Sunday, January 29, 2017

Noirsville Iconic Artwork of the Week

Jack Levitz (1896-1964) is best remembered today for a series of paintings from this era that featured burlesque performers in municipal courtrooms performing for judges and cloaked court officials. Levitz was arrested in 1931 for owning and running a speakeasy and these works offer a form of social commentary on his legal troubles.

Jack Levitz resembled Winston Churchill and his 5'4" frame was typically graced with a cigar.He seemed to enjoy living on the edge of legality and never achieved commercial success in keeping with his critical acclaim.

Levitz and his wife, Florence, lived in Queens, New York in the Jamaica area. They had two children: Martin (1925) and Mary (1928), who was named after Levitz' mother, and who may have died in 1922. Levitz was chronically short of cash and the Depression could not have been easy for his family.

In 1931 Levitz was arrested and charged with a violation of the sanitary code for transporting a dead body without a license. It seems that Levitz was operating a cider "stube" (a "saloon") at 236 New York Avenue in Brooklyn. One of his clients, Frank Forman, spent most of September 9th drinking hard cider at Levitz' stube then keeled over, dead. Levitz placed his customer's body in a car, then threw the body from the car near Lakewood Avenue in Jamaica where it landed on the sidewalk. An assistant medical examiner disclosed a fractured skull but attributed Forman's death to acute alcoholism. At the time of his arrest Levitz gave his name as Jack Levitz, but it was soon determined that his legal name was Ebbitt A. Levitz.

Although it does not appear that Levitz was sentenced to jail, he produced several paintings depicting courtroom scenes with judges typically ogling female defendants, perhaps as payback for his encounter with the legal system. 

The Burlesque Dancer (circa 1930's)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

White Sands (1992) Andy of Mayberry meets Marv and Jules

Deputy Sheriff  Ray Dolezal (Willem Dafoe) has a dead body and a half million dollars sitting at the edge of the Rio Grande Gorge in the New Mexico desert.

So begins White Sands a Film Soleil Noir directed by Roger Donaldson (The Getaway (1994)) and written by Daniel Pyne (Miami Vice (TV Series)1984 - 1986)). Cinematography was by Peter Menzies Jr. (The Getaway (1994)), and music by Patrick O'Hearn.

The film stars Willem Dafoe (To Live and Die in L.A. (1985), Wild at Heart (1990)) as Ray Dolezal, Mickey Rourke (Body Heat (1981), Angel Heart (1987), Barfly (1987), Sin City (2005), Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (2014)), as Gorman Lennox, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Scarface (1983), Slam Dance (1987)) as Lane Bodine, Samuel L. Jackson (Ragtime (1981), Sea of Love (1989), Goodfellas (1990), True Romance (1993), Pulp Fiction (1994), Hard Eight (1996), Jackie Brown (1997), ) as Greg Meeker, M. Emmet Walsh (Midnight Cowboy (1969), Serpico (1973), Blade Runner (1982), Blood Simple (1984)) as Bert Gibson, with James Rebhorn as Agent Flynn, Maura Tierney as Noreen, Beth Grant as Roz Kincaid, and Mimi Rogers as Molly Dolezal.

The film is initially captivating, the body, discovered by an Apache helicopter pilot hauling two amateur archaeologists, is lying in an adobe ruin, with his brains blown out. Coroner Bert Gibson declares "It's a suicide," made even more probable with the discovery of a half million dollars in an attache case. The banter between Gibson and Dolezal about Dolezal's new cowboy hat is amusing. This reprises later at the autopsy where a phone number is discovered on a piece of wax paper as part of the undigested stomach contents. The dead man is named Spencer.

Dolezal (Dafoe) and Gibson (Walsh)

Normally in Classic Noir the protagonist starts to make stupid decisions that propel the film down the road to Noirsville. In White Sands though there are way too many of these implausibilities to believe. Combined that with interesting but un important characters that appear then just vanish and unnecessary plot complications and you have a film that goes a bit off the rails.



Arms Dealer, (Fred Thompson) lt.

Meeker (Jackson)

Lennox (Rourke) lt.,  Bodine (Mastrantonio) rt.

White Sands

Dolezal, posing as Spenser, calls variations of surrounding area codes plus the number and when he finally gets a connection he is instructed to go to a meeting set up at a motel. So what does he do?

He leaves his wife and son and drives off in his highly conspicuous blue 1966 Chevrolet Corvette, with a half million bucks without any backup to the meeting, implausibility number 1.

At the motel he is robbed by two women and instructed to meet a man named Gorman Lennox at a restaurant. FBI agent Greg Meeker intercepts Dolezal and informs him that Spenser was an undercover agent, an FBI mule carrying money for a payment. Since Dolezal has carelessly lost the money, Meeker tells Dolezal to posing as Spenser to recover the money or help arrest Lennox.

