“Run for the Sun” (1956) starring Richard Widmark, Trevor Howard, & Jane Greer

A raging animal of a man…more savage than any jungle killer! -A tagline for the movie

Mike Latimer (Richard Widmark) is a Hemingway-like novelist who has been living in (self-imposed) exile for 5 yrs. A reporter for Sight Magazine, Katie Conners (Jane Greer), tracks him down in a small town in Mexico; she says some friends will be meeting w/ her soon. Mike enjoys having Katie around for company; she’s beautiful, intelligent, and challenging. They spend a week together, sharing meals and fishing on his boat. Mike lets his guard down, assuming that Katie is a tourist who likes his writing. Katie doesn’t reveal that he is her assignment; she feels badly about this (even telling her editor back in NYC). On a flight to Mexico City, Mike’s small plane goes off course and crashes in the forest! Katie has a few scratches, BUT Mike suffers more serious injuries. They’re near an estate owned by an Englishman, Mr. Browne (Trevor Howard), who is ready to help out. Browne is well-mannered/cultured, saying he’s also a fan of Mike’s books. Dr. Van Anders (Peter van Eyck) is another European living there; he is studying ancient civilizations. Only the local Indians (Native Americans) are nearby; the work on the estate. There are no phones to contact the outside world. After a few days resting/recuperating, Mike begins to realize that these men may NOT be as harmless as they seem!

Are you fan of the Indiana Jones movies? If yes, then you may also like this drama/adventure. The plot (partly) comes from The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell; this is a short story that kids often read in JHS here in the US. This movie is a remake of RKO’S 1932 hit The Most Dangerous Game (1932). While the earlier version was filmed entirely on the studio back-lot, this version was shot mostly on location. It’s implied that Howard’s character here is a former Nazi, NOT merely a madman like in the older version. The location of Browne’s estate was a former sugar plantation and refinery est. in the 16th C. In the ’80s, the main house and several buildings were turned into a hotel. The set for the inside of the house was the largest built at a Mexican studio up until that time.

In the 1st 40 mins of the movie, we get to see the easy/playful chemistry btwn Widmark and Greer; they seem to respect and like each other. Widmark is BOTH cynical and boyish; he smiles (and NOT in an evil way like in his noir films). There are a few moments when he speaks Spanish- V cool! Widmark gets to wear casual outfits, though Greer is more dressy and wearing glam makeup (until the 3rd act when practicality is needed). As a fan on YT commented, these actors should’ve made more movies together. Widmark and Greer appeared together in Against All Odds (1984), a remake of the noir classic Out of the Past (1947) starring Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, and Greer. Mitchum and Eva Marie Saint were considered for the leads of this film. Sadly, Greer contracted a tropical virus during the location shooting; this eventually required her to have a heart operation! The actress also fractured her tailbone on a rock while filming the scenes in the swamp. Widmark thought this was one of his worst films; he’d tell his kids that if they didn’t behave, they’d have to watch it (LOL)! Perhaps the acting wasn’t challenging, BUT the physical work looked tough.

[1] This film, though a little too long, is very exciting, particularly the last section, and will really hold the viewer’s attention. Both Widmark and Greer are excellent. Greer is in her early thirties here and finally in a color movie, and she’s beautiful despite a couple of frumpy hairdos and outfits. Trevor Howard underplays as the villain and is an introverted menace.

[2] Nice direction, very effective photography in sharp color. Greer was never lovelier and, except in the incomparable Robert Mitchum, never found a better leading man. …this lady had real talent.

[3] Jane Greer appeared in so many B&W film noirs of the ’40s that it’s surprising to see her in technicolor. She looks great and has good chemistry with Richard Widmark’s adventurous writer.

Gripping suspense yarn will keep you glued to your seat as you wonder how it all turns out. Give it a chance, as it starts slowly before the plot thickens.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“Warlock” (1959) starring Richard Widmark, Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn, Dorothy Malone, & Dolores Michaels

