This post is being republished as part of the Loving Lucy Blogathon hosted by True Classics in honor of Lucille Ball's Centennial today, Saturday, August 6th, 2011.
Watch your step—you might trip over a spoiler or two!
Watch your step—you might trip over a spoiler or two!
At times, 20th Century-Fox’s 1946 thriller The Dark Corner (TDC) plays like a greatest-hits collection of classic 1940s suspense films, but to me, that’s part of its charm. The talents involved include: co-star Clifton Webb, again playing a witty, urbane, snobbish Manhattanite fascinated by a beautiful brunette and her portrait like Laura; The Glass Key’s co-star William Bendix, who’s always fun to watch whether he’s playing a lovable mug or, in this case, a hissable thug; and Laura’s co-screenwriter Jay Dratler, along with Bernard C. Schoenfeld and Leo Rosten of The Joy of Yiddish fame! Indeed, the versatile Rosten wrote TDC’s original 1945 Good Housekeeping serial under the nom de plume Leonard Q. Ross. Ever prolific, Rosten also wrote many other stories, novels, and movie scripts, including two of my favorites, All Through the Night (1941) and Mystery Street (1950). Even the film’s Gershwin-esque opening theme music, a piece by Alfred Newman titled "Manhattan Street Scene," had been used before, in Fox’s first neo-noir thriller I Wake up Screaming (1941). (Fun Fact: Newman's Oscar-winning family of composers includes nephew Randy Newman, another of our household faves!)
Critics and audiences agreed that Lucille Ball shines in this early dramatic role of hers, long before I Love Lucy made her a comedy icon. According to both the TCM Web site and the entertaining DVD commentary by film historians Alain Silver and James Ursini, Hathaway was such a tough taskmaster that Ball had a nervous breakdown during the filming. It doesn’t show onscreen in her assured, appealing portrayal of smart, loyal secretary Kathleen Stewart, originally Kathleen Conley in the Good Housekeeping serial (in fact, the DVD’s package copy mistakenly identifies Kathleen’s last name in the film as Conley, not Stewart). Kathleen's falling in love with her P.I. boss, Bradford Galt (no relation to John Galt), and the feeling is mutual.
As Brad, Mark Stevens makes a fine Dick Powell-like transition from musicals to tough-guy parts. Brad’s starting out fresh in New York City after being framed for manslaughter and nearly killed in California by his corrupt ex-partner, lawyer Tony Jardine. As a favor to his Cali colleagues, local cop Lt. Reeves is keeping tabs on Galt to make sure the “impulsive youth” stays out of trouble. In the role of Reeves, fans of the March of Time newsreels will recognize Reed Hadley’s commanding speaking voice; he’s got great screen presence and a formidable air of authority. Nevertheless, it seems Brad’s past is coming back to haunt him. When Brad catches a big lug (Bendix) on his tail wearing a white suit (who does he think he is, Roy Scheider in Last Embrace?), he’s shocked when the guy claims Tony Jardine hired him. The plot thickens as vulnerable but determined Brad sets out to see if Tony’s aiming to finish what he started out west.
|"Working conditions are certainly looking up around here." And how!|
|"Beauty" Mari & "Beast" Hardy celebrate their 3rd anniversary. Tradition says leather is the gift of choice. Who'd have thought the Cathcarts were into leather?|
|"Whaddaya mean musical stars|
can't play tough guys?!"
|A murder frame-up is no laughing matter to Lucille Ball and Mark Stevens|
I like the whole “haves” vs. “have-nots” element running through TDC, with little details like the running gag about Brad scoring nylon stockings for Kathleen, and the crucial clue Brad gets from the slide-whistle-playing urchin (the uncredited Colleen Alpaugh) in White Suit’s building. Keep an eye out for two other uncredited but memorable character actors: Minerva Urecal, best known to Team Bartilucci as Mother in the 1960 season of TV's Peter Gunn and the harridan who gets briefly turned to stone in The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (1964), playing one of Brad’s clients; and Douglas Spencer of The Thing from Another World as one of several deli customers gawking as Brad almost becomes a hit-and-run victim. In one scene between Hardy and White Suit, there’s this highbrow-to-lowbrow translation that always cracks me up as Hardy instructs White Suit to phone Brad and trick him into a deadly rendezvous:
Hardy (whispering to White Suit):
“Tell him you need two-hundred dollars to leave town.”
