Tanya, a Russian refugee, is hiding in Rangoon, Burma under the protection of her lover, Tony Evans, a gunrunner working for a weathly underworld leader named Nick. Nick wants to add Tanya to his stable of women in a decadent Rangoon club and intimidates Tony into turning her over to settle a debt. At first the abandoned Tanya refuses to cooperate with Nick, but eventually decides to beat him at his own game and uses sex to gain power. She becomes notorious for her affairs, is re-named “Spot White,” and by blackmailing a British officer, gets passage money out of Rangoon. On the boat to Mandalay, she meets formerly prestigious surgeon Gergory Burton who is now exiled in Burma because of his alcoholism, and they fall in love. Unfortunately, Tony has followed her, and in an attempt to escape the authorities, he frames her for what appears to be his murder. She is arrested, but before the boat docks, Tony comes to Tanya’s cabin and proposes that they open a club like Nick’s, with Tanya as “hostess.” Tanya, desperate to sever her past, poisons Tony, who falls overboard to his death. When they dock in Mandalay, the captain reports that stowaways saw Tony in the hold and it is presumed he escaped in a small boat. Tanya is freed, she confesses her crime to Gregory, and they pledge to start a new life together Continue reading Michael Curtiz – Mandalay (1934)
It is the fifth anniversary of the death of Adolphe Noblet who died in a train wreck. His servant and friends still worship him but don’t care much for his wife Sylvaine’s second husband Gustave with whom she has recently had a child. Sylvaine’s friends recommend that she use a new hairdresser, Leopold Trebel. However, when this womanizing coiffeur arrives, he turns out to be Adolphe suffering from amnesia. A doctor restores his memory using hypnosis but in the process wipes out everything that has happened to him over the last five years. Continue reading Michael Curtiz – The Matrimonial Bed (1930)
Samuel and Bella Spewack’s English adaptation of French playwright Albert Husson’s morbidly humorous stage piece My Three Angels was brought to the screen as the heavily laundered but still wickedly funny We’re No Angels. The scene is French Guiana, a few days before Christmas. Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray play three Devil’s Island “lifers” who escape from the infamous prison and hide out amongst the free colonists. In need of clothing and money, the trio makes plans to rob milliner Leo G. Carroll and his family. “We’ll cut their throats for a Christmas present”, Bogie, a convicted forger, remarks laconically. “That might spoil one’s belief in Santa Claus” replies philosophical wife-murderer Ustinov. The three escapees are deflected from their larcenous intent when they grow fond of Carroll, his wife Joan Bennett and their daughter Gloria Talbott. Discovering that Carroll is on the verge of bankruptcy, the convicts offer their services as household help (the sight of Bogie in an apron is worth the admission price in itself). Continue reading Michael Curtiz – We’re No Angels (1955)
Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in a song and dance extravaganza.
The 1954 musical White Christmas had the advantage of the biggest selling song of the time for its title, and adding the huge fame of stars like Bing Crosby made it one of the biggest films of the year and a Christmas tradition in many households ever since. The thin romantic comedy plot is overshadowed by the numerous song and dance numbers, making for a sentimental spectacle. Paramount has done an excellent job of bringing this classic to DVD in time for Christmas, and fans of the big Hollywood musicals can rejoice. Continue reading Michael Curtiz – White Christmas [+Extras] (1954)
Pauline ‘Paulie’ Nevins is cheating on her husband Ralph Nevins, a land developer, with his sales manager E.V. ‘Marsh’ Marshall. When Paulie and Marsh meet up for a secret rendez-vous in a lovers’ lane they manage to overhear three criminals planning a jewelry heist. They hatch a plan to rob the thieves and run away together but Ralph starts to get suspicious of them. Continue reading Michael Curtiz – The Scarlet Hour (1956)
Plot Synopsis by Hal Erickson
Reminiscent of Destry Rides Again, this feature is about peaceable young lawyer Tom Brewster (Will Rogers Jr.), who sets up shop in a rowdy western town. Though perfectly able to wield a six-gun, Brewster refuses to use brawn when brain will do. He is galvanized into action when his old pal Wallace Ford is murdered by the villains. Brewster cleans up the town and wins the heroine (Nancy Olsen) in the bargain. One of two Will Rogers Jr. vehicles produced at Warner Bros. (the other was the life story of Rogers’ famous father), The Boy From Oklahoma served as the basis for Warners’ later TV series, Sugarfoot. Watch for a supporting appearance by a young and callow Merv Griffin! Continue reading Michael Curtiz – The Boy from Oklahoma (1954)
Noir of the Week review
What has Laura got that The Unsuspected hasn’t? All the romantic, mid-range melodramatic elements that make for an essentially safe, polished, none-too-threatening entertainment experience—a dynamic, exceptionally attractive couple in Gene Tierney and Dana Andrews; a marvelously b*tchy homme fatale in Clifton Webb; a celebrated score and theme song from David Raksin.
You won’t find any of these things in The Unsuspected. What you have instead is the noir mastery of director Michael Curtiz and cinematographer Woody Bredell, who take aspects of the Laura plotline into new levels of intricacy and darkness, fueled by an almost lapidary sense of frame and scene construction. The camerawork and lighting in The Unsuspected, particularly in the studio scenes (inside the Croton mansion where most of the action takes place) is possibly the most sublimely sinister cinematography in the entire noir canon. Continue reading Michael Curtiz – The Unsuspected (1947)