Crime Wave (1954) André de Toth (2x)
Warner Film Noir Classic Collection, Vol. 4 DVD
LAPD Detective Lieutenant Sims (Sterling Hayden, above) is having a tough time trying to quit smoking, but that’s nothing compared to the problem of finding a cop killer. Sims is sure about one thing, though: once a bad apple, always a bad apple. So when ex-con Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson, below center) comes up as a possible accomplice in the murder and maybe also a bank robbery, Sims is clearly looking in Lacey’s direction.
Black Widow (1954) Nunnally Johnson
Fox Film Noir DVD – library
Famous Broadway producer Peter Denver (Van Heflin, right) attends a party thrown by another famous Broadway personality, actress Lottie Marin (Ginger Rogers) and her wallflower husband Brian Mullen (Reginald Gardiner). While at the party, Denver meets Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner, left), a young woman trying to establish herself as a writer in New York. Nancy persuades Denver to allow her to use his apartment as place to write during the day, even though Denver’s wife Iris (Gene Tierney) is out of town. Denver tells Nancy that that’s all there will be to it, no extracurricular activities. When Denver returns from the airport after picking up his wife, he discovers Nancy has hung herself in his bathroom. Soon the cops – including Detective Lieutenant Bruce (George Raft, below left) – come knocking.
Pushover (1954) Richard Quine
Columbia Film Noir Classics Vol. II DVD
Paul Sheridan (Fred MacMurray, left) is a straight-laced cop who’s on a stakeout to find out if Lona McLane (Kim Novak, right) knows anything about a $200,000 bank haul that her boyfriend Wheeler (Paul Richards) was involved in. Only one problem: Sheridan starts falling for Lona, who wants Sheridan to knock off Wheeler so she and Sheridan can make off with the cash.
The Long Wait (1954)
Directed by Victor Saville
Produced by Lesser Samuels
Written by Alan Green and Lesser Samuels
Based on a novel by Mickey Spillane
Cinematography by Franz Planer
Edited by Ronald Sinclair
The Long Wait opens with “Once” (written by Harold Spina and Bob Russell), one of the most un-noirish songs ever, which makes us think we’ve walked into a romance picture instead of a film noir. Thankfully the mood changes as we see a hitchhiker (Anthony Quinn, above) who gets picked up, then seconds later – in an almost laughable sequence of edits – finds himself first in a wreck, then in a hospital (wearing a robe that proclaims “County Hospital” just in case we’ve missed that fact), then suffering from amnesia. This all happens in the first four minutes of the film (which of course includes the song, which you’ve probably forgotten by now).
Black Tuesday (1954)
Directed by Hugo Fregonese
Produced by Robert Goldstein
Written by Sydney Boehm
Cinematography by Stanley Cortez
Editing by Robert Golden
Music by Paul Dunlap
Black Tuesday has to be one of the angriest, grittiest, most unflinching movies in all of film noir, due in large part to Edward G. Robinson’s stellar performance as Vincent Canelli, a ruthless and utterly terrifying gangster.
Johnny Guitar (1954)
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by Nicholas Ray
Screenplay by Philip Yordan (Ben Maddow and Nicholas Ray, uncredited)
Based on the novel by Roy Chanslor
Cinematography by Harry Stradling
Edited by Richard L. Van Enger
Music by Victor Young
Costumes by Sheila O’Brien
Olive Films Blu-ray (1:50)
Nobody really knew what to make of Johnny Guitar when it was released in 1954. Martin Scorsese says as much in his introduction on the Olive Films Blu-ray edition of the film. Audiences “didn’t know what to make of it, so they either ignored it or laughed at it.”
Ever since film noir began to wrap its dark tendrils around my neck a couple of years ago, I knew it would eventually lead me deep into the heart of Noir City. This year, I could no longer resist. Although I could only attend six days of the festival’s ten-day schedule, I got a good sense of what Noir City, its films and its people, are all about.