snaps the brim and eyes Phil Karlson, the "the toughest of the film noir directors," and the one he touts as Karlson's best, 99 River Street.

Vince Keenan has another bulletin from Noir City Northwest, in which he discusses whether we can say that George Cukor made a film noir.

Filmmaker Kurt Norton, whose These Amazing Shadows documentary includes a great deal of information about how nitrate movies are preserved, writes up another one to keep: goddess Ida Lupino's The Hitch-hiker.

"Noir made Mitchum vulnerable. Made Lupino belong. Made Widmark set for life.": A wonderful personal meditation on noir, and why sometimes even Grandma doesn't get it. From Becca at Germans Like Heavy Makeup, subtitled "A Blog About Eyeliner and Old Cinema. (But Mostly Old Cinema)." Becca, the Siren claims you as a kindred spirit this minute.

Monday, February 14

Critic David Ehrenstein, beloved to all those who comment here at the Siren's place, argues at Fablog that there are TWO great versions of M. And one of them is Joseph Losey's.

There is no more eloquent and consistent advocate for the great cinema of the past than Dave Kehr, from his perch at the New York Times. Last week at his blog he wrote about the Film Noir Foundation's restoration of The Prowler, and included warm praise for the aims of the blogathon, as well as the donation link. We're very grateful.

Sean Axmaker also began promoting the blogathon at MSN Movies last week, and also at his blog Parallax View.

Dr. Morbius of Krell Laboratories uses strikingly gorgeous screen shots to point out the visual similarities between Out of the Past and the Robert Wise Western that also starred Mitchum, Blood on the Moon--noir's visual vocabulary carrying over to another genre.

"Film noir is not a genre," wrote Paul Schrader in 1972, but wait up a minute, sunshine, says Greg Ferrara. He grapples with the Schrader essay and the whole issue of defining film noir at his place.

Craig Simpson also cites Schrader, then uses him as a jumping-off point to explore the literary antecedents of Freaks and Gun Crazy, at The Man From Porlock.

Vince Keenan talks about the Noir City Northwest Festival and its screenings of High Wall, preserved via the Film Noir Foundation, and Stranger on the Third Floor, which of course stars another Siren obsession, the great Peter Lorre. Then he swings into They Won't Believe Me, in which Robert Young fools around with Jane Greer (the Siren believes that--who wouldn't fool around with Jane Greer?) and Don't Bother to Knock, the Siren's choice for best outing of the very young Norma Jean.

Mr. K of Mr. K's Greek Cornucopia endeared himself to the Siren with his blog tagline, "through the lens of an over-intellectual Southern transplant" (but we're fun, aren't we?) and by writing about Fritz Lang (and Bertholt Brecht) via Hangmen Also Die.

Darren Mooney at begins an epic blogathon marathon with "Noir Battle to the Strong: Why I'm Afraid of Classic Cinema." Because it bites, and once those jaws close on your, seriously, a thoughtful introduction to a series of posts on neo-noir.

Peter Nelhaus, who's seen everything and was a friend to this blog when even my mother didn't read it (though in all fairness to Mom, it took me a while to send her the link), posts about Black Silk, sometimes called the first Thai film noir, and why it reminds him of I Wake Up Screaming.

Bob Fergusson's Allure, dedicated to actresses both iconic and unjustly forgotten, is one of the Siren's favorite blogs. Here he posts some great shots of shady noir dames, and the lines spoken by and about them.

"The stuff of film noir. Bad mistakes. Getting trapped. Disillusionment. No way out": Jacqueline T. Lynch at Another Old Movie Blog smokes out The Prowler, the great Joseph Losey noir that was the Film Noir Foundation's last big restoration effort.

The nature of pulp, Frank Tuttle's direction, Veronica Lake's beauty, Alan Ladd and that cat: Bill Wren at Piddleville muses on This Gun for Hire.

One of the toughest noirs, from one of the toughest and greatest directors: Ed Howard of the highly discerning blog Only the Cinema posts about Fritz Lang's The Big Heat.

The Philippine cinema's greatest friend and a longtime pal to the Siren, Noel Vera, boosts the international quotient even further with a post about star Nora Aunor in the drama: 'Merika, and two noirs: Condemned and Bulaklak City Jail.

Nomad Widescreen paisano and another old friend, Tony Dayoub of Cinema Viewfinder, posts about institutional racism as seen in John Sturges' Mystery Street. (The Siren's favorite role for the late Ricardo Montalban, by the by. Yes, of course more than Khan.)

