The Beyond the Cover Blogathon: Thieves Like Us and They Live by Night

Book Banner

This post is part of the Beyond the Cover Blogathon running April 8-10 over at Now Voyaging and Speakeasy. I hope you’ll enjoy this post as well as the many other entries.

book they-live-poster

When you think about the time, effort and people involved in bringing a novel to the screen, it’s a wonder adaptations happen as quickly as they do, or even at all. Sometimes the process is relatively short. (Two years is pretty quick, even these days.) In extreme cases, the original creators have departed this world long before their film is ever released. Other productions fall somewhere in the middle. Edward Anderson’s novel Thieves Like Us was published in 1937 during the final years of the Great Depression, but the the story wasn’t filmed until 1947. Even after it was finished, the film sat on a shelf for two years and might have sat there even longer if not for some enthusiastic filmgoers in the UK. But timing is a strange thing, and in some cases it’s everything. Had Nicholas Ray’s They Live By Night remained on the shelf, Alfred Hitchcock would likely never have seen Farley Grainger to cast him in Rope and Strangers on a Train, we probably wouldn’t have Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde (at least not in the same style), and the entire canon of film noir would have been without one of its finest, most unique pictures.

Continue reading

He’s Still Got It: Orson Welles, Citizen Kane and Modern Audiences

When I saw weeks ago that Citizen Kane (1941) was going to play at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring, Maryland, I experienced one of those “bucket list” (for want of a better term) moments in life. I’ve always wanted to be able to travel back in time to key events, not so much from world history, but from arts history. What I wouldn’t give to have heard some of David’s psalms performed live, for instance, or Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring premiere in Paris in 1913, or Bob Dylan “going electric” at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, to name just a few.

I’ve always had “Watching Citizen Kane in a theater with an audience from 1941” on that list. Of course I can’t go back in time to 1941, but the screening of the film at AFI last night (as part of the Orson Welles Centennial) gave me the chance to realize most of that wish. The AFI Silver is a gorgeous theater, one reminiscent of those grand old movie houses that you can see now only in photographs: elegantly designed and decorated shrines that seem at least as otherworldly as the films projected in them, the perfect setting for Citizen Kane.

Continue reading

The Locket (1946) John Brahm


The Locket (1946) John Brahm
RKO Pictures
Warner Archive DVD

John Willis (Gene Raymond) is all set to marry Nancy (Laraine Day), the woman of his dreams, until he’s approached by a man named Harry Blair (Brian Aherne). Blair, claiming to be Nancy’s former husband, warns Willis that he’s about to marry a thief, a liar, and quite possibly a murderer, all in one. Thus begins one of the most complicated uses of flashback in all of film noir – a flashback within a flashback within a flashback.

Continue reading