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Film Noir Road Trip

 May 10, 2023 at 5:42 PM PDT

EPISODE 229: Noir Fest

TRT 37:04


BETH ACCOMANDO: Cinema Junkie hits the road today…


CLIP All roads lead to Shanghai but not everyone is welcomed so officially…


BETH ACCOMANDO That’s Victor Mature and he is going to take us to Shanghai by way of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs…


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 It’s always fun to talk about film noir and with the 23rd edition of the noir festival in Palm Springs coming up this weekend it is the perfect time to revisit the dark alleys and crooked roads of the noir underworld. Even if you can’t make the trip to Palm Springs you can seek out these films and enjoy the insights of my guests. Victor Mature’s daughter Victoria will talk about her dad’s career and specifically his exotic performance in the Shanghai Gesture while film historian and author Alan K. Rode will introduce us to a noir western with Robert Mitchum.



Music theme bump out.


BETH ACCOMANDO So saddle up for some uncommon noir journeys from the streets of Shanghai to the old west.


CLIP And it winds up right here with Reardon waiting outside to see if I go with you or he shoots me in the back.


BETH ACCOMANDO And as with any noir road trip prepare for a bumpy ride of deceit, murder, betrayal, double crosses and maybe a femme fatale or two. I need to take one quick break and then I will be back for a Cinema Junkie road trip with a first stop in Shanghai.


CLIP Music


MIDROLL 1 [currently at 1:46:01]


BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to Cinema Junkie. Victoria Mature is a good friend and champion of her father’s work. She has come out to more than one Film Geeks’ screening to tell us behind the scenes stories about her dad and even to sing the theme song from his film After the Fox… For today’s episode I am giving Victoria the floor to allow her to provide a capsule rundown of Victor Mature’s career and to share some behind the scenes background on the film The Shanghai Gesture that she will be presenting this Saturday at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs. Take it away Victoria.


VICTORIA MATURE Well, my dad was he was a star of the golden age of Hollywood. He was a leading man in the golden age of Hollywood. He's probably best known well, he was best known, I think, for his sword and sandal birds like Samson and Samson and Delilah and Demetrius and the Robe and Demetrius and the sequel, Demetrius and the Gladiators, because those used to be shot on television at Christmas and at Easter for more than 40 years. But now with the rise of film festivals and particularly these noir film festivals, I think he's best known now for his noir films for I Wake Up Screaming from 1941 Kiss of Death, 47, Cry of the City later on in the 50s, Violent Saturday. So I think that's more what he's known for. Now, he's from originally, he was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1913. Well, he was the son of a knife grinder. He came out to Hollywood because he wanted to be an actor. He got discovered by how Roach Studios, where he made four films. He made his first film in 1939. And it was a small role, like a gangster part, but he was in the opening scene.


VICTORIA MATURE And then he had this very sort of noble death scene at one point. And so there were tens of thousands of fan letters that came wondering who this man was. And so they put him in a leading role the next year in 1940. And his first leading role was as Tumac the caveman in 1 million BC.


CLIP Tumac... Zawana.


VICTORIA MATURE Made the biggest splash and made the most money, of course, was the one where he played a caveman because he and Carol Landis didn't have a lot of clothes on. So my dad realized that if he was going to be known for anything more than grunting and groaning, he was going to have to go to New York. He was going to have to go to Broadway. So my dad ends up in lady in the Dark. And from that, he gets wonderful notices in the press. And after that, he comes back to Hollywood. And his first part that he gets, he gets cast by Von Sternberg in The Shanghai Gesture. So this is his first leading role with a major director. And while he's filming the Shanghai gesture, he gets cast by 20th Century Fox. In what is arguably the first film war. I wake up screaming with Betty Grable and Larry Krieger. And before that even premieres, he signed a contract with 20th Century Fox, a major studio. He hadn't really found his niche yet, and he hadn't gotten anything apart from Shanghai Gesture and I Wake up Screaming that really showed what he could do.


VICTORIA MATURE And so he didn't even know, like a lot of people after World War II that were in the film business, if he was even going to have a career at that point. And luckily, the head of 20th century father Daryl Zanuck. He really championed my dad and insisted that John Ford cast him in My Darling Clementine, where my dad plays Doc Holiday and gets to recite Shakespeare.


CLIP The undiscovered country from who's born no traveler returns, puzzles the will and makes us rather bear those ills we have than fly to others that we know not of. Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.


VICTORIA MATURE And that all of a sudden everyone started to notice that, oh, wait a minute. He's not just what they called it. That a beautiful hunk of man. He's not just a hunk. He's got chops, he's got acting abilities. So then from there, he ends up in Kiss of Death in 1947, another really wonderful noir film. And then he's directed by Robert Siodmack in 1948 and Cry of the City. It's fascinating because it's like that success that he has early on in musicals that leads to the noir films. And it's the noir films that then lead to Samson and Delilah in 1949, which is a huge blockbuster. And that's the film that catapults my dad into international stardom.


CLIP Here is the most spectacular scene of destruction ever filmed. Samson using his incredible strength to bring down the temple of Dagon in crashing ruins.


VICTORIA MATURE His whole career kind of ended with 1984, the TV movie version of Samson and Delilah, where he played Samson's father. And he delighted in in the press junket, always saying, you know, well, if the price was right, I would have played Samson's mother. So my dad never took himself too seriously. And one of his famous quotes very self deprecating is when he tried to join the La country Club at the height of his fame in the 1950s. And he goes to the club, he says, hey, I'd like to be a member. And they say, oh, Victor, I'm so sorry, but we don't allow actors to be members here. And he responds, Well, I'm no actor and I've got 64 pictures to prove it. So he was like that at home. And I think people who worked with and loved him because he was like that in real life, he was funny and he worked with some of the greatest directors of the 20th century. He worked with, of course, von Sternberg, which is what we're going to talk about today with The Shanghai Gesture. Now, von Sternberg, he actually, for several years, he didn't have he had a lot of creative control with his films earlier in the 30s.


VICTORIA MATURE But there were several years before he made The Shanghai Gesture in 1941, where he didn't have that much creative control. But for this film, he had creative control and he chose to change and remove a number of the things that exist in the original John Fulton The Shanghai Gesture play that was a hit on Broadway in the mid 1920s. Some of this was because he had to because of the censors. There were at least 25 different attempts to turn this play into a film. And every single one of those attempts failed. When it came to the censors, the censors would not allow it because originally it had to do with not necessarily a gambling palace but it had to do with an opium den brothel and the main character was named Mother Goddam or Goddamn. And so they had to change that. So now it's a gambling palace. And the madam of the gambling palace is called


CLIP I am Mother Gin Slings…



some of the affectations that may have been something that people would have been okay with in the 1920s. Thankfully, Von Sternberg disposes of in his film. Some of the things that I really appreciate is how he uses humor.


VICTORIA MATURE There are two characters in the film that are particularly disrespectful to Chinese people in the film. And in both those cases, one of them is punished severely and the other one is made to look like a complete fool. And there's these three sequences that involve this rugged, middle aged Russian bartender. And he's not Chinese, but he is disrespected all the same by a lot of the patrons at the gambling palace. But he finds a way to give it back is what he finds with humor. But it also has dignity.


CLIP Boy. I'm not a boy. I'm 49 years old and my name is Vladimir Nikolai, which crestovas Vivianski.


VICTORIA MATURE I know that Mother Ginsling has been a number of people have written about that character and they have probably that they think it's a form of cultural appropriation. This and that. There's words like that thrown around. But I don't know if they've actually read the play or actually seen the movie or if they've just seen photographs of it because there's a difference. The part of the film that isn't so funny and that kind of creates all the drama is the colonialism and the human trafficking, the sexual trafficking.


CLIP Our little Chinese girls used to be sold like that not so many years ago. I'm glad such a thing can't take place again. It couldn't have been so very pleasant.


VICTORIA MATURE And how this has happened to Mother Gin Slings the reason why she's wearing this wild garb, these wild costumes, these headdresses why she has this makeup on that emphasizes an Asian look in the 1930s. She is a woman alone who is not entirely of Chinese descent and not entirely white.


CLIP Is your name Chinese or English?... Indeed, Gin Slings is English. It's the nickname as common in this part of the world as the drinks sold over the counter.


VICTORIA MATURE And so in that time and before that time and I'm sure after that time there weren't a lot of places where women in that situation could go and she was trafficked and she found a way to wear these amazing outfits, wear these headdresses, wear these amazing hairdos that come straight out of, like, Chinese opera. She becomes this word Chinese woman. And it's her armor and it suits where she is. She's at a gambling palace in Shanghai.


CLIP Who are you? What's behind this mask of yours? ... Look at me. Is my face so changed you no longer know me? Or do all Chinese girls look alike to you? Look at me closely. The only mask I wear is the mask of time. Surely you didn't expect shining faith and blind love to remain in my face forever... I never saw you in my life...The honorable Sir Guy chooses not to recognize me, but he chooses to drive me out of Shanghai. What a joke. I dare say he wasn't prepared to meet me again. But we do meet again, and on New Year's Eve, when we pay our debts, great and small.


VICTORIA MATURE And so it's her way of survival. And it's very self aware of what she's doing with this. It's not something else. And what's funny about that? They always in the movie. They keep showing this amazing gambling palace. There's these wide shots of just how big it is and all these different levels of it. And it looks a bit like Dante's Inferno, right?


CLIP Well, Victoria, did I promise too much? Isn't this place marvelous? Look at those faces, half of them Eurasian, who said, Never the twain shall meet. Java, Sumatra, Hindu, Chinese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Russians, Malaya, water. Which is suburb...If anyone saw us coming in here, I'd certainly hear plenty. The other places like kindergartens compared with this smell, so incredibly evil. I didn't think such a place existed except in my own imagination. Has a ghastly familiarity, like a half remembered dream. Anything could happen here any moment, and.


VICTORIA MATURE They talk about it as a den of iniquity. So because he had full control over the Shanghai gesture, he actually created two characters for the movie that didn't exist in the play. And one of them is the chorus girl, the blonde Dixie Pomeroy, played by Phyllis Brooks, who reminds me of a cross between, like Kate Capshaw and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and a young Shelley Winters.


CLIP Make up your mind. Either quit shoving or quit pulling. This is the last stop.


VICTORIA MATURE The other character he creates is my dad's character, Dr. Omar. And Dr. Omar is a wanton character. He's very sensuous, he's very kind of devil may care. He's walking around in these beautiful robes and in this fez hat. At one point, early in the film, when he meets Poppy, who's the Gene Tyranny character, he introduces himself as Dr. Omar and she says, oh.


CLIP Any relation to the poet Omar?... A book of verses underneath the bow.


VICTORIA MATURE My dad does in two different places in the film. He's reciting some of the most famous verses from The Rubyat by Omar Kayam.


CLIP Bread and juggle wine and thou beside me singing in the wilderness.


VICTORIA MATURE But I love watching my dad reciting those verses from the Ruba. Omar Kayam in The Shanghai Gesture I like to watch my dad on screen. I like to spend time with him. I like to see those facial expressions that I remember and that I know so well, and that's fun. But then also there's the doctor part of Dr. Omar which which the Poppy character, the Jean Kearney character also questions. And she says...


CLIP you said Doctor Omar. Doctor of what?... Doctor of nothing, Miss Smith. It sounds important and hurts no one, unlike most doctors.


VICTORIA MATURE And it's interesting because there's these photos of Von Sternberg in the early I believe it's the early 30s, late 20s, early 30s, where he's really very sultry looking and he's like lounging on a couch and he's giving the camera this very hither stare. And those pictures of Von Sternberg, there are similarities between those and a lot of the still shots and the single shots of my dad that are just so beautifully lit with that whole von Sternberg touch, that same sultry, serpentine wanton kind of look. And it's just interesting that there's such a connection, I think, between the two.


CLIP Your question insults the house. We buy and sell everything in the most honorable manner. You're a beautiful woman, puppy. The sparkle is artificial. You won't need it.


