Monday, June 1, 2020

The Flame (1947) Flame Out Noir

A Christmas - New Year Noir Meller.

Directed by John H. Auer written by Lawrence Kimblefro a story by Robert T. Shannon.

Here's a "C" Noir from Republic Pictures that's just a bit of a ratchet up from every Hugo Hass "prodution" I've seen. But what Hugo always got right is the inclusion of a sleazy blonde bombshell in every one of his Noirs. A blonde who knew the sore and could always make a living on her back in a pinch

Auger includes a foreign born blonde but instead of sexy she comes off demure and mousy. Vera Ralston, a born in Czechoslovakia ice skater, is playing an ex French Nurse, she must be Republic's answer to Belita, another foreign blonde who failed to ignite in America.

Auer went to to make two other excellent noir The City That Never Sleeps and a favorite of mine Hell's Half Acre.

What The Flame has going for it is a great opening Noir eight minutes that has a jazzy almost rockabilly soundtrack, and then periodic appearances from Broderick Crawford and Constance Dowling which tend to make up for the draggy soap opera sequences.

After those first eight minutes the flame out begins when we get to the flashback. Much like The Set Up,( thought it's actual runtime is 1:37 minutes)  The Flame in real time takes place in the hour before 12 on New Years Eve.

The Opening Sequence

Tale is about two brothers. George and Barry MacAllister. George is the wild ass, debonair playboy, an ex GI who fiddled away his inheritance on living high on the hog in rooms with a view in the Hapshire House at 150 West 59th Street. A view of  New York's Central Park. His always sickly brother Barry is ensconced at the families seaside estate perched on a cliff in that looks like Rhode Island. Barry is fond of playing morbid, organ music. Its basically the equivalent of the "elevator" or innocuous funeral parlor music type crap you'd hear and forget.

Robert Paige is Barry. Henry

Vera Ralston is Carlotta Duval 

Blanche Yurka is Aunt Margaret 
Whose notion of this being a good idea is perplexing. Maybe it was called for in the original story. Heinz Roemheld is credited with the soundtrack.

The palatial mansion combined with Barry's dirges creates a funereal atmosphere that manages to shift everything everything into low gear. Barry still has his half of the family fortune. A nurse, Carlotta Duval takes care of George. George has fallen in love with Carlotta.

Carlotta is actually the nurse that George fell in love with while recovering from war wounds in a GI hospital in Paris. George gave her the introduction to Barry and Aunt Margaret, passing her off as the friend of his girlfriend in Paris.

Carlotta the bait

the proposal, and the hook is set
Carlotta is actually the nurse that George fell in love with while recovering from war wounds in a GI hospital in Paris. George gave her the introduction to Barry and Aunt Margaret, passing her off as the friend of his girlfriend in Paris.

George has cooked up this devious plan of having Carlotta marry Barry. I guess George, "knowing" Carlotta, figures that the strain of the marital bed will give Barry a heart attack and put him in an early grave. Once a suitable period of mourning passes George will marry Carlotta and he'll regain control  of the remainder of the family fortune.

Broderick Crawford is Enie Hicks

While this scheme is stewing in the suburbs, a shlub named Ernie Hicks, pops up into the tale. George notices him hanging around his apartment house lobby, and then sees him from his balcony looking up at him while standing under a streetlight on the Central Park side of 59th. George goes down to confront him.

George: Ok lets have it what's on your mind?.
Ernie: Is this a stickup?
George: You know its not a stickup.
Ernie: What is it then?
George: Every time I turn around I see your face.
Ernie: Its my face I'll take it where I please.
George: If you don't want it messed up quit trailing me.
Ernie: If anybody's trailing you I don't know anything about it, I got troubles of my own and the don't include you.
George: Then what are you casing my apartment for?
Ernie: Your apartment, your name Helene? Do you work at the Chef Au Blanc, do I have a yen for you?
George: Helene Helene Anderson?
Ernie: Yea, and you know her, that's your angle.
George: No, I just heard she moved into the apartment. What are you watching her for?
Ernie: She's a dame that needs watching.
George: Girlfriend.
Ernie: Sometimes I wonder.

Ernie is the obsessed boyfriend of one of George's apartment house "friends with benefits," Helene Anderson. She's a torch singer at the Chef Au Blanc night club.

Constance Dowling is Helene
Ernie begins to suspect George of stealing his gal.  Then it all starts going seriously downhill once Ernie gets wise to Carlotta and George's swindle. Another unexpected development sends it all spiraling to Noirsville.


John Carrol the perennial sleazy, pencil thin mustache wearing, second banana supporting actor plays George. He is very convincing. Broderick Crawford character is sort of a smarter version of the small time crook he played in A Night Before Christmas (1942) and a softer version of the hood he plays in Born Yesterday (1950). Constance Dowling is also very effective as Helene.

Vera Ralston as Carlotta Duval is very forgettable as is Robert Paige playing Barry. Henry Travers (who everybody will recognize as Clarence the angel from Its A Wonderful Life) plays Dr. Mitchell, Blanche Yurka is the sour dowager Aunt Margaret who was in charge of the MacAllister estate until the brothers came of age (their parents both died in a tragic accident), Hattie McDaniel plays the MacAllister maid Celia.

The first eight minutes like I mentioned earlier is great. Another highlight for me is the mid century modern style of chair that George sits in in his apartment is exactly like one I owned in Montana. Sreencaps are from an online streamer. Watchable. 6.5-7/10

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