Tag Archives: Film Noir

Robert Mitchum was from the '"subtle " brand of acting

ROBERT MITCHUM: FILM NOIR COOL!

ROBERT MITCHUM: FILM NOIR COOL!

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them). 

Robrtt Mitchum and Jane Greer in

CLASSIC Film Noir: Robert Mitchum and Femme Fatale, Jane Greer, in “Out of the Past”, 1947.

Robery Mitchum, one of the

Robert Mitchum, in his 1940’s fedora and classic look.

Robert Mitchum was a popular actor in the 1940’s and 50’s, mainly known for his film noir film roles. Mitchum is listed #23 on the greatest male legends of all time by the American Film Institute.  He often seemed almost half awake with his laid-back acting, but you couldn’t keep our eyes off him on the big screen.  For his nonchalant presence was deceiving.  Other actors would try to overact with grand gestures, but Mitchum somehow held our interest with the even the smallest ones.  He was able to express the emotion buried just below the surface of a character. And he was ahead of his time, taking on the roles of what would later be called anti-heroes.

Women loved this strong, silent quality in his portrayals and men wished they could be more like him.  He often played tough, manly characters, which could throw someone around the room, but at the same time, ones that weren’t afraid to reveal their sensitive sides too.

In 1947’s “western-noir”, Pursued, he plays a man who’d been adopted by a woman who tries to raise him as her own, but he never quite fits in, always wondering where he came from.  His half-brother hates him and his half-sister played by Teresa Wright (Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt), can’t help falling in love with him and he with her, even though its forbidden.  After he’s reluctantly forced to kill his half-brother and another innocent suitor for her, she finally agrees to marry him, but initially only planning to do so to kill him for the mistaken hurt.  It’s almost Shakespearian in scope and its characters, for a western, but Mitchum’s able to capture it.

He would also appear in several more similar roles in this period, including the classic film noir, Out Of the Past, the same year, in which he’s up against a sleazy Kirk Douglas (only Douglas’ 2nd film) and Femme Fatale, Jane Greer.  Again Mitchum had to play a wronged man, haunted by his past.  And there was always a Fatale to match wits with him.

But just as he was becoming popular with these and other roles, his reputation as a “bad boy” in real life threatened to catch up with him. He was arrested in 1948, for possession of marijuana, considered a dangerous drug at the time.  He spent 43 days on a prison farm.  Later it was overturned because it was revealed that he had been set up.  This could have ended his career, but it only seemed to add to his screen persona and popularity.  A lot of Hollywood wouldn’t work with him after that, but his co-star from Out of the Past, Jane Greer, still did in The Big Steal in’49.  He’d had a rough childhood and had hitched around the country before he’d drifted into acting.  Like the roles he often played, he didn’t fit in.  He was a colorful personality in a black and white era.

He went on to make several other film noirs and other well-respected movies, throughout the 50’s and 60’s, such as River of No Return with Marilyn Monroe and Night of the Hunter directed by Charles Laughton, in which he plays a creepy criminal posing as a preacher.  In the original Cape Fear in 1962, he’s the vengeful ex-con who stalks lawyer, Gregory Peck’s family (he would have a reverse role as the detective in the Martin Scorsese remake in 1991).  He appeared also in several classic war films, such as The Enemy Below (1956) and the epic, The Longest Day (’62).  Then almost against type he made softer-character films with British actress, Deborah Kerr, Heaven Knows Mr. Allison (’57) and The Sundowners (’60) about Australia.  And he played a gentle schoolmaster in David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter (1970).

Besides being an excellent actor, he also was an accomplished singer and songwriter and often sang himself in his films. He even had a top 10 country hit, “Ballad of Thunder Road”, which he co-wrote for his Southern moonshine film and now cult favorite of the same name in 1957.

But it was really his noir films for which he is most remembered. And in the 70’s, he made a remake of Raymond Chandler’s Farewell My Lovely in England and followed up with a re-doing of the classic, The Big Sleep, even playing an older version  of the detective, and manages to pull it off.  He would go into the 80’s in a couple of popular TV miniseries, The Winds of War (’83) and War and Remembrance (’88).

He had a reputation on film sets of not taking any guff from anyone, from the directors on down. Supposedly, he threw a crew member into the ocean (after Mitchum had been drinking the night before on one of his early films). His attitude towards Hollywood and acting, was to not take it all too seriously.  One of his famous quotes was, “I only made two kinds of pictures, one with a horse and one without”. And that acting consisted of (quoting another great actor, Spencer Tracy, who didn’t take it too seriously either)“ know your lines and show up on time, that’s it”.  Of course, Mitchum took his craft for much more than that, but his attitude and skill made it seem almost effortless.  It often felt as if it wasn’t acting at all, but real people up on the screen, which is of course, the greatest compliment to an actor.  And That’s what he did and why he still stands up today.       Mitchum was one of a kind- film noir cool!

Lee Server wrote a biography of him in 2001 aptly titled, Baby, I Don’t Care.

See excerpt of Mitchum in classic film noir, Out of the Past:

See Robert Mitchum,The Legend, about his life:

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FEMMES FATALES OF YESTERDAY & TODAY

FEMME FATALES: REAL OR FANTASY?

FEMME FATALES:  REAL OR FANTASY?

By Alan Chrisman (All Articles ARE written BY ALAN CHRISMAN), copyright 2012-2015 (A Praveen Patel has tried to hack them and claim them). 

There’s a long tradition of “Femmes Fatales” in history and culture. In the Bible, there was the first, perhaps, Eve, and Delilah and Sampson.  During WW1, Mata Hari was a supposed spy for the Germans.  The dictionary defines femme fatale as “an alluring woman who causes men   ‘distress’.