VICTORIA MATURE I love the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival. It's one theater, one film at a time. People hang out in the lobby and they geek out on Nora films and talking about film trivia and history. I really appreciate coast and programmer Alan K. Rode for all he does to make the festival happen and how supportive he and Eddie Mueller have been screening my dad's noir films. I appreciate that. Both at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival and in the Noir City Film Festivals. I really appreciate that. And both will be in Palm Springs first. That's exciting. And I have to mention that Joseph von Sternberg's son, Nicholas von Sternberg, is the special guest at the festival. He'll be doing a post screening discussion with festival host Alan K. Rode. And, of course, I was first introduced to the existence of Nicholas von Sternberg by you, Beth, at your film geek San Diego screening of the Rudy Ray Moore film. I prepared for that screening by watching Dolemite is my name. The Biopic starring Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore. And one of the characters in that 2019 Biopic was Nicholas von Sternberg. He's fresh out of UCLA film school. Turns out he was first the production manager and then the cinematographer, among many other things. And for the Rudy Raymore films, I wanted to encourage Alan to invite him to the festival because I thought it would be really wonderful to get to do a post screening discussion with him and myself and Alan because I thought that would be just an amazing experience.


BETH ACCOMANDO That was Victoria Mature talking about her father actor Victor Mature. She will be introducing The Shanghai Gesture this Saturday at the Arthur Lyons Noir Festival in Palm Springs. I need to take one last break and then I will be back with Alan Rode to discuss Stanley Kubrick’s film noir and Robert Mitchum trading in his fedora for a Stetson.


CLIP Music


MIDROLL 2 [currently at 19:12:13]


BETH ACCOMANDO Welcome back to Cinema Junkie. Alan K. Rode is an author, film historian and passionate supporter of film noir. This weekend will mark the 23rd anniversary of the noir festival he co-founded with Arthur Lyons in Palm Springs.In the early days guests like Tony Curtis, Jane Russell and Ernest Borgnine graced the stage and talked about their films. Now the festival often brings out the children of classic noir stars like Victor Mature’s daughter Victoria. But what Alan says remains timeless is the whole theatrical experience of watching great movies on the big screen in a darkened theater with like minded film lovers. That never goes out of style. And for me what also never goes out of style is film noir. These films of the 40s and 50s never seem dated because they are not about presenting the moral code of their times or painting a pretty picture of society. They look to the underbelly of society to explore a moral ambiguity that feels timeless. I asked if he also felt these films hold up better than other movies from the same time period.


ALAN RODE I think there's a connectivity between the next generation or the youngest generation and classic film. And that, umbilical, is film noir, because, as you said, film noir has a timeless continuum because it's about some of the attributes and some of the not so nice attributes of the human condition. And whereas modern audiences might do a double take because a doctor in a maternity ward has a lit cigarette in his mouth, and why is the phone the size of a boomerang and the steering wheel and cars are like trash can lids in diameter? But once you get past all of that, it's very basic human stories and dating back to when Arthur Lyons and I founded this festival, his saying about the festival was, it's all in the story. And I think that that's very, very true. And it's true of all of these movies I program, and I think that's what makes them so appealing to such a wide range of audiences.


BETH ACCOMANDO And they were not films that were very accepting of the status quo in the sense of a lot of kind of breaking of stereotypes and also just questioning what the kind of social morality is of the time. And that's part of what made them kind of daring at the time they came out. But that seems very contemporary. A lot of the kind of anti heroes you have, and even the femme fatales.


ALAN RODE Oh, yeah. Well, very often it's crime depicted, bad things depicted from the perspective of the criminals. And a lot of times the criminals are these are working class guys trying to get by. The first movie we're showing, The Killing, produced by James B. Harris and directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1956, is one of Hollywood's most acclaimed heist films. And it's taken from Lionel White's book, and it shows the whole putting together of this big racetrack heist.


CLIP I figured the loot on this deal at 2 million. There should be that much in the track offices.


ALAN RODE How it's put together, by whom and how it's executed and so forth. It's from the perspective of people that are working class guys and femme fatals. Sometimes I think femme fatals get this kind of mansplaining definition, which is incorrect. A lot of times the female characters in film noir are labeled as, like the stereotypical female black widow spider that eats the male after they mate or something along those lines. From what I see, these women are in bad situations a lot of times in a male dominated world. And you know what? They're doing the best they can. They're trying to get along and take care of themselves. So as far as I'm concerned, kudos to all the femme fatals out there.


BETH ACCOMANDO Well, and also a lot of these women that are in film noir are women who are driving the story in a lot of ways and are not merely like decorations or just mere supporting characters in these stories.


