Noir City 14 presented me with a couple of challenges. I wanted to get my money’s worth from the festival, yet I also wanted to explore San Francisco with my wife, who is not a movie fan. So I made a decision to skip a couple of films, one of which I had already seen recently, The Dark Corner (1946), which you can read about here.
Even so, I was able to catch the last 30 minutes or so of the film, plenty of time to see William Bendix get what was coming to him at the hands of Clifton Webb. (Sorry, slight spoiler there…)
In his introduction to the next film, Eddie Muller admitted that Crack-Up (1946, directed by Irving Reis) is not one of his favorite noir films, but it does fit the Noir City 14 theme of art. The film begins with an agitated man (Pat O’Brien, below on his back) smashing the glass door of the Manhattan Museum and assaulting a museum guard. Once the museum staff rush to the scene, they discover that this crazed man is none other than George Steele, art critic, forgery expert, and lecturer at the museum.
Steele swears that he had survived a train wreck and had to get back to the museum, but Police Lieutenant Cochrane (Wallace Ford, below) – in a calm, but haughty attitude – informs Steele that no such wreck occurred. At this point, we once again meet film noir’s best friend, the flashback.
It seems Steele’s well-attended but highly opinionated public art lectures have created quite a stir. The lectures draw good crowds, but the museum isn’t happy with Steele’s scornful thoughts on modern art. The museum board is so unhappy with Steele that they’ve decided not to fund his development of an X-ray device that will help detect art forgeries. But at least Steele now has some time on his hands to find out what’s really going on. Is he going crazy or is he being set up?
Crack-Up has several nice moments as well as some nifty (but somewhat unbelievable) twists and turns. At 47, Pat O’Brien seems a tad too old, not only for the leading part, but also for his girlfriend played by Claire Trevor (who was 36 at the time), but his performance works. At times I felt the pace dragged (which certainly gives you more time to think about its inconsistencies and problems), although Robert De Grasse’s shadowy cinematography is wonderful throughout. I’m also of the opinion that when you’ve got Wallace Ford in your movie, you should use him to his fullest potential, which unfortunately wasn’t the case here. Even so, this RKO film has a lot going for it, and even if it isn’t Eddie Muller’s favorite, you should still seek it out. You can read more about this film at Another Old Movie Blog.