Noir Nook: The At Home Film Noir Festival
In April of this year, I attended the TCM Film Festival, which was the first time in two years that the festival was an in-person event. It was a real pleasure to be back in Hollywood for my eighth personal festival – there’s nothing quite like watching classic films on the big screen, seeing old friends and meeting new ones while indulging in raisins, popcorn, croissants and to feed ice cream you rush from theater to theater and from row to row.
As I was recently basking in the afterglow of the TCM event, I had the idea of hosting a film noir festival at home where I could put my feet up, take toilet breaks at leisure, and enjoy healthy meals throughout the day ( mixed with popcorn and raisins of course)! When planning the films, I made sure to include films that are top notch but not necessarily the most popular, such as From the past, lauraand double compensation. And to allow for maximum participation from all readers out there in the dark, I made sure to only include films that are freely accessible on YouTube. If you watch them all one by one starting around 9am, you can see them in one day.
So if you are just retiring from TCM Festival or have never been to TCM Festival, or if you have never been heard of the TCM festival and just love your noir, I hope you block a day in your calendar, gather your snacks and indulge in the following features from the first Noir Nook At-Home Film Noir Festival!
Too late for tears (1949) – 100 minutes
Lizabeth Scott plays Jane Palmer, who longs to keep up with the Joneses, and gets her chance when a bag full of cash literally falls into her lap one night as she and her husband return home. The only problem is that her husband wants the money handed over to the authorities and Jane will do practically anything to keep it. It’s a dilemma. Others in the cast include Arthur Kennedy as Jane’s husband, Dan Duryea as the rightful recipient of the dough, and Don DeFore as the stranger who pretty much messes up Jane’s plans.
The killing (1956) – 85 minutes
One of my favorite noirs of all time, believed to have been an influence on several of Quentin Tarantino’s films, The killing brings together a group of disparate guys to pull off a daring and inventive heist on a racetrack. Unfortunately, the old adage about the best plans of mice and men proves all too prophetic here. Sterling Hayden plays Johnny Clay, the group’s mastermind – other people involved in the robbery include Elisha Cook, Jr., as George Peatty, a muddy racetrack cashier; Marie Windsor as his gold digger Sherry; and Vince Edwards as Sherry’s lover, who plays a bigger role in the aftermath of the heist than anyone expected.
New York confidential (1955) – 88 minutes
On any given day, I could easily identify Richard Conte as my favorite classic film noir actor – I can’t exactly say, but there’s just something about him. And that something can be seen in full New York confidential, where he plays Nick Magellan (I love the name even!), a cool and skilled hitman who becomes the bodyguard and right-hand man of New York City syndicate boss Charlie Lupo (Broderick Crawford). Nick is an intriguing and multifaceted character whose life is influenced by those in Charlie’s circle, including Charlie’s attractive but troubled daughter (Anne Bancroft) and Charlie’s lover (Marilyn Maxwell) who has eyes (who can blame her?) for Nick .
sudden fear (1952) – 110 minutes
What would a film noir festival be without my friend Joan Crawford? I saw first sudden fear on the big screen, and let me tell you, I was literally on the edge of my seat. Crawford is playwright and heiress Myra Hudson who, after a whirlwind romance, weds actor Lester Blaine (Jack Palance). Myra is over the moon, but what she doesn’t know is that Lester (1) married her for her money and (2) is moving on with his ex-lover Irene Neves (Gloria Grahame). She also doesn’t know that Lester and Irene plan to kill her – but if she finds out… well, let’s just say she’s not a happy camper.
The Great Flamario (1945) – 78 minutes
Erich von Stroheim has the title role of a stern, hard-hearted vaudeville marksman who appears with his assistant Connie Wallace (Mary Beth Hughes) and her alcoholic husband Al (Dan Duryea). Dissatisfied with her marriage and anxious to achieve higher financial status, Connie uses every trick in the book to force her way through Flamarion’s stone armor until he falls in love with her. And if you know your noir, you know that Connie’s next step is to convince Flamarion to get rid of Al. Guess three times whether she succeeds – and the first two do not count.
murder by contract (1958) – 81 minutes
Released towards the end of the classic film noir era, this film is fast climbing up the charts of my favorite film noirs. It’s so different from most noirs, but it’s undeniably dark and utterly captivating – and has moments of humor too. The story follows a hitman named Claude (Vince Edwards) whose latest job requires him to travel to Los Angeles to kill a heavily guarded woman who is scheduled to testify in a high-profile trial. The only problem for the efficient and cold-blooded killer is that he didn’t know his target was a woman, and he doesn’t usually take commissions from women: they’re too “unpredictable”. The cast includes Herschel Bernardi, a popular TV show fixture of the 1970s and 1980s, as one of the men who hires Claude for the job, but another character might just be the unique guitar score that runs throughout the film.
outsider (1947) – 76 minutes
This is one of those movies that I’ve heard about for years and then kicked myself that it took me so long to see. Set in Belfast, it stars James Mason as Johnny McQueen, the leader of an Irish separatist group who is injured in a failed robbery attempt and spends the rest of the film fleeing the law. While the police are scouring the city for him, he is also being sought by Kathleen Sullivan (Kathleen Ryan), the woman who loves him. Also in the cast is Robert Newton, who you may know Oliver Twist (1948), Kiss the blood from my hands (1948) and treasure island (1950).
detour (1945) – 68 minutes
I end the day with a low budget gem – you may have seen it detour yes, but you don’t get to see it too often if you ask me. It ticks so many film noir criteria – voiceover narration, flashback, shadowy scenes, rainswept nights, and a femme fatale who’s one of the meanest ladies you’re likely to ever meet. The story revolves around Al Roberts (Tom Neal), who makes a living playing the piano in a New York bar and hitches a ride across country to join his singer in Los Angeles. Unfortunately for Al, he hitchhikes with a guy who ends up dead, assumes the dead man’s identity, and then picks up a hitchhiker of his own (Ann Savage), who happens to know Al isn’t who he says he is he it is is With just a little over an hour detour packs a shadowy punch, filled with non-stop action and some of the biggest lines in all of noir. It’s the perfect film to end your noir fest!
Enjoy! And please let me know if you are attending the festival – or which films you would choose for your own noir fest at home!
– 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 eras, and is the editor-in-chief of The Dark Sides, a bi-monthly newsletter dedicated to film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
If you are interested in learning more about Karen’s books, you can read more about them on Amazon here: