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Down Noir Alley With Eddie Muller

Episode 219 Noir Alley

CLIP Double Indemnity I killed him… didn’t get the girl

BETH ACCOMANDO
That pretty much sums up film noir and we are going to travel into that shadowy, treachery laden terrain for the month of Noirvember.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (drums)

BETH ACCOMANDO
Welcome back to listener supported KPBS Cinema Junkie I'm Beth Accomando.

Cinema Junkie The Theme bump 1 (Horns)

BETH ACCOMANDO
Femme fatales, private dicks, wooden kimonoes... welcome to the world of film noir. The term was coined by French film critics to describe a style of cinema rooted in hard-boiled crime fiction of the 1940s. It revealed a cynicism that challenged audiences with something new, a world where women used sex to get what they wanted, where betrayal and deceit were to be expected, and murder was a given. Classic noir is usually defined as films made between 1941 and late 1950s. The term literally means black film and the darkness comes not just from the visual look but also from the dark motives of the characters. (:38)

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BETH ACCOMANDO
I need to take one quick break before talking with Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s Noir Alley and the founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation. He has just revised and expanded his book Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir and we’ll be discussing that as well as all things noir right after this break.

CLIP The Big Sleep Trailer

MIDROLL 1 [currently at 2:08]

BETH ACCOMANDO
Welcome back. I am thrilled to have Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s Noir Alley back on the podcast. Eddie is known as the Czar of Noir. So to start our discussion I asked him to define noir and what he thinks a film needs to have to be classified as one.

EDDIE MULLER
Well, this is the $64 million question, uh, adjusted for inflation. Uh, it's a, there they are crime movies from the mid 20th century by and large. That's what they are, but they're very unique because they have a vision and a style and a language. That is, uh, you know, indicative of that era and it, and they came out of an organic artistic movement that existed for no reason other than the artists wanted to do it. There was no real economic reason for it. The films weren't like colossal moneymakers. I mean, if you go back and look, there's no, there's no noir film. That was like the most popular film of the year in 1946 or 40. Uh, you know, there were hits like the postman always rings twice and Gilda…

CLIP Gilda trailer if I was a ranch I’d be called the bar nothing

EDDIE MULLER
Uh, but they were just, it was a movement. They made money. They were made cheap. Relatively, uh, but they have stood the test of time. So, so by and large, we're talking about crime movies, but obviously we'll go beyond that and discuss, you know, why they were unique and not like crime movies of an earlier era or a later era necessarily. But for me, Beth, the key to what made noir so unique and special and a bit subversive in Hollywood of that era was that it was the first time that the people who were doing the wrong thing were the protagonists of the films, right in double indemnity is Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck.

CLIP Double Indemnity trailer they won’t hang you cause I’ll help you

EDDIE MULLER
And to me, looking at it from a writer's perspective, that's what really makes something. you know, a crime movie in which the central character is a police officer, trying to run a crook to ground. And you spend most of the movie with that, that law enforcement officer who's trying to do the right thing. That's not a film noir, right? The F the film noir is where that officer gets tempted into becoming a criminal, just like the guy he's pursuing. And it's usually for a while. And, uh, and then everything goes to hell and it all turns out badly that then you're talking film noir.

CLIP On Dangerous Ground Robert Ryan Why do you make me do it?

BETH ACCOMANDO
So what originally got you hooked on noir and how far back does that go for you?

EDDIE MULLER
Uh, I, it goes back to when I used to cut school and watch dialing for dollars on, on a KTVU in Oakland. California,

CLIP Dialing for dollars on KTUV, Oakland

EDDIE MULLER
I joke about this a lot, but it's absolutely true. You know, there was no, uh, video tape or anything like that when I first started watching these movies. So you had to be very diligent and I would buy the TV guide every week.

CLIP tv guide commercial

EDDIE MULLER
Then I'd go through and I'd highlight all the movies that had night city street or big in the title. I don't know how big fit in, but everything was like the big combo, the big steal, the big knife, the big night that, you know, the big carnival,

CLIP Big Carnival: Why don’t you wash the platinum out of your hair

EDDIE MULLER
Those all turned out to be pretty noirish. So, so that was it. I was just like this nocturnal beast, you know, that I loved movies. Set at night in the big city. And, and that, that was just my thing.

BETH ACCOMANDO
Well, I think for me, the thing that always appealed to me about film noir is how contemporary they still feel. And part of that to me is that they were willing to look at the dark side of things and the moral ambiguity, and not try to be tapping into the particular mores of that time, because when you're promoting something that's popular in the 1930s as a political or social point of view, Tends to get dated. But if you're looking at the darker side of people who are making bad choices and going against the status quo or the, you know, whatever's considered right or moral, those films really tend to stay fresh and contemporary. And that's one of the things I really love about noir.

CLIP Dark Corner up to our ears in ethics

EDDIE MULLER
Well, in many ways that film noir movement is where America, at least in terms of popular entertainment, it's where America sort of lost its innocence. Uh, we had won the war, so we, we knew we were the good guys, but then we started exploring what really happened here that caused the great depression and what, you know, and, and now that America had come out on the winning side, Artists were liberated to kind of question things at home that they couldn't do during the depression or during world war two, because you weren't doing your part to, you know, boost morale and all that. So, um, it was. Timely in that regard. And, and yeah, I completely agree with you that the film more than a lot of other types of movies made in Hollywood noir has sort of retained its bite all, although we should discuss an, uh, very odd aspect of all of this is as you pointed out, these were. Contemporary films and the time they were made, right. We look at them now and sometimes people can get a little confused thinking. They're watching a period. Piece. They have to remember that these were not period pieces when they were made, they were the contemporary, thrillers and crime movies of their day. You know, the, the way we look at something today is indicative of our time. That's what these films were for for their era. And it's just important to remember that. And you can see all the factors that kind of lead into making, you know, why noir happened when it was.

BETH ACCOMANDO
And you wrote a book on noir back in, it was first published in 1998 called dark city. And I love, I can't remember if this is the first line in it, in the introduction or in the beginning of the book, but you say film noir were distressed flares launched into America's movie screens by artists working the night shift at the dream factory. And that seems to sum it up fairly well.

EDDIE MULLER
Thank you, but, but that is, that's kinda what it was. You know, I, I always think of it as the flip side of the Hollywood myth. You know, everybody was familiar with Hollywood movies at that time, you know, trying to sell reassurance and, and people sometimes found them corny because, uh, You know, you know, everything had to turn out happily ever after in the end and, you know, send them home happy

CLIP Andy Hardy Trailer or Harvey Girls?

EDDIE MULLER
And noir did just the opposite. It send them home with a lot of doubt and axed and fear that things are not going to turn out well. And that maybe the system doesn't work quite as well as you think it. Uh, and, and that's what these artists were doing. And to me, it's endlessly fascinating because like I said, at the top, nobody was asking them to do this. It just emerged organically and all the different crafts. Artist's got involved. I mean, from the writers to the directors, to the cinematographers, to the art directors and especially the actors, because none of this would've happened. If the actors didn't sort of lead the way, because that's who people are paying money to see.

CLIP Big Sleep I don’t like my manners either..

Right. And so. You know, Humphrey Bogart, you cannot overstate his importance to the film nor our movement, because he made that sort of cynical. Antiheroes so popular and so attractive to the American public. Uh, and Bogart went through the 1940s kind of playing both sides of the fence. He was a good guy in a lot of movies, but then he would play villainous characters as well. And no actor could convey cynicism and idealism. Simultaneously the way Bogart did, right. I mean, obviously we think of Casablanca is like the ultimate example of that,

CLIP Casablanca

EDDIE MULLER
But that's a character he played a lot that kind of became his stock and trade, you know? And he, wasn't afraid to, you know, like Fred C Dobbs and the treasure of Sierra Madre. I, it has kind of a noir heart, but I wouldn't call it a film noir necessarily.

CLIP Treasure of Sierra Madre

EDDIE MULLER
But you know, that's, that's a fairly despicable character that he was. You know, courageous enough to play once he was a big star.

BETH ACCOMANDO
Now, when you wrote dark city in 1998, it was a different landscape back then. And you have now revised the book. So what kind of prompted you to write it in the first place and why a revision now?

EDDIE MULLER
I was prompted to write it in the first place, because I really love these movies. So, uh, that first book was successful enough that St. Martin said, what do you got up your sleeve now? And I said, I want to do a book about, about film noir. And I felt that most of the books that I had read on this subject were very, very academic. Some were quite good, like Foster Hirsch's book. The dark side of the screen is very good. Uh, but it was just, most of them were done in an academic style that. That's not me. That's not my voice or my intention. Uh, you know, so I wanted to write about these movies in a different kind of a way. And there was a book that I had read by Jeffrey O'Brien called the Phantom empire. That was a very heady. Book about cinema, about the history of movies, but I loved that he took a totally different approach to writing about films. And so I said that that's what I want to do. And so the idea was. Because there's a similarity in, in noir. They're, they're big city movies, they're crime movies. You could very easily, or I could at least, uh, imagine that all these stories are happening in one big mythological city and, and that's dark city. Right. And so I created a metropolis in which I could discuss all of these.

BETH ACCOMANDO
And then what prompted the revision now? Is it, um, where you just reinspired to go back and visit these films again?

EDDIE MULLER
Well, several things. The success of the first book led to my being invited to program film festivals and things sort of based on the book and that whole notion of it being the lost world of film noir had kind of a double meaning because not only did it speak to the. Alienation that you find in the films themselves. But in some cases I was doing this archeology, which I now call it an archeology. And I felt like, you know, some of these movies might never be seen again. Cause I was watching them on, you know, videotapes that I got from people that I didn't even know across the country. You said, oh yeah, I recorded this one time off television for. 20 years ago. And that was my only source for watching some of these movies. So I really thought the first time around that I was writing about films that nobody was going to see again. And then when it, when I was asked to program festivals, I'd say, let's see if this movie still exists. And in many cases they didn't, we couldn't find a print of these films. And so after a few years, I became obsessed with this idea of, well, if the festivals are going to make money, let's use the profits to create a foundation that tracks down and restores these missing films. And we did that in 2005. So it's been 16 years already, but I'm proud to say, you know, that we've either restored or preserved over 30 movies in that time.

And. And so the revised edition of my book, I was able to incorporate a number of those films that I had to leave out of the first edition, because I couldn't see the movie. I couldn't, I couldn't find Too Late for Tears or Woman on the Run or Cry Danger or Trapped, or The Man who Cheated Himself
CLIP Man who cheated himself trailer

EDDIE MULLER
They, they had just vanished. So, you know, that, that, that was a big part of it. Plus quite honestly, And I don't want this to come as a shock to anyone, but, you know, when I wrote that first book, I, it was, it was an act of a chutzpah let's say, because I certainly did not consider myself to be an, the expert or the czar of new or anything like that. But I love these movies and I felt I had something to say and that I could add to the discourse. Uh, on these, on these films and then having written the book, it put me in a position where I had so much more to learn and you never stop. Right. You never stop learning about this stuff. Now, now I am coming to understand that this was not a particularly American phenomenon. These movies were being made all over the world. America was inspiring a lot of it, but there was a cross-pollination that happened, you know, between France and vice versa and the Brits, and then the effect that neorealism had on Hollywood. And, uh, and so you learn this and now, now I'm, I'm fascinated.

By hunting down new are films that look and feel just like the norm films we know from Hollywood, but they're from south America or they're from Japan or India even.

CLIP Bewafa (1952)

EDDIE MULLER
And I just think that is absolutely fascinating.

BETH ACCOMANDO
One of the things I really like about the book is how you break it up into the different chapters. Because I think people, when they think of noir sometimes have this kind of monolithic image of noir, it's all the same. There there's always a femme fatale. There's always this. And while there, there are definitely stylistic elements that tie them all together and thematic elements, there really is, uh, or. They really do break up into these kinds of subcategories that are really interesting. And I love some of these titles that you have, like sinister Heights and knock over square and losers lane. Uh, talk about how you decided to break this up. And, and did you feel like this was a slightly different approach to how noir was being covered?

EDDIE MULLER
I did feel it was a bit different. Like I say, my. I come at it as a writer. I mean, it was when you read dark city, I think, especially if you read it back, when it was published in 1998, you could see that there was a novelist at work there. I mean, it was always my goal to write fiction. I had never really imagined that I would write a film history book, but, you know, because my love was crime fiction and I love Hammett and Chandler and all those guys. And I said, well, what if I wrote a film book that sort of captured that spirit and that style. And so when I really started examining what types of movies are there in noir? Are you realize, you know, there, there are, and, and this came Beth from a very, very practical research angle. Not only did I, you know, I tried to set aside academic works that might influence my approach to these films. Instead, I tried to find as much stuff written at the time as possible. So I could see what did people actually think of these movies when they were being made and when they were being released? I, I wanted to kind of lose the hindsight. You know, and just dive right into, this is why they were made. And, and, and one of the things that I encountered were a bunch of exhibitors manually. From the noir era from like 1948 and 49. And these were magazines that were published in Hollywood by the studios that went out to theater owners to like sell their wares. Like, this is what you've got coming up and this, you know, and it was fascinating to see number one, how the studios themselves talked about these films. They never used the term noir. That was impossible. Uh, they called them either crime, thrillers or Murder dramas. And when I started making lists of, well, these are the, the murder dramas, and these are the crime thrillers. It became apparent that there was a distinction in that the crime thrillers were like cops and robbers movies. Right? So you could imagine a kiss of death and cry of the city and the asphalt jungle. These are crime, thrillers.

CLIP Asphalt Jungle the job

EDDIE MULLER
Murder dramas are Double Indemnity. The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Reckless Moment.

CLIP The Reckless Moment blackmail worth more now that he’s dead

EDDIE MULLER
Movies where normal people are committing the crimes, you know, uh, amateurs. So, so it became obvious to me that wow, crime thrillers are about or about professionals and murder dramas or about amateurs. You know, it was only later when they started making all the Hitman movies, that there was a crossover where the murder drama actually was a crime thriller because he's a professional killer, but. And I was just fascinated by that. And also by the fact that so many of the letters to, to the studios from exhibitors out in rural areas did not like these movies. And it was like stop making. Please stop making them it. You're scaring everybody into thinking that, you know, there's this cancer in the, in the culture and the big cities are, are cesspools, you know, vice and corruption. Oh. And now we, we know better now, but, uh, that, that was really what was driving it. And I was fascinated by all that. So I've, I've funneled that all into the book.
BETH ACCOMANDO
I need to take one last break and then I’ll be back with Eddie Muller to continue our discussion of film noir with a look at his chapter called Sinister Heights featuring actor John Garfield.

MIDROLL 2 [currently at 22:53 ]

BETH ACCOMANDO
Welcome back. Let’s pick up my discussion with Eddie Muller by looking to his chapter called Sinister Heights where he highlights one of my favorite actors John Garfield. My dad introduced me to Garfield in the film Four Daughters, and I was fascinated by him because he wasn't your typical Hollywood star. He had this gruff cynicism combined with charisma and sex appeal.

CLIP Four Daughters Homes like these that are the backbone of the nation

EDDIE MULLER
I think he tends to get overlooked and he was important in Hollywood history and the fact that he was like the pied Piper that led the whole group theater crowd to Hollywood from New York. And he was a New York kid, a street kid. And he, he was so identifiably Jewish to the Jewish. Uh, maybe not to everybody, but you know, he was as Jewish as Jimmy Cagney was Irish to America at that time, you know, and that was really important. And. Yeah, I cannot overstate how significant Garfield was. And also the fact that, um, when he did the postman always rings twice. The fact that, uh, a street kid like that, a Jewish street kid, like. We'd be having an affair with like the ultimate Schick's of all time, you know, Lana Turner you can't top that.

CLIP Postman Always Rings Twice You dropped this…

EDDIE MULLER
So that that's, uh, an undercurrent in all of that, that I think was really, really strong at the time. I don't know how people watching the film today would read that, but I can guarantee you that it, it was duly noted at the time.

BETH ACCOMANDO
Well, I just remember, you know, it was probably like an elementary school or maybe junior high and seeing Four Daughters. And I just remember, you know, there's the, you know, Priscilla Lane plays this beautiful, charming. Very suburban kind of character. And I forgot if it was her aunt or her mother, but I remember she serves tea…

CLIP Four Daughters Tea

BETH ACCOMANDO
I just remember thinking like this, isn't the kind of thing I normally see. And I remember him in Body and Soul too at the end when he says what are you gonna do kill me?

CLIP Body and Soul Everybody dies…

EDDIE MULLER
Yeah, fantastic attitude. O bviously I included him in the book, not just because of his artistic, uh, achievements and what that all meant in Hollywood, but, you know, he had a, he had a track. Story. And, and, you know, if you read the book, you know, that I kind of choose to focus on certain people because they did have, uh, backgrounds or life stories that sort of could have been a film noir themselves, you know, and Garfield's persecution by the house un-American activities committee and the fact that he died and only 39 years of age is, you know, it's just such a sad story and, and how much he meant to so many people and how many people he, you know, gave a start to in the business and how artistically ambitious he was. Because, you know, these days, it's, it's not uncommon for actors when they get popular to just, you know, start their production company and dive right in and you know, which is much easier. Today. I shouldn't say easy, but it's much more prevalent today because Hollywood is not as centralized as it used to be. When Garfield started enterprise pictures. I mean, he was basically, you know, saying I'm going to compete with these studios. He had to work with them to get the films distributed, but he was basically saying, I have a better way to make people. And, you know, that was early, that was like 1946 to say that, uh, was pretty brazen, took a lot of guts.

CLIP Trailer Force of Evil broken man break your husband…

BETH ACCOMANDO
One of your other chapters. Has a lovely description here. This is Hate street. The randy region of ruined relationships. And I like the way you highlight somebody. That's very iconic Joan Crawford, but you give her a little different spin because you call her the actress as auteur.

CLIP Mildred Pierce

BETH ACCOMANDO
And I thought that was an interesting spin to put on her and makes you kind of rethink her influence on not just Hollywood, but on this particular, you know, film style as well.

EDDIE MULLER
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I can never, never overlook the fact that it is the performers that the public pays to see. Right. And, and so much film scholarship. Rightly focuses on the directors with, to the exclusion of writers and performers. And, you know, as Francoise Truffaut's said, it's about actors. I mean, that's what the audience wants to see. They want to see these people. And Joan Crawford to me is such a fascinating character. And I did feel a little bit like I want to reclaim. Um, you know, she became such a campy icon…

CLIP Strait Jacket

EDDIE MULLER
And then after mommy dearest,

CLIP Wire Hangers

EDDIE MULLER
The die was cast and it was like, well, I'm going to do what I can to sort of suggest to, you know, younger people that, you know, before you laugh at Joan Crawford's later movies consider who she really was in Hollywood and how much power she wielded in Hollywood. She was an incredible. Dominant and dominating personality in the business. Uh, she essentially was the producer of all of her movies after Mildred Pierce, you know, and. And I just think it's a story that isn't really told, and she doesn't get her due in that regard. And, and you know, it's hard for this culture to, to accept this, but you can be many things. It's not one or the other, you, you can kind of be. Somewhat of a laughing stock for your later movies

CLIP Trog trailer

EDDIE MULLER
And still be a really good actress and a really strong producer and have really good taste and stuff, you know, it's, it's not impossible to be those many things. And, and Joan Crawford was that she was, she, she was many things.

BETH ACCOMANDO
She kept reinventing herself to keep her career going.

EDDIE MULLER
Which, uh, every performer in the world will tell you, that's what you have to do. And, you know, sometimes you, it, it veers into embarrassment as it did for Joan Crawford.

CLIP Berserk Trailer

EDDIE MULLER
But I don't think that that in any way should denigrate the work that she did before that. So that's what I tried to explain in that too.

BETH ACCOMANDO
I want to highlight one more chapter before we talk about some films specifically, but psych ward was interesting because although I have seen a lot of those films, I never consciously kind of thought of this category of. Uh, noir in which the characters had these kind of, uh, that these characters were veterans that were vexed with problems. And I liked the way you highlighted that because it did give kind of, it made me look at the noir films that I'd seen in kind of a fresh.

EDDIE MULLER
Yeah, it's fair. It's interesting because so many, um, there, there were a number of these films and that's what we were saying earlier about these movies were contemporary. They were dealing with issues of the day and in w I mean, the best years of our lives obviously is one of the greatest American movies ever made. And it's about specifically, you know, the difficulty of soldiers reintegrating into normal life.

CLIP Best Years of Our Lives: Fred wake up…

EDDIE MULLER
But if you put that on a crime movie, it's fascinating. And of course, this is where so many noir are films that hinge on the idea of amnesia come into play because so many of these returning soldiers have come back somehow damaged.

