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.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Joan and sudden fear somewhere in the night ...

A 1950s Joan Crawford movie I had not seen: 1952's SUDDEN FEAR begins well but limp to an unstisfactory ending ..... I actually like Joan Crawford's 1950s output more than that of her main rival Bette Davis, who after the enormous success of 1950's ALL ABOUT EVE was soon back in routine programmers; well so was Joan of course but they were more fun that Bette's: TORCH SONG in 1953, JOHNNY GUITAR in '54 (the first film I saw, aged 8 as per reports on that, see label) and those campy lurid items like QUEEN BEE, FEMALE ON THE BEACH, AUTUMN LEAVES, THE STORY OF ESTHER COSTELLO up to her cameo in 1959 "as Amanda Farrow in THE BEST OF EVERYTHING - Bette too was cameo-ing in 1959 (two of them, a scene or two with Alec Guinness in THE SCAPEGOAT and coming on for the last five minutes as Catherine The Great in the otherwise turgid costumer JOHN PAUL JONES, hardly seen now. Of course 1962's WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BAY JANE? got them back in the limelight again ...). But back to Joan in 1952.where Woman's Picture meets Film Noir:

Actor Lester Blaine has all but landed the lead in Myra Hudson's new play when Myra vetoes him because, to her, he doesn't look like a "romantic leading man." On the train from New York to San Francisco, Blaine sets out to prove Myra romancing her. Is he sincere, or does he have a dark ulterior motive? The answer brings on a game of cat and mouse; but who's the cat and who's the mouse? 
Myra is an essential Crawford role, the middle-aged wealthy woman looking for love and thinking she has found it. Palance is ideal with his odd looks, and add in Gloria Grahame at her bitchiest .... 
It plays like a delicious antique now: those early Dictaphone machines where Myra overhears the plot against her, her odd wardrobe of buttoned-up tops and showing her legs and nylons and high-heels as well as those long white gloves both ladies wear. The plot though as she counterplots against her attackers could have ended better ....... cue large close-ups of Joan agonising, suffering, suffering, suffering, yearning as she conveys the fear and rage at the duplicity of others ...... Directed by David Miller, but those empty streets of San Francisco do not look realistic. 

Now back a decade for another Noir thriller: Mankiewicz's SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT from 1941, his second feature as director. 
My friend Leon describes it thus:
Somewhere In the Night dates from 1946, the same year Mank's second directorial effort Dragonwyck was released and it's well up to snuff. A lot of 'amnesiac' films are, by definition, forgettable, but not this one. Mank assembled as tasty a supporting cast as had ever been shoehorned into one film ranging from Whit Bissell through Harry Morgan, Jeff Corey to the standout Josephine Hutchinson. Leading from the front are the slightly wooden John Hodiak - marriage to Ann Baxter didn't improve his acting -, newcomer Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan and Richard Conte and Mank keeps the balls spinning in the air leaving little time for awkward questions - like why would Conte - who'd got away with murder for three years, introduce Hodiak to a detective friend (Nolan) knowing that Hodiak was trying to get to to bottom of the very murder for which he, Conte, was responsible. This the kind of movie, popular at the time, in which a protagonist who is possibly a murderer is befriended by a girl/woman who's never met him before - for example Alad Ladd and Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia and/or in which a street-wise gal like Guild here, has to have the expressions 'private eye' and 'shamus' explained to her. None of this detracts from an enjoyable ride and it's one to add to your Blockbuster shopping list.
Leon was quite right, its a zippy intriguing little meller, essential for anyone keen on 1940s noir and Mankiewicz's style. Pleased I found it. 

John Hodiak (1914-1955) was an interesting guy, of Polish descent he was one of the second-tier actors who came to prominence during the early Forties - like Dana Andrews - when the big hitters were away during the war. He only lived to be 41 though, and had some big hits at the time, and even married Anne Baxter for several years (right). I saw him again the other day in Hitch's LIFEBOAT with Tallulah, and he is the male lead in the entertaining THE HARVEY GIRLS with Judy in 1946. We particularly like his DESERT FURY here, from 1947, one of the great camp Hollywood movies, where he and Wendall Corey are an intriguing pair, plus Lizabeth Scott and Mary Astor playing her mother, and a young Burt Lancaster - its a delirious 1940s concoction as per my review (Hodiak label). 

Coming up: A '60s Kim Novak double-bill, and then its off to THE RITZ in THE GAY METROPOLIS.


  1. In the film Sudden Fear the end is Death By Costume since both Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame wear the same clothes and poor Jack Palance all he can see is the same dress so of course he runs his over the wrong one or in Joan's case the right one. Did Gloria stick tissue under her upper lip?

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