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15th Annual Noir City Los Angeles: A Tip Sheet

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by Meredith Brody
April 7, 2013 8:36 PM
1 Comment
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'Street of Chance'


If you're of my particular nourish bent, you already plan to attend every program of the 15th annual Noir City festival of film noir, held at the appropriately vintage Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, home of the American Cinematheque, on Hollywood Boulevard, the appropriately noir boulevard of broken dreams. 

But if you'd prefer a tip sheet -- the most interesting, difficult to see, or newly restored films -- we've got one.  Friday's opening show started things off with two fascinating, propulsive films by the underrated Cy Endfield, resident of England after he was blacklisted: "Try and Get Me," about a true incident of men falsely accused of murder in San Jose that was also the basis of Fritz Lang's "Fury," and the sexy "Hell Drivers," made in England and starring the similarly underrated Stanley Baker.

You may know "Sunset Boulevard," which played Saturday, April 6 -- another boulevard of broken dreams, in this case literally -- backwards and forwards, but this brand-new 4K digital restoration proved a revelation to the sold-out crowd at the recent Noir City festival in San Francisco. (And afterwards you can walk over to Ivar Avenue and make a pilgrimage to the Alto Nido apartments (that housed William Holden before he made the fateful move to Sunset.) And it's wittily paired with "The Other Woman," one of Czech director/star Hugo Haas' films maudits starring voluptuous blonde wife Cleo Moore, in which she ritually humiliates and destroys him.

Themed double bills abound: two of the rarest Fritz Lang titles, "House by the River," starring the sly, insinuating Louis Hayward, and "Secret Beyond the Door," with Joan Bennet and Michael Redgrave, on April 10, will mostly appeal to Lang completists. Even more rarely seen (not available on DVD) are the two Brooklyn-set movies scheduled for April 11, "The Case Against Brooklyn," starring Darren McGavin, as a rookie undercover cop, and "City Across the River," a gang story with young Tony Curtis as an Amboy Duke.

But the irresistible choice would be the Cornell Woolrich double bill on April 12: "Street of Chance" (not on DVD!), with the ever-popular noir amnesia trope, stars Burgess Meredith and Claire Trevor, while "Night Has a Thousand Eyes" places psychic Edward G. Robinson in iconic Los Angeles locations -- from Angel's Flight to Westwood -- in a brand-new 35mm print struck by Universal especially for Noir City.

Fans of heavy-lidded iconic leading men will appreciate the pairing of two Robert Siodmak classics on April 17, "Cry of the City" starring the almost-forgotten Victor Mature and Richard Conte (with the young Shelley Winters), and the amazing "The Killers," in which Burt Lancaster's smoldering dark beauty is matched by Ava Gardner's. "The Killers" shouldn't be missed.

The most obscure film programmed is April 19th's "Native Son," in which author Richard Wright attempted his only film role, as Bigger Thomas, in his story about a black man doomed by his place in white society. The Chicago-set story was shot in Buenos Aires by a French director, and Wright is twice his character's age, but this oddity is also not available on DVD. Thematically paired (as "black vs. white double feature!") with Joseph Mankiewicz's talky "No Way Out," starring Sidney Poitier as a young doctor challenged by the racist brother (Richard Widmark) of a man who dies under Poitier's care.

Not part of the Noir City festival, but happily programmed during it and full of footage that comes from film noir, is Thom Andersen's "Los Angeles Plays Itself," a documentary examining Los Angeles as seen in the movies, celebrating its tenth anniversary and playing on April 20th with the director in attendance. 

The Closing Night Party, on April 21st, begins with a screening of "Road House," starring Ida Lupino as a singer -- "She does more without a voice than anybody I've ever heard!," says sassy Celeste Holm -- torn between crazy Richard Widmark and hunky, heavy-lidded, dark Cornel Wilde.  Afterwards there's drinks, dinner, dancing, gambling, and live music from the Dean Mora Swinglet. Dressing up is encouraged.

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1 Comment

  • Brian | April 8, 2013 11:58 AMReply

    I appreciate your appreciation of these films, but I'm puzzled by your characterization of NO WAY OUT as "talky." It's Joseph L. Mankiewicz, for Chrissakes!--someone KNOWN for writing great dialogue--and there's a lot of it in this movie. But it's sharp, trenchant dialogue, reflecting the racial and class divisions in this economically battered American town. The film never flags and builds superbly to its wrenching race riot climax and aftermath. It remains one of the most powerful films about racial conflict ever made by Hollywood. Not only did Poitier make his film debut in it, but it co-stars Ossie Davis (also making his film debut) and Ruby Dee in the first film they made together. I mean, ALL ABOUT EVE, also made by Mankiewicz that same year, is also "talky," but has anyone ever complained?

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