TOO MUCH NOIR – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Dark, rain-glistened streets. Ominous shadows hover in trash littered alleyways. Cats screech in the distance. Gunshots ring out and a body slumps into the gutter.

The world of film noir.

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As a kid, these were the second show in an afternoon at the movies. The “B” movie. Always in black and white, less than 90 minutes. Featuring the nearly-stars such as Dana Andrews, Richard Conte, Linda Darnell, and Sterling Hayden.

The titles were straightforward. “Where The Sidewalk Ends”, “This Gun For Hire”, “Kiss of Death”, “The Street With No Name”, “The Narrow Margin,” and “The Killers” among other small films now considered film noir classics.

The people were familiar too. The P.I. (Private Eye). He usually had a five o’clock shadow, chain-smoked, drank cheap whiskey out of the bottle or a paper cup. He worked in a dingy second floor office. The client? Usually a husky voiced, chain-smoking, heavily made up siren out of the Mae West Drama Academy. The P.I’s secretary? A snarky, but good-natured woman who didn’t take crap from her boss, the cops or hoodlums. The Bad Guys? Sleazy, menacing, and homicidal. Think young Richard Widmark, William (Pre-“Life of Riley”) Bendix, Neville Brand, Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Jack Lambert, and probie villain, Lee Marvin. These guys loved to kill.

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There were no happy endings in these film noir classics. The female lead usually was a two-timer who got killed or took the fall in the closing minutes. Mary Astor’s Brigid O’Shaughnessy was straight out of central casting when Bogie’s Sam Spade turned her over to the cops in “The Maltese Falcon.” Spade liked her, but not enough to risk a bullet in the back one lonely night.

Robert Mitchum’s Phillip Marlowe wondered  “Why does everything I touch turn to shit?” in the 70’s reboot of “Farewell, My Lovely”.

I loved the fatalism of these movies, far removed from the glossy romantic dramas featuring Gable, Tracy, Flynn and other major stars of old Hollywood.

For a while, we were watching Netflix’s stable of dark crime dramas. They come from around the world. All share a world-view including lots of death, depression, depravity, brutal murder, and minimal — if any — humor. Locale doesn’t matter. It could be Los Angeles, Denmark, the English countryside, or Sweden. It’s one, dark grim world, everywhere you look.

Recently Watched imageSometime last year, a new streaming service popped up and Marilyn decided it might be just the thing. At $50 for a year, it’s also one of the less expensive streaming services. It shows you everything you might want to see from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and England. Some stuff from Ireland and Scotland too. Heavy on the Australian and Kiwi stuff.

Who imagined we’d get addicted to an Australian soap opera, or fall in love with George Gently? Or become entranced by Murdoch’s Mysteries? But we did. From “MidSomer Murders” to “A Place to Call Home” and “Doc Martin,” we have happily gone deep into British empire dramas, mysteries, and even a few comedies. I can almost understand a New Zealand accent. Almost.

One of the really sweet parts of all of these shows is that they have wit and humor.

Characters develop, change, and grow … something that has become far too rare on American series. And I have to mention the music. American shows mostly have music that is closer to Muzak. There are exceptions, but a lot of the shows — especially from Australia and New Zealand — have amazingly good music. It’s not just background noise. It’s beautiful, evocative, singable. I think they haven’t yet raised the price on Acorn yet.

Acorn is a winner in the streaming market. I don’t know if it shows up on Amazon or Apple TV, but Roku lets you decide what you want to watch instead of telling you what they want you to watch. I highly recommend the Roku, too. The good one with the remote you can point up your nose but it will work anyway. It also works by voice (yours) but I’ve never bothered to “train” ours. I hate arguing with remote controls.

I still love those dark and dangerous film noir folks. But these days, real life is sufficiently grim. I prefer my murders with a bit of laughter.

Cheerio!

23 thoughts on “TOO MUCH NOIR – GARRY ARMSTRONG

  1. lwbut January 9, 2018 / 1:37 am

    On your and M’s recommendation i started watching The Brokenwood Mysteries! It’s clear you have above average taste for an American viewer 😉

    I quite like them. they are set in New Zealand, which technically is a different country to Aus – but not by much. We like to think of them as our smaller, ‘backwoods’ cousins.

    ( I hope there are no NZ readers here or i’m in deep ____ !) 🙂

    Oh – by the way… than nice Dr Blake who solves crime in 50’s Australia, Craig McLachlan, is the latest to be accused of sexual harassment by three actresses, two of whom have filed charges with Victorian police from their time with him on stage in the Rocky Horror Picture Show – seems like he was really getting into character, both on and off-stage? 😐

    I think there will be a lot more to come yet. 😦

    Life can be just as Noir as film i guess?

    Liked by 2 people

    • omniclassic January 9, 2018 / 1:47 am

      That’s ‘Doo Doo!” and no I’m not from NZ. Just for the record you can never get too much “Noir”

      Liked by 3 people

      • lwbut January 9, 2018 / 1:51 am

        Some may disagree – particularly in real life! 😉

        I was thinking sh -eesh! – you KNOW what i was thinking 😉

        Liked by 2 people

        • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 12:57 pm

          Bob, the line is so very BLURRED these days. The Curse of Fatty Arbuckle.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 12:44 pm

        Bro, TCM has some noir classics up this week including “The Narrow Margin” with Charles MacGraw in his only leading and top billed role. This is a goodie if you haven’t seen it yet. Nice twist ending. Marie Windsor, the fabulous film noir vixen, has her best part ever in this one. It’s better than the Gene Hackman remake.

        Like

      • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 1:14 pm

        Never can get too much Noir. “Butt Me” — Richard Conte, asking for a cigarette in “Cry of the City”. Conte was another noir stalwart.

