Thursday, February 28, 2019

Noirsville Tune Of the Week

William 'Bill' Doggett was an American jazz and rhythm and blues pianist and organist. He is best known for his compositions "Honky Tonk" and "Hippy Dippy", and variously working with the Ink Spots, Johnny Otis, Wynonie Harris, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Jordan

Honky Tonk (Part 1)

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Noirsville Bonus Shower/Bath Scenes a Strange Compulsion (Part 10)

It took 78 camera setups, and 53 cuts, seven days of filming  to construct the 45 second shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960).  It's uneasy to watch, queasy for the faint of heart, and compulsively sleazy as we all willingly become the voyeurs of a woman taking a shower. For me the seminal sequence  runs "Eye to Eye."  The bonus on subject celluloid and amateur studies from film and still photography below will be equally book-ended "Eye to Eye."

Noirsville Pulp Art

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Neo Noir Images of the Week


Airline Diner (Jackson Hole Diner), NYC 2017





Hell Gate, East River, Astoria Park, NYC 2017


Friday, February 22, 2019

Noir Images Of The Week

Soho Street

Lower Manhattan from Brooklyn Bridge

Michael Abramson

NYC Subway - Unknown

Consuelo Kanaga


Second Ave & Third Ave El. - Berenice Abbott


Thursday, February 21, 2019

Noirsville Tune of the Week

Wilburt "Red" Prysock was an American rhythm and blues tenor saxophonist, one of the early Coleman Hawkins-influenced saxophonists to move in the direction of rhythm and blues, rather than bebop.

Purple Wail

Noirsville Gif of the Week

Edward G. Robinson

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Crime Wave (1953) Masterpiece of L.A. Location Noir

"How come the smart guys are inside and the dopes outside?" (Steve Lacey)

The first time I saw Crime Wave I saw something done so well that it became a favorite, it was that memorable. Crime Wave not only has some spectacular on location day and night cinematography but it also has a interesting and compelling story with both the leads and character actors to do it justice.

Directed by André De Toth (Pitfall (1948)). The film's screenplay was written by Cane Wilbur from an adaptation by Bernard Gordon and Richard Wormser of Criminal's Mark, a story by John and Ward Hawkins. The films cinematography was by Bert Glennon (Red Light (1949), and the music was by David Buttolph.

The film stars Sterling Hayden  as toothpick chewing hard boiled Det. Lt. Sims. Tall imposing Hayden was a veteran of seven Classic Film Noir and quite a few Westerns. Hayden served in WWII as an As OSS agent under the alias John Hamilton, his World War II service included sailing with supplies from Italy to Yugoslav partisans and participating in behind the lines action parachuting into fascist Croatia. He's probably most remembered for the role of off his rocker General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick's Transitional Noir Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). He also played a memorable part in Robert Altman's Neo Noir The Long Goodbye (1973).

toothpick chewing L.A.P.D. Det. Lt. Sims. (Sterling Hayden) rt.

Gene Nelson ( who also appeared in Transitional "Tail Fin" Noir 20,000 Eyes (1961)) as ex con Steve Lacey. Phyllis Kirk (House Of Wax (1953)) as his wife Ellen Lacey.

Ellen Lacey ( Phyllis Kirk) abd Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson) 

Six Classic Film Noir vet Ted de Corsia as 'Doc' Penny,
Charles Bronson (Death Wish (1974)) as Ben Hastings, four Classic Film Noir vet Jay Novello as Dr. Otto Hessler, Ned Young as Gat Morgan, James Bell as Daniel O'Keefe, Dub Taylor as the Doris Day loving gas station attendant Gus Snider, Fritz Feld as Jess the bandaged man at City Hall.

