US / 28 minutes / color / Bloom Dir & Pr: Jon N. Bloom Scr: Craig Buck Story: “The Colonel’s Lady” (1947; Creatures of Circumstance) by W. Somerset Maugham Cine: James Glennon Cast: Robert Loggia, Louise Fletcher, Shari Belafonte-Harper, Parley Baer, Lee Garlington, Vincent Guastaferro, Ed Bakey, Kirk Scott, Marcelo Tubert, Mary Woronov, Joanne Dusseau, Eric Poppick.
I’m beginning to think that W. Somerset Maugham is a sort of unsung hero of film noir. A couple of his novels gave rise to SECRET AGENT (1936) and the much later CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY (1944), while his play The Letter (1927) spawned The Letter (1929), The LETTER (1940) and The UNFAITHFUL (1947). His story “Pearls” (1927; vt “A String of Beads”) sparked several TV pieces, including A String of Beads (1953 TVM), which I recently covered on this site. I’m sure more will turn up as this site grows.
Robert Loggia as George.
Overnight Sensation is a loose adaptation of a Maugham story that I haven’t read. (Thanks to an unfortunate encounter with his Cakes and Ale [1930; vt The Skeleton in the Cupboard], which bored me silly when I was about 14, I’ve grossly underread Maugham, something I should rectify.) To be honest, aside from the Maugham connection, its connection to the noir ethos is tenuous at best until the final moments, when the true ironic horror of the situation is revealed. (I’m going to Continue reading
A shot in the night, a faithless wife, a vengeful woman and a damning billet-doux!
US / 61 minutes / bw / Paramount Famous Lasky Dir: Jean de Limur Pr: Monta Bell Scr: Garrett Fort Story: The Letter (1927 play) by W. Somerset Maugham Cine: George Folsey Cast: Jeanne Eagels, Reginald Owen, Herbert Marshall, Irene Brown (i.e., Irene Browne), O.P. Heggie, Lady Tsen Mei, Tamaki Yoshiwara.
This is the first screen adaptation of Maugham’s famous stage play; it was remade in 1940 as the far better known movie The LETTER, dir William Wyler, with Bette Davis, Herbert Marshall and James Stephenson. (Intriguingly, Marshall played the adulterous lover in the first version, the wronged husband in the second.) Until 2011 the 1929 adaptation was effectively a lost movie, all of it that survived being a nitrate work print (which you can view here); but in that year it was restored and released as part of the Warner Archive Collection. I’ve included a couple of screengrabs from the work print below to give you an idea of the near-miraculous job the restorers have done.
We’re on a Singapore rubber plantation, and a wonderful long approach shot takes us through the plantation to a bungalow room where Leslie Crosbie (Eagels) is Continue reading
Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
vt Killer Bait
US / 100 minutes / bw / Hunt Stromberg, UA Dir: Byron Haskin Pr: Hunt Stromberg Scr: Roy Huggins Story: Too Late for Tears (1947, originally serialized in Saturday Evening Post) by Roy Huggins Cine: William Mellor Cast: Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, Kristine Miller, Barry Kelley, Smoki Whitfield, David Clarke, Billy Halop.
If there was any single movie or actor that set me off on the long and winding course toward writing A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, Too Late for Tears was that movie and Lizabeth Scott was that actor.
I first watched the movie sometime in the early 2000s. Before that I’d written quite extensively on animation—in fact, I’d not so very long before seen publication of my book Masters of Animation—and on fantasy movies, for The Encyclopedia of Fantasy, edited by John Clute and myself. I’d been playing around with various ideas for more books on animation and/or the cinema of the fantastic, but then, for some reason—perhaps just because it came on TCM while I was sitting on the couch, who knows?—I found myself watching Too Late for Tears for the first time.
And it felt like coming home.
Of course, I’d watched countless films noirs before then, and liked them a lot—The BLUE DAHLIA (1946) was a particular favorite (have I ever mentioned my longtime crush on Veronica Lake?)—but Continue reading