Saturday, December 23, 2017

The Christmas Noir

It seems appropriate to mention a few of the Film Noir/Neo Noir that take place around Christmas and the Holidays. Even some Christmas Classics, notably It's A Wonderful Life delve to the Noir side. The whole sequence where Bedford Falls without George Bailey is turned into the extremely Noir-ish Potterville is a nightmarish example.

Another is O. Henry's Full House  a 1952 American anthology film consisting of five separate stories by O. Henry, "The Last Leaf " sequence of that film is a bit noir-ish also, the last segment is "The Gift of the Magi."

So here is the list of Classic Noir which take place around Christmas and the Holidays.

  • Christmas Holiday (1944) 

Due to bad weather, Lt. Charles Mason (Dean Harens) is forced to spend Christmas grounded in New Orleans. Manson has just received a "dear John" letter  from his girlfriend, the depressed Lieutenant goes with a just met acquaintance to a Storyville Brothel there he meets and falls in with Jackie Lamont (Deana Durbin), a singer who entertains the clientele. After she asks Charles to got to a midnight mass, she tells her story to him. Her real name is Abigail and she fell in love with a gambler named Robert Manette (Gene Kelly). After six months of happy married life, Robert is arrested for murder, but Abigail can't help loving her no-good husband.

  • Lady In The Lake (1947)  
Raymond Chandler's novel set around the Holidays starring Robert Montgomery as Philip Marlowe, Audrey Totter as ..
Adrienne Fromsett, Lloyd Nolan as Lt. DeGarmot, Tom Tully as
Capt. Kane, Leon Ames as Derace Kingsby, Jayne Meadows as
Mildred Havelend, and Dick Simmons as Chris Lavery.  The film has a Christmas theme vocal chorus that warps ominous for what little soundtrack there is. Once you get the hang of the POV its very entertaining.

  • Repeat Performance (1947) 
    Sheila kills her husband at the start of the film with a smoking gun. We don't know how or why. All we know is men are banging on her door and she escapes. There is a notable dialogue as she makes her way to a New Years celebration with Richard Basehart as the poet William William. As she goes up the stairs to John Friday's apartment (her producer) she wishes she could relive the year and undo what she has done. William William, in an offhand remark, states he wishes he was the one who shot Barney, her erstwhile husband. We see that Destiny is not too happy with making changes to her plans.

  • Cover Up (1949) 
    An insurance company investigator Dennis O'Keefe, goes to a small town to probe into a case of supposed suicide. It;s the height of the Christmas Holidays. The natives William Bendix, Barbara Britton, Art Baker, and Doro Merande, are not very cooperative and some turn hostile, leading to suspicion of foul play.

  • Backfire (1950) 
    Bob Corey, while recuperating from wartime back injuries at a hospital, veteran Bob Corey is visited on Christmas Eve by a beautiful stranger with an even stranger message. His friend, Steve Connelly, with whom he intended to buy a ranch, has disappeared under circumstance that indicate he may have been involved in a murder. Accompanied by his nurse, Julie Benson, with whom he has fallen in love, Bob follows a series of clues and incidents, including three more murders, that leads to a gambler, masquerading as an undertaker to avoid taxes on his illegal income, has a whole lot to do with his friend's predicament.

  • Roadblock (1951) 
  • An L.A. insurance detective Charles McGraw starts to get involved with a confidence girl, Joan Dixon.  She makes it clear that he's small potatoes, so he goes to a local gangster Gilmore and offers him a shot at million-and-a-quarter cargo, insured by his company, which he knows will be traveling by train. If Gilmore pulls the job off, McGraw will settle for $400 grand. Take place around Christmas

  • I, the Jury (1953)
    Christmas time and Mike Hammer (Biff Eliot) is on the vengeance trail when Jack, his wartime buddy, is murdered. Hammer sets out to find the killer, working his way through an increasingly large pile of suspects (and corpses). Along the way, he meets a new love interest, psychologist Charlotte Manning, a treacherous Santa, a gangster named Kalecki, and two weird sisters, the Bellamy twins. Chapters are marked by Christmas Scenes.

  • Two Men In Manhattan (1959) 
    A French UN delegate has disappeared into thin air, sending reporter Moreau (Jean-Pierre Melville) and hard drinking photographer Delmas (Pierre Grasset) on an assignment to find him. Their only lead is a picture of three women. There search takes them to the Christmas decorated Radio City Manhattan,  and Ridgewood Queens.

  • Blast of Silence (1961) 
    Neo Noir. Having been 'away' from New York City for some time, professional killer Frankie Bono returns at Christmastime to do another job: assassinate some mid-level mobster. Although intending to avoid unnecessary 'contact' while carefully stalking his victim, Bono is recognized by an old fellow from the orphanage, whose calm and unambitious citizen's life and happy marriage contrast heavily with Bono's solitary and haunted existence. Exhausted and distracted, Bono makes another mistake, but his contract is not one to back out of.

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