Day 5 of Noir City 16 found Eddie Muller on fire. Not literally, of course, but with an introduction (paraphrased here) that brought the house down:
“Here’s the State of the Union in 1946: WE…DEFEAT…NAZIS!!! I could go on, but I think you get it. The war is over, the troops are home, having saved the world from Nazis and fascists, people who’re the scourge of humanity and will be forever! The end of the war also liberated a lot of artists. Who knew we’d get this thing called film noir? There was a post-WWII elation and people went to the movies in huge numbers. What inspired the Baby Boom? John Garfield and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner in The Killers, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake in The Blue Dahlia!”
Man, can this guy give an introduction, or what?
The Blue Dahlia was a troubled production from the word “go.” The script is the only original screenplay by Raymond Chandler, one of the most important writers of American fiction, crime-related or otherwise. Chandler made many demands of the producers, which included several cases of scotch, and insisted on delivering script pages (sometimes one page at a time) to the producer by messenger.
The plot involves Ladd as a returning GI, coming home to surprise his wife (Doris Dowling). And it’s some surprise; the wife has not only been partying and sleeping around, she also has an awful secret to tell her husband. And then a nasty murder happens…
Alan Ladd, who was serving in the U.S. Army, had been honorably discharged due to illness, but was called back to duty in May 1945, before the end of the war. This meant Ladd had to shoot the film quickly, which would’ve worked out fine, except Chandler was having trouble with the script, especially the ending. Chandler’s original ending (which you can read about here) was unacceptable to the studio, so it had to be changed. The forced ending greatly weakens the film, yet The Blue Dahlia remains a solid film noir with a great cast and terrific writing.
I’d heard about Night Editor for years, but had never seen it before Noir City 16. Muller called it “a raunchy ‘B’ picture… It’s amazing what got past the production code.” Based on a radio series of the same name, the film was a retelling of one of the radio program’s episodes called “Inside Story” written by Scott Littleton.
The frame story, set at the editorial office of the New York Star, involves the paper’s editor Crane Stewart (Charles D. Brown) relating the story of a murder investigation. A police lieutenant named Cochrane (William Gargan), while cheating with a glitzy socialite named Jill (Janis Carter), witnesses a murder at a “lovers lane” beach spot. Cochrane can’t report the crime without revealing the fact that he was cheating on his wife. Plus Cochrane is assigned to investigate the murder.
Night Editor, photographed by noir veteran cinematographer Burnett Guffey, was intended to become a film series of tales told over the desk of the newspaper’s night editor, but this was the only one that was ever produced. It’s a fun picture, but Janis Carter is memorable as one of the most wicked femmes fatales in all of noir. Let’s just say that you should stay out of the kitchen when this woman’s around…
Photos: IMDb, Film Noir of the Week