ALAN RODE Absolutely. In fact, when you watch The Killing, marie Windsor is probably I think she's like fourth or fifth build. I can't remember. But Marie is the one that drives all the action. And she's married to, of all people, Elijah Cook, Jr. What a pairing that is. Marie Winsor and Elijah Cook, Jr. Why.


CLIP Did you ever marry me anyway... When a man has to ask his wife that, well, he just hadn't better, that's all. Why talk about it? Maybe it's all to the good in the long run. After all, if people didn't have headaches, what would happen to the aspirin industry?...You used to love me. You said you did, anyway...I seem to recall you made a memorable statement, too. Something about hitting it rich and having an apartment on Park Avenue and a different car for every day of the week. Not that I really care about such things, understand, as long as I have a big, handsome, intelligent brute like you...Would make a difference, wouldn't it? If I had money, I mean...How would you define money? George, if you're thinking of giving me your collection of Roosevelt I mean, big...Money, hundreds of thousands of dollars...You really don't feel well, do you? Are you sure? That pains in your stomach?...I'm going to have it, Sherry. Hundreds of thousands, maybe a half a million...Of course you are, darling. Did you put the right address on the envelope when you send it to the North Pole?


ALAN RODE But all of the stuff that happens and when things start going downhill and they get worse it's all due to Marie. And she's kind of the fulcrum point of all this bad stuff that's going to happen in the film. So you're absolutely right. You're absolutely right.


BETH ACCOMANDO Now, your festival is in Palm Springs, but we do have a strong San Diego connection this year because you'll be showing The Shanghai Gesture, which is a Victor Mature film, and Victoria Mature, who is a resident here in San Diego, will be introducing it. So tell us about this film, because it's not screened often.


ALAN RODE No, not only is it not screened often, I have managed to get the only, to my knowledge, the only restored 35 millimeter print from the George Eastman House Museum in Rochester, New York, which is not the typical place that lends out films. And I've managed to get this. And Victoria has become a stalwart supporter of the festival. We've shown several of her father's films, and Victoria last year, did a cabaret performance where she sang, and there were film clips of her father, and she actually had herself cut into the frame of the film in period costume, where she's exchanging dialogue with her father. And it was just fantastic. And she did that as a fundraiser for the festival. And for me, which I deeply appreciate. In addition to having Victoria there for this, I'm going to have the son of the director, the legendary Joseph von Sternberg. Nicholas von Sternberg will be there, so I'm going to have the son of the director of the film and the daughter of the star. And where else can you see? This film is like a melodramatic, fever dream of a lurid play that was banned for 15 years until Arnold Pressberger and Von Sternberg managed to get their script approved.


ALAN RODE And it is just a very weirdly, bizarre, fun movie. And to show it with two guests and I should mention, in addition to the San Diego connection of Victoria, I lived in San Diego for a quarter century, and I spent the places that I've lived. I grew up on the East Coast, and I came up to La 22 years ago, and I'm dating myself again. But I spent more time in San Diego, living in places like Linda Vista Tierrasana and Scripps Ranch. So I still feel like I'm a native San Diego by proxy, even though I live in Los Angeles.


BETH ACCOMANDO And tell us a little bit about this film.


ALAN RODE It's really weird. It originally took place in a body house in the Orient with Gene Tierney as a British thrush and Victor Mature donning a fez as the character named Dr. Omar. And Walter Houston is a British expat and is trying to buy this casino. And they turned the body house into a casino, and they cleaned up a lot of the play because they just couldn't get it past the sensors any other way. Mother Gin Slings, who's played by Ona Munson, and of course, this was when Asians in films, a lot of them were played by Anglo or European actors.


CLIP Behave yourself, Poppy. You're in China and you're white. It's not good for us to see you like this. You'll bring discredit to your race. If you continue. Don't preach to me and let my race take care of itself. What's upsetting you? What's the matter? Didn't I lose enough tonight? So far you've lost nothing but pieces of paper with my endorsement on them. You wouldn't endorse anything. It wouldn't be paid. I know it'll be paid.


ALAN RODE So there's a lot of melodrama, there's a lot of sexual innuendo. It's part noir, part culture piece, part melodrama. It's really kind of a salad of different genres, but it's fascinating and very rarely seen. So I think the audience there is looking forward to it. I am.


