Join us on Twitter.com on Sun., Aug. 23, and tweet along with us as we watch — for free, online — two splendid film-noir movies: The Shanghai Gesture (1941), starring Gene Tierney and Victor Mature, and Behind Green Lights (1946), starring Carole Landis and William Gargan. Hosted by your good blogs Movie Movie Blog Blog and BNoirDetour. Click here for more information. B Noir or be square!
The film-noir blog BNoirDetour hosts a Live Tweet of a noir movie at Twitter.com every Sunday night starting at 9:00 p.m. EST. This Sunday, she has graciously allowed me to join her in Tweeting a movie of my choice after she Tweets hers.
BNoirDetour starts the party at 9 p.m. with The Shanghai Gesture (1941). It takes place in a Shanghai casino where the lives of the casino’s dragon-lady boss, a privileged young woman (Gene Tierney of Laura), a gigolo (Victor Mature), and a wealthy Englishman (Walter Huston) converge. As the movie is directed by Josef von Sternberg, who did his best to turn cinema into the Shrine of Marlene Dietrich, you have no reason to believe that this movie will be low-key in any way.
This movie will be followed by my choice and one of my favorite recent film-noir viewings, Behind Green Lights (1946). It stars the very likable William Gargan as a police lieutenant who does his level best to keep control of the many goings-on during the night shift at his police station. This includes a woman suspected of murder (Carole Landis), whom the lieutenant would like to avoid arresting because it would make the corrupt editor of the city newspaper all too happy. (Look closely at the actor playing the editor. He’s Roy Roberts, 20 years prior to gaining sitcom fame as Mr. Cheever, Mr. Mooney’s dyspeptic boss on “The Lucy Show”!)
To join our noir nosh, just log onto Twitter and type @BNoirDetour to get to the main host’s Twitter page for either the 9:00 or the 10:45 show, or type @MovieMovieBlogB to get to my Twitter page for just the 10:45 show. Either way, you’ll get a free link to each movie via YouTube. When you are instructed at the given time, just click on the start of the movie and follow along. No matter which movie you view, if you want to post comments about each movie while it’s running, use the hashtag #BNoirDetour, and you’ll be part of our Live Tweet.
My thanks to BNoirDetour for graciously letting me piggy-bank (for lack of a better word) on her Twitter following. We look forward to tweeting with you this Sunday night!
In a sense, Laura is a film-noir about movies.
Think about it. Laura begins her characterization in the movie as a portrait on the wall of her apartment. Into her milieu comes detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), who is investigating Laura’s murder that occurred in that apartment.
Via McPherson’s investigation (and some convenient flashbacks), we meet the two primary males who inhabited Laura’s life. The first is Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), Laura’s milquetoast fiancee. It seems strange that the two are engaged, since Shelby gets along far more famously with Laura’s acerbic aunt Ann (Judith Anderson). Shelby seems to want Laura more for her social standing than for any romantic interest.
Shelby has a way with a quip but not with a job, until Laura hires Shelby to work at her advertising agency. And how did Laura come to work at an ad agency? Through the machinations of Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb, who performs grand theft larceny on the movie), a nationally known columnist with whom she had crossed paths.
Waldo carries on and on about his love for Laura, but his affection for her is as false as Shelby’s. Waldo’s way of showing his affection for Laura is to sic a private detective on any man besides Waldo who tries to start something up with Laura, Shelby included.
During Waldo’s endless narration of the story, he casually lets it drop that Laura was 22 years old at the time of her murder. And Waldo makes it clear that he and Laura have known each other for five years. It’s also made clear that Waldo (and definitely Clifton Webb) is no spring chicken. So, besides the movie getting one past the censors, it’s quite obvious that beautiful, spritely Laura is little more than a trophy girlfriend for aging Waldo.
Finally, there’s MacPherson. He puts together all of the information he’s gotten about Laura, looks at the only pictorial evidence he has of her — that painting (Didn’t these suitors ever take a photograph of her?) — and mounds it all together to form his vision/version of a woman, as a sculptor would mold some clay.
Isn’t this the same thing we all do at the movies? We project our thoughts and ideas into or onto those characters on the screen. That’s why you don’t see a particular movie character in the same way that your friend or your spouse does — and why three different men have completely different visions of Laura, none of which hold up under the harsh light of reality.
But as Waldo Lydecker would say, this psychological analysis is for another place. Suffice to say, this movie is still riveting, with sparkling photography, dialogue, direction (Otto Preminger’s directorial debut), and performances. So project all you like onto Laura — like the characters in the movie’s second half, you’ll still get a lot of surprises.