Have a Film Noir Summer: 2014 Edition

Summertime is always the best season for the film noir genre. There are so many noirs that I have not yet seen and I am particularly interested in some titles with Brooklyn-born actresses (from my hometown, you know) and also some actresses who are still around six or seven decades after having made those classics. Perhaps the exciting noir spirit is what invigorates them. Here are 25 movies I hope to check out (and maybe you will too).

This Gun for Hire (1942, dir. Frank Tuttle) – Brooklyn-born Veronica Lake, one of the major movie stars of the World War II era, cemented her stardom in this vehicle co-starring Alan Ladd, Robert Preston, Laird Cregar, Tully Marshall and Marc Lawrence.

The Fallen Sparrow (1943, dir. Richard Wallace) – This combination noir/spy film stars John Garfield, a great New York-born actor and fiery Irish actress Maureen O’Hara (b. 1920). Walter Slezak, Patricia Morison (b. 1915), Martha O’Driscoll and Hugh Beaumont (aka Ward Cleaver from TV’s “Leave It to Beaver”) are also in the cast.

Mildred Pierce (1945, dir. Michael Curtiz) – Joan Crawford’s Oscar-winning performance as the title character also stars the Oscar-nominated Ann Blyth (b. 1928) as her daughter, Veda, as well as Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden, Bruce Bennett and Lee Patrick.

The Chase (1946, dir. Arthur Ripley) – Michèle Morgan (b. 1920) stars alongside Robert Cummings, Steve Cochran, Peter Lorre and Jack Holt in this adaptation of Cornell Woolrich’s book The Black Path of Fear.

Born to Kill (1947, dir. Robert Wise) – Starring two notable character actors who hailed from Brooklyn, Claire Trevor and Lawrence Tierney, this noir also features Walter Slezak, Phillip Terry, Audrey Long, Elisha Cook Jr., Isabel Jewell and Esther Howard.

Dark Passage (1947, dir. Delmer Daves) – Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall (b. 1924), two native New Yorkers as well as being husband and wife, team up again here along with Bruce Bennett and Agnes Moorehead.

Dead Reckoning (1947, dir. John Cromwell) – Another Bogart one: here he stars with Lizabeth Scott (b. 1922), always a cool and collected presence on film.

Kiss of Death (1947, dir. Henry Hathaway) – Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, king of noir Richard Widmark and a young-ish Karl Malden are the male presences here, but the one credited woman is Coleen Gray (b. 1922), a beauty who also made the disturbing noirish drama Nightmare Alley the same year.

Repeat Performance (1947, dir. Alfred L. Werker) – In a noir/fantasy hybrid, Joan Leslie (b. 1925) and Louis Hayward play Broadway acting/producing icons who get caught up in murder. Also starring Tom Conway, Richard Basehart (pictured), Natalie Schafer and Benay Venuta.

House of Strangers (1949, dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz) – Perhaps this is more of a drama than a noir, but Brooklyn-born Susan Hayward (who starred in one of my all-time favorite noirs, 1946’s Deadline at Dawn) is usually worth watching. The film also stars Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte, Luther Adler, Efrem Zimbalist Jr., Debra Paget (b. 1933), Hope Emerson, Esther Minciotti (the mother, Mrs. Pilletti, in the classic Marty) and Diana Douglas (b. 1923 – former wife of Kirk Douglas and mother of Michael Douglas).

Scene of the Crime (1949, dir. Roy Rowland) – Van Johnson is the somewhat unlikely star here, playing a homicide detective. The film also has two lovely starlets, Arlene Dahl (b. 1925) and Gloria DeHaven (b. 1925, pictured), as well as Tom Drake (the Brooklyn-born boy next door from Meet Me in St. Louis), Leon Ames, Donald Woods, Norman Lloyd (b. 1914 – he’ll be 100 in November!) and Jerome Cowan (a New Yorker).

