Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

'40s noir in blazing colour

DESERT FURY - Sometimes an old movie surfaces which is so bizarre one has to rewatch it to see if one is getting all it's layers of meaning. Here is a 1947 Hal Wallis production, ostensibly a noir drama but in blazing colour set among the gambling community in Nevada - Chuckawalla to be precise! - where young luscious Lizabeth Scott returns to join her mother Fritzi (Mary Astor, perfect) a hard-boiled dame in slacks and usually with a cigarette holder, who runs the local casino The Purple Sage Saloon and who has a ritzy house nearby. Add in a young hot-looking Burt Lancaster as the local cop who is still in love with wayward Liz and two shady guys hiding out outside the town. Cue John Hodiak sunbathing topless while sidekick Wendall Corey does the household chores. There is a lot of innuendo here - the dialogue between mother and daughter, as someone on IMDB wrote, suggests an older lesbian and her young, restless companion.

Even more blatant are Hodiak and Corey as his insanely jealous sidekick - as he warns Lizabeth Hodiak will never leave him for her; later Hodiak tells her how he and Corey met and hooked up together (its rather suggestive, even for the '40s). Both Lancaster and (surprisingly) Hodiak fall for Scott. It seems, however, that Hodiak not only once romanced Astor (did they make it up as they went along?), but had a wife who died under suspicious circumstances, whom Lizabeth resembles, and then there is Corey keeping him on a leash; but is Wendall really just a devoted sidekick or the brains behind their plans for the future?

Astor seems to be enjoying herself (after being relegated to mother parts) as Fritzi keeping a tight leash on her willful daughter as the melodrama climaxes under the bright Nevada blue sky. Another star of the movie for me is that extraordinary "Town and Country" convertible Lizabeth drives around in. It was certainly that era of b-i-g cars. This farrago is scripted by Robert Rossen, with a good score by Miklos Rozsa and directed by one Lewis Allen and is of course delirious fun to see now, up there with ROADHOUSE or the lurid JOHNNY GUITAR! It was 10 years later in 1957 that I first saw Scott as Elvis's manager in LOVING YOU when I was all of 11 - she was still sensational then. Come to think of it, she was married to Wendall Corey in that one - they must have had a laugh reminiscing about DESERT FURY!

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