“I Wake Up Screaming” (1941) starring Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis, & Laird Cregar

Vicky: [waiting on Frankie and his friends: Larry Evans- a columnist and Robin Ray- a Broadway actor] Is that all?

Larry: No, but the rest of it isn’t on the menu.

Vicky: You couldn’t afford it if it was.

NYC promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), being interrogated by police in the death of model Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis), recalls in flashback: meeting her as a waitress in a Times Square diner, Frankie is sure that her beauty will launch her into high society and a modeling career. Frankie succeeds, perhaps too well; after a few months and many magazine covers, Vicky is about to fly to Hollywood for a screen test, when someone kills her! Now, Frankie gets the feeling that a detective, Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar), is determined to frame him for murder. It turns out that he’s right; he seeks out Vicky’s older sister, Jill (Betty Grable), for help.

Jill: [referring to Cornell, who has been watching Vicky outside the diner] He gives me the creeps.

Vicky: You’ll have to get used to that. We’ve got more wolves in New York than they have in Siberia.

Elisha Cook Jr. (the pint-sized actor who became a staple of noir) plays Harry, the clerk at the hotel where the Lynn sisters live. Grable and Landis do look like they could be related. They have different philosophies about life- Jill is humble and practical; Vicky is ambitious and and thinks big. The cops and newspapers assume and Frankie is upset re: being dumped by Vicky (professionally and personally).

TCM’s Eddie Muller explained that this movie (released by 20th C. Fox and originally Hot Spot) is one of the earliest examples of what came to be known as film noir. Screenwriter Dwight Taylor and the source novel’s author, Steve Fisher, wrote the screenplay. The music in this movie is memorable; “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” (from the 1939 hit The Wizard of Oz) is recycled (maybe too much) as Frankie and Jill’s theme. Vicky’s signature tune is a catchy jazz melody. Watch the full movie below!

[1] Bruce Humberstone directs this attractive early noir with a strong sense of visual style. His Director of Photography, Edward Cronjager, works wonders with elongated shadows and labyrinths of lattice.

Her character has psychological depth, and Grable does justice to the part.

Carole Landis… deserves a special mention. She gives a confident performance and sings beautifully.

[2] A formidable, menacing presence, Cregar rocks in the role. His silky voice and charming smile somehow make him even scarier…

Always an appealing presence, Mature was a better actor than he got credit for, making it look easy. He was hot, too…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

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