Wednesday, July 25, 2018

The Scarf (1951) Mojave Noir

Wow, what a good print will do for a quirky little film.

I watched it the first time years ago on a YouTube upload of a multi generation print. A restored print does wonders. I really enjoyed the film this go around. It's a pristine print from another streaming service. The print has a TCM logo BTW.

The maybe "Poverty Row" or similar low budget, Gloria Productions film, was regardless, competently directed by Ewald AndrĂ© Dupont or E.A. Dupont (Variety (1925)), who started  directing in Germany in 1917. Dupont became a respected exponent of the German expressionist movement, gaining early recognition. He was a part of the exodus of German emigre writers, directors, producers, actors, composers etc., etc., who fled the Nazis before WWII.

Except for one or two successes Dupont was never able to achieve the lofty heights of a Robert Siodmak, Fritz Lang, Otto Preminger, or Billy Wilder. Dupont was on the rungs below Edgar G. Ulmer, I never heard of him, he's among the likes of Gustav Machaty, John Reinhardt and Curtis Bernhardt, who?

The writing credits go to Dupont for the screenplay and Isadore Goldsmith and E.A. Rolfe for the original story idea.

The beautiful chiaroscuro images are the work of cinematographer  Franz Planer (The Face Behind the Mask (1941), The  Chase (1946),  Criss Cross (1949), 711 Ocean Drive (1950), Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), 99 River Street (1953), The Long Wait (1954) and for Marilyn Monroe's last uncompleted film Something's Got to Give (1962)). The Music was by Johnny Mercer (Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)).

The film stars John Ireland (five Classic Film Noir and Neo Noir Farewell My Lovely (1975)) as John Howard Barrington, Mercedes McCambridge (All the King's Men (1949), Lightning Strikes Twice (1951) Touch of Evil (1958)) as Connie Carter, James Barton as Ezra "Cactus" Thompson, Emlyn Williams as Dr. David Dunbar, Lloyd Gough as Asylum Dr. Gordon, Basil Ruysdael as Cyrus Barrington John's father, and David Wolfe (three Classic Film Noir) as South Main St. Los Angeles Bar owner, Level Louie.

A Joshua tree the "humwichawa"
The Mojave Desert 54,000 square miles of desolation with typical Basin and Range topography. Stretching from the East side of the Sierra's across Southern Nevada to the Southwest corner of Utah and Western Arizona. The Joshua tree, a "humwichawa" as the natives called it, is its indicator species. A spindly forest of Joshua trees look like a race of eerie, frozen,
aliens reaching for the Sun.

beatin' feet

The Alcanta mental hospital somewhere 250 miles from L.A., out in the Mojave Desert. A patient, John Barrington (Ireland), goes over the wall, covers ten miles of desert and collapses at daylight in a turkey farm owned by Cactus Thompson (Barton), I've seen him in countless Westerns.

Waking up

Chiaroscuro -  John (Ireland)

Cactus: Before a bullet, all men are equal, like in the Constitution.

"Cactus" Thompson (Barton)

John had been confined for the strangulation killing of a girl friend, but he doesn't remember doing it. How can he admit his guilt if he doesn't remember doing it? Thompson, a classic desert rat, a sage of the sagebrush, is skeptical at first but eventually believes his story.

Cactus: I came here fifteen years ago to be by myself. Haven't got a mirror in the place. Even my own reflection's too much company. Let me tell you something, you're either a fool, or you're bats. Does the word 'bats' means anything to you outside of baseball?

John starts to work the turkey farm for Thompson, who is beginning to slow down with old age. On a trip to town to the feed store John picks up a hitchhiking woman named Connie Carter (McCambridge) who actually doesn't look too bad in this film.

Connie (McCambridge)

Its a cute meet with Connie expecting an inquisition, a pass, or to get pawed by John, with John just ignoring her completely as if she wasn't there.

Connie: I'm not a lily.......

Here, if it was a modern film you'd expect John to hit the hooks roll out the bed roll and do the horizontal mambo with Connie. However its the Code era, and we jump cut to the below scene, lol.

Connie must be wondering whats up since "code wise" they been laying there looking at the sky for hours. When Connie gets a little chilled she puts on her scarf which triggers a memory in John.

the scarf
The scarf, he remembers David his "best friend" and this memory sends him on a search for David Dunbar (Williams), who had witnessed the murder and who's testimony sent Ireland to the mental hospital.

It all goes Noirsville when John visits David and  David calls John's father who calls the police who then recapture him.



Cactus, Warden Anderson (Harry Shannon), Dr. Gordon (Lloyd Gough)

Connie, Sheriff (Frank Jaquet) center

Connie the singing waitress at Level Louie's

Dr. David Dunbar (Emlyn Williams) 

John and Feed Store Man (Chubby Johnson)

Watch for the interesting philosophical dialog between Cactus and John, and then later between Cactus and the authorities looking for John. The cute meet of Connie and John, and for the lounge lizards in The Silver Saddle. I was actually impressed with McCambridge in this, she plays an average looking woman who is scratching out an honest living.

There is a nice surreal sequence. Connie is the cause of a bar fight and is ordered to leave town by the sheriff. While sitting in the bus station waiting for the Los Angeles bound bus, Connie sees a wanted poster for John with a $5,000 reward on his head. When Connie heads out to get on the bus she glances down the street spying the neon sign flashing Sheriff's Office change to $5,000. Tempting.

Born in Vancouver B.C., and raised in New York City, Ireland's first acting job was in a carnival, convincing an audience that the dead octopus he was wrestling was alive. From there he graduated to Shakespeare, sounds about right. He never did achieve the top tier but kept busy with a long career.

In 1950, just before making this film, at 34 years old, McCambridge married Canadian Fletcher Markle. Her career sort of derailed because of alcoholism. She often was hospitalized after heavy drinking benders. She and Markle divorced in 1962, after twelve years of marriage. Finally in 1969, after years with Alcoholics Anonymous, she achieved sobriety.

Enjoyable film though a bit rushed at the end. 7/10


  1. This has been on my radar for a while, I haven't seen it yet. The print looks fabulous, guess I'll have to buy it.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you. I totally forgot about that site, again.