Tagged: 1940s

Humphrey Bogart in High Sierra

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

Humphrey Bogart as Roy Earle in High Sierra (1941)

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Humphrey Bogart as Roy “Mad Dog” Earle, professional armed robber on parole

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California, Spring 1940

Film: High Sierra
Release Date: January 21, 1941
Director: Raoul Walsh
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Tomorrow marks the 80th anniversary of the release of High Sierra, arguably the movie that launched Humphrey Bogart from a Warner Bros. background player in the ’30s to superstardom in the ’40s. A violent criminal with an earnest streak, Roy Earle was the ideal role for Bogie to transition from the secondary sniveling bastard in movies like The Petrified Forest and The Roaring Twenties to the tilted-hat heroes we love in The Maltese FalconCasablanca, and more.

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Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

Spencer Tracy in Bad Day at Black Rock (1955)

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Spencer Tracy as John J. Macreedy, one-armed war veteran

Black Rock, California, Fall 1945

Film: Bad Day at Black Rock
Release Date: January 7, 1955
Director: John Sturges

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Bad Day at Black Rock may have been one of the most requested movies I’ve been asked to write about, so when I saw that the Criterion Channel had added it to their streaming collection in December, I wasted no time in finally watching this swift and spectacular thriller that had been recommended by so many of you.

Based on Howard Breslin’s short story “Bad Time at Honda”, the account begins in the sprawling desert of eastern California, specifically the isolated berg of Black Rock, where no train has stopped in four years—the duration of American participation in World War II—until this particular day in late 1945, when the one-armed John J. Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) requests a stop.

Conductor: Man, they look woebegone and far away.
Macreedy: Oh, I’ll only be here 24 hours.
Conductor: In a place like this, it could be a lifetime.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice: John Garfield’s Blanket Robe

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

John Garfield, understandably distracted by Lana Turner while filming The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946)

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John Garfield as Frank Chambers, restless drifter-turned-diner worker

Laguna Beach, California, Summer 1945

Film: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Release Date: May 2, 1946
Director: Tay Garnett
Costume Supervisor: Irene

Background

As #Noirvember continues, let’s step away from the trench coats and fedoras to see how our hardboiled anti-heroes dress for a day at the beach. An ode to deviance that originated from James M. Cain’s 1934 novel, The Postman Always Rings Twice was adapted twice by European filmmakers before Hollywood dared to tackle it during the golden age of noir in the 1940s.

The lascivious source material had presented a challenge for presenting the story in a way that would satisfy the draconian Motion Picture Production Code and, even before it was published, a synopsis of Cain’s story had been deemed “definitely unsuitable for motion picture production” by the pearl-clutching Hays Office. After the two European adaptations were released, MGM was finally ready to proceed with its own version, inspired by the success of Double Indemnity, another piece from Cain’s poison pen centered around adultery and murder. By this time, nearly a dozen years into the rigid enforcement years of the Production Code, American filmmakers had mastered the art of stylized shadows and suggestive innuendo that allowed—and often enhanced—these films noir set in lurid worlds filled with unscrupulous and unsavory elements.

“It was on a side road outside of Los Angeles,” Frank Chambers begins his story, as the down-on-his-luck hitchhiker stumbles into the Twin Oaks diner boasting a $1.25 “best in the world” chicken dinner. The simple sign, “Man wanted,” echoes both the restaurant’s staffing needs as well as the sensuous needs of Cora (Lana Turner), the ambitious young platinum blonde who runs the roadside lunch room with her proud yet oblivious husband Nick (Cecil Kellaway)… and, even if you haven’t read or seen it, you probably already see where this is going.

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Mitchum as Marlowe: Farewell, My Lovely

Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe in Farewell, My Lovely (1975)

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Robert Mitchum as Philip Marlowe, sharp-tongued private investigator

Los Angeles, Summer 1941

Film: Farewell, My Lovely
Release Date: August 8, 1975
Director: Dick Richards
Men’s Wardrobe Credit: G. Tony Scarano

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Robert Mitchum had been credentialed in film noir for more than a generation (as explored in Saturday’s #Noirvember post) before the actor first took on the role of Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye, Philip Marlowe. Based on an Edgar Allen Poe Award-winning screenplay by David Zulag Goodman, Dick Richards’ adaptation of Chandler’s 1940 novel Farewell, My Lovely premiered just two days after Mitchum’s 58th birthday, making the actor almost double the age of the character he portrayed… but his grizzled presence is just right as he navigates his way through the sordid City of Angels on the eve of the second world war:

This past spring was the first that I’d felt tired and realized I was growing old. Maybe it was the rotten weather we’d had in L.A., maybe it was the rotten case I’d had, mostly chasing a few missing husbands… and then chasing their wives once I found them in order to get paid. Or maybe it was just the plain fact that I am tired and growing old.