Dolezal meets Lennox (Rourke in a "That's one fine coat you're wearing" long coat) and his deal broker Lane Bodine. Since Lane knew Spencer she knows that Dolezal is an imposter, but since she gets a percentage of the deal she lets him slide implausibility number 2.

The money is for illegal arms. Needing more money when the arms merchants renege on the original deal, Dolezal has to romance Lane so she will attract rich humanitarian donors to fund the increase asking price on the deal implausibility number 3.

 Willem Dafoe puts in a good performance but there is a lot of hesitation evident in which way the director wanted to go. M. Emmet Walsh's character is built up nicely then disappears entirely from the rest of the film, Dolezal's wife and son are treated likewise. Later two apparent lesbian goons assault Dolezal in a motel room then also are never really part of the film except as background. There are a lot of dead ends. Expectations are dangled in front of us but never followed through. White Sands, New Mexico, BTW, makes a very brief appearance in the last 5 minutes, what's up
with that?

It probably would have worked better if it would stayed a bit simpler. The sum is not as good as it's parts, there was a good film in there someplace. 6.5/10

Friday, January 27, 2017

Noirsville Tune Of The Week

A folk-noir cover of Simon And Garfunkel's The Boxer by William Ryder-Jones

The Boxer

I am just a poor boy
Though my story's seldom told
I have squandered my resistance
For a pocket full of mumbles, such are promises
All lies and jests
Still a man hears what he wants to hear
And disregards the rest

When I left my home and my family
I was no more than a boy
In the company of strangers
In the quiet of the railway station
Running scared,
Laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters
Where the ragged people go
Looking for the places
Only they would know

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Asking only workman's wages
I come looking for a job
But I get no offers
Just a come-on from the whores
On Seventh Avenue
I do declare
There were times when I was so lonesome
I took some comfort there, le le le le le le le

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Then I'm laying out my winter clothes
And wishing I was gone
Going home
Where the New York City winters
Aren't bleeding me
Leading me
Going home

In the clearing stands a boxer
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
Or cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame
"I am leaving, I am leaving"
But the fighter still remains, mmm mmm

Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie
Lie la lie, lie la la la la lie la la lie

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Noirsville Iconic Photograph Of The Week

Bruce Gilden (born 1946 in Brooklyn, New York) is a street photographer. He is best known for his candid close-up photographs of visual spontaneity of people on the streets of New York City.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Noirsville Tune Of The Week

Jerry Jeff Walker - Country Noir


Well, I could live my whole life, without a phone call
The likes of which I got today.
It was only my wife, said hello then goodbye.
And told me she's going away.

Well I didn't cry, It was all cut and dried.
I hung up before I realized.
Turned up my stereo, I walked to the window,
Stared at the storm clouds outside.

And I play classical music when it rains,
I play country when I am in pain.
But I won't play Beethoven, the mood's just not right
Oh, I feel like Hank Williams tonight.

There's no explanation, not even a reason,
No talk of the good times we had.
Was it me, was it her, I don't know for sure,
And that's why I'm feelling so bad.

Hey, I play jazz when I am coufused,
I play country whenveer I lose.
Bird's saxaphone, it just don't seem right
Now, I feel like Hank Williams toight.

Lately I've been thinkin', I just might quit drinkin'.
Now I don't know all-in-all.
I just might stay home, get drunk all alone,
And punch a few holes in the wall.

But when I'm rel high I play rock'n'roll,
I play country when I'm losing control.
I don't play Chuck Berry quite as much as I'd like,
Now, I feel like Hank Williams tonight.

Private Property (1960) Psychological California Smog Noir

Private Property was long thought lost. It is a lurid psychological noir thriller, based on a sleazy pulp fiction type premise.

It is the first feature written and directed by Leslie Stevens (writer and director of The Outer Limits TV series (1963-1964). The cinematography was by Ted D. McCord (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), Flamingo Road (1949), The Damned Don't Cry (1950), The Breaking Point (1950) and, I Died a Thousand Times (1955)). The films music was by Pete Rugolo (whose credits range from Richard Diamond, Private Detective TV Series (1957–1960), to This World, Then the Fireworks (1997)).

The film revolves around two down and out creepy and twisted drifters, hitchhiking their way to The Sunset Strip. The two become sexually obsessed over a hawt "California Girl" blond housewife driving a white corvette who casually stops for directions at a Pacific Coast Highway Veltex filling station near Malibu. (BTW the Veltex Gas is going for 8 cents a gallon in 1960).