Hank Worden, made a living from Westerns and was memorable as quite a character from many John Ford/John Wayne Westerns usually playing an off the wall "not quite right in the head" hombre. He was in Film Noir appearing mostly in bit parts, Undercurrent (1946), High Wall (1947), Cover Up (1949), and Neo Noir Hammett (1982). In Crime Wave he is Sweeney, Steve's seemingly speech impediment challenged boss, at the Grand Central aircraft repair company. Worden's last role was in Twin Peaks TV Series (1990–1991). Timothy Carey, plays a more modern Worden contemporary, crazy grinning prototypical beatnik Johnny Haslett he's the scary type with a perpetual leer that explodes into a shit eating grin, completely 180 from the loveable Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) of six years later.

Doc Penny (Ted de Corsia) and Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson)

Gat Morgan (Ned Young) 

Dr. Otto Hessler (Jay Novello)

Ben Hastings (Charles Bronson)

The story dramatically begins when Doc' Penny (Ted de Corsia) Ben Hastings (Charles Bronson) and Gat Morgan (Ned Young) pull a gas station stick up on Maple Avenue between 7th and 8th in downtown Los Angeles.

The Stickup

Gus Snider (Dub Taylor)

1939 Harley-Davidson EL

They crashed out of San Quentin and are heading steadily South towards to border. The stickup goes well until a Los Angeles City Motor Patrol motorcycle cop passing by on Maple gets suspicious and swings back into the station.

The dying cop returns fire next to Doc Penny's 1952 Ford Customline Country Sedan

The cop questions Gat Morgan as to the whereabouts of Gus (Dub Taylor) the night gas jockey. Gat pulls a gun and shoots him down. The officer returns fire seriously wounding Gat.

Doc stakes Gus with some cash and tells him to ditch the car and contact Dr. Otto Hessler (Jay Novello) another ex con who is a veterinarian who acts as a sort of mob doctor. Doc and Ben take off on foot.

Gus who was knocked out during the holdup comes to and phones the police.The case is assigned to Detective Lieutenant Sims (Sterling Hayden). After the holdup car is found ditched nearby, Sims wants a list of all the ex cons within a two mile radius of the crime scene.

Steve Lacey (Gene Nelson) is a suspect. He's an ex con who has been out on parole for two years. He been working as an aircraft engine mechanic at Grand Central Aircraft Company and lives with his wife Ellen (Phyllis Kirk). Being an ex con means that he gets phone calls from ex cons trying to put the bite on him for a stake or a place to crash. That night he gets a call from Gat who is checking to see that he's home. Gat hangs up without talking. Gat next calls Doc Hessler and tells him to meet him at Steve Lacey's address.

Gat rings the bell on the Lacey's apartment and ends up dying in their living room chair. Doc Hessler shows up pronounces him dead. He tells the Lacey's that he wont touch the body, he their problem, He takes a C-note off the corpse and splits.

Steve and Ellen Lacey are left with an ex con corpse on their hands. Steve decides to call his parole officer Daniel O'Keefe (James Bell). O'Keefe tells Steve that he'll call the police but they are already pulling up on the street outside the apartment house.

Daniel O'Keefe (James Bell)
Ellen Lacey: But you haven't done anything! You're innocent!
Steve Lacey: Once you do a stretch, you're never clean again! You're never free! They've always got a string on you, and they tug, tug, tug! Before you know it, you're back again!

Sims grills Steve about what happened, Sims doesn't believe him. He thinks "once a crook, always a crook." He sticks Steve in the slammer for a few days to refresh his memory about what it's like.

Meanwhile Doc and Ben pull some of the same type of chump change heists down towards San Diego. It looks as if they are heading toward the Mexican border.

Sims lets Steve out but tells him he wants to help catch Doc Penny and Ben Hastings if they show back up. Steve goes home and back to his job.

Sweeney (Hank Worden) forman at Grand Central Aircraft  rt.

Lacey's hot rod a 1930 Ford Model A

Unexpected company
Doc and Ben show up at Steve's apartment. They have a scheme to rob a bank and then use Steve's flying skills to escape. Hessler shows up spying for Sims, Doc sends Ben out to tail him when he leaves. Ben uses Steve's hot rod and leaves it at Hessler's after he murders him.

