John Ford – Tobacco Road (1941)

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In Georgia, near to the Savannah River, the lazy and crook hillbilly Jeeter Lester lives in the Tobacco Road with his wife Ada, his son Dude and his single daughter Ellie May in a very poor condition. When the bank decides to take over his land, the banker George Payne is convinced by his friend Capt. Tim Harmon to lease the land to Jeeter for US$ 100.00 per year. Jeeter plots a means to loan the amount from the widow Sister Bessie Rice that has just received U$ 800.00 from the life insurance company. However, Bessie decides to get married with Dude and uses the money to buy a brand new car for Dude. Jeeter plots a means to sell her car while he tries to marry Ellie May with his son-in-law Lov Bensey that was left by his wife. Continue reading

Jacques Tourneur – Out of the Past (1947)


Out of the Past is so perfect a film noir that it is considered practically a textbook example of the genre. In his first starring role (it had previously been offered to John Garfield and Dick Powell), Robert Mitchum plays Jeff Bailey, the friendly but secretive proprietor of a mountain-village gas station. As Jeff’s worshipful deaf-mute attendant (Dick Moore) looks on in curious fascination, an unsavory character named Joe (Paul Valentine) pulls up to the station, obviously looking for the owner. Jeff is all too aware of Joe’s identity; he’s been dreading this moment for quite some time, knowing full well that it will mean the end of his semi-idyllic existence, not to mention his engagement to local girl Ann (Virginia Huston). In a lengthy flashback, the audience is apprised of the reasons behind Jeff’s discomfort – and thus begins a tale of treachery, betrayal and intrigue that extends into the present day and turns Jeff’s life upside down. Out of the Past was remade in 1984 as Against All Odds, with Jane Greer cast as the mother of her original character. Continue reading

Anthony Mann – The Great Flamarion (1945)


Synopsis (All Movie Guide)

This ambitious independent production was packaged by producer W. Lee Wilder, brother of Billy Wilder, and distributed by Republic. The title character, played with relish (and a bit of mustard) by Erich Von Stroheim, is an arrogant vaudeville artiste specializing in a trick-gunshot act. A dyed-in-the-wool misogynist, Flamarion at first pays little attention to his beautiful assistant Connie (Mary Beth Hughes)-just as well, since Connie is already married to Flamarion’s other assistant, Al Wallace (Dan Duryea). Bored with marriage, Connie begins playing up to her boss, the result being the “accidental” death of Al during Flamarion’s act. Having committed murder for Connie’s sake, Flamarion fully expects to be sexually compensated-but he doesn’t know the treacherous Connie as well as the late Al did. Future cult favorite Anthony Mann’s direction is rather perfunctory, suggesting perhaps that he was somewhat intimidated in the presence of the flamboyant Von Stroheim. — Hal Erickson Continue reading

John Huston – The Maltese Falcon (1941)



‘Spade and Archer is the name of a San Francisco detective agency. That’s for Sam Spade and Miles Archer. The two men are partners, but Sam doesn’t like Miles much. A knockout, who goes by the name of Miss Wanderly, walks into their office; and by that night everything’s changed. Miles is dead. And so is a man named Floyd Thursby. It seems Miss Wanderly is surrounded by dangerous men. There’s Joel Cairo, who uses gardenia-scented calling cards. There’s Kasper Gutman, with his enormous girth and feigned civility. Her only hope of protection comes from Sam, who is suspected by the police of one or the other murder. More murders are yet to come, and it will all be because of these dangerous men – and their lust for a statuette of a bird: the Maltese Falcon.’
– J. Spurlin (IMDb) Continue reading

John Huston – Key Largo (1948)


Key Largo is a 1948 film noir directed by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson and Lauren Bacall and featuring Lionel Barrymore and Claire Trevor. The movie was adapted by Richard Brooks and Huston from Maxwell Anderson’s 1939 play of the same name, which played on Broadway for 105 performances in 1939 and 1940.

Frank McCloud travels to a run-down hotel on Key Largo to honor the memory of a friend who died bravely in his unit during WW II. His friend’s widow, Nora Temple, and wheelchair bound father, James Temple manage the hotel and receive him warmly, but the three of them soon find themselves virtual prisoners when the hotel is taken over by a mob of gangsters led by Johnny Rocco who hole up there to await the passing of a hurricane. Mr. Temple strongly reviles Rocco but due to his infirmities can only confront him verbally. Having become disillusioned by the violence of war, Frank is reluctant to act, but Rocco’s demeaning treatment of his alcoholic moll, Gaye Dawn, and his complicity in the deaths of some innocent Seminole Indians and a deputy sheriff start to motivate McCloud to overcome his Hamlet-like inaction. Continue reading

Delmer Daves – Dark Passage (1947)


Of the four movies Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together, Dark Passage is the forgotten stepchild. Sandwiched between The Big Sleep and Key Largo, Delmer Daves’ innovative and suspenseful mystery-thriller caused barely a ripple at the box office upon its initial release. Maybe the gritty, post-war themes of isolation and paranoia hit too close to home, or the use of a subjective camera alienated audiences. Whatever the reason, Dark Passage got a bum rap from critics and public alike. And while it may not rank up there with the best of Hollywood noir, the film flaunts enough style and substance to merit appreciation. Continue reading

Raoul Walsh – High Sierra (1941)


Review (Time Out Film Guide)
A momentous gangster movie which took the genre out of its urban surroundings into the bleak sierras, and in so doing marked its transition into film noir. It isn’t just that Bogart’s Mad Dog Earle is a man ‘rushing towards death’, infallibly doomed and knowing it, from the moment he is paroled and through the half-hearted hold-up to his last stand on the mountainside. He also in a sense wills his own destruction, his dark despair fuelled by the betrayal of an innocent, clubfooted country girl whose operation he pays for, and who casually abandons him as soon as she can ‘have fun’. Terrific performances, terrific camerawork (Tony Gaudio), terrific dialogue (John Huston and WR Burnett from the latter’s novel), with Walsh – who in fact reworked the material as Colorado Territory eight years later – giving it something of the memorable melancholy of a Peckinpah Western. Continue reading