White Suit (to Brad on phone):
“I need two yards, powder money!”
|If White Suit thinks he'll be living|
The Life of Riley, he's got another think coming!
Getting back to clues, I love that something as prosaic as dry cleaning helps our heroes crack the case! Another nice bit: Brad is dropping Kathleen off at the movies near his apartment, where he’s going to face off with White Suit. Worried, Kathleen pouts, “I never thought I’d have to beg you to take me up to your apartment.” Brad replies, with a grin, “You’ve been there...” The box office gal (Mary Field from Dark Passage and Ball of Fire, though she's an uncredited scene-stealer here) has the most priceless look on her face as she strains to hear the rest of the conversation!
Mari (near tears): “It’s not true! He’s always loathed her.”The distraught Mari rushes off to her bed, her figure shown off lusciously yet tastefully by the light shining through her filmy negligee (thanks to ace Director of Photography Joe MacDonald, amping up the moody film noir feel with his beautifully stark use of shadows and light) as she slips under the covers. Hardy’s expression is both cold and wounded. “Love is not the exclusive province of adolescents, my dear,” he says quietly. “It’s a heart ailment that strikes all age groups, like my love for you. My love for you is the only malady I’ve contracted since the usual childhood diseases—and it’s incurable.”
Hardy: “He loathed her rather intimately, I’m afraid.”
Mari: “But he couldn’t! I mean, she’s too old for him.”
There’s a bracing street feeling to TDC’s periodic outbursts of brutal-for-the-era violence. None of this Marquis of Queensbury rules stuff—the combatants really clobber each other! Even Hardy commits a murder so sudden and shocking that I gasped in spite of myself. White Suit’s ambush in Brad’s apartment even has a touch of (unintentional?) humor; watch William Bendix’s head, and you'll see his toupee come loose, hanging onto his scalp by a thread!
The film was shot in both NYC and L.A., but it all looks convincingly like Manhattan. The NYC second-unit work is especially good, including shots of the Third Avenue El and an exciting car chase. In addition to the nifty commentary track, the DVD’s extras include swell vintage trailers for TDC and other Fox crime flicks. If you love films noir but don't have time to sit down and give all your favorites your undivided attention, watching TDC is the next best thing!
You know, it's a shame this movie didn't lead to bigger and better things for Lucy -- this may very well be my favorite of her films; of course, having William "What a revoltin' development this is!" Bendix (loved the Last Embrace ref, Team Bart!) and Clifton "Yes, I'm Waldo Lydecker in this one, too...care to step outside?" Webb on hand doesn't hurt, either.ReplyDelete
But Mark Stevens? Never could figure out how he managed to appear in so many high profile films, like The Snake Pit and The Street With No Name. To borrow a quote someone once used about Kate Hepburn, "He runs the gamut of emotions from A to B." (He is fortunate to get the movie's most memorable line, though.)
I didn't know there was a Loving Lucy Blogathon; hafta check it out (BTW, Happy Birthday, Lucy!). Anyhow, it's a pleasure to read this post again; I get to revisit both The Dark Corner and my intro to Team Bartilucci (thank you, Laura's Miscellaneous Musings).ReplyDelete
I'm glad you mentioned that scene-stealing bit by Mary Field in the picture-show box office; priceless! Also priceless, I think, is Frank McHugh's brother Matt as the milkman finding Kathleen answering Brad's door in the morning.
Dorian, fascinating history and review of this movie. I have not seen it for a very long time - in fact, I wonder if I have ever seen the whole thing or just parts! I have GOT to rectify that mistake. Marvelous cast and great director, but did Hathaway REALLY make Lucy have a breakdown? Good Lord! Clifton Webb's relationship with Mari is pretty sick -- I love the quote you gave where Mari says she has to "just keep sitting, listening to his paintings crack with age." And his cold response to her distress: "Love is not the exclusive province of adolescents, my dear,” he says quietly. “It’s a heart ailment that strikes all age groups, like my love for you. My love for you is the only malady I’ve contracted since the usual childhood diseases—and it’s incurable." Brrr! Very impressive writing.ReplyDelete
I've never been a really big fan of Mark Stevens, although he is a darling guy, like the boy next door grown up. I remember liking him in most of his movies, like The Snake Pit, but never loving him, you know? I'd like to see the chemistry between him and Lucy. Well, I'm just going to have to watch the whole movie!
