Friday, February 20, 2009

Raymond Chandler's Overlooked Doubloon

“How I hate the summer winds. They come in suddenly off the Mojave Desert, and you can taste the sand for days.”
This is the promising voice-over one hears at the beginning of what may be the least known cinematic adaptation of one of Raymond Chandler‘s Philip Marlowe stories.  Made into a Michael Shayne mystery starring Lloyd Nolan in 1942′s Time To Kill, the author, still peeved at his story’s treatment in that decent, if workmanlike version and further miffed that he had no more income from any other movies made by the studio that owned the rights to the story, 20th Century Fox reportedly hoped to cash in on the ‘craze’ for crime stories set in the still exotic environs of a dark tinted Los Angeles following the great popularity of such films as Murder, My Sweet and The Big  Sleep.

George Montgomery, at 30, was one of the youngest actors cast to play the character in the movies, is seen in this opening scene approaching an ominously photographed mansion buffeted by the dry, swirling Santa Ana winds pushing the gnarled trees that surround the house against the walls. As he approaches the door, a sylph-like figure admits him into the house, swallowing him up in the same way that this movie seems to have been subsumed in a cinematic vault.

Never having been issued commercially on dvd and only broadcast rarely to the best of my knowledge, I was eager to see this movie when a friend recently lent it to me. In this case, The High Window, Chandler‘s third novel, published  in 1942, was fashioned by the stylish director John Brahm and his scenarists Dorothy Bennett and Leonard Praskins into a 72 minute dash through various film noir motifs and presented to a waiting public in the form of 20th Century Fox’s The Brasher Doubloon (1947). You have some of the same atmospheric elements of the other popular movies made from Chandler‘s novels in that period. Actually, after watching this movie recently, I started to wonder if the filmmakers at 20th Century Fox got together around this time to put together a film noir kit with ingredients that should have resulted in a memorable classic. Perhaps this hypothetical film noir kit might have been planned out neatly at a few production meetings that might have gone something like this…more at the TCM Movie Morlocks site

Friendly Persuasion (1956): Thou Swell

Friendly Persuasion (1956), a William Wyler movie based on The Friendly Persuasion, a collection of short stories by the writer, Jessamyn West, who was of Quaker descent, starred Gary Cooper, Dorothy McGuire, Anthony Perkins and the great Marjorie Main in a small role. The film, which is available on DVD, is being broadcast on TCM on January 15, 2011 at 3:00 AM ET.

It is a simple story. A 19th century Quaker family squabbles over the encroachment of the outside world on their idyllic rural lives. A forbidden horse race disturbs the peace of the Sabbath, a Quaker meeting interrupted by news of approaching armies, a county fair with all its temptations takes place, a new courtship begins for young lovers and a renewed one for a married couple, a young man looks for the strength within himself to choose the right path in his life, and life and death inevitably intrudes on our reverie. The themes of love, death, honor and human foibles are eternal.


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