1936 Ford V8 De Luxe Station Wagon 

They force Steve to go along with the bank job by taking Ellen hostage and leaving her under the care of beatnik nut job Johnny Haslett (Timothy Carey) in a hideout in Chinatown.

Ellen is being "watched" by Johnny Haslett (Timothy Carey)
Of course it all goes Noirsville.


Los Angeles City Hall

1952 Lincoln Capri

Union Station

1952 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible

Los Angeles City Hall

A plug for Howard Hughes' TWA Airline a Lockheed Constellation

 1950 Cadillac Series 62 Coupe

Owl Drugs and a 1952 Lincoln Capri

Jess the bandaged man (Fritz Feld - center)

Another plug for Trans World Airlines

1952 Lincoln Cosmopolitan and a 1947 Chevrolet Advance-Design Panel

Chinatown hideout

Notice the low rent cardboard box lampshade nice detail

the gas holders

This is a great late period quickly paced Noir shot in crisp Black and White that hits on all cylinders. The acting by the cast is riveting. A must film for any Film Noir collection. The use of The City Of Angels circa 1953 for both exterior and (in the case of City Hall) interior shots make it highly valuable as a time capsule of what used to be. We get Glendale, Burbank, Chinatown, the Gas Works, Owl Drugs and Union Station to boot.

After watching these on location Films Noir, The Naked City (1948) New York City, Call Northside 777 (1948), Chicago,  The Third Man (1949) Vienna, Act Of Violence (1949) Los Angeles,  Night And The City (1950) London, Crime Wave (1953) Los Angeles, Rififi (1955), Kiss Me Deadly (1955) Los Angeles Paris, The Lineup (1958) San Francisco, Two Men In Manhattan (1959) New York City, it's harder to believe the old backlot sets. They just can't substitute for reality. This is jarringly  displayed in 1965's The Money Trap where the location shoots and what looks like a NYC street set filling in for a Los Angeles ghetto set look as if they are parts of two different movies. Bunker Hill Hollywood's real ready made ghetto location was being demolished in the 60's.

Anyway watch Crime Wave for the various vignettes of suspects being booked, the dispatch room, the Chinatown dive flop where Timothy Carey uses a box top for an ersatz lamp shade with a drop cord plug, class. All this attention to the details by De Toth and crew makes this film something special.

Screen caps from Crime Wave DVD from Warner Brothers with a not to miss commentary track by Eddie Muller and James Ellroy. 10/10

Quote from

The Professor at the old Back Alley Forum 

Crime Wave (1952 / 1954)
Noir 101. The Essentials. Crime Wave.


If this little policier from Warner Bros. (filmed in 1952, released in 1954) isn’t part of your vocabulary then it needs to be; and considering it was finally released on DVD a few years ago, there’s no excuse not to see it. Crime Wave doesn’t stand out from a narrative point of view (despite a bucket of writers); the plot is routine, like a million other second features cranked out during the fifties. Although the story and characters are heavily steeped in noir tropes, it’s André De Toth’s sharp direction that sets it apart from other low budget crime pictures and demands that it be seen by any enthusiast. It can be argued that no other film noir is as influential as it is unknown.

The story is old hat: Ex-con tries to go straight. His old crew breaks out of the Q and comes knocking. When he refuses to help, they hold his fresh new wife in order to force him to take part in one last caper. All the while, the cops are along for the ride, except they don’t believe for a second that our boy is on the up and up.

