Archive for July, 2019

1953’s Pick Up on South Street for the Noirathon

I like Richard Widmark’s acting.  Whenever I view one of his films, I recognize that he was a good actor who didn’t hit a wrong note in any role he was playing.   A few years ago, I recorded one of his films off of TCM, Pick Up on South Street, and wow! That film mesmerized me and after I had viewed it I was so impressed by all of it: the acting, the plot, the direction, the sets, the music; ranks as one of the best film noirs that I have ever seen.  When I saw that Maddy at Maddy Loves Her Classic Films was hosting a “Noirathon” a look at film noir selections by other classic film fans, I knew I wanted to participate.  Be sure to check out Maddy’s blog and read about  other bloggers’ film noir choices.   By the way, in case you don’t know, film noir was a term coined by the French to describe specific American films that depicted a crime story with style, an often conflicted male protagonist, and a femme fatale who adds to the conflict.  1940-1959 was the time frame for many classic film noirs to have been made. 

Richard Widmark plays Skip McCoy, a NYC pickpocket and small-time hustler who isn’t trying to stay on the straight and narrow, even though he’s been arrested and been sent to prison 3 times.  New York state must have had a 3 strikes and you’re out rule in the 1950s as it’s mentioned that if Skip is arrested a 4th time, he’ll serve the rest of his life in Sing-Sing or some other New York state penitentiary.  Candy(Jean Peters playing the femme fatale) was dating a guy named Joey(Richard Kiley) who would ask her to make deliveries for him. taking rolls of microfilm to higher-ups in some organization.  Joey explained to Candy that the microfilms were pictures of company secrets.  What Candy doesn’t realize is that Joey is a commie, and the microfilm he’s been having her deliver is to higher up commies and the film is pictures of government secrets.  Skip’s latest pickpocket target was Candy and he stole her wallet that contained the latest microfilm delivery for Joey’s commie bosses.  Unknown to Candy and Joey is that for the past 6 months, two FBI agents have been following her, hoping she’d lead them to  the commie ring.

Skip moving his way down the passenger line to Candy and her wallet.

The missing microfilm is the lynch pin that brings all the films characters together.  There’s Skip who has it, was seen by the FBI agents tailing Candy to have been the pickpocket who stole it, and even when he ‘s offered a no charge deal if he brings the film in to Police Captain Tiger(Murvyn Vye), it’s no dice.  Skip won’t comply with the cops or the feds.  Candy is ordered by her ex, Joey, to get that microfilm back.  She turns to street peddler Moe(Thelma Ritter) who has coincidentally  helped the FBI agents identify Skip as the pickpocket they’re looking for.  Moe gives Candy Skip’s address and it is in his shack by the Atlantic Ocean where he confronts Candy rifling through his stuff looking for her wallet and the microfilm.  After a scuffle, and a long kiss, we know that these two are in love/lust with one another and that this is going to complicate their lives quite a lot.  Will the microfilm get to the FBI? Will the FBI capture the commies? Will Joey get away with a savage beating of Candy, and worse, to Moe??  Will Skip end up complying and turn over the microfilm or will he try to get out of town? Will he and Candy have a future together?

Moe being confronted by slimy Joey for info on Skip

Skip(Widmark) beating the snot out of Joey(Kiley)

I’m not answering the rest of those questions as I am urging you, dear reader, to find this film and view it!!  Widmark is great as Skip.  A very cynical guy, shiftless but full of common sense that one needs to live and survive on the mean streets of NYC.  Jean Peters was a surprise to me as I’d only previously seen her in another film noir, Niagara, and in that film she is not the femme fatale.  I guess I didn’t know she had it in her to play such a tough woman and she really delivers in her role in this film.  Richard Kiley, years before starring on Broadway in The Man from LaMancha, is also quite good in this film as the slimy Joey, willing to commit espionage for money against his own country, using Candy to help him, and willing to kill those weaker than himself in order to get his money.  Thelma Ritter is just outstanding as Moe, the street peddler, who gives info to cops and the street folks.  She was nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actress for this role.  Directed by Sam Fuller, the cast does excellently and Fuller wrote the screenplay himself, basing the story on his work as a crime reporter in NYC.  Incidentally, Betty Grable was one of the possible actresses for the part of Candy but she requested a dance number be added for her in the film.  I’m glad that Ms. Grable didn’t get the part!

 

Where can this film be seen?  From time to time it does air on TCM.  It is available on a Criterion Collection dvd at TCM’s shop and at Amazon.  Amazingly, the entire film is on Youtube, however it opens with the pickpocket scene on the subway, with FBI agents watching Candy before Skip finds her wallet, no opening credits.

Again, I can’t recommend this movie enough as an excellent one to view and an excellent film noir.

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1953’s The Man From the Alamo for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon

 

I recently watched a new-to-me film from the Western genre, 1953’s The Man From the Alamo.  I discovered another cable channel that I had largely been ignoring, INSP, and it almost exclusively shows tv westerns and films.  My kids have  asked why I enjoy a western tale so much and I think I like them for two reasons: the Western is truly an American form of entertainment, and I like the stark and simple tales of good vs evil, with good usually winning in the end. Maybe since I’m a firstborn, and I have been conditioned to follow the rules, see things in black and white-am I right, other firstborns out there?- I greatly enjoy a tale of good ultimately winning. 

INSP cable channel aired this movie 3 months ago; the channel  airs a lot of westerns and is currently airing John Wayne movies for the month of July.   The title of the film is what first drew me in to record it and watch it. The Man From the Alamo immediately tells the viewer that here was one man who didn’t die at The Alamo in San Antonio, TX in 1836.  I am vaguely aware of The Alamo’s history, of a mission in San Antonio, TX, where Davy Crockett, Lt. William Travis, Jim Bowie, and others fighting for Texas’s independence from Mexico were all wiped out in a battle with General Santa Ana and his army.  Since I saw the title, I immediately was saying to myself, “What?! A man came out of the Alamo and lived?  Was he a coward who snuck out as the battle began and avoided the 13 day siege? Was he a coward who found a really good hiding place in The Alamo and got away at the end of the siege? Was he a spy for Santa Ana and working against the territory of Texas?”  I decided I had to watch this film and find out the answers to my questions.

Glenn Ford is the film’s protagonist, John Stroud, a man who has grown up in  Texas so when the call goes out to help defend the land at The Alamo, Stroud knows that he will answer that call, come what may.  He willingly leaves behind his wife, son, ward Carlos(Mark Cavell), and his ranch.

We get to see a grim meeting at The Alamo with Lt. William Travis and the men there, that he has  asked for reinforcements but he doesn’t know if the reinforcements will arrive in time as General Santa Ana and his regiments will arrive sooner.  Travis makes an announcement that if any man feels the need to leave The Alamo now, to be back with his family and land/ranch/farm, that he would allow that man to leave with no ill will.  Travis then sends a Lt. Lamarr(Hugh O’Brien) to Franklin, TX to get to Sam Houston and the need for more men.  Stroud stands up and announces to Travis that he will be leaving The Alamo(my question got answered fast!) and he does so, with some of the men scowling at him.

Lt. Travis contemplating the announcement he’s going to make to the men inside The Alamo.

Stroud gets back to his ranch in Ox-Bow, TX to find his home, barns, everything has been burned.  He also finds Carlos, still alive, and learns from him that bad white men, dressed as Mexican soldiers, took to burning and looting area ranches and farms since the men were away to fight; these evil men also killed Stroud’s wife and son, and Carlos managed to dig them proper graves.  With revenge now front and center in Stroud’s mind, he takes Carlos to the nearest large town, Franklin,  with the aim of getting needed supplies and to then go in search of the men who destroyed all he owned and loved, and kill them.

Carlos and Stroud, arriving in Franklin.

Sounds simple, right? But once in Franklin, Lt. Lamarr  is there with new orders, to get the women, children, and the elderly away from Franklin and to safety.  Lt. Lamarr is in a good frame of mind to this task as it gives him days to spend with his wife, Kate(none other than Jeanne Cooper, aka Catherine Chancellor of The Young and The Restless! I watched TYATR all through my high school and college days-middle and late 1980s, and Catherine ruled the roost of Genoa City, WI on that soap opera so it was great to see her in this film, pre-TYATR days).  Then Lt. Lamarr sees Stroud and he bristles at seeing him, and lets the town leaders of Franklin know that Stroud is a coward and that he’s probably in town, up to no good!  Unfortunately for Stroud, the town leaders listen to Lt. Lamarr, and throw Stroud into jail where they are keeping all the suspicious guys in town until the women, children, and the elderly have gotten away.

Lt. Lamarr telling the folks of Franklin not to trust Stroud!

While in the jail, Stroud meets Dawes(Neville Brand), a drunk in the next jail cell.  Carlos is able to secretly talk to Stroud through a jail cell’s window, sees Dawes, and lets Stroud know that that drunk was one of the bad men who was a part of the gang that killed Stroud’s family.  Stroud decides to pretend he is on the side of the traitorous bandits and when the head of the gang, Jess Wade(Victor Jory) arrives to break Dawes out of jail, Stroud goes along and joins the gang in order to enact his plot of  revenge. In between the waiting of Wade’s arrival and his own arrest, Stroud is able to get one of the women leaving Franklin, Beth Anders(Julia Adams) to agree to take Carlos along with her.

Learning about Jess Wade and the gang from Dawes.

Joining up with Wade’s Gang.

As Stroud and the Wade Gang wait above a pass to attack, rob, and harm the wagon train of fleeing folks from Franklin, Stroud is able to fire a warning shot and the wagon train turns around and gets away safely.  This leaves Stroud open to a gun battle with Wade and his gang members and they shoot Stroud, thinking he’s dead and they leave him out in the open.  When the wagon train stops for a rest, Carlos leaves the wagon train to find Stroud and manages to get him back with help from some of the calvary traveling with the wagon train.  They take him to Beth Anders who is able to get Stroud back to reasonable health, all the while knowing he’s not a coward.

Beth caring for Stroud. Will love bloom here??

I’ll not say anymore about the film, as I want you to be able to find it and see how it ends for yourself.  In technicolor, well-directed by Budd Boetticher-he directed many fine westerns in the 1950s-it’s a fast film, that tells a good story. The story was created by Niven Busch and Oliver Crawford; screenplay by Steve Fisher and D.D. Beauchamp.  Look for character actor Chill Wills, as one of the leaders of Franklin who is against Stroud in the beginning and the  middle of the story.  Also, Guy Williams(Dr. John Robinson, the dad from the tv show Lost in Space) has a small military role in the movie.  Via TCM’s website, film critic Leonard Maltin called this film  a bit “offbeat, well-acted, and exciting.”  The film isn’t listed as being shown on TCM anytime soon. It aired on INSP channel back in April and it isn’t listed there to be re-shown anytime soon.  The film is available to purchase on dvd thru Amazon and TCM’s shop.  It used to be available to watch on Amazon streaming/renting but isn’t as of today.  However, Youtube has come through and the film is there for viewing!!!!

So watch a good western tale of good vs evil, of good being mistaken for evil, and good triumphing in the end.  Also, in researching a bit about the film’s beginning battle, there’s a cool website to see, thealamo.org

This blog post today is for The Favorite Code Film Blogathon, hosted by Peeps, or the Pure Entertainment Preservation Society.  Be sure to visit their site for more posts about good films made under the Breen Code.