Thursday, December 3, 2015

Girl On The Run (1953) Carnival Noir

Dirs: Arthur J. Beckhard (writer Border Flight), and Joseph Lee, Writer: Arthur J. Beckhard and Cedric Worth. 
A third string Film Noir that actually may be the best of the Carney based Film Noir. 
As much as I like Nightmare Alley (1947),  this carnival film never leaves the midway much like Todd Browning's Freaks (1932).  It's a great capture of the gritty atmosphere of a traveling carnival of tent and plywood, lit by strings of bare light bulbs. Victor Lukens cinematographer, creates a gritty claustrophobic carny setting,  with convoluted passageways between tents, the midway, plywood arcades, cramped backstage warrens,  along with trailers, and other equipment.

Carney in town.
Get your funnel cakes, hot dogs, cold drinks...
Step right up everyone's a winner....
The rubes 

Carnival Strippers

Most of the cast are playing carnies, Charles Bolender shines as the Carney Boss Blake, a cigar chomping little person who runs the show. Bolender deploys great ways of evening the keel whenever he has to deal with other people often ending up higher and looking down on them. 

Charles Bolender as Boss Blake
Richard Coogan as Bill Martin lt, and Bolender as Boss Blake rt.

Veteran actor Frank Albertson (Mantrap, Nightfall, Physco, Shed No Tears, They Mane Me A Killer, It's A Wonderful Life) is Boss Blake's right hand man.  Scott Hale plays the local cop on carnival duty. Harry Banister an early TV vet plays the local corrupt politician Reeves, he sounds a bit like Clifton Webb.

Scott Hale

Bolenger & Banister

The story's catalist is the town newspaper is investigating local corruption and the possible connection with white slavery. Though is is never stated out loud enough hints are dropped in conversations that allude to the carnival being the possible transporter of, as the 1910 Mann Act states, "any woman or girl for the purpose of prostitution or debauchery, or for any other immoral purpose"  This being made under the Hayes Code restrictions hints are probably as far as they could go. 

Coogan and Rosemary Petit as Janet

Veteran TV  Western Actor Richard Coogan (Vice Raid) is Bill Martin, a falsely accused of murder reporter who takes refuge at the carnival. Rosemary Pettit (Walk East On Beacon) plays Janet his girl who gives off a Gene Tierney vibe. She is forced to hide out with a chorus of carnival strippers, the de-facto "Girl On The Run" mothered by veteran early TV actress Edith King (Calcutta). Pettit is great as the good girl who has to be a quick study learning how to jiggle along with the rest of the strippers. There is a funny sequence where she is thrust upon the stage with the rest of the chorus.
Petit, the girl on the run. 
Petit stripping down to get into her chorous costume
She's got to wear this? Edith King (how did this pass the Hayes Code?) 
slipping it on
Not bad
Rounding out the rest of the cast John Krollers and other un-credited actors play carnival barkers, you can see a bit of Phil Silvers in Krollers look and hear a bit of Bud Abbott in his voice. For all I know I wouldn't be surprised if they were real carnival barkers. Mike Dowd is Bats a washed up punch drunk prize fighter whose shtick is getting rubes to go three rounds with him. 

Krollers barking the strippers

A shout out to Renee de Milo (her only credit) where ever she may be, she plays the headliner stripper Gigi. She does a complete dance and is so good at it that I suspect that she was an actual carnival stripper. She does her act without removing her bikini type outfit but she's got the moves down so good that you can easily imagine what she'd display. Check out Carnival Strippers - Early Years (1971-1978) | by Susan Meiselas for a reference work.

Renee De Milo as GiGi
 Gigi's act

The finale kick


The film also has an early Steve McQueen as an extra. The score is carnival music inter-spaced with jazz for the dance routines. This low budget Noir delivers, I go as high as a 6.5-7/10. If it did have A list actors for the two lovers, and say Bud Abbott or Phil Silvers as the barkers it could have been an 8/10.

A post script From John Kelly's Washington article titled In another era, 14th Street's nightlife was pretty naughty:"

You could catch Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong at the Blue Mirror, Nat King Cole, the Ink Spots and such now-forgotten entertainers as Lisa Alonzo and Her Tropicaires, who in 1950 introduced a new dance style to Washington: the mambo. "It's kind of South American bebop with lots of rhythmic ad libbing," wrote The Post's Georganne Williamson.

This was the heyday of a certain kind of Washington nightlife scene, when live music seemed to spill from every other door: jazz, Dixieland, bluegrass. . .

In the late 1950s, however, the tenor of the Blue Mirror changed, as it did for so many of the clubs along 14th Street: Casino Royal, the Merry-Land, Benny's Rebel Room. The management turned to burlesque. A 1961 Post story counted four strip houses and two belly dancer clubs in the neighborhood. The author noted the Blue Mirror's beginnings as a jazz club: "But jazz didn't pay so they turned to the money makers, the girls."

A Blue Mirror ad from the time touted seven featured dancers, including Renee de Milo."6'4" of Sex, Song and Satire.""

New update, a bit of searching on google brought up some items on Rene de Milo

Eddie Kaplan Agency Publicity still

November ‘55 issue of ‘CABARET’ magazine article about Renee and below a publicity flyer from the Eddie Kaplan Agency Inc., 1564 Broadway, New York, New York

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