Wonderful review, and very inspiring! LOL!
Shoot, P.S., I LOVE your sub-name for this movie. You always come up with great ones!ReplyDelete
Our pal and frequent TotED commenter Michael Wolff has a message for Lucille Ball fans, that cracked me up!ReplyDelete
"Hello, Fellow Well-Wishers,
Hoping you're joining with me in celebrating the 100th birthday of Lucille Ball. Along with Walter Cronkite and yearly showings of The Wizard Of Oz, truly a genuine American television icon! I suppose it's safe to presume that we've all grown up with images of Lucy at the candy assembly line . . . Lucy stuck in the giant freezer . . . the entire "Lucy In Hollywood" story arc.
And, thanks to TCM over the years, I've had the opportunity to learn more about Lucille Ball the movie actress. Holding her own with Ginger Rogers and Katharine Hepburn in Stage Door. Again with Hepburn (and managing quite well) in Without Love. Being a total bitch in The Big Street.
In figuring out how to celebrate Lucy's birthday, I did some research and uncovered a little known story which even you hardened Lucy fans might not know. During World War II quite a number of Hollywood's finest wanted to contribute to the war effort, and Lucy was certainly at the forefront of such sentiment. So much so, in fact, that she actually enlisted and signed up for the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) which had been formed by Brigadier General William H. Tunner. The job of the WASP was to train women to fly and deliver combat aircraft from the manufacturing centers in America to bases in Europe and the Pacific where they would then be turned over to combat pilots.
Lucy was accepted into the WASP and was transferred down to Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, for training. She managed quite well in the Basic and classroom portions of the training and, with some guidance from instructors such as Violet Cowden, actually acquired her pilot's wings.
Unfortunately, at the onset of her first real mission, Lucy developed a severe case of nerves. She had been assigned to fly an A-26 Invader from the Douglas Aircraft Plant to the departure base near Newfoundland, and from there across the North Atlantic to an RAF base in England. The morning of her mission came, and Lucy found herself unable to get out of bed.
Her immediate commanding officer saw what was happening and went to quietly report the situation to General Finfinella, the base commander at Sweetwater. The General studied the situation and, sympathetic to what was happening, decided to make a direct appeal to Lucy's sense of duty as a way of somehow getting her on that bomber. He went to her barracks, knocked on the doorway and, in as firm a voice as he could muster, said: "Lucy, you got some 'planing to do!"
OK . . . admittedly that was rather a long way to go for an ultimately bad joke*. Hopefully the rest of you will manage to come up with better kudos for the actress whom William Frawley described as "a star-struck kid from RKO".
In any event, Happy Birthday, Ms. Ball!
(*it was either the above joke or attempt "Glow Worm" on the saxophone, and I don't have a saxophone.)"
Thank you for that bit of daftness, Michael! I'm sure a wacky "henna-rinsess" like Lucy would have appreciated it! :-)
Jim, thanks for your kind words about my encore DARK CORNER post! Meeting you through TotED and Laura's Miscellaneous Musings, and enjoying your wonderful blog posts ever since, has been a real pleasure for me, and I look forward to many more of your posts to come! I also very much enjoyed your anecdote about Lucy's later apology about her TDC experience years later. For anyone reading this who hasn't read and enjoyed Jim's anecdote, here's the link to the original post and comments:ReplyDelete
Thanks, too, for sharing the info about Frank McHugh's brother playing heroine Kathleen's milkman! Frank McHugh has been a Team Bartilucci favorite ever since we first saw him in the gangsters vs. Fifth Columnist comedy-thriller ALL THROUGH THE NIGHT. We affectionately call McHugh "Annabelle's Husband" in honor of his scene-stealing role in the movie. :-)
Ivan, though it seems to me that Lucy certainly did move on to bigger and better things, at least comedy-wise, I agree that she had more dramatic range than she got credit for, not only in THE DARK CORNER, but in films like THE BIG STREET and LURED; the latter will be on TCM in the wee hours of Sunday, August 7th. All who are interested should set up your DVRs right away!ReplyDelete
Also, I loved your wisecrack: "Yes, I'm Waldo Lydecker in this one, too...care to step outside?" Hey, there are worse niches to fill! :-) It's always fun to have you join in the conversation here; thanks for weighing in, Ivan!
