Murder at the Windmill (1949)

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“Always something coming off, always something going on!”
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vt Mystery at the Burlesque
UK / 65 minutes / bw / Angel, Grand National Dir & Scr: Val Guest Pr: Daniel M. Angel Cine: Bert Mason Cast: Garry Marsh, Jack Livesey, Jon Pertwee, Elliot Makeham, Diana Decker, Donald Clive, Jill Anstey, Jimmy Edwards, Margot Johns (i.e., Margo Johns), Genine Grahame, Pamela Deeming, Johnnie Gale, John Powe, Constance Smith, Barry O’Neill, Ron Perriam, Christine Welsford, Peter Butterworth, Ivan Craig, Robin Richmond, and members of the Windmill Theatre Company: Raymond, Anita, Pat, Margot, June and Maureen.

“Wherever it was practical to do so this story was filmed on the actual sites in and around the Windmill Theatre and the parts played by the Girls and Staff of the Theatre were re-enacted by themselves.”

The Windmill Theatre, just off London’s Piccadilly Circus, was famed for two things: the fact that its variety shows (the closest, but I think rather misleading, US equivalent would be burlesque) featured nude tableaux, and its claim (which may have been truthful) that it missed nary a performance all through the Blitz. “We Never Closed!” was the boast—indeed, here it is:

The idea of a murder mystery set within the Windmill and featuring a number of its real-life performers must have seemed irresistible to producers, to director Val Guest and indeed to potential cinema audiences. Of course, the screen censors wouldn’t allow the inclusion of any of the famed tableaux, even though it was censorship that was responsible for the tableaux in the first place: moving performers weren’t at the time permitted to be naked on the London stage, for fear of undue jiggling, heaven forfend, but motionless tableaux featuring classical themes were exempt, being clearly of educational interest.

Which I suppose in a way they were, for at least some of the younger spectators among the Windmill’s audiences. Even so, one of the unusual features of the theatre was that opera glasses were forbidden.

By the time I lived in London, the Windmill was Continue reading

Too Late for Tears (1949)

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Lizabeth Scott triumphs in an underrated noir classic!
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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.

Too Late for Tears - 0 opener

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