Suspense so thick you could cut it with a sword.
Above: an alternate poster for the 1946 film noir Suspense. This one is similar to the one we showed you before, except Belita gets to be front and center by herself. Swords—it looks like a knife but it's definitely a sword—feature prominently in the movie, so the use of one as a central element on the art is mandatory. You can read a little more here, and see a lovely image of Belita here.
Anyone can be calm until the cops start poking around.
Tension, for which you see an excellent promo poster above and two more below, is an unlikely but interesting film noir about a mild mannered pharmacist played by Richard Basehart, who's married to hot-to-trot Audrey Totter and discovers she's cheating on him. When she finally leaves him for an apelike creature played by Lloyd Gough, and the ape issues Basehart a solid beating, he decides he's been pushed too far. You'd think that pharmacists would be among that select group of people you really don't want to anger, but this particular pharmacist has a much more elaborate scheme in mind than just a dose of chemicals, and his determination to commit an untraceable murder leads to him building a very traceable double life. In that second life things get complicated when he meets lovely Cyd Charisse, who he wants to make a permanent addition to his future.
Basehart's plot will not go as intended, of course, but the way in which it fails is a surprise, and the complications keep piling up. Tension has flaws, to be sure. The detective played by Barry Sullivan does things that, as far as we know, would get any murder case tossed out of court, but you have to go with it, since he tells you from the jump he'll do anything to solve a case. The plusses of the movie outweigh any weird bits, and with Totter on board, it's probably a must-see. The sinuous clarinet melody she gets every time she appears onscreen is over-the-top, but she's a major scenery chewer anyway, so it actually fits. We didn't like her in Lady in the Lake, but she's delivered in everything else we've seen—this flick, particularly. And Charisse, by the way, gets one of the better entrances we've seen in vintage cinema, straddling two high railings with a camera in hand. She's as hot as a human being can get. Tension premiered today in 1949.
Glenn Ford gets the picture and it isn't pretty.
This poster for the film noir Framed, which premiered in the U.S. today in 1947, is a bit different in style from what you'd normally see during the 1940s. It was a low budget movie, so we imagine this was the low budget solution to promo art. It's reasonably effective, enough so that we decided to watch the movie, and the premise is that pretty boy Glenn Ford is a down-on-his-luck job seeker who's been unwittingly selected by a couple of shady characters to take the fall for a bank embezzlement. We didn't give anything away there. Viewers know pretty much right away Ford is being set up, who's doing it, and why. It's the complications that make the movie, and those accumulate rather quickly. If being framed is defined as to be on the hook for a crime you didn't commit, then there's more than one framee in this film, which is where clever scripting comes in to rescue a bottom drawer budget. In the end you get a nice b-noir with a title that takes on more significance than you'd at first assume. We recommend it highly.
Proceed carefully—ice may occur at major plot points.
The thriller Suspense featured the unusual promo poster you see above, which we think really captures the visual feel of film noir in a way posters more typical of the genre do not. Those posters are amazing, but this one is a nice change of pace. The movie stars Olympic ice skater and sometime magazine model Belita, alongside Barry Sullivan, an incredibly prolific actor who appeared in scores of films. Sullivan plays a hustler who weasels his way up from lowly peanut vendor to fast living impresario at a wildly popular Los Angeles ice skating extravaganza. The catalyst for his ascent is his radical suggestion that Belita leap through a circle of swords. Only in old movies, right? “Hey, that circle of swords gag was a great idea! How'd you like to manage the joint!”
Belita's ice skater is a riff on the standard film noir chanteuse, except instead of doing a few a nightclub numbers she does a few skate routines. She's as good as advertised, too. But the success of any film romance hinges on the chemistry between the boy and girl and here it feels contrived. Both Belita and Sullivan are decent actors, but he's a little too charisma challenged, in our view, to attract someone whose life is going as skatingly as Belita's. But it's in the script, so okay, she likes the schlub. What Suspense does well, though, is visuals. For instance, if you check out the film watch what director Frank Tuttle does near the end when the shadow of the aforementioned sword contraption appears outside Sullivan's office. Beautiful work, suggesting that karma may indeed be a circle.
It occurred to us that on the whole, Suspense uses ice the same way Die Hard uses a skyscraper. The entire film is improved above the norm by the freshness of the unusual backdrop. Add expensive production values and visuals worthy of study in a film school and you have a noir whose many plusses cancel out its few minuses. We recommend it.
As a side note, the ice show is staged in the Pan-Pacific Auditorium, one of the most breathtaking art deco structures ever built, which was of course eventually demolished because that's what they do in Los Angeles. Actually, a fire gutted it before a wrecking ball was brought in to finish the job, but the building had been abandoned for seventeen years, which would not have happened if anyone important in the city cared about historically significant architecture. Suspense brings the Pan-Pacific, just above, back to life, and that's another reason to watch it. It premiered in the U.S. today in 1946.
I'm going to stand right here in your personal space and repeat myself until you say yes.
We're supposed to do a screen kiss, but I'm totally gonna slip you some tongue.
Wow, these are razor sharp, but you'll be fine. Unrelated question—how's your insurance coverage?
Doris Day finds herself hunted around the clock by a demented killer.
In the thriller Julie Doris Day finds out her second husband is a murderer. Who did he murder? Her first husband. No spoiler there. Day learns this within the first fifteen minutes, leaving the plot to revolve around her efforts to escape being permanently silenced for her discovery. By the end of this romp set in and around the wilds of Carmel, Monterrey, and finishing in San Francisco, she’s probably developed a fear of flying, a fear of driving, a fear of piano music, a fear of the dark, and of course a fear of ever having a third husband. It’s psychological warfare at its cruelest, and Day, along with co-stars Louis Jourdan and Barry Sullivan, do a nice job of making it all work. We don’t have a Japanese premiere date to match the nice Japanese poster above, but Julie opened in the U.S. today in 1956.
A better world can start right here in this bathtub.
Above is nice photo of an unidentified model from photog L.W. for the week beginning September 15, 1963. We still have no idea who L.W. is, but as always, nice work. This shot is particularly flattering and respectful. The Goodtime Weekly editors, on the other hand, are up to their old tricks putting women down. Some weeks their collections of comments can be kind of cute, but this week’s quips see women labeled suspicious, annoying, and empty-headed. Gotta say, we find it curious the Goodtime guys are so convinced men are smarter than women, especially since men have been running the world since before the dawn of recorded history and the planet is well and truly fucked. Doesn’t really seem like the work of brilliant thinkers. Sorry to break ranks guys, but it had to be said. Also, our girlfriends like it when we agree with them. And that’s smart.
Sep 15: “Call a rose by any other name and she’ll think you’ve been cheating on her.”—Freddie Flintstone
Sep 16: If you take all that make-up off some women, you’ll find them invisible.
Sep 17: “Adam was the happiest man on Earth—he had no mother-in-law.”—Sam Cowling
Sep 18: Holding on to a man is usually harder than to get one.
Sep 19: “A sewing circle: A group of women who needle each other.”—Barry Sullivan
Sep 20: Kindergarten teacher: A woman who makes the little things count.
Sep 21: “Before falling for a pair of bright eyes make sure it isn’t the sun shining thru the back of her head.”—Henry Cooke
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