DEATH ON THE CHEAP:THE LOST B MOVIES OF FILM NOIR by ARTHUR LYONS (2000)

image  There’s a nice quote in this book. Robert Mitchum once said about his movies of the 1940s and 50s: “Hell,we didn’t know what Film Noir was in those days. We were just making movies. Cary Grant and all the big stars at RKO got all the lights. we lit our sets with cigarette butts.”

The author of this book points out than when Audrey Totter,Marie Windsor,Jane Greer and Coleen Gray were interviewed for a TCM celebration of Noir in 1999,they said they were making  B movies.

Mr Lyons spends a fair bit of time discussing what Noir is,but ,like a B movie, I’d rather get on to the main event – talking about the films. So it’s page 67 before things get going.

By 1935 the double bill in cinemas was here to stay. as the author says, B’s were simply intended to provide the public with three hours of entertainment as economically as possible.”

B production units were formed within studios, and independent  production companies sprang up – Mascot,Monogram,PRC,Republic.

This book gives details of over 100 B thrillers (sorry, noirs), films which hardly ever get written about and some of which are very good.

I’m already making a list of some which I’d like to see – Accomplice (1946) has Richard Arlen and Veda Ann Borg. Mr Lyons’ view – “typically weak product of PRC”. Doesn’t matter to me. Still want to see it!

Being a Frank Lovejoy fan, I’d like to catch Finger Man (1955).

I’ve somehow managed to miss  I Love Trouble (19470, with Franchot Tone, Janet Blair,Janis Carter,Adele Jergens,Glenda Farrell,Raymond Burr,Steven Geray - that’s a cast.

The author doesn’t like No Escape(1953) with Lew Ayres, but his description makes it worth looking for – “Ayres is a down-on-his-luck songwriter who ekes out a living as a piano player in a San Francisco bar.”

I know Shack Out On 101 (1955),with Frank Lovejoy and Lee Marvin is available – “It’s in the so-bad-it’s-great category“, says the author.

There are films I’ve never heard of – Rio(1939) with Basil Rathbone and Victor McLaglen, or Second Chance (1947), with Kent Taylor. Unmasked (1950) with Raymond Burr.

Without Honor (1949) has quite a cast – Laraine Day,Dane Clark,Franchot Tone,Agnes Moorehead,Bruce Bennett, but is described as “A total clunker“!  Still……

The book ends with a listing of the films by year and studio. It’s obvious Columbia and RKO  made the most.

It’s great to have a book celebrating the world of B thrillers.

I was sorry to read that Mr Lyons passed away in 2008. He was a writer of detective fiction and founded the  Palm Springs Film Noir Film Festival  which is still going strong. Dates for 2015  are May. 14-17.

 

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ON THE SET. 11

Jerome Kern,Jean Harlow. RECKLESS

Jerome Kern,Jean Harlow.
RECKLESS

 

Fred Astaire,,Ginger Rogers, George Stevens ( black hat). SWINGTIME

Fred Astaire,,Ginger Rogers, George Stevens ( black hat). SWINGTIME

 

Geraldine Fitzgeald, Bette Davis.DARK VICTORY

Geraldine Fitzgerald,Bette Davis.DARK VICTORY

 

James Stewart,Anthony Mann,Dan Duryea. THUNDER BAY

James Stewart,Anthony Mann,Dan Duryea.
THUNDER BAY

 

Anthony Mann(far left),James Stewart,June Allyson. THE GLENN MILLER STORY

Anthony Mann(far left),James Stewart,June Allyson. THE GLENN MILLER STORY

 

Melvyn Douglas,Myrna Loy.MR BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE.

Melvyn Douglas,Myrna Loy.MR BLANDINGS BUILDS HIS DREAM HOUSE.

 

Paul Henreid,Bette Davis. NOW VOYAGER.

Paul Henreid,Bette Davis. NOW VOYAGER.

 

 

 

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Gort in THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL

 

Mae West.SHE DONE HIM WRONG.

Mae West.SHE DONE HIM WRONG.

Look at the size of that boxed-in camera.

 

Victor Moore,Fred Astaire,George Stevens.SWING TIME.

Victor Moore,Fred Astaire,George Stevens.SWING TIME.

SHOOT TO KILL. 1947

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Another little ‘B’, this time from Lippert Pictures, that should be added to a box set.
Exciting opening as a car being chased by the police goes over a cliff. A fugitive and an assistant D.A. are killed. The only survivor is the attorney’s wife,Marian, played by Luana Walters.
Russell Wade is a reporter who knew Marian and her late spouse, and he decides to investigate what happened.
There are several flashbacks in the lead up to the car crash. The late lawyer was in cahoots with gangster Nestor Paiva ( with no accent, very unusual for this actor).
It’s a good little thriller with a leading lady I liked but have never seen before,Luana Walters.
Russell Wade made only two more films after this,one of which was Sundown Raiders (1948) in which his character’s name was Russ Wade.
At 31, he changed careers and went into real estate.