But it was really in the 1940’s, with hard-boiled detective books and films, that it came into its own in popular culture.  Writers like Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and James Cain saw their novels and characters turned into Hollywood films, which became known as Film Noir.

My parents had actually named me after Alan Ladd, a 40’s film noir star, who was in several of these.  I was, as well, named after the lead character from the old radio show, “The Shadow”, so naturally I’ve always been fascinated by this genre and Femme Fatales.  Probably the ultimate Femme Fatale of this era was played by Veronica Lake.  She appeared alongside Alan Ladd in three films now considered classics, This Gun for Hire and The Glass Key (’42), and The Blue Dahlia in 1946.  She was especially known for her blonde, hair over her eye, “peek-a-boo” hairstyle and sultry presence.  Actually, she was originally chosen for her first role opposite Ladd because she was one of the few Hollywood actresses shorter than him, who played the tough, but sensitive guy on screen.  She became a very popular pin-up girl for the soldiers of WW 2 and women copied her hair.  She’s also was in one of my favorite films, Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels, where all-American actor, Joel McCrea, playing a big Hollywood director meets her down on her luck character in a diner and buys her breakfast.  He later becomes, through a mistaken identity, trapped on a southern chain gang, and learns that what the poor prisoners like, rather than big social-statement films, are ones that make them laugh.  Woody Allen was later to be reminded of this too in his “Stardust Memories” (1980), when the aliens advise him to “make funny films”.

There were many other femme fatales portrayed on the big screen in the 40’s and 50’s, often based on the books or screen plays by the three master authors above.  Famously in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon (’41), Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) finally tells Mary Astor, ”I’m not taking the fall for you”.  And of, course, Bogart is Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe in

The Big Sleep with “the look”, Lauren Bacall.  He had met the much younger Bacall in Hemmingway’s To Have and to Hold and they soon became ‘Bogart and Baby’ in real life.  There was also Rita Hayworth singing up a sexy storm for Glenn Ford in Glida.  In James Cain’s Double Indemnity, Barbra Stanwyck tries to get insurance man, Fred MacMurray, and Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice, try to get their lovers to get rid of their husbands.

Alfred Hitchcock always chose cool, blondes, like Ingrid Bergman (Notorious), Grace Kelly (To Catch a Thief), Janet Leigh (Psycho), Tippi Hedron (Marnie, The Birds) and North By Northwest ( Eva  Marie Saint) as his hero’s opposite.  In Vertigo even veteran cop, Jimmy Stewart, is fooled by deceptive Kim Novak.  Interestingly, these often tough, street-wise male characters were looked down upon at one time as just pulp fiction creations, but today they are considered classics.  And they and even the sophisticated characters, such as Cary Grant played, equally couldn’t resist these ladies’ charms.

In the James Bond films, ladies-man Bond always had to watch his step around the latest Bond “girl”.  The early ones were especially seductive Ursula Andress (Dr. No) and Goldfinger (’64) with Honor Blackman as “Pussy” Galore.  In these politically-correct times it’s doubtful they could get away with that name today! The genre and its femme fatales would continue on in Hollywood: China Town with Jack Nicholson (’74) and in a remake of Postman Always Rings Twice in ’81.   Kathleen Turner was in Body Heat the same year.  Sean Young was in Blade Runner (’82) and of course, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct (’92).

Woody Allen even got in some laughs about it in three of his early films with Diane Keaton:  Play It Again, Sam where he envisions Bogart’s ghost for meeting women; in Love and Death (’75), Keaton tries to get Allen to assassinate Napoleon and in Sleeper, set in the future, he has to deal with a still-spoiled Keaton character.  Even on TV, there was a funny take-off of the femme fatale character on the popular U.S. 60’s series, Dobie Gillis.   Love-struck high school boy, Dobie, would chase after the blonde, but stuck-up Thalia (beautiful Tuesday Weld), and each episode she would lead him on, but drop him because he wasn’t rich like his handsome rival (originally Warren Beatty).   Dobbie’s quirky beatnik side-kick, Maynard G. Krebs was played by Bob Denver who later starred on Gilligan’s Island.  This was at the time, a light comedy , but looking at some DVD’s of the shows recently, I realized underneath, it was perhaps, saying some things about a certain kind of woman, that men might fall for.

Now some feminists might argue with this view of women as seductresses and dismiss it as just man’s fantasy, but as I say, it has been around in history (some say Cleopatra manipulated both Caesar and Mark Anthony) and in popular culture.  On the other hand, some women have always been attracted to “bad boys” from rock stars to bikers.  Remember Marlon Brando playing a motorcycle gang member, being asked what he’s rebelling against by a small town waitress in The Wild One (‘ 53) and Brando replies,” What’d Got?”.  In the new film, Sin City, the femme fatale is played by the dark-eyed beauty, Eva Green (who was also a Bond girl in Casino Royale, 2006), so some things never seem to change.  And maybe it’s a question of who really does hold the seductive powers and charm in the relationship between the sexes.

 

 

 

Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake: Classic

Alan Ladd & Veronica Lake: Classic “Femme Fatale” and Film Noir, This Gun for Hire, 1942.

“FEMME FATALE”                     song lyrics by Alan Chrisman

c. 2012

Saw her across the aisle

out the corner of my eye

She knew she had me

even if, I didn’t know why

She could have been a fashion queen

She put Audrey Hepburn to shame

in her cool blue jeans

I just had to know her name

CHORUS:

But she’s a Femme Fatale

She took my breath away

With her killer smile

even though, I know I’m gonna pay

So I gave her a ride

in my car

She said fine

but I may take you too far

What’s this power, they can have over us?

even though, it seems to make our day

It’s better sometimes, just to take the bus

and have a clean getaway