Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

From director, Jules Dassin, whose earlier films included the noirs, Brute Force (1947) and The Naked City (1948), Thieves’ Highway about the struggles of truckers trying to make a buck hauling fruit to the San Francisco produce markets, is great melodrama with a strong social conscience. It tells a story strongly rooted in the southern European migrant experience.

The screenplay was adapted by Albert Isaac Bezzerides from his novel Thieves’ Market (1949). Bezzeridis’ noir credits include Desert Fury (1947), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), On Dangerous Ground (1952), and They Drive by Night (1948). Dassin was blacklisted by the HUAC and left the US before the final cut was made, and word has it the studio axed his original “noir” ending and added a “happy-ending” re-take.

But even with a darker ending, I would not say it is a film noir. The protagonist, a straight-up guy, Nick Garcos, wants to avenge his Greek father’s maiming by a crooked wholesaler and risk his last dime on a freight trip that will give him the stake he needs to settle down with his hometown sweetheart – the perfect role for Richard Conte. The other femme is an Italian good-time girl, played beautifully by Italian actress, Valentina Cortese, who never really wants to hurt him, but is only drawn into the story by the conniving of the wholesaler, Mike Figlia, gleefully played by Lee J. Cobb.

What struck me is how well each of the main characters is drawn, and how the rush to get the load of apples to the market, propels the story, and the character development. The most potent scene is when Nick is pinned under his truck after the changing of a flat tyre goes wrong, just off the busy highway, where a never-ending stream of trucks rip through the night: the world is not going to stop for one poor guy stuck under his truck. Nick does survive after he is rescued by his erstwhile shady partner. This exemplifies a wonderful quality of the film: each character has a chance at redemption – only Figlia and his henchmen are too rotten achieve it.

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

Filmically it is also a great testimony to all who worked on its production. The atmosphere of the Frisco produce markets is rendered so convincingly, that it has a cinema verite quality.

Thieves’ Highway (1949)

I feel qualified to say this as this is one of the very rare times, I can directly relate to what is happening on the screen. I grew up in a small corner fruit store run by my immigrant parents in a working-class suburb of Sydney – a big harbour city with a produce market at it’s center. My father is Italian and my late mother was Greek. It was a struggle and we opened 7 days a week. During school vacation my father would wake me at 4am weekdays for the trip to the city markets, where I would haul the long barrow behind him, as he moved from stall to stall haggling to find produce at a price that he could sell and make a buck. This movie connected for me deeply.

Thieves’ Highway: a good story well told, and worth remembering.

Miklós Rózsa Centennial

On Aug. 17, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will kick off its Academy Centennial Salute to Miklós Rózsa at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Rózsa scored a number of films noir:

Double Indemnity (1944)
Ministry of Fear (1944)
Lady on a Train (1945)
The Lost Weekend (1945)
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946)
The Killers (1946)
The Red House (1947)
Brute Force (1947)
The Naked City (1948)
Kiss the Blood Off My Hands (1948)
The Bribe (1949)
Criss Cross (1949)
The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

My favorite is the Asphalt Jungle (1950). From the opening shots, Rózsa’s dramatic almost post-modern score establishes the feel of the picture, and remains in the memory forever. More from the LA Times.

Rock Noir: Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

Out Of The Past

Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
and I’m the only one and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk a…

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
‘Til then I walk alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah,
Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I’m walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind
On the border line
Of the edge and where I walk alone

Read between the lines
What’s fucked up and everything’s alright
Check my vital signs
To know I’m still alive and I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk alone

I walk alone
I walk a…

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
‘Til then I walk alone

Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Ah-ah, Aaah-ah
Ah-ah, Ah-ah

I walk alone
I walk a…

I walk this empty street
On the Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk a…

My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me
My shallow heart’s the only thing that’s beating
Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me
‘Til then I walk alone…

10 Must-See Dark Delights of Film Noir

Source: Don Renfroe, News Editor, Albuquerque Tribune, Friday, June 15, 2007

Don Renfore’s all-time top 10 noirs:

Any debate among film noir fans will ultimately include the phrase, “That’s not a film noir!”

The genre’s definition is broad, but almost any aficionado would agree on these 10 must-sees.

For novices, seeing all or most of this list will provide a basic education in the dark, wonderful dread that is film noir. Here they are, in no particular order.

Out Of The Past 1947

Out of the Past (1947). A stellar cast featuring Kirk Douglas, Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer take viewers down a very dark dream of gangster murder and double-dealings. Directed by Jacques Tourneur. The dialogue is poetic; the cinematography is lush.

Detour (1945). Some call this B-picture the beginnings of true American noir. Hitchhiking leads to no good in this cheapie directed by Edgar G. Ulmer. Tom Neal (you’ve never heard of him) is the pawn of a femme fatale played by Ann Savage (and you’ve never heard of her, either). An overwhelming sense of fate and powerlessness permeates the film.

The Killers (1946). Burt Lancaster, in his film debut, plays a boxer who waits in his dingy room to be assassinated by thugs. How he got there is told in flashback. Look for great performances by the ravishing Ava Gardner in one of her early roles.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955). An early adaptation of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer series. Robert Aldrich directs Ralph Meeker as Hammer. Violent, fast-paced and with a wacky plot involving a nuclear device and an atomic dame or two. Watch early in the film for Cloris Lechman in a minor part. And the cars are great.

Double Indemnity (1944). I can’t add much to all that has been written about Billy Wilder’s masterpiece except that, if you haven’t seen it, hop the nearest train and get to a video store. The script is sterling, and so are all the principals: Fred McMurray, Barbara Stanwyck and Edward G. Robinson. My favorite is Stanwyck’s lout of a husband, who deserves what he gets.

Gun Crazy (1949). Bang! Bang! The lady loves to shoot! Peggy Cummins steals the show in this Bonnie and Clyde-ish tale of two bank robbers on the run. In shooting the first heist, director Joseph H. Lewis placed the camera in the back seat of the getaway convertible so that it feels like we’re escaping with them. John Dahl plays a man who worships guns and his girl. From the outset, you know how this one is going to end, but it doesn’t matter.

Brute Force (1947). Nasty prison breakout flick stars Burt Lancaster and a host of first-rate character actors. Hume Cronyn, later of “Cocoon” fame, is the warden, a real jerk you love to hate…

Rififi (1954). One of the first caper movies. This French masterpiece, directed by Jules Dassin, has all the components we’ve come to expect: the selection of the gang, all of whom have special talents; the heist explained for their benefit and ours; and the actual robbery, which in this case takes place in total silence.

Laura (1944). Otto Preminger directs Dana Andrews as a detective trying to uncover the mystery of who killed the woman in the painting. Clifford Webb is excellent as the newspaper columnist/foil…

Touch of Evil 1958

Touch of Evil (1958). Arguably the best of the lot, this movie had everything going against it before the first scene was shot. A bloated Orson Welles wanted it to be his comeback as a director; Charlton Heston was taking a big chance in the lead (as a Mexican!); the script was full of borderline super-sleaziness. But Welles, who also stars as a corrupt American cop investigating a homicide literally on the border, makes it all work. Fun, nasty, with not a spare frame in the whole picture. Pay attention to the opening scene, one of the longest long shots in movie history.