Dr. Christina J. Johns
I Love Trouble (1947-48)
I LOVE TROUBLE (1947)
Starring Franchot Tone (43 at the time), Janet Blair, Adele Jergens and a small part for Raymond Burr.
Directed by S. Sylvan Simon.
Music by George Duning
Costumes (gowns) by Jean Louis
This is a long movie (2 hours) but well worth the watch. It is the studio’s try out of Franchot Tone’s for a private detective series. While Tone is usually fun to watch, I don’t think he has the same sort of edge as the noir detective Dick Powell had or the charm of William Powell.
As most of the reviewers point out, this script is straight out of the Chandler/Hammett line of novels with the suave, wisecracking detective, but it is well worth watching.
My favorite lines from the film are:
Heavy: This is a gun in your back.
Tone: Yeah, I’ve seen one before.
The filmscript was written by Roy Huggins and was based on his novel “The Double Take.” This same character, Stuart Bailey, was played years later by Efrem Zimalist Jr. in the television series 77 Sunset Strip.
Huggins created a number of the most famout TV movie series - Maverick, The Fugitive, The Rockford Files, and 77 Sunset Strip.
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I did, however, stop it at one point and noticed that there was an hour and 8 minutes more to go. I was surprised. Some of the reviewers criticized the movie for the length, but it held my attention throughout.
It’s a bit amazing that the film does hold the attention since the plot is as one reviewer noted “confounding.” He said that he could not “figure out who was who in this impossibly complex story.”
This makes the film very much like “The Big Sleep,” which created a template for the detective film noir. “The Big Sleep” is also widely considered to be impossible to decipher, but completely enjoyable nevertheless.
Part of the difficulty in understanding the story line in this film is that even though Huggins adapted his own novel, and some of the scenes are lifted directly from the book, the story (according to a reviewer who had read the novel) has been speeded up and abbreviated and some of the names changed.
It doesn’t help that most of the women look extraordinarily alike. And most of them have multiple identities in the plot. One of the reviewers noted: “I thought the various babes were all the same person.” And, there are a lot of babes all with complicated histories.
Added to this is the fact that the two foreign husbands also looked just alike to me and their accents were indeterminate.
A number of the reviewers just could not accept Tome in the role of a smart mouthed, hardnosed detective. I have always thought Tome was an acquired taste, and he is truly dreadful in films which I suspect he detested.
(Note: There is one film he made with Joan Crawford, for example, where they had him dressed up in lederhosen.)
As one reviewer noted: “All the sweeping fedoras and dangling cigarettes in the world can't make Tone fit into this role.”
Tome always considered the business of film making as invasive to the private lives of the actors. He also felt that films required a totally different pace from theatre performances. I never saw him in a theatre performance, but I suspect he never quite felt comfortable with the film pace.
When he was married to Joan Crawford she (predictably) tried to take over promoting his career. Tome, however, was always more interested in theatre, even in small productions than film. It is thought that this difference between the two was one of the reasons for their divorce.
So, to me, Tome’s performances always have a “hostage” feel to them. I get the impression that he doesn’t really want to be where he is. But, he usually manages to pull off a credible performance.
When some heavies were beating up on Tone, I thought I saw Raymond Burr lurking on the sidelines. When the man spoke (he has about three lines) there was no mistaking it was Burr. This was an extremely small part and Burr would have been 31 at the time this film was made. So, he came into prominence a lot later in his life than I remembered.
All the prints of “I Love Trouble” were thought to have been lost for decades. A restored version of it was shown in a film festival in 2007, and I think this is the first time it has been shown on television (TCM). One reviewer snarked that this movie wouldn’t have received a second glance if it hadn’t been thought lost. I disagree. I think it is a fun romp even at two hours.
One of the other things I noticed in the film and then read comments about from other reviewers is the soundtrack. As one of the reviewers put it, the soundtrack tries way too hard to give the viewer advanced notice of the tone of the scene. The soundtrack tries to be “the star of the film.” It does signal lightheartedness, like when Bailey crawls out from under a bed where he has passed out and finds a beautiful babe in the bed. And it gives advance warning of danger. It seems to me that audiences in 1948 would have been too sophisticated for this. One of the reviewers thought that this soundtrack was so invasive and insulting he couldn’t watch the movie. But, for me, it faded into the background.
