Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 5

Okay, this was a pretty odd night. The first ever Noir City night of noir comedy. What the hell, Eddie Muller? I mean, I love comedy, but this just isn't what I go to a noir festival for. Still, I'll give you props for challenging the audience's expectations.

UNFAITHFULLY YOURS (1948) Okay, I'll give you this one. You don't really need any excuse to play a Preston Sturges film. And there was plenty of noir nastiness in this one, including one of the best murder and frame-up jobs I've seen on film. Rex Harrison stars as Sir Alfred De Carter, English nobleman, accomplished symphony conductor, and devoted and loving husband to his equally devoted and loving wife Daphne (Linda Darnell). They so publicly display their affection that it makes Daphne's sister Barbara (Barbara Lawrence) a little jealous, since while Daphne has a man that makes you think of Brut champagne, she only has a man--August--who makes her think of prune juice (Rudy Vallee). When Sir Alfred left, he casually asked August to "keep an eye on my wife." Well, August took that a little too seriously and had her followed by a private eye, a prospect that sends Sir Alfred into a rage. He refuses to even look at the report, and it gives Rex Harrison to show his skills at witty apoplexy. But his suspicions overtake him, and during the concert of his life he fantasizes about various ways to avenge his wife's supposed infidelity. The results are pretty hilarious, and I'm happy to have seen this movie under any circumstances. As to whether it's appropriate in a noir festival...well, not really. But there was one sequence that taken out and viewed on its own could be one of the best noir shorts ever.

THE GOOD HUMOR MAN (1950): And then there was this real oddity. The really strange thing is that it was originally based on an entirely serious noir story "Appointment With Fear" by Roy Huggins. Then it was reworked by famous cartoon gag-man Frank Tashlin so that the hero drove a Good Humor ice cream truck and there was a non-stop barrage of corny (but sometimes pretty clever) slapstick gags. Tashlin was a cartoon guy, and this is very much a cartoon come to life. The titular Good Humor man is Biff Jones (Jack Carson), a sweet-hearted guy who is friends to all the kids. He's even a member of their Captain Marvel fan club. He's especially close with Johnny (Peter Miles), but that has more to do with Johnny's big sister Margie (Lola Albright). And then he gets stuck in the middle of some gangsters and a girl they're chasing. And a series of wacky hijinx leads him to being framed for murder, running around in a woman's nightgown, and pretty much destroying an entire school. In fact, he and Margie are in quite a lot of trouble until the Captain Marvel kids save them. Kind of appropriate, since the main villain is George "Superman" Reeves.

But again, not really right for a noir festival. But I'm sure we'll make up for it tonight, with a Samuel Fuller double feature.

Total Running Time: 185 minutes
My Total Minutes: 262,356
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