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|Author Dorothy B. Hughes|
|Don't you love film/book tie-ins?|
|Does that look like the |
French Connection movie ad, or what?
|"Dear Louie: I'm out of my hed. O hurry or I may be ded...."|
|FF #1 Barby Taviton: rich, hot refugee den mother|
|FF #2: Whitney Parker, The "Content Imp"|
Femme Fatale Candidate #1: Patricia Morison as Kit’s alluring old flame Barby Taviton. Stunning brunette Morison may not look like the blonde Barby described in Hughes’s novel, but she’s got the right sophistication and entitled attitude. Ironically, Morison’s many films included The Song of Bernadette and Song of the Thin Man, but she never sings in TFS! That honor went to:
Femme Fatale Candidate #2: Martha O’Driscoll as Whitney Parker, Ab’s young chanteuse cousin, affectionately nicknamed “The Imp.” The appealing O’Driscoll got plenty of work in the 1940s, including roles in Reap the Wild Wind and The Lady Eve, as well as playing Daisy Mae in the first film version of Li’l Abner from 1940. By the way, Whitney’s name was actually “Content Hamilton” in Hughes’ novel (she was the one with the aforementioned “wrathy eyes”), but I prefer Whitney’s new movie-friendly name. I must admit that as I read the book, my eyes kept tripping over the name “Content”! For all I know, “Content” might have been a popular name for girls back in the early 1930s and ’40s, but to my 21st-century eyes, reading “Content” as a person’s first name looked odd, yanking me out of the story several times before I finally resigned myself to it.
|FF #3: Mysterious refugee Toni Donne. God bless America!|
|At least Kit doesn't have to sit with Bruno Antony!|
But Kit’s biggest obstacle is that he has what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He’s still haunted by the memory of the mysterious man from Franco’s elite Nazi squad, a limping man (called “Wobblefoot” in the novel; in the film, he’s simply “The man who limps”) who tortured Kit relentlessly in his dark cell, trying to make our troubled but determined hero reveal where he’d hidden his regiment’s battle standard. (In the novel, the MacGuffin was a set of fabulous Babylon goblets the defiant Kit took from the enemy. The goblets are in the film, but Duff’s script emphasizes that battle flag and the symbolism behind it.) Even now, Kit struggles against fear as he imagines hearing the drag and thump that signaled his sadistic tormentor’s arrival—or is he imagining it? Terror mounts as Kit slowly realizes his enemies may have followed him home, maybe even planting their spies into every aspect of Kit’s life, placing not only himself in danger, but also his friends and loved ones. Even the innocent Whitney’s accompanist Anton is suspect—especially considering he’s played by young John Banner in his pre-Hogan’s Heroes days!
|Kit has a Bernard Herrmann moment. Next time, he should play some nice, soothing violin music!|
|Smooches, balloons, and plush penguins? |
I totally want to know more about Kit and Toni's date!
Walter Slezak’s performance as Dr. Skaas is silkily sinister, though I felt that his true evil nature was telegraphed much earlier than in the book, with his interest in “the cruelties of men towards other men” and “comparing modern scientific torture with the methods of the ancients,” who apparently didn’t mess with victims’ heads enough for Skaas’ liking! An avuncular hybrid of Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, and Clifton Webb, Slezak is one of 1940s cinema’s most memorable villains.
TFS keeps the paranoia percolating and the suspense simmering. I was especially glad to see that the filmmakers included much of the novel’s best dialogue, with only minor tweaks. They truly evoked the feeling and atmosphere of wintertime World War 2 Manhattan, underscored by Roy Webb and Constantine
Bakaleinikoff’s Oscar-nominated score. Today’s audiences might not understand Kit’s obsession with the battle flag, even with the explanatory scene at Toni’s home. Then again, I bet the men and women now fighting overseas will get the significance of a battle standard and what it symbolizes!
|Kit's crowd has the swankiest suspects this side of The Thin Man movies!|
|Otto and Dr. Skaas dish new tips from Popular Torture Monthly|
(Can you believe that's young Hugh Beaumont on the left?
|"Talk treason to me, baby."|
|Who knew John Banner of |
Hogan's Heroes was dapper?