“… the plot of our life sweats in the dark like a face
the mystery of childbirth, of childhood itself
what is it that calls to us?
why must we pray screaming?
why must not death be redefined?
we shut our eyes we stretch out our arms
and whirl on a pane of glass
an afixiation a fix on anything the line of life the limb of a tree
the hands of he and the promise that she is blessed among women…”
Patti Smith – Dancing Barefoot (1979)
Caged (1950) is a gritty hard-hitting social problem picture from Warner Bros. A young woman is jailed after she is an unwitting accomplice in a gas-station robbery with her husband, who is killed during the heist. The sheltered girl on admittance to a women’s prison discovers she is pregnant, but her condition does not protect her from the humiliation and brutalisation of prison life. Melodramatic but with a strong social conscience that targets corrupt authorities, the movie is downbeat and pessimistic. Eleanor Parker in the lead is powerfully convincing, and is supported by a strong female cast, including Agnes Moorehead as a compassionate and crusading superintendent, and Hope Emerson as a corrupt and sadistic block matron. Though set-bound the regimentation and claustrophobia of incarceration is given a strong expressionist treatment by director John Cromwell and DP Carl Guthrie. A moody evocative score from Max Steiner adds emotional depth.
The trailer which I have put together is deliberately impressionistic and focuses on the anguished transformation of Parker’s character from scared girl to street-wise dame…
Even in the darkest noirs, writers in the classic period deftly wove humor into the script. This comic moment is from Caged (1950) set in a women’s prison block where the inmates are confronted with the sadistic block matron on her day out…
Apparently there is no official trailer on the Web for I Wake Up Screaming (1941), an early Fox noir, so I made my own. A review will follow shortly. Enjoy
Blues in the Night (Warner Bros 1941) is a fascinating musical noir melodrama about a budding white jazz band scripted by Robert Rossen, directed by Anatole Litvak, and atmospherically lensed by Ernest Haller, with a b-cast, including a very young Elia Kazan, as a dizzy jazz clarinetist. These impeccable leftist credentials are reflected in the plot and the resolution which talk to personal integrity and the values of solidarity and loyalty. Amazingly for the period an establishing scene in a police lock-up respectfully credits the music’s black roots. Tied up in all this is a noir arc with a hood played by Lloyd Nolan and a killer performance by Betty Field (an actress who sadly went nowhere) as a cheap femme-fatale. The socially aware feel-good ending is tempered by the noir-like denouement for the hoods and the femme-noir.
This movie is a serious contender as a seminal film noir, remembering The Maltese Falcon was made in the same year, Stranger On the Third Floor only a year earlier in 1940, and Double Indemnity a full three years later in 1944. Check out the filmsnoir.net trailer:
I thought it would be fun to create my own trailers.
From All Movie Guide:
“The films about the tough guys and the femme fatales. Films like The Maltese Falcon. Kiss Me Deadly, Double Indemnity, This Gun for Hire, Mildred Pierce, DOA, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Bad and the Beautiful, Detour, Touch of Evil, Out ot the Past, including the original coming attraction trailers for Rear Window, Notoruius, and Vertigo. Stars such as Robert Mitchum, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Bsrbara Stanwyck, Cary Grant, John Garfield, Lana Turner, Kirk Douglas, Lee Marving, Orson Welles, Charlton Heston, Ingrid Bergman, Fred MacMurray, Alan Ladd, Jane Greer, Ralph Meeker, and Cloris Leachmand.”
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