Friday, January 23, 2015

Jason goes to Noir City--Day 6

Two more last Wednesday night with the immortal Barbara Stanwyck. And I hate even thinking about typing this, but so far it has been my least favorite night of the festival.

CLASH BY NIGHT (1952): This was the better of the two movies, which is weird because it's also the least "noir." Stanwyck plays Mae Doyle, a cynical woman who has moved back to her hometown of Monterrey, CA. Her brother Joe (Keith Andes) still lives there, and is dating Peggy (Marilyn Monroe, as the least likely fish cannery worker ever.) He also works for Jerry D'Amato (Paul Douglas) who takes a shine to Mae and starts courting her. In fact, he successfully courts her and they get married and have a baby. But Jerry is kind of a simple schlub, not nearly romantic enough to keep Mae. So exciting young Earl (Robert Ryan, excellent as always) suddenly looks much better than her initial disgust at his crude, wise-cracking ways. Like I said, it's not really noir (much closer to soap opera) but it's got a terrific cast and a good character study of Mae Doyle.

CRIME OF PASSION (1957): This one, I can't bring myself to say I disliked it, but it definitely irritated me. And unfortunately, it was Stanwyck's character who was the most irritating. The opening scenes are great. She plays Kathy Ferguson, a smart newspaper columnist whose talents are wasted on an advice column. When she uses her column to contact a fugitive, that brings her into the sphere of Lt. Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden, who is always fantastic.) And before you know it, she has quit her job in the paper and moved from S.F. to L.A. to be Mrs. Doyle. Well, that already irritated me that this smart, tough career woman settled into suburban domesticity, but fine. Then she's bored by suburban domesticity. Nothing but cocktail parties where the conversations of shallow housewives and poker-playing husbands are equally uninteresting. And with that, a husband who isn't too ambitious--doesn't really want to be promoted up the career ladder, doesn't really want to stop being a cop, doesn't even want a transfer to Beverly Hills. So she starts scheming, which would be great if I (or she) had any idea what she was scheming towards. But it was all so inconsistent I never believed she knew what she wanted. Revenge on a more successful housewife (Virginia Gray)? Career advancement for her husband? An affair with the boss (Raymond Burr, whose wife is played by Fay Wray)? I had no idea, and so in the end I just couldn't bring myself to care.

Total Running Time: 189 minutes
My Total Minutes: 380,343

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