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Film News: Third ‘Noir City: Chicago’ Festival Opens at Music Box Theatre

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CHICAGO – Diabolical twins, obsessed journalists and jail-breaking thugs are heading their way to the Music Box Theatre. The Film Noir Foundation’s third installment of “Noir City: Chicago” features no less than sixteen restored 35mm prints of must-see cinematic rarities. Ten of these noir classics have yet to land a DVD release, thus making this festival all the more essential for local cinephiles.

The week-long festival kicks off Friday, Aug. 12, and includes criminally overlooked performances from Hollywood legends such as Humphrey Bogart, Anne Bancroft, Barbara Stanwyck, Olivia de Havilland, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters and Burt Lancaster. Acclaimed noir historians Alan K. Rode (“Charles McGraw: Biography of a Film Noir Tough Guy”) and Foster Hirsch (“Detours and Lost Highways: A Map of Neo-Noir”) will be presenting the pictures while offering their wealth of historical and filmic insight.

Among this year’s most priceless treasures is “Deadline USA,” starring Bogart as a newspaper editor who refuses to stop chasing a vital story despite the impending death of his paper. That film is scheduled to make a superb double feature with “Chicago Deadline,” a long lost mystery-tinged melodrama that was shot on location in the Windy City over sixty years ago. Two Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake pairings are included in the mix, as well as two films headlined by the underrated character actor Broderick Crawford.

Humphrey Bogart stars in Richard Brooks’s 1952 noir Deadline USA.
Humphrey Bogart stars in Richard Brooks’s 1952 noir Deadline USA.
Photo credit: Twentieth Century Fox

The festival is poised to go out with a bang Thursday, Aug. 18 with the one-two punch of “Sorry, Wrong Number” and “Brute Force,” two of the earliest films in the career of Lancaster, who was discovered by producer Mark Hellinger when he was still employed as a circus acrobat. “Number” is fueled by a shattering, Oscar-nominated performance from Stanwyck as an invalid who believes she may have accidentally heard plans for a murder being discussed on the phone. The film’s climax is nearly as shocking as the entirety of “Force,” a bare-knuckled thriller that follows a group of abused inmates (led by Lancaster) who attempt to escape the clutches of a security guard, brilliantly played by Hume Cronyn as a self-righteous sadist. He conducts a savage interrogation to the tune of classical music in a sequence that plays like a possible precursor to Michael Madsen’s signature scene in “Reservoir Dogs.”
 
“Noir City” aims to shed thrilling new light on beautifully brutal gems kept far too long in the shadows. It is guaranteed to provide audiences with several evenings of first-rate entertainment, but viewers should be warned: happy endings are not guaranteed. Here is the complete festival lineup, in order of appearance…

Robert Parrish’s 1951 noir The Mob will screen Aug. 13 at the Music Box.
Robert Parrish’s 1951 noir The Mob will screen Aug. 13 at the Music Box.
Photo credit: Universal Studios

“High Wall” (1947), Curtis Bernhardt

Friday, August 12, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “Quintessential postwar noir, resurrected in a new 35mm print by the Film Noir Foundation! Brain-damaged vet Robert Taylor confesses to murdering his unfaithful wife and is sentenced to a sanitarium. His doctor (sexy Audrey Totter) gradually realizes he might not be guilty. Special thanks to Warner Bros. and UCLA Film & Television Archive.”

“The Dark Mirror” (1948), Robert Siodmak

Friday, August 12, 9:30pm

Synopsis: “Witnesses place Ruth Collins (Olivia de Havilland) at the scene of a grisly murder. When it’s discovered she has a twin, Dr. Elliot (Lew Ayres) is brought in to psychologically evaluate them both. Noir master Robert Siodmak deftly directs this Oscar-nominated original story, guiding de Havilland through two sensational performances. Preservation funded by the Film Noir Foundation.”

“The Mob” (1951), Robert Parrish

Saturday, August 13, 1:30pm & 5:30pm

Synopsis: “The tale of an undercover cop (Broderick Crawford) infiltrating a waterfront labor racket was a huge hit and a forerunner to 1950s’ crime exposés, subsequently overshadowed by the higher pedigreed On the Waterfront (1954). 1954, Allied Artists [Warner Bros.] 80 min. Scr. Warren Douglas. Dir. Harold D. Schuster. Featuring early work from actors Charles Bronson, Neville Brand, and Ernest Borgnine.”

“New York Confidential” (1955), Russell Rouse

Saturday, August 13, 3:30pm & 9:30pm

Synopsis: “Ripped from Kevaufer Crime Committee headlines of the 1950s is the saga of a mob kingpin (Broderick Crawford) whose hold on the syndicate is complicated by a newly imported hit man (Richard Conte), a restless mistress (Marilyn Maxwell), and Brod’s beautiful but fragile daughter (Anne Bancroft). Once thought lost, this rarity returns to NOIR CITY in 35mm courtesy of Kit Parker Films.”

“Loophole” (1954), Harold D. Schuster

Saturday, August 13, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “NOIR CITY is proud to resurrect one of the most rare films of the original noir era. An innocent bank clerk (Barry Sullivan), made the fall guy in an embezzlement scheme, is mercilessly pursued by a scarily righteous lawman (Charles McGraw, in an signature performance). Presented in a brand new 35mm print funded by the Film Noir Foundation! Thanks to Warner Bros. and UCLA Fim & Television Archive.”