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UNDER AGE 1941

Columbia produced this B ( running just 60 minutes). It is  quite raw in its story of under age girls being used as ‘hostesses’  in road side motels.

Nan Grey and Mary Anderson play sisters,Jan and Edie who are being released from the County Detention  Home for Minor  Girls.

A sleazy looking ‘Tap’ ( Alan Baxter) is waiting outside as several girls are released from the home. He offers them jobs as ‘hostesses and entertainers’  at a chain of motels along the highway called ‘The House by the side of the Road’ – a company run by ruthless business woman,Mrs Burke (Leona Maricle).

Jan and Edie  reluctantly accept the job offer,along with some of the other girls. One of their duties is to go out on the highway pretending to be hitch hikers,and get men to drive to the motels.

One  of the other girls ,also on the highway, is approached by a beat- up truck and says to the driver, I only ride in 1941 sedans !”

Tom Neal is Rocky Stone (he’s a jeweller!)  and Don Beddoe is his partner Albert. They are on the road and stop for Jan who brings them to the motel she is working at.

While the older Jan hates what they are doing, Edie is enjoying herself, encouraging the men to drink and gamble.

One of the girls is killed by Tap and there is a riveting scene where the girls,led by Jan,get Tap in a room. One of the girls says, “This is a murder trial.We’re all on the jury,and we’re all witnesses, and she (Jan) is the prosecutor.”

Jan says to him, You cant get out until we’re through with you.and we don’t care what happens to your face.”   (Earlier, Tap has beat up Jan for talking to Rocky and revealing what they get up to. Jan had told the girls, “They were careful not to hit my face.”)

 

This was Nan Grey’s last film – she had a happy marriage to Frankie Laine.

The film was directed by Edward Dmytryk.

 

PHOTO MIX 5

 

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Great Keep Calm message designed by CineMaven on the Silver Screen Oasis.

 

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Spectacular publicity shot from CLEOPATRA.
Claudette looks right at home!

 

 

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Love those fabulous dancers,Harold and Fayard,the Nicholas Brothers. Brilliant Terpsichory!

 

 

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Twenty of Gene Kelly’s film titles,ending with Singin’ In The Rain.

 

 

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On the set of FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS.

Ingrid Bergman,director Sam Wood,Katina Paxinou and Gary  Cooper.

 

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Fred Astaire and Lucille Bremer dancing to ‘Limehouse Blues’ in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (1945).

 

 

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The four sisters of LITTLE WOMEN. Joan Bennett, Jean Parker, Katharine Hepburn,France Dee.
Joan the youngest March girl, Frances,the oldest.

 

 

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Ida Lupino as the blind girl in ON DANGEROUS GROUND,entering her living room with that tree branch on her right which she uses as marker for where things are.

 

 

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Grace Kelly and Cary Grant on the set of TO CATCH A THIEF.
Not sure where this is in the movie.

ALICE IN WONDERLAND. 1933

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It looks like Paramount spared no expense in their film version of Lewis Carroll’s ALICE IN WONDERLAND.
Celebrating the 100 year old children’s Classic, I guess they thought it would be a big family hit. There were ambitious sets,costumes and makeup to convey the wondrous creatures of this fable.
It cried out for color,but Technicolor was not quite ready.

It’s not surprising the opening credits last 3 and a half minutes, with a picture of each star in character, and then one of the star as themselves .
Cary Grant is ‘Mock Turtle’ and is completely unrecognisable. It’s his voice, but is it even him ?

Charlotte Henry,Cary Grant

Charlotte Henry,Cary Grant

As is Gary Cooper as ‘The White Knight’ who keeps falling off his horse and has a little ladder to get him back on.
The other magical creatures Alice meets in the land behind the mirror include May Robson as the ‘Queen of Hearts’ who keeps telling her soldiers, “Off with her head!”
W. C.Fields is ‘Humpty-Dumpty': Richard Arlen is the ‘Cheshire Cat': Charlie Ruggles is the ‘March Hare’ who does a duet with Edward Everett Horton as the ‘Mad Hatter’.

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Edna May Oliver is hilarious as the ‘Red Queen’ and Jack Oakie and Roscoe Karns are ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’.

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It’s star laden ,but very difficult sometimes to recognise the stars!
And that apparently was why it wasn’t a success.
Ida Lupino, Betty Grable and Anne Shirley were tested for the part of Alice,but it went to Charlotte Henry whom I thought was very good. She was at least 17 at the time,(playing the much younger Alice).

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A brave effort by Paramount. I enjoyed it.But why didn’t they promote Charlotte Henry afterwards.

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