The cast here is special, and although Sterling Hayden isn’t (necessarily) the protagonist, he dominates the film. This is the sort of role the movie gods had in mind when they placed Hayden in front of a camera: LAPD Detective Lieutenant Sims, bigger and tougher than any hood in the mug book. For my money this is the role of Hayden’s career — not the meatiest or the most well known, but the one in which he leaves the impression of having been the part, rather than merely having played it. (Put it this way: during the DVD commentary, author James Ellroy asserts that Hayden in Crime Wave simply is Bud White.) There are those that prefer him in The Asphalt Jungle or The Killing, but Hayden has a distinct vibe as a cop that isn’t there when he’s playing a crook: you can cross to the other side of the street and dodge a hoodlum (and it isn’t like you won’t see Hayden coming from a mile away) but you can’t avoid the police. With the force of law behind him, the prospect of cop Hayden looking for you is scary as hell.

At a beefy six-and-a-half feet tall, Hayden towers over everyone else in the film. André De Toth and cameraman Burt Glennon keep the camera low, catching the big fellow from underneath but looking down on all of the other actors, as if from Hayden’s point of view. He has to slouch, unkempt, a toothpick in his mouth, scruffy hat, tie perpetually twisted backwards — almost too big to be allowed. The film has numerous stellar sequences, but for Hayden one in particular stands out; it begins at around the eleven-minute mark and finds the cop in his homicide division office, interviewing an eyewitness about the Quentin breakout suspects. The scene opens with him at his desk, then it follows him around the bureau, moving shark-like among a half-dozen routine interviews. Ostensibly the purpose is pure semi-documentary storytelling, providing audiences with an up-close look into the inner workings of the LAPD: A middle-aged broad is rambling on about how she and her guy (replete with bandaged head) don’t really fight — she didn’t mean to conk him, they were just kidding around. At another table, a hang dog B-girl dripping with mascara and dime store jewelry sobs about some chucklehead boyfriend from her past, while at yet another a career stool-pigeon chastises a junior cop about bracing him in front of his neighbors. What makes the whole thing work is the extraordinary authenticity: pay attention to what is going on in the frame away from subject, almost as if the extras forgot for a moment the cameras were rolling. And this ain’t no soundstage — most of the scenes in Crime Wave, interiors and exteriors alike, are filmed in real Los Angeles locations. And if Hayden wasn’t so utterly believable as a 1952 LAPD homicide detective, none of it would work — he’s the glue that holds the entire movie together. If part of the allure of these old films is seeing things as they actually were way back when, this is a scene (and a film) that will keep you in goose bumps.

Then there’s Gene Nelson, of nimble feet and Oklahoma! fame, who plays Steve Lacey, ex-con. Nelson rightly underplays his part. His performance doesn’t offer much beyond matinee good looks and rolled up shirtsleeves. Like I said, this is Hayden’s movie, and Nelson stays out of his way. Whether it was his idea or De Toth’s, Steve Lacey is Lieutenant Sims perfect foil. From a noir perspective, Lacey is a protagonist in the classic mold: trying to make good after doing some hard time: employed, married, permanent address. Crane Wilbur’s story puts him in the classic bind: when his old cellmates come looking for help, he knows that helping them puts everything he’s worked for at risk, yet failing to do so is even more dangerous. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t, and you can't outrun the mistakes of your past: the rock and the hard place of classic film noir, with only fate to decide whether or not a man comes out clean on the other side.

The wife is model-turned-actress Phyllis Kirk. Kirk did most of her work on television, but if you remember her at all it’s probably as the damsel in distress in De Toth’s most famous picture: House of Wax. Kirk and Nelson are well matched — and the mature depiction of their relationship is surprising for a film noir, and rather progressive when we consider typical gender depictions in similar crime films. Ellen Lacey wears the pants in the family; her assertiveness perfectly balances her husband’s diffidence — yet she’s neither a nag nor a shrew. Steve Lacey’s time behind bars has wrecked his ability to function outside the walls. He needs this strong woman to prop him up and constantly assure him that he has a future. That he had been, of all things, a fighter pilot during the war especially heightens the unusual nature of their relationship. Gone is the recklessness and bravado typically found in screen characterizations of such men, while the wife is equally surprising — a strong, modern woman who is neither a femme fatale nor perky a June Allyson. The film gives us an ideally matched couple, each offering what the other needs.