BETH ACCOMANDO Now, another film that you're showing is a film that you introduced me to at the recent TCM Film Festival, which is Blood on the Moon. And what I love about this is it's both a film noir and a Western.


CLIP Blood on the Moon, a peril packed saga of the grazing lands of stampeding cattle and ruthless men who ride by day and kill by night. Blood on the Moon, starring Robert Mitchum.


ALAN RODE I've been fascinated with this film for many years. I thought it was very undervalued, although it did get good reviews when it came out in 1948 and was forgotten. It stars robert Mitchum. It was the first A picture, if you will, directed by the great Robert wives, who went on to do legendary films in every genre, like The Day the Earth Stood Still and West Side Story and The Sound of Music and Star Trek, et cetera. He had a very long career, but this was his first A picture after directing a lot of very solid B pictures for Val Luton at RKO, I was so taken with this film, I wrote a book about it, and the book has been published by the University Press in New Mexico. It's a very short book, but it goes into the whole film, how it was made, the backstory, and how the changing culture of World War II that really birthed the film noir movement affected other genres, particularly the Western. In this particular movie, as since we watched it together at TCM, we can both recognize this. Mitcham basically ditches his fedora and trench coat for a stetson and chaps.


ALAN RODE And the picture opens with him riding over a mountain in Sedona, Arizona, because part of it was filmed on location in Arizona, and he could have been walking down a back alley of downtown La. In the rain. And the plot is the same, where things happen and things and people and characters turn out to be not what they seem to be. And there's government corruption, romantic betrayals, thievery, lust, larceny, all of those attributes that we love so much about people in film noir movies. But it is a film noir Western, and it was gorgeously photographed by the ace noir cinematographer, Nicholas Musaraka, and it has the mood. And along with Mitcham, you have Barbara Be Geddes, Robert Preston, the great Walter Brennan, Phyllis Thaxter, Tom Tully, Frank Phelan, and of course, Charles McGraw, wearing a bearskin coat, chewing on a cigar. Perfect casting. It's a terrific movie.


BETH ACCOMANDO Yeah, you mentioned the photography in that. And some of those shots really look exactly like you would see in a contemporary city set noir film, but with this contrasting lighting. And it was gorgeous.


ALAN RODE Oh, yeah, the churacrasco lighting. And a lot of the film was actually shot at night, where Wise didn't use filters on the camera to give the impression of night. He actually filmed it at night. And as I mentioned, it was shot in Sedona. Then part of it was shot at the old Encino RKO ranch that is now Parkland on Burbank Boulevard. And it was shot on the RKO lot. Ironically, some of the cattle stampedes and some of the scenes were shot there with Robert Mitchum. And then after the movie wrapped, about three or four months later, he was infamously arrested for possession of marijuana, the famous pot bust, in 1948. And he ended up pleading guilty and serving time at the Steak Work Farm, which was right where he was filming Blood on the Moon a couple of months earlier. So you can't make some of this stuff up. There's a lot of irony in the making of Blood on the Moon. That was fun to write about.


BETH ACCOMANDO Now, I just mentioned the TCM Film Festival, and this festival is very different in the sense of there's not running around from venue to venue. What's really wonderful about this is you can see all the films and there's no competition within.


ALAN RODE Isn't that nice? Well, I think part of that the way I schedule the films kind of fits with the ambience of Palm Springs because you don't have valet parking, you don't have traffic wherever you're staying, everything is close. It's all out on a grid. So when it's time to the movie, you get there 15 minutes or a half hour before you drive into a parking lot, you go in. I keep calling it the Camelot Theaters, but it's now the Palm Springs Cultural Center because the couple that owned it, Rick and Rosine Supple, they were great philanthropists in Palm Springs. They were good friends to me. They deeded the theater and started the nonprofit cultural center. In effect, they gave the entire theater complex to the city of Palm Springs. So the theater itself has two bars. It has an elevator, it has a restaurant, so you don't have to go anywhere. This is, to me, the best place for adults to see a film noir. Where else can you get a martini and then walk in the theater and watch Robert Mitchum? He would approve of that, by the way, I must say. So it's a great place, a great ambience, and for your San Diego viewers, all you have to do is drive.