George Sherman’s 1948 noir Larceny will screen Aug. 14 at the Music Box.
George Sherman’s 1948 noir Larceny will screen Aug. 14 at the Music Box.
Photo credit: Universal Studios

“The Blue Dahlia” (1946), George Marshall

Sunday, August 14, 1:30pm & 5:39pm

Synopsis: “At the pinnacle of Ladd–Lake mania, crime fiction legend Raymond Chandler fashioned this original, booze-fueled screenplay for the co-stars, and ended up with an Oscar nomination for his trouble. Ladd plays a veteran who finds a more sophisticated form of murder and mayhem on the home front, while Veronica Lake vamps through the proceedings at her most glamorously iconic.”

“Larceny” (1948), George Sherman

Sunday, August 14, 3:30pm & 9:45pm

Synopsis: “John Payne and Dan Duryea play dandy grifters bent on bilking a wealthy war widow (Joan Caulfield). Both are tangled up with saucy Shelley Winters, who’s more dangerous than a loaded .38. A riotously entertaining, little-known gem, presented in a brand new 35mm print courtesy of Universal Pictures.”

“The Hunted” (1948), Jack Bernhard

Sunday, August 14, 7:45pm

Synopsis: “Laura Mead (Belita) has served her time for robbery and still claims her innocence. She returns to the city where her former cop lover (Preston Foster) sent her up. Is she back for a fresh start—or revenge? A strange, hypnotic noir from Poverty Row director Jack (Decoy) Bernhard, resurrected in a new 35mm print by the Film Noir Foundation! Thanks to Warner Bros. and UCLA Film & Television Archive.”

“Deadline USA” (1952), Richard Brooks

Monday, August 15, 5:30pm & 9:30pm

Synopsis: “Humphrey Bogart stars as Ed Hutcheson, veteran editor of the New York Day, which is about to be sold to its main competitor. With only hours left before the presses stop, ‘Hutch’ decides to go out in a blaze of glory, taking down the city’s biggest racketeer. An eerily prescient eulogy for “old school” journalism, it’s one of the greatest of all newspaper movies.”

“Chicago Deadline” (1949), Lewis Allen

Monday, August 15, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “Alan Ladd is a reporter obsessed with a young woman he finds dead in a cheap brothel. Connecting the dots all around Chicago, he cobbles together the sad history of a good girl (Donna Reed) gone wrong. Incredibly rare, not screened for decades before being resurrected by the Film Noir Foundation, this rarity makes excellent use of various Chicago locales to tell an ink-stained version of Laura.”

Lewis Allen’s 1949 noir Chicago Deadline will screen Aug. 15 at the Music Box.
Lewis Allen’s 1949 noir Chicago Deadline will screen Aug. 15 at the Music Box.
Photo credit: Universal Studios

“The Story of Molly X” (1949), Crane Wilbur

Tuesday, August 16, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “ Writer-director Wilbur had an obsession with producing prison movies, but this ultra-rarity has a twist: the protagonist is a brass-knuckled dame (June Havoc) who takes over her boyfriend’s Frisco gang after he’s killed. After murdering the culprit in cold blood, she winds up in women’s prison—and you know what happens in those places…”

“Crashout” (1955), Lewis R. Foster

Tuesday, August 16, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “Six prisoners crash out of the pen to unearth a stashed robbery payroll. Director Lewis Foster’s frantic film is full of wild flourishes and stunningly brutal action. Featuring leggy Beverly Michaels, wholesome Gloria Talbott, you’ll only find this buried treasure at NOIR CITY!”

“The Glass Key” (1942), Stuart Heisler

Wednesday, August 17, 5:30pm & 9:10pm

Synopsis: “Dashiell Hammett’s groundbreaking novel of big city corruption is given a brisk adaptation by noir scribe par excellence Latimer, and features charismatic performances from Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Ladd plays a savvy “fixer” mixed up in a murder case that could derail the ambitions of his boss, a politician with a shady past.”

Burt Lancaster stars in Jules Dassin’s 1947 noir Brute Force.
Burt Lancaster stars in Jules Dassin’s 1947 noir Brute Force.
Photo credit: Universal Studios

“Among The Living” (1941), Stuart Heisler

Wednesday, August 17, 7:30pm

Synopsis: “Albert Dekker stars as identical twins, one a brain-damaged psychopath who stirs up a Gothic whirlwind of insanity, family skeletons and murder. Costarring a lushly nubile Susan Hayward, venerable Harry Carey, and pre-tragedy Frances Farmer. This rarely screened horror-noir hybrid features stunning camerawork by Renoir collaborator Theodore Sparkhul..”

“Sorry, Wrong Number” (1948), Anatole Litvak

Thursday, August 18, 5:30pm & 9:45pm

Synopsis: “Barbara Stanwyck gives a tour de force performance as a bedridden woman who, through crossed phone wires, overhears a murder being planned. This engrossing extension of the legendary 22-minute radio drama is pure noir, tracking an ill-fated romance that spirals into deceit, despair, and death. Featuring Burt Lancaster in one of his earliest roles.”

“Brute Force” (1947), Jules Dassin

Thursday, August 18, 7:40pm

Synopsis: “Burt Lancaster plots a breakout for the inmates of Cell R-17, so they can escape the sadism of fascistic bully Hume Cronyn. Featuring an incredible cast of character actors, all making the meanest movie of their careers. The climactic bust-out remains a shocker, as the escape erupts into full-throttle warfare. The most unforgettable men-behind-bars movie ever made!”

For tickets and additional info, visit http://www.musicboxtheatre.com.

By MATT FAGERHOLM
Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com

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