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.






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