CLIP Blue Dahlia William Bendix

EDDIE MULLER
The blue Dahlia, a high wall, somewhere in the night, the clay pigeon, these are all movies that hinge on soldiers with memory loss. And it's a great gimmick for, for film, right? I mean, as Chris Nolan, it's, it's a great gimmick for a film and, and even today to go right back to…Uh, these noir films, because it's about a veteran, who's done horrible things. Who's trying to reintegrate into, into normal life. And he has really a hard time coping and, and, uh, so I see the card counter as being, uh, uh, a very. Uh, definitive extension of these new noir films of the post-World war two era. This is our version of that today.

CLIP Card Counter

BETH ACCOMANDO
Well, what's interesting about it too, is you mentioned best years of our lives, which gives a I don't not sure. I want to say positive. Some did. It gives a very hopeful. Look at these soldiers, re-integrating back to civilian life and what noir does. And I think this is what makes it much more contemporary feeling is it's, you know, it's looking at PTSD sort of before we had a label for it and acknowledging that this was maybe not something that could be easily conquered and solved with, you know, a good wife or an understanding family. And instead it looks at it within the kind of morally ambiguous landscape where how does that come into play and create problems?

EDDIE MULLER
And I thought that was fascinating. Yeah, it is very interesting. There's that movie that I referenced High Wall, which was made in at MGM of all places in 1947,

CLIP High Wall Steve you’re sick…

EDDIE MULLER
With Robert Taylor as a veteran. Who's lost his memory. There are scenes in that movie that are, are startling for how daringly. They depict the misery of returning veterans, right? I mean, he, he is institutionalized and you have scenes in that movie where he's having conversations with other soldiers who are still suffering from the effects of the first world war and, and they just, their brains just don't function. Right. And that was very daring to put. On screen one year after the war ended, you know, uh, the second world war ended, uh, you know, it wasn't something that America was necessarily ready to deal with. Uh, and, and, or a picture like Kansas city confidential, where, you know, John Payne is an ex-con and the cops are surprised to find out that he was. Uh, like had won the silver star or something.

CLIP Kansas City Confidential that and a nickel will get me a cup of coffee

EDDIE MULLER
And he says, yeah, that in the quarter will get me a cup of coffee or that in a nickel. Sorry, I was adjusting for inflation that in the nickel, get me a cup of coffee, you know, which was not the kind of attitude that you, you had, uh, in Holly Hollywood before the normal.

BETH ACCOMANDO
I want to move on to the films that you've added to this revised edition, because this kind of brings together a lot of what you do. So you were able to add some films because your noir foundation, which really focuses a lot on preserving noir for a new generation and for, you know, past generations to enjoy, to, uh, It looks to preserving films and you were able to find a few of these lost films and now include them in the book. And one of my favorites of the ones you listed is too late for tears. Oh my God. When I saw that, that was just such a wild ride and Lizabeth Scott and , and I think it has one of my favorite noir lines, which is

CLIP what do I call you besides stupid?

EDDIE MULLER
That's a pretty great one. Yeah. Uh, at dirt, Dan Duryea has a few good lines, you know, that's it.

CLIP Too Late For Tears: I don't think, I, I don't think I like you with a heart. I don't think I'd like you, if you had a heart, you know, um,

EDDIE MULLER
And it's interesting because when I was doing the book, the first version of the book, I was talking to a friend of mine who had just opened a theater in Northern California. And I, this is the first time I ever met him. And I said, I'm working on this project. And he said, oh, you know, my favorite film noir is too late for tears. And I was so embarrassed because I didn't know what that was. I didn't know the film. I'd never seen it, you know? So that's what I'm saying, Beth. It's like, so then I had to go home and go, I'm writing a book on film noir, and this guy's favorite movie is one I've never seen, but, um, I did, but then it became like the holy grail was defined this movie. And, and it's, it's just interesting because so many of the films that we have preserved were independently made movies. Even if there were big famous people involved, you know, like hunt Stromberg. Who's one of the great producers in Hollywood history was the producer of too late for tears, but he did it as an independent. Right. And released it through United artists. And originally Joan Crawford was going to be the star of that film. Joan Crawford and Kirk Douglas were intended to be the stars of the film, but that didn't work out. And so Lizabeth Scott and Dan Dureya, did it instead. But you know, when, uh, when a film gets out of circulation, when it's made independently, it's usually distributed by a major studio and. There's a term on that deal, right? Like for five years or something. And then. Uh, a lot of independent producers by the time their distribution deals expired, they were out of business. And so there's, there's nobody there to protect the films. Right. And so that's why we have to hunt these things down. And boy too late for tears was a challenge because we ended up finding about three copies. I think there was a, uh, kind of a batter dupe negative. There was a 35 millimeter print and there was a 16 millimeter print and the restoration was done by, by sort of cobbling, artfully cobbling, all of these together taking literally the best show. That we could find from each version and reassembling the whole thing. It was, I mean, that was the work of Scott McQueen at the UCLA film and television archive. He oversaw that and it was tricky because nobody knows it when they watch the film now. But when I see it, I can see. This shot of Liz. Scott is a 35 millimeter. This reverse angle of Dan Duryea is from the 16 millimeter print. It was like whichever one looks sharper and clearer and could be enhanced. That's that's the one we went with. So it was basically like re cutting the entire film from these different sources in order to get the best version.

BETH ACCOMANDO
And one of the other films you mentioned is one I haven't seen, but I looked up, I found a trailer or a, I think it was just a clip actually, but one called The Guilty, which I'm really looking forward to uncovering because it has a really good writer, uh, Cornell Woolwich who wrote the source material for a lot of noir. But the scene I found was this morgue scene where the cop graphically describes the murder of this woman.

CLIP The Guilty

BETH ACCOMANDO
And even by today's standard, I thought that was a pretty brutal and a jolting scene to include in a film. And to imagine that from like more than 50 years ago, It is pretty shocking.

EDDIE MULLER
Every time I've shown that film to an audience, they get a little queasy that scene that's reaches to me, uh, is the cop telling Don Castle how this woman was murdered. And it's, it's actually that scene doesn't actually take, it seems like it's taking place in a morgue, but it's actually, he's revisiting the scene of the crime, which is. And, uh, an incinerator shoot in an apartment building. And he's describing how the body was shoved into this incinerator. And it, as you say, Beth, it is a, yeah, it's a little group. But that that's a really good film. And that's, uh, an example of like what I've been so happy that we've been able to accomplish as you know, that was an independently made film. Um, one of the very first films produced by Jack a rat. And, and Benita Granville who's, the CoStar would end up marrying Jack rather, and together they created the, the hugely successful Lassie franchise on, on television, you know, and. You know, but this was the start of it. And it's a really good adaptation of a Cornell Woolridge story. It's, it's a B film and it's really grungy and, uh, it captures that Woolridge flavor perfectly. And we're going to be putting it out on blue ray. Next year and it'll be on noir alley next year as well. So we have that to look forward to looking forward to that.

BETH ACCOMANDO
Well, one film that you did show on noir alley was trapped, which you've now included in the book.

CLIP Trailer Trapped

BETH ACCOMANDO
And for that one. This is again that point of which the behind the scenes kind of intersects with what's going on, on screen. Cause you talked about, uh, one of the producers who was one of the seven little Foys working, working with gangsters to finance movies, which again has this really interesting kind of like, ah, noir was onscreen and maybe a little bit behind the scenes for some.

EDDIE MULLER
I have always been fascinated by that. Yes. Brian Foy worked closely with Johnny Roselli, who is a major player in the New York mob. Uh, he was like one of the only survivors to come out of the initial foray of the New York mob into Hollywood in the late thirties and early forties. Uh, but Roselli, you know, was just kind of a, he was just a player. I mean, he was like, The cartoon version of a Playboy gangster and, you know, met a very, very bad end. Uh, but yeah, Brian Foy was like one of the great producers of B movies ever. He, and he had been one of the seven little boys with his dad, Eddie and, um, but you know, I always look for that. I'm just endlessly fascinated by. So, how did this movie get made? And then is, is I'm showing a movie coming up on noir alley called Johnny O clock. And as I started researching. You know, part of my approach to these things is like, okay, we know about Dick pal. We know about Robert Rosen and all this stuff, but then you find in, in amongst the producers, a name that you're not familiar with and it's like, well, how did this guy get in involved? What was his contribution? And so you start investigating and you find. Th this guy owned like one of the big gambling houses in Hollywood and that he had, he had been run out of Hollywood by the law. He consorted, you know, with every kind of gangster, he was a gangster. And then he went to Las Vegas and then when Johnny O clock went into production, he rented them, all of the gambling equipment that they use to build the casino in the film.

