This noir double feature is led off at 7:30pm by the 20th Century Fox film DARK CORNER (rarely seen on the big screen--but Fox recently needed to strike a new 35mm print for a recent DVD release so this print should be pristine) Lucille Ball has a change of pace role as the loyal secretary of a private eye in this film noir about a man being set up for a murder rap. Framed by his partner years ago, hard-boiled detective Bradford Galt (Mark Stevens) served a two year stretch for manslaughter. Now trying to start over, he spends his time serving his clients and romancing his new secretary, Kathleen (Lucille Ball). But everything changes with the appearance of a sinister man in a whit suit (William Bendix) who's apparently working for Galt's ex-partner, Tony Jardine. When Jardine is killed, the police blame Galt. It's another frame, but if Galt can't prove he's innocent, this time he's headed for death row.
As most of you film buffs know, in the 1940's Lucy was under contract to MGM, but was not happy with the secondary roles that she was receiving there, so after suing MGM to get out of her contract, in an effort to retaliate and punish her, they loaned her out to 20th Century Fox to make this low budget black and white movie. It was the only Fox movie that Lucy ever made. Because of all this Lucy was not a happy camper on this set, but on camera she still gave the role her all. She is perky and energetic as the secretary who falls in love with her boss and sticks by him no matter the dark morass he falls into. But Ball hated her performance and actually suffered a nervous breakdown during filming because of the tyrannical methods of director Henry Hathaway.
Film reviewer Richard Jameson commented that although DARK CORNER cannot seriously be considered great film noir, it's remains one that people very much cherish for many reasons. For one thing, it's unique in having Lucille Ball--as the smart, resourceful, devoted secretary of beleaguered private eye Mark Stevens. Lucy actually rates top billing, with Clifton up-to-his-old-Laura-tricks Webb and William vicious-brute-in-a-white-suit Bendix also getting their names above that of the hero in the credits. In this, there's a certain justice; they all deliver the goods, whereas Stevens seems a tad lightweight as the hardnose, Phil Marlowe type cracking wise and punching his way through the mean streets. His character comes burdened with more backstory than usual for movie detectives; this time, the case the private eye has to solve is his own.
The intriguingly convoluted screenplay (by Jay Dratler, who co-wrote LAURA, and Bernard Schoenfeld, from a story by Leo Rosten) takes hold like a vise and sustains the tension even though, by rights, its credibility should be shrinking with each passing reel. Henry Hathaway's direction is crisp, and the cinematography by Joe MacDonald (who would next shoot John Ford's My Darling Clementine) is both pungent and gorgeous. With Cathy Downs, Kurt Kreuger, and Reed Hadley, who plays a police detective here but more often supplied the voiceover on Fox's semidocumentary thrillers and Anthony Mann's T-MEN.
The second half of the bill at 9:30pm will be a screening of the DARK PASSAGE starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall in a movie which critics were not overly impressed with at the time of release, but noir film reviewer Don Malcom perhaps puts it best by saying..."DARK PASSAGE, the orphan child third title of the Bogart-Bacall film quartet, is one I’ve seen umpteen times over the years. It remains a personal favorite despite the fact that I should know better. What follows below is one part justification, two parts appreciation. When I say “orphan child,”, it’s because DARK PASSAGE is routinely slammed as being far-fetched, gimmicky, and downright clunky. Even the producers of the companion documentary that accompanied the film’s recent release on DVD could only muster up lukewarm praise—a “good” film, not a great one. So why does it have so much resonance for this viewer? Is it just a personality quirk, or is there something else?
The film begins with a prison escape by falsely convicted wife-murderer Vincent Parry (played by Humphrey Bogart). Hiding in a garbage barrel leaving San Quentin on a prison truck, he executes a tricky, dangerous rolloff while still inside. From the point that he emerges from the barrel, we see everything from Parry’s eyes—director Delmer Daves has to hide Bogart’s face from our view for awhile, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute.
Right off, viewers are brought into an area of controversy. The “first-person camera” did not wear well with audiences in 1947; the most prominent attempt to employ the technique, in Robert Montgomery’s adaptation of the Raymond Chandler novel LADY IN THE LAKE, was too static in its execution and suffered from the inconsistent performances of actors trained to avoid looking into the camera."
But apparently, part of what also made the film worth seeing is its cinematography as well as the fact that it was shot on location in San Francisco and still contained some memorable performances by Lauren Bacall as well as an excellent supporting performance by Agnes Moorehead. A new 35mm print of this film similarly had to be struck for a recent DVD release making it available to the New Beverly Cinema for one of the few big screen showings in decades.
TICKETS: If you arrive early tickets are available at the boxoffice for $8 or as the date approaches they are also available online for a small service charge at:
PARKING: Limited street/meter parking is available so be prepared to walk/hike a couple of blocks or more to the theatre and, as always, carefully read and re-read all parking restriction signs before leaving your car in a parking space so you do not get ticketed or towed.
[Note: Jono will be driving from his job in the northwest Valley and if he hits traffic might arrive either near or shortly after the start time--so please do not wait for him].