Saturday, January 17, 2015

Jason goes to Noir City--Opening night

The best party of the year (until the next big film festival party...probably the 25th Cinequest) started last night, and of course I was there. But this time, to make it a little easier for me I got a hotel room in the city at the sponsor hotel, the Prescott. Which is very nice. Clean, comfortable rooms and free wine from 5-6 pm. Hell yeah I got there in time for that. And there I met some very nice people from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who were in town for Noir City (the HFPA sponsored the restoration of the opening film, WOMAN ON THE RUN.) So I got there in time for the reception on the mezzanine. They were out of punch but still had plenty of straight vodka. So after saying hi to all (or almost all, I'm sure I missed some of you) of my friends, I was definitely in a good mood to watch some movies.

WOMAN ON THE RUN (1950): The festival opened (of course, after a typically stellar introduction by Eddie Muller) with a little Ann Sheridan and Dennis O'Keefe. Frank Johnson (Ross Elliot) is out walking his dog when he witnesses a murder. He's even shot at, but escapes. Detectives interview him, but for some reason he flees from them, too. So the major lead is his wife Eleanor (Sheridan.) But she's surprisingly unhelpful. Seems they didn't talk much in their marriage. Perhaps they were on the outs. Newshound Dan Leggat (O'Keefe) is even more dogged than the cops, following her around certain there's some clue that she's holding back. But he has his own ulterior motives, and the cat and mouse game, all over San Francisco, gets pretty damn intense. A wonderfully restored forgotten masterpiece, a thrilling story, and a great look at 1950 San Francisco (although the Santa Monica pier filled in for Playland at the Beach.) Oh yeah, and CitySleuth provided a post-film slide show comparing locations in the film with what's there today. That was also fun, although filled with groans and hisses from the audience as those beautiful locations in the movie are now empty lots or the Apple Store. Nostalgia can be funny.

BORN TO BE BAD (1950): Then in the late show we got a jump on Saturday's Joan Fontaine celebration, where she plays the ultimate coy, seductive gold-digger. Donna Foster  (Joan Leslie) in engaged to the wealthy Curtis Carey (Zachary Scott.) Her boss's niece Christabel (Fontaine) is visiting just after the engagement party, but shows up a day early, turning everything topsy-turvy. Her beauty catches the eye of humble painter Gobby Broome (Mel Ferrer,) confident writer Nick Bradley (Robert Ryan,) and of course Curtis Carey. Of course, she's manipulating them all, but so subtly that each on thinks that he's seducing her, not vice-versa. Well, except for Nick, whom she really maybe does fall for. Interestingly, he's the meanest one of the bunch, falling into the "nasty guy who chicks fall for" role. Of course, she goes for the one with the money, so Curtis and Donna split up (they again think it's their decision, not realizing innocent little Christabel has been manipulating them into fights.) But that's just the start. Fontaine's performance, and the havoc that ensues, is quite a treat. Why, there were even moments where I thought she had a good side and I could see falling for her a bit. But no, she's all bad news. And as a special bonus treat, after the film we got to see the original ending that was deemed unfit for the public and cut by the censors. It really, really drives home the "born to be bad" element of her character, in a hilariously over-the-top way.

Total Running Time: 171 minutes
My Total Minutes: 379,226
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