Duke and Boots with "The Rock" in the background
At the Veltex Station
Boots (Oates)

Duke (Allen)
One of these losers is a smart sociopath, a sexual predator called Duke, played by Corey Allen (The Night of the Hunter (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), The Shadow on the Window (1957), The Big Caper (1957)). The other is the sexually dysfunctional dimmer bulb Boots, a mama's boy, played by Warren Oates (The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond (1960), The Outer Limits TV Series (1963–1965), In the Heat of the Night (1967), Dillinger (1973), Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)).

Ann (Manx)
The blond housewife Ann is played by Kate Manx the then wife of the director. She's sort of a mix of Stella Stevens and Barbara Eden. Another stock film noir veteran Jerome Cowan (The Maltese Falcon (1941), Moontide (1942), Street of Chance (1942), Deadline at Dawn (1946), The Unfaithful (1947), Night Has a Thousand Eyes (1948), Scene of the Crime (1949)) plays a schlub salesman Ed who stops for gas at the filling station. Robert Wark plays Roger, Ann's husband and Jules Maitland plays the filling station owner.

Ed arrives in his '54 Buick Skylark

Ed (Cowan)
We first spot Duke and Boots when they are climbing up a small bluff from a foggy beach onto the blacktop.  “The Rock” a distinct road cut into the California Coast Range at the edge of Malibu rises as a hazy backdrop. Waves ominously break against the shore. The two either spent the night sleeping on the beach or where taking a midday dip. They cross the traffic to the Veltex station and bum some pop and cigarettes from the attendant (Maitland).

When Boots tells Duke about a wall calendar he saw in the station with a scantily clad girl wearing just a cowboy hat, Duke asks him if he's getting ready for a woman yet. Boots whines that Duke always steals the girl he wants, the last one being that redhead in the orange grove, so Duke promises to get him a woman, but not after questioning his manhood with the taunt "what are you waiting for a rich sugar daddy?"

An appliance salesman from Sacramento, Ed Hogate, drives up in his '54 Buick Skylark for gas. Boots and Duke begin to wash his windows and pump him for a ride into The City Of Angels. While so engaged with Ed, Ann drives up. Ann is curvaceous and cute. Duke asks Boots if she'll do for a woman. Boots says yes. Duke and Boots convince Ed to not only give them a ride but to tail Ann as she drives towards her home. When Ed wants to end the game and make his turn for Wilshire Blvd., Duke and Boots convince him to keep following the blond. They do this by threatening him with a switchblade that Boots pulls out of his pocket.

Ann's hilltop house and smog
The boys get Ed to drop them off up the street, just after Ann pulls into her driveway. The two next break into the vacant house next door. From a second floor window the two begin to spy on Ann's comings and goings. The two voyeurs peep down on her when she skinny dips in her pool or sunbathes out on her patio.

Duke begins a plan to seduce Ann pretending to be an on the skids landscaper, who lives in his truck while looking for work. He shows up at her door whenever her husband leaves on his various business trips.

Need some landscaping done?

hubby's home

Tie around her neck?  his property

Domestic bliss Rodger (Wark) and Ann
Duke slowly wears Ann's defences down by preying on her sympathies. Working in Duke's favor is the fact that her workaholic husband fails to appreciate her "ribbons and her bows". He shuns her advances, as she tries to get him to pay more attention to her sexual needs. This makes her ripe for plucking. Ann's frustrations in the film are semiotically depicted, at one point while speaking to her husband she strokes a burning (phallic) candlestick, later aroused by Duke she repeats the deed with the round stem of a plant. Other images also repeat, her husband's doffed tie she places around her neck as later she does the same with Dukes's belt. Is she subconsciously signifying that she is property?

Ann stroking the phallic clandlestick

Bedding time

Ann's making "wife noises"

ribbons and bows
here I am.....

rejected and dejected
Dukes plan is to get her hopelessly defenceless, sexually aroused, and liquored up enough to take her next door to empty house drop her on a mattress and let Boots rape her. At 79 min Private Property speeds along quickly down the highway to Noirsville.


Ann stroking the phallic plant stem

Corey Allen's silver tongued devil Duke, is easily convincing as a womanizer, but you don't have to wonder why he never gained traction after this performance, the film opened without Code approval, was condemned by the Legion Of Decency and got slim to none distribution. Warren Oates underplays the malleable simple minded sexual neophyte Boots. Oates specialized most of his career in playing hopeless lowlifes doomed to wallow in eternal misery, always getting the shit end of the stick. Kate Manx excels as Ann with her portrayal ranging from "I Dream Of Jeannie" perky to that of sweet quiet desperation for the attention of her husband. Again one wonders how her career may have went if the film had had a regular release. Four years later she committed suicide, a waste.

So, does the title refer to trophy wife Ann, the house and pool, or the whole gaudy tinseltown world that only the others, the "elites" can inhabit?

Images are digital camera caps of the newly restored Cinelicious Pictures from a TCM premiere. 7/10