The crooks. Ted de Corsia: Eddie Muller says he looks like he was born in a boxing gym. James Ellroy: he “oozes Pomade.” Iconic in The Naked City, de Corsia shines reliably here as the brains behind the breakout. Crime Wave’s theatrical audience was familiar with him in heavy roles dating all the way back to The Lady from Shanghai. De Corsia’s screen persona was as hard-boiled as they come —*like an old-school Raymond Burr. His young partner is Charles Buchinsky, who also worked for De Toth in House of Wax. Of course Charles Bronson would go on to be one of the icons of seventies crime films, and one of the biggest movie stars in the world, but it’s always jarring to see him this young. His face is somewhat lined, but nowhere near as weather-beaten as it would become. Crime Wave offered the young actor one of his best early roles: he actually gets to act a little, and even has a few moments where his physicality is on display. The juxtaposition of a studio era character actor as traditional as de Corsia with someone as contemporary as Bronson gives the pair an unusual chemistry. Then there’s Tim Carey, the wild man of the American movie scene. There’s not enough room in any film review to dig into the strange case of Tim Carey, though on the strength of his appearance alone this one is worth the price of admission. His few brief moments of screen time are so bizarre — whether he’s at the center of the shot or mugging from the corner of the frame — that Crime Wave would be notable if for no other reason. 

Enough about the cast, as good as they are, there are more worthwhile reasons to watch this, especially if you appreciate how a film looks, even more if you can feel a film. Usually when a noir essayist digs on cinematography, he’ll discuss the lighting and composition of individual shots — I’m not going to do that. From top to bottom, Crime Wave is a beautifully and thoughtfully staged movie, yet it’s not a one-trick-pony when it comes to visual style (check out Witness to Murder). Instead, it’s a movie that employs a variety of techniques depending on what individual scenes call for. The sunlit exteriors are pure documentary naturalism: showing LA locales (Burbank, Glendale, downtown) in a straightforward “this is the city” fashion. It’s difficult to follow the movie during these scenes; one’s inclination is to instead focus on signs and landmarks, trying to get a feel for the way the streets, the people, and the cars looked during those spectacular post-war years. At night, Glennon goes for drama, placing klieg lights in off kilter spots to create a chiaroscuro effect that seems as contrived as the day shots seem real; yet somehow it works, and the transitions barely register.

However the scenes are staged, the greatest thing about Crime Wave is where they are filmed: on location all the way through — and not just the exteriors. De Toth somehow swung access to city hall; the homicide bureau scenes are the real deal. Crime Wave is a superlative example of the way in which a low budget feature could be extraordinary: without money to build sets or dictate production values, De Toth was forced to find locations for the film, and it’s clear after just a single viewing that he had a peculiar talent for doing so: it’s is one the most attractive, even exhilarating, film noirs ever made. Pause on almost any frame and you’ll find something to linger on. De Toth successfully captured all of the content tropes and moviemaking techniques that had become germane to film noir in this tiny little film, and he did it with only half of his promised budget, and in a shoot of only thirteen days. The location work of The Naked City, the backseat point of view from Gun Crazy, the tones of John Alton, the jittery handheld cameras, semi-professional actors, and the quagmire of the ceaseless urban landscape. This a mean, unglamorous movie — populated with Dudley Smith cops ready to shoot a suspect in the back, hard-boiled killers, damaged goods, floozies, stool pigeons, strongarms, and professional losers. The good, the bad — even the insane — all trying to claw their way through a world that no longer gives a damn. It’s a cheap, but delicious buffet of everything noir buffs hunger for — and the final few frames make for one hell of a dessert. It should be on many of those ubiquitous top-ten lists, but the guy beside you probably still hasn’t seen it.