The film was well directed by S. Sylvan Simon. One of the reasons that name is not more familiar is that he died only three years after making the movie at the age of 41.
|Posted on January 18, 2021 at 9:15 PM|
KISS OF DEATH (1947)
Richard Widmark (1914-2008)
Richard Widmark was a film, stage and television actor as well as a producer. He was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor academy award for his first film part playing Tommy Udo in “Kiss of Death” (1947).
Widmark started college wanting to be a lawyer, but as the story goes, he played the part of a lawyer in a college play. He was hooked. He then studied acting at Lake Forest College. After graduation in 1936, he taught acting at the same college.
Widmark made his radio debut in 1938 and was heard regularly on the radio (including on The Shadow) between 1941 and 1942. By 1943, he was on Broadway. Widmark was unable to join the military because of a perforated eardrum.
Widmark was in Chicago appearing in a play when 20th Century Fox signed him to a seven-year contract. Widmark benefited from the shortage of actors during WWII.
Widmark was 33 when he played Tommy Udo. As Widmark stated, the director of “Kiss of Death” Henry Hathaway, “didn’t want me. I have a high forehead, he thought I looked too intellectual.” And, Widmark had not played the part of criminals in his stage work. It seems Hathaway’s reaction to Widmark, ignoring his screen test, was a combination of not being able to think of Widmark in the role of a criminal (because of the way he looked and also because of the parts he had previously played) and the fact that Hathaway was set on casting a very different actor.
Fortunately for all of us studio boss, Darryl F. Zanuk, overruled Hathaway. And so, as Widmark stated: “Hathaway gave me kind of a bad time.”
Hathaway was known as “screaming Henry” and had a reputation of being verbally abusive to actors. But, from the first scene Widmark acted on set (Eddie Muller says this was the scene where he pushes a helpless crippled woman down a staircase) they must have known they had an electrifying performance in Widmark.
By the time they got to distributing the film, the publicity department was advising theatres to market the film by concentrating on Widmark.
Widmark, of course, played the same part in subsequent films and became bored with the typecasting. By 1948, he was pressuring the studio for other types of parts.
In 1949, he played a sailor in “Down to the Sea in Ships” and Life Magazine did a a spread on the film entitled “Widmark the Movie Villian Goes Straight.”
Elia Kazan then cast Widmark in “Panic in the Streets” (1950) not as the heavy, played by Jack Palance, but as the doctor who tracks Palance down.
After showing he could play other types of parts, Widmark was not afraid to go back to playing the heavy. He played Harry Fabian in “Night and the City” (1950). Both his performance and the film itself became iconic in film noir.
In 1954, as his contract was coming to an end, he was cast in “Broken Lance.” He was billed beneath not only Spencer Tracy but Robert Wagner and Jean Peters. Then, Widmark’s contract was not renewed.
Widmark, like many others in the same circumstance, decided to go freelance. He formed his own company, Heath Productions.”
Widmark did John Wayne’s ode to suicidal patriotism, “The Alamo” (1960). He was arguably the best thing in the movie.
In “Judgement in Nuremberg” his part was small but it was the axis on which the drama turned.
After Kiss of Death, Widmark worked steadily until his retirement at 76.
Towards the end, Widmark felt that “movie-making has lost a lot of its magic.” In an interview in 2002, he said: Movie making had become “mostly a mechanical process…All they want to do is move the camera around like it was on a rollercoaster. A great director like John Ford knew how to handle it. Ford didn’t move the camera, he moved the people.”
Widmark did television. He did a famous episode of I Love Lucy where he played himself. He appeared in the TV movie “Vanished (1971). In 1974, he played one of the four actors depicting Benjamin Franklin.
Widmark married screenwriter Jean Hazlewood in 1942. He remained married to her until her death in 1997. In 1999, he married Susan Blanchard who had been Henry Fonda’s third wife.
Even though Widmark made a career off playing men with guns, he disliked weapons and was involved in several gun control initiatives. In 1976, he stated: "I know I've made kind of a half-assed career out of violence, but I abhor violence. I am an ardent supporter of gun control. It seems incredible to me that the United States is the only civilized nation that does not put some effective control on guns." Widmark was a life-long Democrat.