reblog: The Black Legion (1937)

***Over at Silver Screen Classics, Paul Batters has produced a great write-up (complete with clips) of a splendid movie that has great relevance to our own times. In The Book, where obviously I had space for only a brief account, I concluded of The Black Legion that “Politics and noir often don’t mix well, but this succeeds admirably as both ripping yarn and exposure of the basic rottenness of such organizations.” It’s a movie that merits more attention and, as I say, Paul Batters does it proud.

Silver Screen Classics

by Paul Batters

poster_-_black_legion_02Cinema has always been used as a medium to outline social issues and concerns and bring them to the attention of audiences. Of all the major studios, which produced ‘social message’ films, Warner Bros. perhaps did them best during the classic era and certainly produced some interesting social message films during the 1930s. Films such as Mervyn LeRoy’s I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang (1932) were so successful that they became influential in challenging the penal system’s use of chain gangs. Even the gangster genre would step into the realm of the message film, examining the shaping of the mobster and the social ills that created crime in films such as Dead End (1937) and Angels With Dirty Faces (1938).

What made them successful, particularly during the 1930s, was that the stories were often drawn from real events (or at the very least inspired by…

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o/t: Fatalism and Futility in Film Noir

***Here’s a splendid essay from Paul Batters at Silver Screen Classics — much recommended if you have even the slightest interest in the underpinnings of noir.

Silver Screen Classics

by Paul Batters

Double-Indemnity-1‘Murder’s never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later, and when two people are involved it’s usually sooner’ – Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson) Double Indemnity (1944)

Film noir was not a specific reaction to the glamour of Hollywood but an organic creation, evolving over time and stemming from a variety of creators. There have been numerous arguments, discussions and essays written about how film noir can be qualified – whether it is a genre, a style or a combination of both. Perhaps the best approach is to see film noir as R. Barton Palmer describes it – as being a ‘transgeneric phenomenon’ as it has existed ‘through a number of related genres whose most important common threads were a concern with criminality . . . and with social breakdown’. Purists suggest that film noir is a classic period from a specific time frame. Others have suggested…

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reblog: Le Jour se Lève and Film Noir

***Jean Gabin is a favorite of this site, as is French noir in general, and the same could be said for the blog B Noir Detour. Many thanks to the latter’s Salome Wilde for permission to reblog her splendid evaluation of 1939’s Le Jour se Lève.

B Noir Detour

le jour title

Every time I see a film starring Jean Gabin, I’m amazed anew. I love his acting style, the roles he plays, the directors he works with, and the artistic style of his films. Before yesterday, I’d seen and loved:

  • The Grand Illusion (1937)
  • La bête humaine (1938)
  • Moontide (1942)
  • Touchez Pas au Grisbi (1954)

When searching for Pepe le Moko (1937) — which I put on my Cinema Shame 2018 list of must-sees) — I found Le jour se lève (1939). And I am so glad I did. The film is a stunner in so many ways, from style and direction to acting, plot, and social message. Given that this is a noir blog, I’m organizing this review by elements of noir style.

Expressionism and the Noir Look

The sets for this film are stupendous. They have an expressionist feel, and it doesn’t surprise me that both the main street, featuring…

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o/t: The Beautiful Refugees of Casablanca

***Over at Silver Screenings, Ruth recently posted a splendid piece about an aspect of Casablanca that I’d never really thought about. She has kindly permitted me to reblog it here.

Silver Screenings

The beautiful people of Rick’s Cafe. Image: The Source

Look at the people in the above photo.

These are actors portraying refugees in a fashionable nightclub in French Morocco during WWII. This photo was taken in Soundstage 7-8 at Warner Bros. Studio in California.

Look at how these actors are dressed. These are refugees of Means; they are not poor. If they were poor, they would be mired in war, not sipping cocktails in Rick’s Café Américain.

Even so, these folks are stuck in the Moroccan desert, pawning jewellery and making sordid deals with local officials for a seat on The Plane to Lisbon (i.e. The Plane to Freedom). When this plane flies overhead, activity ceases while people gaze at it longingly:

Watching the plane to Lisbon. Image: The World

The film Casablanca (1942) – written in a hurry, filmed in a hurry, released in a hurry – explores the…

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Reblog: Casablanca: 75 Years Old And Still Going Strong – Flaws And All

***A splendid piece by Paul Batters of Silver Screen Classics — essential reading!

Silver Screen Classics

6_Casablanca

by Paul Batters

Annina: Oh, monsieur, you are a man. If someone loved you very much, so that your happiness was the only thing that she wanted in the world, but she did a bad thing to make certain of it, could you forgive her?
Rick: Nobody ever loved me that much.

One of the most enduring films in the Hollywood pantheon of classic films turns 75 this year on November 26th. It is usually on most people’s list of favourite classic films, not least of all because of one Humphrey Bogart and the beautiful Ingrid Bergman star in it. Not to mention a wonderful supporting cast (Claude Rains, Paul Henreid, Conrad Veidt, Sidney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Dooley Wilson) and a delightful soundtrack (who doesn’t swoon a little at ‘As Time Goes By’).

It also endures because it’s a love story – one that does not have a fairy…

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o/t: The Academy Strikes Again: The 2016 Oscar Memorial Snubs

++A great offering from Sister Celluloid. The omissions really are boggling.

Sister Celluloid

Last night, according to the official Academy Awards website, “the Oscars took time to honor the many talents we lost during the previous year, the lives they touched and the art they made or made possible…”sis-oscars-1

Yes but they never take quite enough time, do they? I mean, it’s entirely up to them how many minutes they devote to the Memorial Reel versus, say, lame-ass production numbers or cringe-worthy canned banter. (And somehow, while leaving out genuine artists, they always find enough time to squeeze a bunch of publicists in there, don’t they?)

So here we go again, kids, with our annual tradition: taking a moment to honor those who were shamefully left off the reel.

This year, Oscar seemed especially eager to show his back half to those who toiled in classic film, with snubs including Joan Leslie, Colleen Gray, Betsy Drake, Dickie Moore, George Cole, Jayne Meadows, Nova Pilbeam, Betsy…

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