Tinky Weisblat is back! With a post that stole the Siren's heart, about Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, why she's the most sympathetic thing in the film and a soon-to-be-deathless character summary of Betty: "Anybody can be 22." All this, and a recipe for icebox cake. Bliss.

People who know their classic-film blogs know that John McElwee's Greenbriar Picture Shows is a must. John adorns each post with images available nowhere else, culled from his own vast collection. His contribution concerns one of the Siren's very favorite noirs, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.

Ben Alpers of the U.S. Intellectual History blog posts an in-depth look at the role of noir in cultural history. With a great opening in which he describes what happens when he asks American students to write, cold, about what they think of film noir. (The results of doing that are, for once, not depressing at all.)

Film critic Betty Jo Tucker rejoices in a name that would make a great noir character right there--probably a seductive diner waitress who lifts some poor chump's wallet. She chips in at Memosiac with a review of Charles Pappas' It's a Bitter Little World, a collection of great quotes from this most quotable of genres.

Lee Price brings it back to the original audience with a post at his blog June and Art, dedicated to the letters his parents exchanged. In "Dark Side of Town," Lee speculates about which noirs they might have seen. Cross-posted at his Preserving a Family Collection blog.

Hilary Barta (Surlyh to the Siren regulars who know and love him) will be contributing limericks all week long. First up: Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Funds, about guess which classic? And of course, a summary of why you should donate that manages to say it all in five rhymed lines.

David Cairns' Shadowplay is an unquestionably great film site, one that frequently leaves the Siren gnawing her hanky in sheer envy. David has intellect, film knowledge and insight to burn, but does he ever get stuffy? Judge by the title of his post on Brute Force: "Hume and Desire."

"Don't you ever consider your own fate?" "Not really." John Weagly at Captain Spaulding on Skull Island shows there's more than one way to post about noir with a short play, Orville and Wilbur Discuss Film Noir.

Two excellent posts at Parallax View written by Richard T. Jameson: “Film Noir: An Introduction” and “When Noir Was Noir.” The anecdote about translating the title of Jean Renoir's The Southerner will cause much merriment in the Siren's bilingual household.

Over at MSN Videodrome, Sean Axmaker begins his noir-analysis posts with Stranger on the Third Floor, starring Peter Lorre, whom as you know the Siren loves dearly. Was this the first film noir?

Steve-O at Noir of the Week, the premier noir site on the Web, also interviewed Eddie Muller, and Eddie had a great deal more to say.

The magnificent faces of noir, via Donna Hill of Strictly Vintage Hollywood. So beautiful the Siren bookmarked it.

Paula Vitaris turns her great screencapping chops to Nicholas Ray'sOn Dangerous Ground. The shot of the suspect Robert Ryan beats up is particularly awesome.

Bill Ryan of The Kind of Face You Hate comes through for the blogathon with a post about Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall, with a particular focus on the city/country split in this beauteous movie.

Laura of Laura's Misc. Musings tackles Rudolph Mate's great DOA, still one of the grimmest and most unusual plot conceits ever filmed.

Silver Screen Modiste, in keeping with our Valentine's Day kickoff, posts a stunning collection of screen couples from noir films, with observations on the art of the publicity shot.

The Derelict (aka smart, funny Jenny Baldwin) at Libertas collects her favorite foreign posters for American films noir. The Siren's favorite: an arrestingly beautiful black-and-white poster for Force of Evil that is also guaranteed to stop Kim Morgan's heart.

Victor Ozols gives the blogathon a charming, funny, thorough shoutout at BlackBook Magazine Online. (The Siren had to correct "shoutout" from her original "shootout"; this is getting to her.) Many, many thanks, Victor.

The incomparable Glenn Kenny of foo-foo film site supreme Some Came Running (and MSN Movies) writes up--well, the Siren can't do better than his title: "Ciao, Manhattan, or, the chocolate of reality gets into the peanut butter of fiction in Sweet Smell of Success." If you think you've read it all on that film, trust the Siren, you haven't.

Kim Morgan of Sunset Gun gets it. She gets everything, like the logic of starting a film noir blogathon on Valentine's Day: "the perfect day, really, since so much of film noir concerns an emotion that makes one moody, malicious and often, in the best cinematic scenarios, murderous." Her essay, as ever written in her phenomenal style: Jacques Tourneur's Nightfall.

Kim Morgan also has a perch at MSN Movies, at The Hit List. Over there, she'll be taking us through the week with Barbara Stanwyck, a lady who would get many votes for the greatest actress the American cinema ever had. The series starts with a "Wrong Number"...