Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 2

Four more movies last Saturday, continuing with the Joan Fontaine tribute that kinda started opening night.

SUSPICION (1941): Hitchcock directs, and Joan Fontaine stars across Cary Grant in a breakout role as a charming cad. Lina McLaidlaw (Fontaine) meets Johnnie Aysgarth (Grant) on a train, and while he's pretty immediately a jerk (stealing "borrowing" a stamp from her to pay his fare) he's got that charm about him that has the women falling all over him. And surprisingly, even she falls in love with him. But as a high society woman, her family would never approve of them. So they elope, and soon enough she finds just how much of a cad he is. Like, he doesn't have any money of his own, he's lived off of borrowed money that he sometimes pays back (if he's lucky at the horse track.) He always seems to have the perfect excuse, and arrival of his gregarious and generous friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce) highlights his ability to charm and fleece just about anyone. But Beaky puts his foot in it, while dismissing his shenanigans as Johnnie being Johnnie, Lina sees this as a revelation of how evil her new husband is. Possibly even evil enough to...murder her? Well, maybe if the studio didn't balk at the original ending. Still, a lot of fun by masters both in front of and behind the camera.

THE BIGAMIST (1953): Then this oddity, which I guess you could technically call a noir film in as much as it deals with questionable morality. Ida Lupino directs and stars in this story of a happily married couple Harry (Edmond O'brien) and Eve Graham (Fontaine.) They're not just happily married, they're business partners, running a company that sells household appliances. That puts him on the road a lot, but they still want a family. But she can't conceive, so the story opens with them at an adoption agency interviewing with a kindly man (Edmund Gwenn) who will be doing the background checks on them. Harry immediately looks nervous. See, as the title gives away, and as we find out soon enough, he has another family down in L.A. He spends a lot of time away on business, and a while ago (when they found out they couldn't conceive) his marriage wasn't so great and he was feeling lonely so on a tour bus of the homes of the stars (including a little inside joke about Edmund Gwenn's house) he meets Phyllis (Lupino) and they form a friendship. Which is fine as a friendship, but as it gets serious he knows he has to break it off. He just...fails to do so. So he's got a house and a baby with her. While the title promises shocks, it's actually a very sympathetic portrait of the poor man, and an interesting low budget story (it was introduced as possibly the lowest budget movie to ever feature 3 Oscar winners--Fontaine for SUSPICION, O'brien for THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, and Gwenn for MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET.)

Then Noir City is always so considerate to schedule enough time between the matinee and evening shows to get some dinner and a drink with friends. So that's exactly what I did and then was back for the evening shows, with an Edwardian era theme.

IVY (1947): The last in this year's Joan Fontaine tribute. And bookending the four tribute films with this and BORN TO BE BAD gives me the impression that Fontaine was an infamous femme fatale rather than the good-girl she more often played. Ivy Lexton (Fontaine) is--to put it a little too neatly--pure poison. She seems happy enough with her husband Jervis (Richard Ney) even though he's not wealthy. Perhaps that's because she has a handsome doctor Roger Gretorex (Patric Knowles) on the side. And then there's older but extremely wealthy Miles Rushworth (Herbert Marshall.) Ah, the classic femme fatale problem--too many men, how to get rid of the ones without enough money? Pretty awesome.

THE SUSPECT (1944): And we end the night with a tour-de-force by Charles Laughton as Philip, a kindly tobacconist with the meanest, shrillest shrew of a wife ever (Rosalind Ivan.) As a naturally caring man, he meets and befriends Mary (Ella Raines) and helps her out. Nothing untowards, they're not lovers, but he definitely prefers her company to his wife's. So much so that it inspires jealousy which inspires blackmail and threats. Which, in turn, inspires...an accident? Or so it appears. A broken stair, a trip and fall, and she's dead. But a nosy inspector creates quite a bit of trouble. And the good man who might have done a bad thing is put under no small amount of duress. It's less a whodunit thriller than a morality play with an excellent actor playing a great character. And under the direction of Robert Siodmak, it's simply brilliant. And after having read some rather lurid disgusting stories about Laughton, it's good to remember that for whatever predilections he had in his personal life, he was a brilliant actor.

Total Running Time: 362 minutes
My Total Minutes: 379,588
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