Thursday, September 27, 2018

Criss Cross (1949) Los Angeles Noir Masterpiece

Soaring like Eye Of God over The City Of Angels.

We see City Hall corner of First & Spring heading North past Union Station and it's Annex, between North Spring on the left North Main and North Los Angeles Street in the middle and and North Almedea on the right. No Santa Anna Freeway in '49.

It's Chinatown!

North Almedea coming in at an angle and North Spring Street pinch off the two middle streets. We slowly pan right towards North Almedea and you end up zooming into a parking lot between North Spring Street and the West side of Almedea with Ord Street bordering on the South and the Alhambra Avenue intersection on the North.

It's behind what is now circa 2018, a restaurant Phillipes The Original, and The Little Jewel of New Orleans Grocery and Deli. It's the Parking lot of The Round Up Cafe.

Los Angeles City Hall at Spring and West First and the Federal Courthouse close behind it, behind them Union Station and its annex, 

North Almedea and North Alhambra  intersection on top center right. The Round Up Cafe parking lot center.

Anna (Yvonne de Carlo) and  Steve (Burt Lancaster)
 Two lovers highlighted in the headlights of car backing into a parking space.

Steve: Anna.
Anna: Steve, I had to see you.
Steve: He'll get wise. The last minute, you'll ruin everything.
Anna: I slipped out. He was dancing. Oh Steve I keep thinking and thinking.
Steve: Will you just not think about it?
Anna: I'm so worried about you. I'm all sick inside. Oh if only it was all over now. If it was only this time tomorrow.
Steve: You know what to do? Have you got it right?
Anna: Suppose you get hurt
Steve: Remember, you go to the cottage at Palos Verdes.
Anna: Suppose something goes wrong
Steve: And you wait there. It will take a little time. A few weeks.
Anna: Why do you say weeks? Why not days?
Steve: Just stay at the house at Palos Verdes. Don;t try and get in touch with anyone. Don't do anything until I get there.
Anna: I'll hate it. I'll hate it every minute until you're with me again.
Steve: You better get back before he starts looking for ya. I don't want him to see the two of us coming in together. Go one now, go on back.
Anna: Steve. All those things that happened to us... everything that went before.... you'll forget it. You'll see. I'll make you forget it.  After it's done after it's all over and we're safe, it'll be just you and me. You and  me, the way it should have been all along from the start. Be careful.

It's the night before an armored car robbery.

So begins Criss Cross another masterpiece of noir with an "amour fou" story told non linearly, and also in flashback, directed by Robert Siodmak (The File on Thelma Jordon, Cry of the City, The Killers, Christmas Holiday, Phantom Lady), and screenplay written by Daniel Fuchs (The Gangster, Storm Warning, Panic in the Streets, Hollow Triumph) based on Don Tracy's novel of the same name. The cinematography was by Franz Planer (The Chase, Champion, The Scarf, 99 River Street, 711 Ocean Drive), and the music was by Miklós Rózsa.

Its a simple story vividly illustrating the why in the adage "you can't go home again." Steve Thompson, is a regular Joe, living on North Temple Street L.A. He had a torrid love for the wrong woman. Anna. A true Femme Fatale. He married her. The flames didn't last. It didn't work out. They'd fight, they'd make up, they'd fight. The best part was the making up. They fought one time too many. They divorced. He split. Headed East. Working and moving around the country. Until, he gets her out of his system. So he narrates. So he comes back home. A week goes by. He goes to the Round Up Cafe in Chinatown. He sees Anna again.

There is still embers. He is smoldering. She is smoldering. She remembers the making up part. But she is hooked up with the local crook now. Running with Slim Dundee.

Slim Dundee (Dan Duryea)

Steve goes back to work for the Armored Car Company he quit when he left California. He starts things up with Anna again. Or so he thinks. He's waiting for her at The Round Up. He's all jacked up and ready to go. But she doesn't show. The barkeep Frank tells him, Anna got married to Slim and goes to Yuma.

Frank (Percy Helton) "She married Slim Dundee."

Five months later Steve is in Union Station. He's picking up a train schedule, he wants to get away. To travel. He spots Anna. They hookup again, Amour fou.

Steve: You smoke a lot don'y you?
Anna: You pass the time.
Steve: You happy?
Anna: Oh, I love it.
Steve: He gives you everything?
Anna: Diamonds.
Steve: You want me to go?
Anna: Go. Don't go. Anything you like.
Steve: I didn't think he was the kind that married people.
Anna: Oh He did. He did.
Steve: I take my hat off to ya.
Anna: Yea. Yeah I'm a prize.
Steve: Tramp.

Anna: Tell me all about it.
Steve: Tramp. Cheap little no-good tramp!
Anna: Stick around you make it all so nice and sad.
Steve: Why did you do it?
Anna: You told me why diamonds.
Steve: Why? Why did you do it?
Anna: You
Steve: Me?
Anna: Your mother, your brother. your whole family: And your lovely friend Ramirez!
Steve: Pete?
Anna: You didn't know?
Steve: What did he do?
Anna: Told me to stay away from you! He was afraid I was poison. He told me to get out of Los Angeles and stay out.
Steve: How could he do that?
Anna: He said  that if I didn't, he'd run me in every time he saw me. He said he's frame me.
Steve: Frame you?
Anna: That's right. Send me to the women's prison at Tehacapi. He wanted me up there with the rest of them, my hair cut short wearing striped cotton, digging potatoes, and working in the factories.
Steve: I don't believe you.
Anna: Ask him, Go and ask him. He brought me down to headquarters. Sent two men in plain clothes.
Steve: Why didn't you come to me?
Anna: Because I was sick and tired of running after you all the time. Begging you Please, Steve! Please, please don't get sore Steve. Because I was sick of you, your mother and your wonderful friend, Ramirez. Because every day you were away Slim was after me. You didn't know that did you? Slim always wanted me. Always wanted to give me everything. And I got sick and tired of being a fool! I got fed up and didn't care! Oh Steve. What happened! How did it happen? How did I get all mixed up?
Steve: I didn't know, Anna. I didn't know.
Anna: I'm scared. They'd kill us. Kill us! I can't even sleep. Look at the way he treats me. [showing him her bruises]
Steve: Anna
Anna: Oh Steve! What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?

When Steve and Anna get caught by Dundee, a quick thinking Steve tell Slim he was seeing Anna to get Slim to buy into a plan to steal a payroll from an armored car.

Slim: Oh I had it all wrong, so it was me all the time. Between you and I, I had it all wrong. So it's not the way it looks, is it baby?
Steve: No, it's not the way it looks.
Anna: That's right, Slim. Just like he says. He wanted to talk to you. You were out of town so I said I'd come over.
Slim:You really wanted to see me? So tell me now Stevie what kind of business could you and I possibly have together?
Steve: A Job
Slim: A Job? well, why come to me?
Steve: Cause you're the only crooks I know.

"You're the only crooks I know."
They plan it all out but of course it all goes Noirsville


Henry Ford Bridge (1924)

Hill Street Tunnel at North Temple Street

Cream Star Beer

Steve's house 215 North Hill Street

Top of North Portal of Hill Street Tunnel behind Burt

Union Station

Union Station

Steve and Pops (Griff Barnett)

Steve and Ramirez (Stephan McNally)

Angels flight and Third Street Tunnel

Angels Flight outside the window

Henry Ford Bridge (1924) in left, Schuyler Heim Bridge (1948) right to Terminal Island

Finchley (Alan Napier)

Sunshine Apartments porch

The film stars Burt Lancaster as Steve Thompson. Lancaster was born in up in Harlem on November 2, 1913 at his parents' home at 209 East 106th Street. He grew up on the streets on NYC. He joined the  joined the Kay Brothers circus as an acrobat and worked there until he was injured. He then worked as a salesman for Marshall Fields and then as a singing waiter.  Lancaster joined the United States Army in 1942 and performed with the Army's 21st Special Services Division, Fifth Army, in Italy from 1943 to 1945, This gave Lancaster the acting itch. Back in New York City Lancaster auditioned for a Broadway play and was offered a role. This brought him to the attention of Hollywood agent, Harold Hecht and, through him, Lancaster was brought to the attention of producer Hal B. Wallis, who signed him to an eight-movie contract. His first film was The Killers, subsequently he made Brute Force, Desert Fury, I Walk Alone, Sorry Wrong Number, and Kiss The Blood Off My Hands before making Criss Cross.

Yvonne de Carlo plays Anna. Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, by the early 1940s, she and her mother had moved to Los Angeles, where De Carlo entered into beauty contests. In 1940, she won second place in the Miss Venice beauty contest. She also worked as a dancer in nightclubs.  In 1942, she signed a three-year contract with Paramount Pictures doing bit parts. Paramount loaned her out to Republic Pictures for her first credited role in Deerslayer (1943). She appeared in Noirs This Gun for Hire, Brute Force.

Dan Duryea plays gangster Slim Dundee. Born and raised in White Plains, New York. He wanted to be an actor. His parents did not approve. Duryea became an advertising executive. Six years of stress rewarded him with a heart attack. He returned to acting. He got noticed on Broadway in the play Dead End and The Little Foxes. In 1940, Duryea moved to Hollywood to appear in the film version of The Little Foxes. Before Criss Cross Duryea appeared in Film Noirs Ministry of FearThe Woman in the WindowLady on a Train, Black Angel, Scarlet Street, and Larceny, before appearing in Criss Cross.

Stephen McNally plays police Detective Lieutenant Pete Ramirez. McNally was Born in New York City, he attended Fordham University School of Law and practiced as an attorney in the late 1930s before he became an actor.  In 1940, he had a leading role in the stage version of Johnny Belinda. His first credited role was in film noir The Grand Central Murder.

The rest of the cast consists of Tom Pedi (The Naked City (1948)) as Vincent, Percy Helton (over ten film noir) as Frank, Alan Napier as Finchley, Griff Barnett as Pop, Meg Randall as Helen, Richard Long as Slade Thompson, Joan Miller as The Lush, Edna M. Holland as Mrs. Thompson, John Doucette as Walt, Marc Krah as Mort, James O'Rear as Waxie, John Skins Miller as Midget, Esy Morales as Orchestra Leader and Tony Curtis un-credited dancing a rumba with Yvone De Carlo.

Easily a 10/10