Noir Nook: Cult moments in film noir
With another Christmas season approaching, Noir Nook is dedicated to gift giving this month. Obviously, if you enjoy visiting this website, you are a classic movie lover, and one of the many great things about these movies are the moments that you just can’t forget – the moments that you are waiting for when you keep coming back to your favorites New ones – the moments that practically take your breath away, no matter how often you see them – the moments that you might have seen years before you first watched the film. So in honor of the holidays, I’m giving away my three most iconic movie moments from Film Noir. And when I’m done, I might watch it again! (Be careful of your step as you proceed – spoilers abound!)
The film: Gilda (1946)
The plot: Little crook Johnny Farrell (Glenn Ford) becomes the right-hand man of Ballin Mundson (George Macready), the owner of a casino in Buenos Aires, but the symbiotic relationship is destroyed when Ballin and his brand new wife Gilda. shows up (Rita Hayworth). And his bride happens to be Johnny’s ex-lover.
The moment: Ballin does not invite Johnny to his wedding to Gilda, which takes place while Ballin is on a business trip. In fact, he doesn’t even tell Johnny that he’s married until Johnny shows up at Ballin’s sprawling apartment and is unaware that something is wrong until he notices that Ballin “looks stupid.” Even then, Johnny has no idea – not until Ballin opens the door to his bedroom and Johnny hears the soft tones of a song that sounds on the phonograph: “Put the Blame on Mame”. The music is accompanied by a woman singing softly, and Johnny’s stunned face reflects his instant appreciation of the owner of the voice. Ballin calls to his wife: “Gilda, are you decent?” And then we are led into the bedroom, where Gilda explodes within sight, throws back her mane of hair and asks with a smile: “Me?” As Johnny steps out of the shadows and becomes visible, Gilda’s smile slowly fades and she says flatly: “Sure, I’m decent.”
The film: Leave them to Heaven (1945)
The plot: Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) meets the writer Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde), who reminds her of her beloved, recently deceased father. After a whirlwind romance directed by Ellen, the two get married. But behind Ellen’s beautiful and fascinating facade hides a psychopath who wants her new husband all to herself – to the exclusion of her family, Richard’s disabled brother and even her own unborn child.
The moment: Ellen has worked with her young brother-in-law Danny (Darryl Hickman), who is trying to surprise his older brother with his ability to swim across the lake behind her house; When Danny tries to swim a little further every day, Ellen follows in a rowboat. On that special day, before Danny takes the plunge, Ellen gently tries to convince him to join her mother and sister in Bar Harbor, Maine instead of staying with the newlyweds at the Back of the Moon Lodge. Danny says he’d rather wait for the three of them to go together, and although Ellen insists it would only be a few weeks, Danny holds out. When Danny climbs into the water and starts swimming, Ellen puts on her sunglasses that complete the expressionless, enigmatic mask of her face. Even her voice lacks intonation as she rows behind Danny and assures him that she will keep him on course. But less than a minute later, Danny becomes out of breath and complains of getting tired. “Take it easy,” says Ellen stiffly. “You don’t want to give up when you’ve come this far.” Danny continues, but he soon stops – he’s had too much lunch, he says breathlessly to Ellen, and he has a cramp. His voice sounds increasingly frightened, but Ellen is now motionless, no longer using the paddles and staring impassively in Danny’s direction behind those glasses. Danny goes under the water for a few seconds, then emerges again, shouting Ellen’s name and calling for help as he struggles ineffectively to keep his head above the water. Even so, Ellen doesn’t move – she just watches Danny go down for the last time. Suddenly Ellen hears her husband whistling as he walks down a nearby path. She tears off her glasses and shouts the name of her brother-in-law before taking off her robe and diving into the water. But it’s all just for show – and all for free. Just as she had planned.
The film: Incandescence (1949)
The plot: A small mob of criminals conducts a series of robberies led by their psychotic boss, Cody Jarrett (James Cagney), who has a debilitating headache and an abnormal bond with his mother (Margaret Wycherly). After his beloved mother is murdered in prison, Cody takes a break with his trusted cellmate, Hank Fallon (Edmond O’Brien), unaware that Fallon is a federal agent. And when he finds out, let’s just say it’s not pretty.
The moment: Cody has planned a robbery of a giant gas facility and the plot is underway when Fallon is recognized by one of Cody’s men, resulting in the already fragile Cody being completely resolved. “A copper. A copper. How do you guys like that guys? A copper“Says Jarrett. “And we agreed to it. I went for it. Treated him like a little brother. And I wanted to share 50:50 with a copper. ”When the authorities – Fallon pointed out – to the factory, Cody’s men are picked up one after the other until only Cody is left. He climbs to the top of a storage tower and challenges the police officers who have gathered below to follow him. When Fallon fires a rifle and hits Cody twice, the gangster starts laughing uncontrollably and manages to get on his feet. He fires his gun into the huge gas tank, triggers a flame geyser, and then fires a second shot, creating more flames and moving the men on the ground to safety. Cody then firmly puts his feet up, takes a defiant, almost triumphant stance, and screams skyward, “Done, Ma! Top of the world! “A second later, the tank and Cody are engulfed in a huge exploding fireball. And from the ground, Fallon ironically comments,” Cody Jarrett. He’s finally at the top of the world. And it hit him right in the face. “
What other iconic scenes can you think of from Film Noir? Let me know and it might be in a future Noir Nook column!
– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub
You can read all of Karen’s Noir Nook articles here.
Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on films and performers from the Film Noir and Pre-Code era, and the Editor-in-Chief of The dark side, a bimonthly newsletter all about film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of the Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter below @TheDarkPages.
If you want to learn more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them here on Amazon: