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:
Jack Warner just didn’t get it. He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about over Humphrey Bogart, despite the fact that the actor’s portrayal of Rick in Casablanca was one of the main reasons Warner was able to take home the Oscar for Best Picture. So what was Bogart’s reward for delivering such a performance? Eddie Muller provided the answer: playing a wife-killer who’s obsessed with his dead wife’s sister.
The films on Sunday’s double feature share an odd history. Destiny was originally intended to be the first installment of an anthology film (also known as omnibus or package films) called For All We Know (eventually retitled Flesh and Fantasy), directed by Julien Duvivier. Duvivier, a major figure in French cinema, had previously made an anthology film in 1942 called Tales of Manhattan starring Charles Boyer. That film contained six episodes* involving a cursed black formal tailcoat and how it affects the people who wear it.
Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt is a film I’ve seen many times and have even screened at the library as part of our Great Movies series. While it’s a very familiar film, I’d never seen it with a crowd as large as the one at Noir City.
I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be present at the start of a huge cultural moment, or at least a huge cinematic moment, such as the first pairing of Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. I got a taste of what it must’ve been like during Saturday’s “A” picture, This Gun for Hire. I wonder if Paramount had any inkling of just how popular this pairing would become. (Ladd and Lake made seven pictures together, appearing as themselves in three of them. See listing below.)
Noir City. You might expect darkened back alleys, shadowy figures moving furtively through rain-soaked city streets, the sounds of taxis blaring, police sirens, maybe even gunfire. Instead, on the mezzanine level of the Castro Theatre, you find well-dressed men and women sipping champagne, drinking highballs, talking about John Garfield, Gloria Grahame, Michael Curtiz, John Alton, Raymond Chandler. You also find another area filled with tables displaying hardboiled fiction, detective stories and neo-noir novels, as well as non-fiction works on everything from San Francisco movie locations to tomes on the history of film noir. Between these two areas stands a short man with a face showing the wear of three lifetimes; a bouncer, if you will, checking to make sure only passport-holders (Noir City’s ticket to all movies and festival events) cross from the book tables to the land of fedoras and padded shoulders. The bouncer must’ve recognized me from years past; he gives me a slight nod and I’m in.
You know you’ve got it bad when you find yourself standing outside the Castro Theatre, home of Noir City 16, six hours before the festival’s opening. If you’ve ever attended even one screening at any Noir City festival, you understand how easily someone can fall under the Noir City spell. That spell is strengthened by the attendees wearing 1940s and 50s outfits, the regal ambience of the Castro Theatre itself, and certainly the films. Yet at 1:30pm on the first day of Noir City, those things were only hinted at as I looked up at the marquee. Still, I felt like Walter Neff standing outside Phillis Dietrichson’s house; it was only a matter of time.