ALAN RODE Takes about an hour and a half to 2 hours to go to Palm Springs. And it's a great, relaxing way to enjoy movies and. Enjoy the weekend and we have a very loyal audience, and you never know who's going to show up in Palm Springs from a celebrity point of view. So it's a lot of fun. It's a great weekend.


BETH ACCOMANDO All right, well, I know there's a lot more films that you will be screening and that we could talk about, but I want to thank you for giving us a little bit of a preview for this year's Arthur Lines Film Noir festival.


ALAN RODE Well, Beth, I always appreciate you. And I always appreciate KBBs. And I thank you for having me on. And to everybody else, I'll see you at the movies.



That was author and film historian Alan K. Rode. He will be hosting the 23rd Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs May 11 through 14th. If you can’t make the festival you can find the films we discussed streaming and you can buy his book on Blood on the Moon to dig deep into his insights. Rode will also be in San Diego June 17 to present a pair of Michael Curtiz two-strip technicolor horror films from the 1930s—Doctor X and Mystery of the Wax Museum. Rode has penned a biography of Curtiz and will share his thoughts about these rare horror films from the man who gave us such films as Casablanca, Mildred Pierce and Yankee Doodle Dandy.


That wraps up another edition of KPBS listener supported Cinema Junkie. If you enjoy the podcast then please share it with a friend because your recommendation is the best way to build an addicted audience. You can also help by leaving a review.


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



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Victor Mature and Gene Tierney star in Josef Von Sternberg's "The Shanghai Gesture" (1941).
United Artists
Victor Mature and Gene Tierney star in Josef Von Sternberg's "The Shanghai Gesture" (1941).
Cinema Junkie takes a film noir road trip to Shanghai and the Old West by way of the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs. Can't make it? Then just use this as a roadmap for your own noir journey.

It’s always fun to talk about film noir and with the 23rd edition the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs coming up this weekend it is the perfect time to revisit the dark alleys and crooked roads of the noir underworld. Even if you can’t make the trip to Palm Springs you can seek out these films and enjoy the insights of my guests.

Victor Mature’s daughter Victoria will talk about her dad’s career and specifically his exotic performance in "The Shanghai Gesture," while film historian and author Alan K. Rode will introduce us to a noir western with Robert Mitchum.

So saddle up for some uncommon noir journeys from the streets of Shanghai to the Old West. As with any noir trip prepare for a bumpy ride of deceit, murder, betrayal, double crosses and maybe a femme fatale or two.

Victoria (and Victor) Mature Cabaret

Victoria Mature is champion of her father’s work. She provides a rundown of Victor Mature’s career from being discovered by Hal Roach Studios to his first taste of fame as the caveman Tumak in the 1940 film "One Million B.C." The skimpy costumes won by Mature and co-star Carole Landis made the film a success.

The following year he made "The Shanghai Gesture," directed by Josef Von Sternberg,. It was a proto-noir in which Mature played the exotic and sensual Dr. Omar, who quotes the "Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám."

Victoria, along with Von Sternberg's son Nicholas, will be introducing "The Shanghai Gesture" on May 13 at the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.

Rode co-founded the noir festival with Arthur Lyons in Palm Springs 23 years ago. In the early days guests like Tony Curtis, Jane Russell and Ernest Borgnine graced the stage and talked about their films. Now the festival often brings out the children of classic noir stars like Victor Mature’s daughter Victoria.

But Rode said, "What remains timeless is the whole theatrical experience of watching great movies on the big screen in a darkened theater with like-minded film lovers. That never goes out of style."

Robert Mitchum stars in the noir western "Blood on the Moon."
RKO Pictures
Robert Mitchum stars in the noir western "Blood on the Moon."

And for me what also never goes out of style is film noir. These films of the 40s and 50s never seem dated because they are not about presenting the moral code of their times or painting a pretty picture of the world. They look to the underbelly of society to explore a moral ambiguity that feels timeless.

The timelessness comes through in the noir western "Blood on the Moon" in which Mitchum trades his fedora for a Stetson. Although set on the old west, the film deals with the kind of deceit and double crosses that fuel most noir. Plus it is shot like a film noir with shadowy night locals and harsh contrasts of light and dark.

So check out these unusual films noir in Palm Springs or on your own.

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