Thieves’ Highway (1949, dir. Jules Dassin) – Richard Conte, a stalwart of noir, stars with Italian actress Valentina Cortese (b. 1923) here. Lee J. Cobb (another New Yorker), Barbara Lawrence, Jack Oakie, Millard Mitchell, Morris Carnovsky, Tamara Shayne and Hope Emerson also appear.

The File on Thelma Jordon (1950, dir. Robert Siodmak) – Barbara Stanwyck, my #1 favorite actress and a daughter of Brooklyn, stars as the title character. The film also stars Wendell Corey, Paul Kelly (another Brooklynite), Joan Tetzel, Kasey Rogers (then known as “Laura Elliot”) and Theresa Harris.

Shakedown (1950, dir. Joseph Pevney) – Howard Duff, Brian Donlevy, Peggy Dow (b. 1928), Lawrence Tierney (as mentioned, a Brooklynite), Bruce Bennett, Anne Vernon (b. 1924 – she played Madame Emery in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg), Rock Hudson, Peggie Castle and Pevney himself can be seen in this noir about the newspaper business.

Union Station (1950, dir. Rudolph Maté) – William Holden and Nancy Olson (b. 1928), who made Sunset Blvd. that same year, are paired up again here for this noir thriller. Also starring Barry Fitzgerald, Jan Sterling and Allene Roberts (b. 1928).

Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950, dir. Otto Preminger) – 6 years after Laura, Preminger, Dana Andrews and Brooklyn-born Gene Tierney reteam for this detective story which also features Gary Merrill, Tom Tully, Karl Malden, Ruth Donnelly and Craig Stevens.

Affair in Trinidad (1952, dir. Vincent Sherman) – After their successes in the dramedy The Lady in Question (1940), the noir Gilda (1946) and the musical drama The Loves of Carmen (1948), Brooklyn-born Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford reteam for this torrid nightclub story set in an exotic locale.

The Narrow Margin (1952, dir. Richard Fleischer) – Charles McGraw, Marie Windsor and Jacqueline White (b. 1922) headline this noir.

A Blueprint for Murder (1953, dir. Andrew L. Stone) – Jean Peters, the great star of Pickup on South Street (1953), is the leading lady of Joseph Cotten, supported by Gary Merrill and Jack Kruschen.

The Hitch-Hiker (1953, dir. Ida Lupino) – Lupino was the major female director in Hollywood in the 50s, so this noir (starring Edmond O’Brien, Frank Lovejoy and William Talman) is worth watching just for that fact.

Inferno (1953, dir. Roy Ward Baker) – I’m not sure if you can ever really have a film noir in Technicolor (although the photo is B&W), but this one is. Robert Ryan, as adept at noir villainy as heroism, plays alongside flame-haired bombshell Rhonda Fleming (b. 1923).

A Life at Stake (1954, dir. Paul Guilfoyle) – Everyone’s favorite sleuth or grandma, Angela Lansbury (b. 1925), is the beautiful young femme fatale in this noir co-starring Keith Andes, Douglass Dumbrille, Claudia Barrett (b. 1929) and Jane Darwell.

Pushover (1954, dir. Richard Quine) – Kim Novak (b. 1933) and Dorothy Malone (b. 1925) are the gorgeous girls in this Fred MacMurray-starring noir.

House of Bamboo (1955, dir. Samuel Fuller) – Another color noir, this time shot by noir master Sam Fuller, the Tokyo-set action stars Robert Ryan, Robert Stack, Shirley Yamaguchi (b. 1920), Cameron Mitchell, Brad Dexter and the legendary Sessue Hayakawa. Harry Carey Jr. and DeForest Kelley appear in uncredited roles.

Shack Out on 101 (1955, dir. Edward Dein) – Terry Moore (b. 1929) plays that most noirish of noir careers, a waitress, along with well-known cinematic faces like Frank Lovejoy, Keenan Wynn, Lee Marvin, Whit Bissell and Len Lesser (forty years later Lesser would be Seinfeld’s Uncle Leo).


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