Saturday, December 24, 2011

Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night- Gold Digger’s Lament –Scarlet Street- A Film Review

Out In The 1940s Crime Noir Night- Gold Digger’s Lament –Scarlet Street- A Film Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the crime noir Scarlet Street.

DVD Review

Scarlet Street, starring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, Dan Duryea, directed by Fritz Lang, 1945

Personally, I like my femme fatales and round-heel gold-diggers wherever they may have come from down the social ladder to have a little pizzazz, a little class if you will. I definitely do not want them chewing bubble gum or Wrigleys' for that matter, putting out their ruby-red lipstick-ringed cigarette butts on the good carpet, or leaving a pile of dishes in the sink (or on that same carpeted floor) when company calls. I’m funny that way but that’s just my little thing because low-rent or not I know a girl has got to do what a girl has to do to survive in this wicked old world. And that is what the plot line of this 1940s crime noir, Scarlet Street centers on. As well as, of course, the old adage that we have been hearing about since we were in diapers, crime doesn’t pay, although here with an odd twist.

As for the girl who has to do what a girl has to do part, Kitty (played by a low-rent life loving Joan Bennett), is in love. No big deal there except she is in love with a classic grifter, Johnny (played by caddish-aficionado Dan Duryea), who is ready to make that nice big score to put them on easy street. If he only had some kale, dough, moola or whatever you want to call it to grease the way. And that is where Christopher Cross(played in a somewhat stilted Walter-Mitty like way by Edawrd g. Robinson last seen breaking legs in the gangster classics of the 1930s, but I guess 1940s times were tough), a no dough guy with a big front but a real talent for painting, no not house- painting, painting, but high if primitive art. Already this looks like no where right?

Right, except old Cal makes the fatal mistake of helping Kitty out of a few jams and falling in love with her in the meantime. And our boy Johnny ever quick to see the main chance tells Ms. Kitty to string Chris along on the assumption that he has dough. Well Chris doesn’t but he does have that artistic talent that Johnny (and Kitty) parley into their version of easy street, for a while. See Cal’s primitive art takes off as the big new thing except he can’t take credit for it because Johnny in his infinite wisdom has told the critics who are crazy for the stuff Kitty did the work. And Cal, foolish head-over heals in love, plays along with it. Plays along with it until he finally gets hip to the hard fact that Kitty is using him to keep her Johnny in clover. Then things turn ugly, as one would except when one has been played for the patsy.

But you have to be careful with the Walter Mittys of the world. When they turn you do not which way they might go. Cal goes for the heart, literally, and kills Kitty in a rage. Here is where the sweet, sweet for his part come in though, he sets up Johnny, Johnny whose whole life is aimed in this direction, for the fall. And brother he takes it, big time in the big house and the chair. And Cal? He gets his square guy mistreated revenge alright. Hey, you haven’t been paying attention to the subtext of this genre. Crime does not pay. And although Cal is finished as an artist, finished as a rational man, he can find no salvation even when he tries to cop to the crime. So he is left to wander, babbling in the mean New York streets waiting for his hellish end to come. See, there are a lot of ways to play the crime doesn’t pay story. This one had a lot of holes in the plot that made it rather surreal in places (Chris's marriage situation, for one) and Robinson falls down as the meek inheritor of the earth but that is that.

be-bop, femme fatales

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