        Like

    • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 12:39 pm

      Sorry to hear about the sexual harrasement charges. I guess there is no safe haven ANYWHERE. You are right about “Imitation of Life”.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. dancingpalmtrees January 9, 2018 / 3:51 am

    Film Noir from the 50s is one of my favorite film genres. Your selection is great. I don’t own a TV but I can easily watch Film Noir on my Laptop via YouTube and Netflix as well as on my Kindle Fire.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 12:48 pm

      Stanwyck is so sultry and deadly in “Double Indemnity”. She was such a gifted and versatile actress. Did comedy as well as drama. I love her work in “Remember The Night” also with Fred MacMurray. This one is a romantic drama with a holiday theme. You’ll be humming “When You Come To The End Of A Perfect Day” after seeing this one.

      Like

        • Garry Armstrong January 10, 2018 / 1:00 pm

          Dancing, do you remember Stanwyck on the Oscars show (’82?) the year William Holden died? She did her piece and then quietly said, “Goodnight, my Golden Boy, I’ll never forget you”. It was a very touching and Stanwyck classy tribute to her late co-star’s memorable role in “Golden Boy”.

          Like

            • Garry Armstrong January 10, 2018 / 2:50 pm

              I wish I’d met Stanwyck, Dancing. Most of the “legends” I did encounter during my career really admired her. William Holden..who I chatted up during a PR thing for “S.O.B.” recalled Stanwyck’s generosity and support over the years, especially with his personal struggles. That says a lot to me.

              Like

  3. Taswegian1957 January 9, 2018 / 4:10 am

    I like my murders with a touch of humour too and I do find the Aussie/Brit style more enjoyable. I have only occasionally watched the Murdoch Mysteries but loved Miss Fisher and recently started watching Rake on Netflix as I didn’t see it when it was on TV originally. I have to see things from episode 1 to really get into them. Another favourite of mine is the British “New Tricks” especially the first few seasons with the original cast. It ran 12 seasons and by the end all the original characters had gone and with them a lot of the humour.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 1:33 pm

      I’m going to have to look for New Tricks. I haven’t seen it on Netflix or Acorn, so I’m betting we don’t have access to it yet. Too bad. We are looking for something long we can get into. We rip through these shows so quickly … I don’t think they produce them fast enough for our taste!

      Rake is going to have one last season. We REALLY liked it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. swo8 January 9, 2018 / 9:29 am

    Aha, the Saturday afternoon movies that my older brother used to take me to. There were a lot of cowboy movies too and the cartoons were wonderful.
    Leslie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 12:54 pm

      Leslie, Saturdays at our local cinema were usually “B” westerns with Audie Murphy, Rory Calhoun, John Payne and Forrest Tucker. They were the late 40’s-early 50’s color oaters from “U-I” (Universal International). Taut, tight and action packed. Double feature, cartoons and newsreel. Popcorn, hot dawgs and Sodey Pop. Tickets for kids — 11 cents. All day — on the cowboy trail.

      I loved the “coming attractions” — the guy who voiced them came from the Cecil B. Demille School of Oratory.

      Liked by 1 person

      • swo8 January 9, 2018 / 1:01 pm

        You know that is a nice piece of information you could put in your book. Garry you practically have it written already.
        Leslie

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Embeecee January 9, 2018 / 10:29 am

    I too am addicted to the “British Mystery” … another you might care to add to your ‘collection’ is Diana Rigg’s – “Mrs. Bradley’s Mysteries”…she did one or two films and a series that lasted (I believe 3 seasons)…it’s a great deal like Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries…without some of the finesse… And the Agatha Christie’s “Miss Marple” and “Poirot” series aren’t to be missed if you’re a fan of this genre. I love ‘noir’ both book form and the films..haven’t seen one yet that didn’t simply fascinate..and I’ve stumbled over a surprisingly large number of little gems along the way….most recently “The Black Raven Inn”, which is noir and while not “A” list (I never heard of a one of the actors in it), is imminently watchable. Amazon allows one to do the same thing as Roku, which is how I discovered a lot of these. Thanks for a peek inside the world of film noir!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Garry Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 1:06 pm

      Em, I love noir almost as much as I do westerns. Especially the 40’s noir films from 20th Century Fox. Fox had a dark, rainy, gritty grip on these films. “Laura”, “Where The Sidewalk Ends”, “Kiss of Death”, etc. Dana Andrews was the classic noir hero in “Laura” and “Where The Sidewalk Ends”. Richard Widmark made his memorable debut as Tommy Udo, the giggling psycho killer in “Kiss of Death”. That’s the one where he pushes Miildred Dunnock in a wheelchair down the apartment stairs, giggling as she crashes to her death. Black & White night scenes made noir creepy, luminous and memorable.

      In a 70’s chat, Vincent Price told me about making “Laura” in 1944. Price said director Otto Preminger was a “monster….who drove his actors bonkers….but got great performances”. Apparently, Gene Tierney, then a rising star, had to get Fox suits to “tune up” Preminger before he went over the edge. I heard similar stories about “Otto The Great” from Robert Mitchum who worked with Preminger and Marilyn Monroe in “River of No Return”. Yeesh, so much gossip!!

      Like

    • Marilyn Armstrong January 9, 2018 / 1:37 pm

      We watched ALL of the Agatha Christie stuff and what is left isn’t nearly as good as what we’ve seen. Some of the stuff you are recommending sounds great, but I haven’t seen it listed anywhere. I’ll keep an eye out for it. I love Diana Rigg and have since she first showed up on American TV when I was a whole lot younger.

      Like

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