CLIP Johnny O’Clock casino scene

EDDIE MULLER
So this guy. Got paid coming and going. And I, I just love stories like that. Like, boy there's there are just so many hustlers and everything in Hollywood. It's it's amazing. And these are, these are the stories I am particularly partial. Well, I could talk to you about noir for hours, but we don't have the time.

BETH ACCOMANDO
And so I want to encourage people to get the revised version of dark city, and then they can always find you on TCM, Noir alley.

EDDIE MULLER
Yes, nor alley, um, Saturday nights, uh, Sunday mornings. And it's, it's very exciting. I'm just now putting together the schedule for next. And it's great fun. And I, I so appreciate the fact that TCM gives me so much latitude to just choose the films that I want to show and say the things that I want to say about them. And, uh, I'm just very grateful to the network. And also, you know, to the fans who have made the show so popular. I mean, I get, I get such wonderful responses, uh, from people it's, it's just great. So movies are doing what they're supposed to do. They're actually bringing people together. You know, I get all kinds of letters from people who say, you know, I watched this with. My mother or my father. And, you know, they, they tell stories about their childhood watching movies and things. And I can't tell you, Beth, how, how great that makes me feel to see that these movies about corruption and alienation and people murdering each other, uh, bring families together. I love that. Well, they definitely brought me in my dad together. I will tell you that.

BETH ACCOMANDO
Well, I want to thank you very much for letting me take this detour down noir alley with you and, uh, visit one of my favorite categories of film. I love noir because, uh, like I said, it. Th they just, they feel contemporary and just cynical and witty. And they're great. I enjoy them beyond, beyond words.

EDDIE MULLER
We share that Beth and I want to thank you. You're you are doing a great job. Uh, keeping all this alive. I'm I'm well aware of the work that you are doing down there in San Diego. And, uh, it's terrific. And I hope to be back in your neighborhood one of these days and we'll, uh, we'll put it on. Yeah, that would be great.

BETH ACCOMANDO
That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie. Noirvember continues as I speak with Nora Fiore, the Nitrate Diva about noir dames…

CLIP Double Indemnity I wonder what you mean… I wonder if you wonder…

We’ll discuss some classic femme fatales but also look beyond those lethal ladies to explore other noteworthy females such as the lady sleuth, the glamorous victim and the self rescuing damsel. Discover the delicious diversity of noir dames on the next edition of Cinema Junkie.

Remember to check out Cinema Junkie’s companion videos from the Geeky gourmet because I’ll show you how to make some noir desserts in glorious black and white and how to serve up the perfect crime scene.

You can find the videos and more podcasts at kpbs-dot-org-slash -cinema-junkie.

I’d like to acknowledge the talented team that makes Cinema Junkie happen: podcast coordinator Kinsee Morlan, technical director Rebecca Chacon, and director of sound design Emily Jankowski.

Till our next film fix I’m Beth Accomando your resident Cinema Junkie.

CLIP Double Indemnity How fast was I going…

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Paramount
Barbara Stanwyck exemplifies the femme fatale of film noir in "Double Indemnity."
Celebrate Noirvember with an exploration of film noir with TCM host and the Czar of Noir Eddie Muller.

Femme fatales, private dicks, wooden kimonoes... welcome to the world of film noir. The term was coined by French film critics to describe a style of cinema rooted in hard-boiled crime fiction of the 1940s. It revealed a darkness and cynicism that challenged audiences with something new — a world where women used sex to get what they wanted, where betrayal and deceit were to be expected, and murder was a given. Classic noir is usually defined as films made between 1941 and late 1950s. It’s marked by a visual style rich in shadows, cigarette smoke, and dimly lit streets. The term literally means black film and the darkness comes not just from the visual look but also from the dark motives of the characters.

To explore this shadowy, treacherous terrain, Cinema Junkie has invited The Czar of Noir Eddie Muller, host of TCM’s Noir Alley and the founder and president of the Film Noir Foundation. He has just revised and expanded his book "Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir" and we’ll be discussing that as well as all things noir as Cinema Junkie dives into Noirvember.

Geeky Gourmet: Noir Dessert To Die For

Watch the latest Geeky Gourmet video on how to make a black and white noir dessert to die for.