In the frontier mining community of Warlock, rancher Abe McQuown’s (Tom Drake) San Pablo gang terrorizes the inhabitants, humiliating the town’s Deputy Sheriff and running him out of town. One of the cowboys in the gang is Curley Burne (DeForest Kelley); the actor would find fame as Dr. McCoy on the original Star Trek TV series. In desperate need of protection, the town’s leaders hire an (unofficial) Marshall, Clay Blaisedell (Henry Fonda), to bring law and order. Clay arrives w/ his close friend, Tom Morgan (Anthony Quinn), who is a businessman. These two men stand up to the gang and the town gets quieter (for a time). Johnny Gannon (Richard Widmark), a former member of the gang, reforms and decides to become the (official) Deputy Sheriff. Frank Gorshin (uncredited) plays Billy, Johnny’s brother; he later appeared in the famous TOS ep- Let that Be Your Last Battlefield. IMDb notes that this was the 1st movie for Gary Lockwood (the main guest star on the TOS ep- Where No Man Has Gone Before). I didn’t notice him as one of the gang; look for the tall man w/ a black hat, blue bandana, and dark mustache. Lockwood started his Hollywood career as a stuntman; he’d go on to star in 20001: A Space Odyssey.

Jessie: The men you posted are coming into town.

Clay: I thank you for warning me, but I’ve already heard.

Jessie: Why does it have to happen? Why do these things always have to end in bloodshed?

Clay: Ah, that’s how things are, Miss Jessie. That’s why I was hired… why you hired me.

Jessie: And so they’ll come into town, and you’ll shoot them all down dog-dead in the street, is that it?

Clay: Or them me.

Jessie: Or them you…

Someone once said, there are ONLY 2 types of movies: the hero goes looking for adventure or a stranger comes to town. In this case, we find 2 strangers (w/ money, shiny guns, and fancy clothes) primarily concerned w/ making more money, then moving on to another town. This is a complex/mature Western, as it subverts some of the tropes of the genre. Some viewers thought Clay and Tom are a BIT too close (more than pals), though director Edward Dmytryk (known for his work in film noir) said the homoerotic undercurrents were unintentional. There are 2 supporting roles for women; BOTH are blonde, pretty (of course), yet also independent-minded. Lily Dollar (Dorothy Malone- tall/curvy/glam) tracks Clay and Tom down, looking to get revenge. Lily invites Johnny over for a home-cooked meal at her house. Jessie Marlow (Dolores Michaels) is one of Warlock’s leaders; her father left her a successful mine. Jessie does NOT approve of violence, though she feels drawn to Clay.

The acting is strong here, as we’d expect from the main cast. Widmark can play the angst and action well; he still looks youthful. Fonda (in a rare “shady” role) conveys depth to a gunslinger. Quinn (using a slight limp) is playing against type; he was often cast as a “macho” man. The running time is a BIT long (and feels like it); there is much going on w/ backstories of several characters. The action takes place mostly in the town (20th C. Studios in Culver City, CA); I wanted to see more of the (Moab, Utah) locations. There is the use of matte paintings for some backdrops (commonplace long into the 1990s).

[1] Complex psychological western. I like another reviewer’s point about the conflict between law and order in the film. Only Widmark’s Gannon appears concerned with enforcing law in addition to order, while the rest of the town is more concerned with simply order. Fonda’s Clay Blaisdell stands as the pivotal character, a morally ambiguous gunslinger with a dubious past. The mutual attachment between him and sidekick Morgan (Quinn) is highly unusual for a macho western. As hired gunslingers, they’re a formidable team.

[2] Here all central characters are multi-layered, there is a plenty going on that begs the utmost attention, where tragedy hangs heavy with its looming presence, and Dmytryk threads all the story strands together with thoughtfully potent results.

Adapted by Robert Alan Aurthur from Oakley Hall’s novel, Warlock boasts three excellent male lead performances and a firing on all cylinders supporting cast.

-Excerpts from IMDb reviews

“The Bedford Incident” (1965) starring Richard Widmark, Sidney Poitier, James MacArthur, & Martin Balsam

The cold war just got hotter. -A tagline for the movie

Capt. Finlander: It’s been my experience with the press that they ignore truth for sensationalism.

Capt. Eric Finlander (Richard Widmark) plays a hardened cold-warrior on the American Naval destroyer USS Bedford. Ben Munceford (Sidney Poitier) is a famous photojournalist given permission to interview the captain during a routine patrol. Lt. Cmdr. Chester Potter (Martin Balsam) comes with Munceford; he is the new doctor assigned to the ship. As they are adjusting to the ship, the Bedford discovers a Soviet sub nearby. Capt. Finlander begins a relentless pursuit, pushing his crew… perhaps to the breaking point!

Ben Munceford: I’ve heard a lot about you, Commodore, but I never expected I’d meet you.

Commodore Schrepke: Is that so?

Ben Munceford: Not aboard an American destroyer.

Commodore Schrepke: [Is] that so surprising in these times?

Ben Munceford: I guess not, if one can make the switch mentally. But I, uh… I still connect you with… Hitler’s navy.

Commodore Schrepke: Your pardon: Admiral Dönitz’s navy, sir.

This movie unites (real-life pals) Widmark and Poitier; they also worked on No Way Out (1950) and The Long Ships (1964). Poitier had been making films for 15 yrs at this time, BUT this was the 1st film in which his race was neither mentioned nor relevant. The role of the medical officer was written for Poitier, BUT he asked to play the journo instead. The former U-Boat commander onboard, Commodore Wolfgang Shrepke (Eric Portman- a Brit known for playing Germans), is a NATO advisor. The eager/cute Ensign Ralston (James MacArthur) MAY be familiar to some viewers; he played the older bro (Fritz) in the 1960 Disney classic- The Swiss Family Robinson. Look out for a 20-ish Donald Sutherland; he’s one of the nerdy scientists in the ship’s lab in an early scene.

Commodore Schrepke: That permission specifically said “if the sub is still in territorial waters,” is that not so?

Capt. Finlander: A matter of interpretation, Commodore.

Commodore Schrepke: But the Russian is in international waters. The ocean is free, my captain.

Capt. Finlander: Yeah, so it is.

Commodore Schrepke: So you have lost your opportunity. It was magnificent –

Capt. Finlander: Look, if I catch a man robbing my house and he makes a break for the street, do I let him go just because he made it to the sidewalk?

The director (James B. Harris) and screenwriter (James Poe) were able to visit a Navy destroyer in Norfolk, VA for pre-production research in late 1963. When Munceford and Lt. Cmdr. Potter are flying out to the destroyer, they are aboard an H-19 helicopter, which was called the Whirlwind by the British. Interior scenes were filmed aboard a British Type 15 frigate (the H.M.S. Troubridge); much British military equipment can seen around the ship. The cameras Munceford uses are the Nikon Model F and Pentax; the tape recorder he uses is a 1964 Philips EL3300 (the world’s 1st commercial compact cassette recorder).

I’m a long-time fan of Poitier and saw several of his more famous films growing up; he was a hero to MANY people (of all backgrounds) for his acting and activism. In the pandemic, I’ve been focusing on the noir genre; Widmark got his start there, though he later made many Westerns. I plan to watch and review more of this movies in the near future. I’m also a fan of the submarine drama Crimson Tide (1995) starring Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman. There are a LOT of sub-related movies out there; I recently listened to reviews of a few on the podcast Submersion.

“Yellow Sky” (1948) starring Gregory Peck, Anne Baxter, & Richard Widmark

In 1867 in the West, a band of bank robbers flee from the U.S. Cavalry into the desert on horseback. These men are: James Dawson AKA Stretch (Gregory Peck- one of Hollywood’s top leading men), Dude (Richard Widmark- a film noir darling/respected character actor), Lengthy (John Russell- a tall/darkly handsome actor who later became a lead on TV), Bull Run (Robert Arthur), Half Pint (Harry Morgan- long before fame on M*A*S*H), and Walrus (Charles Kemper). Near death from lack of water, all (except Walrus), stumble into what appears to be a ghost town (Yellow Sky). However, they soon discover a prospector, Grandpa (James Burton), and his “tomboy” granddaughter, Constance Mae AKA Mike (Anne Baxter- already an Oscar winner for her supporting role in All About Eve). After Dude discovers that this old man has been mining gold, the gang plan to steal from his claim.

James (Stretch) Dawson: Quite a punch you got there, ma’am. Come in mighty handy when you get married.

I learned that Widmark acted in a few Westerns, thanks to another classic movie fan (via Twitter). Yellow Sky is categorized as a noir Western. The director’s name may be familiar; William Wellman directed the original version of A Star is Born (1937). The story was by W.R. Burnett (one of the most influential writers in film history); the screenplay was by Lamar Trotti. The music was composed by one of the best in the field, Alfred Newman; he created the 20th Century Fox logo theme (which is still used today). In 1940, Newman was nominated for 4 Oscars for 4 different films- wow!

