This space is dedicated to the proposition that we need to know the history of the struggles on the left and of earlier progressive movements here and world-wide. If we can learn from the mistakes made in the past (as well as what went right) we can move forward in the future to create a more just and equitable society. We will be reviewing books, CDs, and movies we believe everyone needs to read, hear and look at as well as making commentary from time to time. Greg Green, site manager
Thursday, May 30, 2013
***Out In The 1940s Crime Noir
Night-“The Naked City”-A Film Review
The Naked City, starring Barry
Fitzgerald, Howard Duff, Universal International, 1946
No question I am a film noir,
especially a crime film noir, aficionado. Recently I have been on a tear
reviewing various crime noir efforts and drawing comparisons between the ones
that “speak” to me and those that, perhaps, should have been better left on the
cutting room floor. The classics are easy and need no additional comment from
me as their plot lines stand on their own merits. Others, because they have a
fetching, or wicked, for that matter, femme fatale to muddy the waters
also get a free pass. Some, such as the film under review from 1946, The
Naked City, offer neither although the stark New York City cinematography
and the voice-over narration place it firmly in the genre. This film is that
old noir stand-by from the period, the police procedural with its
never-ending cautionary tale about how “crime does not pay.”
A little plot summary is in order.
Yes, New York City, well the New York City of the 1940s and 1950s had eight
million stories, although maybe really just two, rich and poor, or maybe better
getting richer or sliding down poorer, but that is the subject for another day.
Of course telling eight million stories, other than as a few seconds relief
slice-of-life scenes, would make me very sleepy, very sleepy indeed.
So the plot line reduces the
sleepiness to a minimum by telling one story, or rather one murder story that
wraps quite a few people in its tentacles, including one major city homicide
squad. A squad led by perennial Irish actor Barry Fitzgerald as the foot-sore
but worldly-wise detective in charge. The grift (profit motive) that drives the
story line is stealing jewelry from those self-same getting richer New York
City swells, including an inside society swell finger man. But things turn awry
when one drop-dead beautiful model winds up being murdered (maybe I should not
have used just that phrase to describe that unseen model, but I will let it stand)
by her some of her thieving confederates.
The twists and turns, such as they are, revolve around a
mystery man lover, suitor, whatever it was never really clear, except he was
daffy over that drop-dead beautiful model, and finding him since he was the
logical guy to have done, or to have ordered the murder, is the order of the
day. In New Jack City and elsewhere that is hard to do, one and one half hours
hard to do. But in the end Barry and his homicide squad cohorts get their man,
a strangely agile bad man for noir who are usually portrayed as just
straight thugs. And the city moves on to the next…murder, mayhem or whatever.
Not exactly my cup of tea in noir but if I recall this film was the
model for a television series of the same name in the late 1950s so somebody
must have though well of it beyond the slice-of-New York life scenes
interspersed in the story and the great black and white cinematography of the
Big Apple just after the end of World War II.