We find Mitchum’s Marlowe in media res “holed up in a dingy hotel, ducking the police,” staring under the brim of his ubiquitous hat through the neon and Philip Morris cigarette smoke. Continue reading

Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past

Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (1947)

Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham in Out of the Past (1947)

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Robert Mitchum as Jeff Markham, aka Jeff Bailey, laconic gas station owner and former private detective

Bridgeport, California, to San Francisco via Lake Tahoe, Fall 1946

Film: Out of the Past
Release Date: November 25, 1947
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Costume Credit: Edward Stevenson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Regarded among the best of classic film noir, Out of the Past showcases the genre’s quintessential elements: shadowy cinematography (thanks to Nicholas Musuraca), a story of double-cross and intrigue told in flashback, a charismatic antagonist, an alluring and ultimately deadly femme fatale, and—of course—a tough-talking, chain-smoking private eye light on words and sentiment:

Baby, I don’t care.

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Criss Cross: Burt Lancaster’s Loafer Jacket

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

Burt Lancaster and Yvonne De Carlo in Criss Cross (1949)

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Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson, larcenous armored car driver

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Criss Cross
Release Date: January 19, 1949
Director: Robert Siodmak

Background

After directing the actor’s debut screen performance in quintessential film noir The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak reteamed with Burt Lancaster three years later for Criss Cross, a quick, moody thriller that begins in media res with Steve Thompson (Lancaster) in the evening shadows of a nightclub parking lot, embracing his ex-wife Anna (Yvonne De Carlo).

As De Carlo makes her plea to the camera that Film Noir Foundation founder Eddie Muller called “noir’s defining moment”, we learn that the former spouses are forced into secrecy to avoid detection from Anna’s slick gangster boyfriend Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea), with whom Steve is planning a six-figure “chance of a lifetime” heist the following day.

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Devil in a Blue Dress: Denzel Washington’s Gabardine Windbreaker

Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

Denzel Washington as Easy Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress (1995)

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Denzel Washington as Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, former aircraft mechanic and World War II veteran

Los Angeles, Summer 1948

Film: Devil in a Blue Dress
Release Date: September 29, 1995
Director: Carl Franklin
Costume Designer: Sharen Davis

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

#Noirvember continues with Devil in a Blue Dress, adapted from Walter Mosley’s excellent 1990 novel of the same name introducing readers to Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, an Army veteran making his way in postwar Los Angeles. Though he would later transform into a full-time private detective, Devil in a Blue Dress establishes Easy as a neo-Hitchockian hero, an everyman who finds himself at the center of a dangerous mystery after losing his job at an aircraft assembly plant.

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Battle of Britain: Robert Shaw as Squadron Leader Skipper

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader "Skipper" in Battle of Britain (1969)

Robert Shaw as RAF Squadron Leader “Skipper” in Battle of Britain (1969)

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Robert Shaw as “Skipper”, RAF Squadron Leader

England, Summer to Fall 1940

Film: Battle of Britain
Release Date: September 15, 1969
Director: Guy Hamilton
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson

Background

Although the battle was waged for more than three months in 1940 over British airspace, September 15 has been established as Battle of Britain Day in recognition of the No. 11 Group RAF repelling two waves of German attacks on London. The Germans had instigated their air and sea blockade earlier that summer, followed by Luftwaffe air raids that started with ports and shipping centers, eventually moving further inland to airfields, factories, and ultimately civilian areas. Hitler had intended to gain air superiority over England prior to an invasion dubbed Operation Sea Lion, but a strong national defense from the Royal Air Force and the Fleet Air Arm of the Royal Navy successfully routed the Luftwaffe and prevented this full-scale invasion of the United Kingdom.

This British victory was considered an early turning point in favor of the Allies during World War II that inspired Winston Churchill to famously declare: “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.”

On the 29th anniversary of this famous British defense against Germany in the skies over London, the United Artists war epic Battle of Britain with a star-studded cast including Sir Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, Trevor Howard, Christopher Plummer, and Robert Shaw. The latter portrays a talented and brash Squadron Leader, said to be inspired by South African fighter ace Sailor Malan, commander of No. 74 Squadron RAF during the actual Battle of Britain.

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Humphrey Bogart in Key Largo

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on the set of Key Largo (1948)

Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall on the set of Key Largo (1948)

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Humphrey Bogart as Frank McCloud, taciturn war veteran and former newspaperman

Key Largo, Florida, Summer 1948

Film: Key Largo
Release Date: July 16, 1948
Director: John Huston
Wardrobe Credit: Leah Rhodes

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

Released today in 1948, John Huston’s moody noir Key Largo marked the fourth and final of Bogie and Bacall’s on-screen collaborations, closing out their celluloid romance the way it began in To Have and Have Not (1944) with a talent-packed cast (including Dan Seymour as a heavy heavy) in a tropical locale shrouded in shadows, storms, and gunplay. The claustrophobia of our characters’ forced isolation against the looming summer storm outside and the raging tension inside made it particularly impactful viewing during months in lockdown.

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From Here to Eternity: Montgomery Clift’s Aloha Shirts

Montgomery Clift as Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953)

Montgomery Clift as Private Prewitt in From Here to Eternity (1953)

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Montgomery Clift as Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt, U.S. Army bugler and “thirty-year man”

Honolulu, Hawaii, Summer through Fall 1941

Film: From Here to Eternity
Release Date: August 5, 1953
Director: Fred Zinnemann
Costume Designer: Jean Louis

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

April showers are said to bring May flowers, so let’s get into the spirit of the season with the classic floral shirts in From Here to Eternity, an adaptation of James Jones’ novel set on a U.S. Army infantry base in Hawaii during the months leading up to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

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