By the way, Ivan, glad you enjoyed our LAST EMBRACE reference! LAST EMBRACE isn't flawless by any means, but it's a more enjoyable New York-centric Hitchcockian tribute than it gets credit for. Thanks for your praise!ReplyDelete
Becky, you flatter and honor me with your praise of my DARK CORNER blog post -- beaucoup thanks, my friend! Vinnie deserves full credit for coming up with the subtitle "You Picked a Fine Time to Meet Me, Lucille," clever lad that he is! :-)ReplyDelete
I've always been fascinated and kinda creeped-out by Clifton Webb's characters in both THE DARK CORNER and LAURA, where the love he claims to have for these women really comes off as an obsessive form of ownership. As you put it so perfectly, "Brrr!" Still, however you feel about Mark Stevens in his other roles, he and Lucy really have sizzling-hot chemistry in TDC! I know you can't always get TCM or Fox Movie Channel (where I've seen these on TV), but it's available on DVD; I think you'd really like it, and I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about it.
Dorian, I'll if I can find it, maybe on Netflix? Congrats to Vinnie for that great title!ReplyDelete
Not dishing the movie at the moment, Dorian. Just letting you know I've got an award for you. Don't know how to link the thing to you in comments. So just hit my name and it will take you back to the award post. You can lift if off my blog and do the routine. :)ReplyDelete
If you feel like it. If not, don't worry about it.
Really enjoyed your excellent post - TDC is one of the best noirs - and BTW, did anyone mention how smashing Lucy's nylon-clad gams look in this flick? The only puzzle about this movie is why it takes Stevens' character so long to warm up to her. Glad you mentioned Webb's murder scene - it is a real shocker, even when seen today.ReplyDelete
Yvette, I'm honored and flattered to be among your Liebster Blog recipients! Beaucoup thanks, my friend! I understand I'm to link back to the blog which gave me the award. Boy, was it tough to have to narrow my choices down to only five Liebster Blog winners, with so many talented and entertaining bloggers out there! I'm happy to announce my picks and the links to their respective blogs (though I love all you awesome bloggers!). They are:ReplyDelete
1.) Classic Becky’s Brain Food
Becky's witty, exuberant blog posts about classic movies, with a generous sprinkling of books in the mix, too, is always a pleasure to read!
2.) My Love of Old Hollywood
Page's zany fumetti-style pictorials sending up classic movies (and even not-so-classic flicks) make my hubby Vinnie and me laugh out loud every time. I think of her blog posts as affectionate snark. Some might call that an oxymoron; I call it great fun!
3.) The Forty-Year-Old Fanboy
Speaking of my husband, Vinnie Bartilucci, he's a talented blogger too; the fact that he also happens to be my dear hubby is sheer happenstance, honest! :-) Vin writes about comic books, animation, and related subjects in his droll, funny style.
4.) Jim Lane’s Cinedrome
Jim is practically a walking encyclopedia of movie lore, only his writing style is far more entertaining than most encyclopedias! He writes about films with friendly panache and affection.
5.) Forgotten Classics of Yesteryear
Nathanael Hood has his finger on the pulse not only of great movies we all know and love, but all-but-forgotten movie masterpieces from all over time and all over the world. Nate is also the hardest-working blogger in blog business! :-) His most recent triumph was coordinating the '50s Monster Mash Blogathon.
Got five bloggers who you think need a little love? Tell them you think they're the awesome, and link back to the blog which gave you the award. Got questions? Ask Yvette:
Happy trailers, all!
GOM, thanks so much for your praise of my DARK CORNER post! I'm very pleased to see you and others here have been discovering and enjoying TDC as much as I do.ReplyDelete
I agree that Lucy wears nylons well; gotta admit she had gorgeous gams! :-) Mark Stevens as Galt certainly noticed her beauty quickly enough; he just had to develop full-blown trust in our heroine after Kurt Kreuger's double-cross and resulting manslaughter charge had broken his spirit.
