Posts Tagged ‘Richard Kiley’

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.

My Classic Movie Pick: Blackboard Jungle

As a former teacher, I am a complete and utter sucker/fan of movies that revolve around  a teacher trying to save the world by getting through to their unruly, bratty, world of crime-leaning students.  In 1954, writer Evan Hunter wrote a novel, The Blackboard Jungle, that got a lot of buzz from the reading public and it caught the attention of Hollywood.  Movie Studio MGM bought the rights of the novel and Richard Brooks, not only directed the film, The Blackboard Jungle, he also wrote the screenplay.   The movie did exceedingly well at the box office and it also was nominated in 4 categories at the 1956 Academy Awards: Best Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Art Direction, and Best Cinematography.

Blackboard Jungle

The movie opens with that famous song that was used 20 some years later as the opener for the ABC sitcom Happy Days, Rock Around the Clock, performed by Bill Haley and His Comets.   We then meet our protagonist, Richard Dadier(Glenn Ford), a WWII veteran who went to college on the GI Bill and earned a degree to teach English.  He arrives at his very first teaching job, at North Manual High, an all-boys high school in inner city New York.  Dadier soon learns that there are a lot of discipline problems at this school and that many of the students are juvenile delinquints.  Still, he is optimistic that with his hard work and encouragement, his students will learn and will go on to success in life.

His students, which most of the focus of the film is on one of his classes, were portrayed by some of the best up and coming actors of the 1950s and 1960s: Sidney Poitier as Gregory Miller, Vic Morrow as Artie West, Dan Terranova as Belazi, Rafael Campos as Pete Morales, Jamie Farr(cast credits list him as Jameel Farah) as Santini, and Paul Mazursky as Emmanuel Stoker.

The faculty and staff of North Manuel: Louis Calhern as Mr. Murdock, Margaret Hayes as Miss Hammond, John Hoyt as Principal Warnecke,Richard Kiley as Mr. Edwards, and  Emile Meyer as Mr. Halloran.

Rounding out Didier’s life is his sweet wife, Anne, played by Anne Francis, and a former professor he seeks out for advice, Prof. A.R.Kraal, played by Basil Ruysdael.

Dadier soon realizes his work will be tough when an object is thrown at the blackboard while he writing his last name on the board and explaining to his students how to pronounce his name.  When Miss Hammond, who is a very stylish new teacher, is cornered after school in the library and about to be assaulted by a student, Dadier luckily happens to be walking by and hears her cries for help.  Dadier rushes in and saves Miss Hammond and rightly gets some punches thrown at the student before he runs away.  Later, Dadier and Mr. Edwards, a new math teacher who loves jazz, visit a bar after work one day, have a few drinks, and then on their walk to their apartments, a gang of hoodlums who attend North Manuel recognize their teachers and brutally mug them.  When Dadier’s wife sees his beaten face at his arrival home, she insists that he give up this job and teach at a different school, one in a much better neighborhood or community.  A side plot is that Anne is expecting and she’s worried about this pregnancy as she miscarried their first baby.  It doesn’t help Anne’s stress levels when she begins to get horrible phone calls implying that her husband is cheating on her!

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Anne receiving one of those disturbing phone calls

Object thrown at the blackboard

Object thrown at the blackboard

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier coming home after being mugged

Dadier hangs in there, and he is able to appeal to Greg Miller, to show Miller that he has natural leadership qualities.  When Miller states that because he’s black and that there’s not a lot he can do as many doors will be shut to him due to his race, but Dadier doesn’t accept that reasoning and tells Miller that blacks can succeed in the modern world and that there are teachers who care.  He encourages Miller not to drop out, which he had been considering.

Artie West, as Dadier discovers, is one of the main bullies of the school, and a gang leader.  Shortly after West destroys math teacher Edwards jazz record collection in the classroom, Dadier decides enough is enough and there is a climactic confrontation in Dadier’s English class between him and West.

Dadier starting to have success with his class

Dadier starting to have success with his class

A young Jamie Farr

A young Jamie Farr

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

West about to break Mr. Edwards Jazz records

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

The climactic fight scene between Dadier and West

See this film for the performances: Glenn Ford, always a capable and sincere actor, shines here as the new teacher who wants to impact his students for good.  Vic Morrow is excellent as the evil Artie and Sidney Poitier believable as Greg Miller, learning that he can succeed and that he does have leadership skills.  Great supporting performances by Louis Calhern, Anne Francis, and Richard Kiley.

The Blackboard Jungle will air on Turner Classic Movies on Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14th, at 2:45 am est/1:45 am cst, so set that dvr!  The film is available to buy or instantly rent through Amazon.    Over on Youtube, someone has put the main scenes of Blackboard Jungle together in a montage set to the film’s iconic opening song, Rock Around the Clock. Here’s that cool montage.  Also on Youtube, is this  charming interview with actor Jamie Farr, more famously known as Cpl. Klinger on the hit tv series Mash, about being in the movie Blackboard Jungle.