Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #6: The Lie (1955 TVM)

US / 25 minutes / bw / Four Star, First Run Syndication Dir: Alvin Ganzer Pr: Warren Lewis Scr: Frederic Brady Story: Kathleen Norris Cine: George E. Diskant Cast: Dan Duryea, Beverly Garland, Jo Gilbert, Mack Williams, Ted Bliss, Salvador Baguez, Nancy Matthews

Beverly Garland as Laura

This was shown as Season 1 Episode 3 of the relatively short-lived (two seasons) syndicated TV show The Star and the Story (32 episodes, 1955–6). Each episode was hosted by Henry Fonda, but otherwise they were standalones—in effect, short TV movies. A few actors appeared in more than one episode. This was the only episode to feature noir great Dan Duryea but one of three to feature another noir great, Beverly Garland.

A long time has passed since Kane Madison was beaten to death, a long time during which Jim Ripley (Duryea) spent fifteen years of a twenty-year sentence in the penitentiary for the murder, only to find himself now, Continue reading

Blockade (1938)

US / 84 minutes / bw / Walter Wanger Productions, United Artists Dir: William Dieterle Pr: Walter Wanger Scr: John Howard Lawson, with James M. Cain and Clifford Odets (both uncredited) Cine: Rudolph Maté Cast: Madeleine Carroll, Henry Fonda, Leo Carrillo, John Halliday, Reginald Denny, Vladimir Sokoloff, Robert Warwick, Fred Kohler Sr, Carlos De Valdez, Peter Godfrey, Nick Thompson, Rosina Galli, Wm. B. Davidson, Lupita Tovar, Katherine DeMille, George Byron.

It’s Spring 1936 in rural Spain. Marco (Fonda) and Luis (Carrillo) are peasant farmers, devoted to the land; they’re the best of friends, even though Marco is ambitious and go-getting, hoping to improve his lot, while Luis is never happier than when lounging on a grass bank, swilling the local red and regaling his flock of sheep with music on his fipple flute. (His fingering doesn’t match the sounds we hear, but what the heck.)

Madeleine Carroll as Norma

Into their lives one day comes Norma (Carroll), whose car veers off the road as she tries to avoid a convoy of women, children and cattle. Marco and Luis help her complete her journey to Castelmare, where she’s due to meet her father, Basil (Sokoloff). En route, Marco and Norma fall in love, but both realize there’s no future in it . . .

Norma and her father, supposedly art/antiquities dealers, are in fact spies, working with Continue reading

Big Street, The (1942)

US / 88 minutes / bw / RKO Dir: Irving Reis Pr: Damon Runyon Scr: Leonard Spigelgass Story: “Little Pinks” (1940; Collier’s Magazine) by Damon Runyon Cine: Russell Metty Cast: Henry Fonda, Lucille Ball, Barton MacLane, Eugene Pallette, Agnes Moorehead, Sam Levene, Ray Collins, Marion Martin, William Orr, George Cleveland, Vera Gordon, Louise Beavers, Juan Varro, Art Hamburger, Ozzie Nelson and his Orchestra.

Runyon’s tales are, of course, not noir, and yet they share noir’s milieu so knowingly that it can be hard to ignore their claims. In the case of MIDNIGHT ALIBI (1935) I was sufficiently persuaded of those claims to include an entry in the Encyclopedia; The Big Street might also have been a candidate, had I had the space.

The movie opens with scrolled text beginning:

Loser’s Lane—the sidewalk in front of Mindy’s Restaurant on Broadway—is not as high-toned a trading center as Wall Street, but the brokers are a lot more colorful.

 Generally they prefer to put their money on a prizefight or horserace, but when the action slows, anything can happen and it usually does. . . .

What’s happening today in Mindy’s is the Eating Championship of the World, organized by the merry lowlifes Professor B. (Collins) and Horsethief (Levene), the dueling trenchermen being Mr. Nicely Nicely Johnson (Pallette) and Mr. Joel Duffle (fittingly played by Hamburger); the hoodlum Case Ables (MacLane) has a hefty stake in Nicely Nicely winning. However, Nicely Nicely has fallen ill with dyspepsia, owing to unwise snacking. The Mindy’s busboy Little Pinks (Fonda)—more fully Augustus Pinkerton II—offers the services in Nicely Nicely’s place of his lodging-house co-boarder Violette Shumberger (Moorehead), but she proves inadequate to the task and the vicious Ables loses his stash.

Lucille Ball as a chanteuse facing an uncertain future.

The event’s the opportunity for Pinks to meet Ables’s chanteuse moll Gloria Lyons (Ball), whose yappy little dog Baby Continue reading