Shakespeare’s The Tempest influenced the plot/characters; I learned this from the review that indie director John Sayles did. However, Wellman said in the book, The Men Who Made the Movies, that he had no idea of the connection. In the fight between Lengthy and Mike at the spring, Baxter’s stunt double- Martha Crawford- was used. Peck broke his ankle in 3 places after falling from his horse in one scene, so the man wrestling w/ Baxter in the hay was his stunt double, Jock Mahoney. Wellman noted that Baxter hated working w/ Peck, BUT never gave a reason why. Hmmm… I found this surprising, b/c I’ve never heard of Peck’s co-stars having serious issues w/ him!

I’m NOT yet V familar w/ the Western genre, though I mostly grew up in the desert (Tucson, AZ). This movie is visually stunning w/ stark black and white photography of the natural landscapes. The filmmakers received permission to shoot in Death Valley, which had the dangers of extreme heat, scorpions, and tarantulas- yikes! Peck and Widmark make believable frenemies; they’re NOT only opposites physically, BUT also have different personalities. Each of the 6 men has his own style of speech, unique costume, and scene in which to reveal his character. The romance develops over a few scenes, as Mike learns that Stretch is NOT a bad man (deep down). The last scene looks tacked on (by Hollywood studio execs), as Sayles commented. This movie was re-made in South Africa as The Jackals (1967) starring Vincent Price.

[1] Gregory Peck plays the leader Stretch, an actor normally associated with a straight-laced gait, here he is is weather worn and tired, his portrayal of Stretch as convincing as a role I have seen him tackle. Richard Widmark, in what I believe to be his first Western entry, is truly magnetic, a smirking, snarling Dude that you just know you couldn’t trust if your life depended on it. Anne Baxter plays the sole female character of the piece (Mike), and she is pivotal to the whole film’s strength, tough and full of spunk, her grasping of the situation in amongst these ragged men gives the piece it’s time bomb ethic, and boy does Baxter do well with it.

[2] Performances are superb from all concerned. Peck gives one of his usual stalwart portrayals. Richard Widmark, in his first western is superb as the slimy, crafty double crosser. Also excellent is John Russell as the womanizing gang member (“Now ma’am, you wouldn’t shoot a fine young handsome fella like me, would ye?”)

[3] The main thing you might not catch is that this is an adaptation of “The Tempest,” by Shakespeare. Here, the band of travelers crosses a metaphoric sea (the desert) and reaches a “New World” where they sort out what matters between them. The set was built (and deliberately destroyed) from an old silent film set that was left over.

William Wellman was one of those consistently excellent directors who never really made a bad film, but didn’t always make exceptional ones, and this one is right in his usual mix of strong visuals, tight editing, fairly simple dramatic plots, and a key actor or two to identify with.

-Excerpts from IMDb movies

Noir City DC Film Fest: “Road House” (1948) & “Desert Fury” (1947)

Hey y’all, thanks for reading (hope you also subscribe)! I missed out on blogging re: movies during #Noirvember (yup- again), BUT am gonna share w/ you the 2 films I saw at a local film fest (at AFI in Silver Spring- a FEW blocks from my place). The best part- I met TCM host Eddie Muller (looking classy and full of funny stories) and got my book (Dark City: The Lost World of Film Noir) signed!

Road House (1948) starring Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, & Celeste Holm

Jefty Robbins (Richard Widmark), owner of a roadhouse in a small town (near the Canadian border), hires tough-talking/world-weary Lily Stevens (Ida Lupino- who does her own singing) for a 6 wk. gig, despite the reservations of his manager/best friend, Pete Morgan (Cornell Wilde). Pete even tries to get Lily to go back to Chicago, offering her some money. Jefty is interested in Lily, as she’s “different from other girls.” He brings her breakfast in bed at her hotel. When Pete goes out of town for a fishing trip, Lily turns her charms on Pete, who is resistant. Pete usually dates the roadhouse cashier, Susie Smith (Celeste Holm). Events bring Pete and Lily closer together, until they fall in love. Lily turns down Jefty’s marriage proposal. Then, Pete and Lily have to face Jefty’s intense jealousy!

Susie: She does more without a voice than anybody I’ve ever heard!

Road House was director Jean Negulesco’s 1st film for 20th Century Fox; he had recently been fired by Warnes Bros. Darryl F. Zanuck told him, “This is a bad script. Three directors have refused it. They don’t know what they’re doing, because basically it’s quite good. Remember those pictures we used to make at Warner Bros., with Pat O’Brien and Jimmy Cagney, in which every time the action flagged we staged a fight and every time a man passed a girl she’d adjust her stocking or something, trying to be sexy? That’s the kind of picture we have to have with Road House.”

