Crossfire (1947)

crossfire-blog-001Brooding shadows, a murder mystery, a sultry blonde, and a fatalistic sense of an inevitably disconsolate outcome give Crossfire the film noir credibility claimed for it by reviewers, but especially by contemporary marketers of home video DVD and BluRay discs, looking for a way to dress up the merchandise.

Crossfire doesn’t really need to be dressed up like a cheap streetwalker. It has significant appeal in its own right, albeit not as the film noir I think it is despite itself.

Strong performances are delivered by Robert Ryan as the fearful Montgomery, Robert Mitchum as the reliably cynical anti-hero Keeley, and Robert Young as the disconsolate homicide detective Finlay. Gloria Grahame as the even more sad and embittered dance-hall girl, Ginny, was nominated for an Academy Award despite, or maybe because of, representing the unpalatable truth about how a generation of such women got by.

These performances, and the positive contemporary reviews it attracted, went a long way to earn the film a reputation rising far above its $500,000 B movie status. But there was far more below that surface.

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Murder, My Sweet (1945)

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In its time the film boasted an unlikely leading man, Dick Powell, better known as a crooner in musical romances than as the hard-boiled tough guy Phillip Marlowe, so much so that the title of the film had to be changed from Farewell, My Lovely, that also being the name of a musical Powell had fronted prior to his contract with RKO.

Nevertheless, Powell gave a convincing performance as the smart-talking, slightly edgy Marlowe in this impressively atmospheric, low-budget screen adaptation of the Chandler story.

The plot is labyrinthine, leading audiences on a wild goose chase after clues that aren’t there right up to the final minutes of the narrative.

Marlowe is hired by the heavyweight-sized Moose Malloy, a recently released convict who’s more brawn than brains, to find his old flame, Velma, whom he’d lost track of while serving a stretch for an ill defined crime. Tracking her down annoys the wrong people and sees Marlowe set up for the murder of a new client, the effete Lindsay Marriott, while babysitting him on a pay-off rendezvous to retrieve a stolen opal necklace worth $100,000.

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