SPOILER ALERT...And that murder scene in the Grant Building is so shocking that it really puts Clifton Webb's character in a new light, as he turns out to be perfectly capable of murdering a man without needing hired muscle after all!...END SPOILER ALERT. Thanks for joining the conversation, GOM; drop by anytime!
Thanks for a great post! I loved the analysis and the behind the scenes. Lucy and suspense mystery- the versatility is impressive. Thanks for contributing!ReplyDelete
-Carrie, True Classics
Carrie, thank you kindly! I'm flattered and delighted that you enjoyed my detailed DARK CORNER blog post. I agree, Lucy really got to display her versatility here. Again, thanks a million to you, Brandie, and Nikki for including me in True Classics' fabulous LOVING LUCY Blogathon, and letting me play in your garden! :-)ReplyDelete
Dorian, let me echo Carrie's thanks--I'm really glad you chose to re-post this fabulous entry on The Dark Corner. I don't think you missed a single detail in your analysis of this movie. I think Lucy is much more effective here than in her other noir-ish role in Lured--she doesn't seem as ill at ease. Maybe that's just me, though (Lured is not exactly my favorite movie, so I'm probably biased in my opinion!).ReplyDelete
Many thanks right back at you for your praise, Brandie! I agree that LURED is kind of uneven in many ways, though it's still good B-movie-style fun to watch that great cast, including Team Bartilucci favorites George Sanders, Boris Karloff, and of course Lucy herself.ReplyDelete
Brandie, I've not only enjoyed the Loving Lucy Blogathon, but also your 20,000 LEAGUES... blog post for the '50s Monster Mash Blogathon, among others! I hope that you, Carrie, and Nikki don't mind, but I've added True Classics to "Further Distractions," where I list my favorite blogs and such here at Tales of the Easily Distracted. Thanks again!
Dorian, I believe great minds think alike, because I've added "Tales of the Easily Distracted" to our list of "Fellow Film Fanatics" over at True Classics! :DReplyDelete
Brandie, I'm tickled pink that you and the True Classics gang have included TotED on your "Fellow Film Fanatics" list -- and what good company I'm in, with you and so many of my favorite bloggers on the True Classics Roll Call! :-) I'm truly thrilled and honored, as is my husband and occasional co-blogger, Vinnie (he puts the "Team" in "Team Bartilucci" :-)! Thanks a million!ReplyDelete
Lucille Ball, is great, I wish she would have done more of this type of film. This film has some wonderful camera angles and the interesting plot. Sometimes, I wonder why this film is not better known.ReplyDelete
DorianTB, you wrote a wonderful post on one of my favorite Lucy films.
Dawn, thanks so much for your praise! Lucille Ball really did have more range than many folks realize. One of the things I love about THE DARK CORNER was that Kathleen, Lucy's character, wasn't a helpless ditz or lady-in-peril type; she was a smart, loving woman whose strength and quick thinking helped her save the hero's life. Glad you enjoyed TDC; thanks for joining the conversation!ReplyDelete
This is my favorite Lucy film though I agree with Ivan that Mark Stevens is a weak link. Still, the story is good and there is Mr. Bendix who as we discussed earlier was really a film noir main stay. Enjoyed!ReplyDelete
John, thanks for joining the DARK CORNER conversation! Glad to hear TDC is your favorite Lucille Ball movie, too. Isn't it interesting how Lucy and William Bendix both turned out to be equally adept at comedy roles and dramatic roles? Just goes to show they both had range!ReplyDelete
I did not even think about the comedy connection between Ball and Bendix (duh!). I watched some episodes on the I LOVE LUCY marathon this past weekend on TV and it amazes me that after watching the same shows over and over and over since I was a kid decades ago, the show is still fresh and extremely funny. Great writing and talented performances never go bad.ReplyDelete
Dorian: Death is easy, comedy is hard.ReplyDelete
I love that quote. Now if I can only remember who said it. Thought of it when I read your comment about Lucy and Bendix being able to do both.
By the by, I've just been notified by Netflix that my copy of THE DARK CORNER is set to arrive on the morrow - Friday. So, you see, I wasn't kidding.
I'll be watching!!
Yvette, I've heard the quote "Death is easy. Comedy is hard" attributed to actors ranging from Edmund Gwenn to Edmund Kean to Donald Crisp to Jack Lemmon to Peter O'Toole playing matinee idol Alan Swann in MY FAVORITE YEAR! In fact, here's a link to THE QUOTE INVESTIGATOR pondering the same question:ReplyDelete
I wonder if Lucy and Bendix ever quoted that phrase? :-)
Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of THE DARK CORNER. Thanks for going to the trouble of ordering it from Netflix, my friend; I hope you'll find it was worth the trouble! :-)
Sounds like this quote could have come from anybody from a comedy actor or a dramatic one -- Olivier to Hope!ReplyDelete
Becky, Yvette, and pals, I'm getting the feeling the "Death is easy. Comedy is hard" quote is one of those lines that's been attributed to every actor in every play, movie, or TV show ever! But isn't that what makes a classic, classic? :-)ReplyDelete
I used to have it on my Facebook page as Favorite Quote. Haven't seen it in a while though so Facebook probably swallowed it up in one of their periodical 'fine tunings'. :)ReplyDelete
I'm sure I'll enjoy the film, Dorian. I fully expect to.
Okay, I watched THE DARK CORNER last night. I loved Lucy in it and William Bendix (God, could he play an unpleasant sort and with such gusto!). I thought Clifton Webb phoned in his part over from the LAURA set. (Where's Waldo?)ReplyDelete
Loved the guy who played the oh-so-very sleazy Jardine. Really, are women that gullible? Yegads!
Question: Why does Wm. Bendix stand directly in front of that open window? Just wonderin'
Did you notice the supposed Vermeer painting on the Cathcart Gallery walls? Girl With A Pearl Earrring, no less. As if!?
And that bogus Raphael in the sinister vault basement. TALK ABOUT FORESHADOWING....but I'm digressing.
That's a Raphael and I'm the Queen of Sheba.
Mark Stevens. Mark Stevens. Mark Stevens. No.
Glad I saw it though, Dorian, now I know what everyone else is talking about. :)
Yvette, I'm glad you finally got an opportunity to see THE DARK CORNER, and I'm also glad you found much to enjoy (particularly Lucy, Bill Bendix, and the wonderfully oily Kurt Kreuger as the ill-fated Jardine) despite your quibbles! :-)ReplyDelete
I got a huge kick out of your delightfully snarky quips about the "supposed Vermeer," the "bogus Raphael," and above all, the "FORESHADOWING"! :-) Yeah, those were pretty much Hollywood versions of great paintings, but I guess the filmmakers didn't think most of us simple folk would notice. :-)
Alas, even in these modern times, there are far more gullible, easily-led-astray women (and some men, for that matter) in the world than there should be; the Tony Jardines of the world are clever little creeps. But at least in classic movies, they're likely to be pushed out a window or some other appropriate punishment (shoulda closed that window, Bill :-)).
Thanks for joining the conversation with your wit and wisdom, Yvette, as always!
Dorian, this was a fantastic post. I'll have to bump The Dark Corner to the top of my queue. I love the details you pick out from this film; it makes me feel like I'm watching it already.ReplyDelete
Ah, Clifton Webb. The man of the one-performance repertoire. But nobody could snap out those world-weary putdowns like he could.
And I have to admit, I have a definite weakness for those wisecracking Girl Friday secretaries. There's a definite shortage of them these days unless you count Pepper Potts from Iron Man. Which I do, 'cause I liked her.
Again, great job. Glad I caught up with this review.
Rachel, thanks so much for your enthusiastic praise! I'm delighted that you enjoyed my DARK CORNER review as much as I've been enjoying your blog posts. When you have a chance to watch the film yourself, I'd be interested in hearing your opinion of it.ReplyDelete
Your remark about a weakness for wisecracking Girl Friday secretaries had me smiling, because for several years I was a Girl Friday myself -- not in a private detective agency, but for author David Hajdu, A&E, and Jim Shooter's comic book company DEFIANT. No crime was involved, but they were fun places to work in their own way, despite the lack of Size 9 nylons! :-) Thanks for joining the conversation, Rachel; feel free to drop by anytime!