Not only was Lupino (one of Muller’s faves) a good actress, she also had a head for business (purchasing the rights to the movie for $20K). This film was a year after Widmark played a sadistic killer in Kiss Of Death. As Jefty, Widmark gets to show some of his “regular guy” side, but evolves (or devolves) into a very troubled man. Wilde’s role is as the straight man (which can be dull), but he does a good job. Wilde and Lupino have strong romantic chemistry. Holm gets the (thankless) role of the “girl next door” who’s overlooked, but she handles it well. I really liked the production design on this film; scenes in the roadhouse’s bowling alley were shot at a real alley located near the studio. Check this movie out- it’s one I think MANY will enjoy!

[1] Despite the hole-riddled ending, it’s still worth seeing because of Lupino’s and Widmark’s performances. She is great as the 2nd-rate singer (singing her own songs with a decent but obviously less than stellar voice–which was perfect for the role)… Widmark was interesting because he combined two totally different performances in one film…

[2] “Road House” is an engaging film–noir with a storyline of unrequited love and obsession. Ida Lupino has an impressive performance, singing with a wonderful husky voice. […] This film is also the third appearance of the outstanding Richard Widmark and his insane smile on the cinema. Cornel Wilde and Celeste Holm complete the dream cast of this unknown gem. 8/10

[3] Widmark’s character is by far the most interesting. A little unbalanced at the beginning, he turns crafty and bitter before he loses it altogether. There’s a good deal of pathos in the character.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

Desert Fury (1947) starring Lizabeth Scott, John Hodiak, Burt Lancaster, Wendell Corey, & Mary Astor

Fritzi Haller (Mary Astor) is a powerful casino owner in Chuckawalla, a small town in Nevada. Her 19 y.o. daughter Paula (Lizabeth Scott) has quit school; she returns at the same time as racketeer Eddie Bendix (John Hodiak), who left under suspicion of murdering his wife a few years ago. Paula and Eddie become involved, despite the big age gap and her being warned against him. Fritzi, a deputy/Paula’s friend Tom Hanson (Burt Lancaster) and Eddie’s companion Johnny Ryan (Wendell Corey- his film debut) try to break up the relationship. Then, Eddie’s past catches up w/ him in an unexpected way!

This is the kind of B movie that ONLY a true fan of noir will like (or tolerate)- LOL! Seeing it w/ a audience helped, as did the intro from Muller. The music is unnecessarily dramatic, overpowering some scenes. Fans of this genre MAY be surprised to see Scott as the lead here; she was a limited actress (though V conventionally pretty w/ a distinctive/husky voice). Lancaster (looking esp. handsome w/ his tousled hair and leather jacket) has the straight-shooter role here; Tom (in his late 20s) cares for/is protective of Paula. She doesn’t have many friends in town; other kids stayed away from her b/c of her mother’s profession. The romance between Paula and Eddie isn’t as interesting as the (enigmatic) relationship between Eddie and Johnny. Corey gets a meaty role for his first role; a villain w/ many layers, Johnny is V protective over his friend.

[1] Made in 1947 in perfect glossy Technicolor to distract you from the beserkness and tawdry storyline, this is one terrific exercise in censorship busting antics that managed to fulfill it’s reputation. […] DESERT FURY is genuine queer cinema. With incest hinted, guns and car tire screeching, sinister sunglass wearing and cactus pricks everywhere…

[2] Desert Fury is one of those several films from the studio days where gay was strictly taboo yet it somehow got to the screen. That scene where Corey tells Scott how he met a ragged and hungry Hodiak at the Automat and bought him a meal and took him home sure sounded like a pickup to me. Many from the generation before Stonewall told me that the Horn & Hardart Automat was one of the great pickup places in New York. Romances and flings have started in stranger places. No way that the writers would not have known that. Corey’s devotion to Hodiak can’t be explained any other way as the story unfolds. In fact he’s the stronger of the two.

[3] The best part of Desert Fury is Edith Head’s costumes. Every single scene, Lizabeth and Mary are dressed in gorgeous dresses that will have you oo-ing and ahh-ing for the entire running length. Lizabeth is very pretty in this film, and dressing her up in such beautiful costumes only makes it more fun to watch her, even when she’s exercising bad judgement.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews