Monday, February 1, 2010

Noir City no. 5: Gloria Grahame

Or, as Noir City called Saturday night's theme, "The Magnificent Gloria Grahame". Lucky enough for this year's noir audience, this was a last minute tribute thrown together when Harry Belafonte pulled out of attending the Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) screening. I assume, then, that this was supposed to be a tribute to Belafonte instead. Don't get me wrong, he's a wonderful performer and hardly difficult to look at, but he's not a noir actor. I can't even think of a film they could have appropriately paired with Odds. Grahame, on the other hand, fits the movement (because noir is much more than a genre) like a glove. Her strong-willed floozies with that hint of neglect and sadness behind the eyes are second to none. When it comes to the noir dame, Gloria Grahame is it. (With Ida Lupino, of course, right behind her. As David Thomson said, "If only she [Lupino] and Gloria Grahame could have played wicked sisters".)

As a Grahame tribute this double bill was a bit disappointing. Eddie Muller himself admitted that a Gloria Grahame tribute should never be an afterthought, or something you simply fall back on. Unfortunately, this was the case, and she was hardly done justice with Odds Against Tomorrow concluding the evening. She has no more than two short scenes in this film, and she's so good that you feel jilted for not getting more. Her opening line, while peeking curiously through a neighbor's door, was something along the lines of, "What's going on in here? An orgy?" And this was 1959.

Fritz Lang's Human Desire (1954), however, was a perfect showcase for Grahame's talent and magnetism. The print was beautiful, Glenn Ford was his usual great self, and Broderick Crawford gave a spark to Carl Buckley that was missing from La Bête Humaine (1938). If only they had paired this with The Big Heat (1953), another Lang-Ford-Grahame collaboration, or In a Lonely Place (1950), the evening would have been pure bliss.

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