Foreign (Italian, I’m thinking) poster art for Columbia’s 1953 noir Pushover with Kim Novak and Fred MacMurray, called “Criminal On Duty” here. This poster’s art always intrigued me, first because it’s such a disturbing image – a knock on the door, you open it and WHAM! Badness is about to happen.
But aside from the visceral artwork, it’s an interesting decision not to depict either of the film’s two main stars (well, other than Fred MacMurray’s hand) and show Dorothy Malone instead of Kim Novak. Mind you, I love them both, and Malone did what she could in a small but important role. All the same, the image here is dynamic and unsettling at the same time, don’t you think?
I haven’t read Thomas Walsh’s 1953 novel The Night Watch or William Ballinger’s Rafferty from the same year, but both books were adapted by screenwriter Roy Huggins for Richard Quine’s 1954 Columbia noir, Pushover. At the time, reviewers compared it (favorably or not) to 1944’s Double Indemnity, and understandably so, both films starring Fred MacMurray as a too-smart-for-his-own-good fellow who may not be dirty but is certainly a bit dusty, enough to fall in love or lust with a seductive blonde even though he knows she’ll be pure trouble. In the film adaptation of James M. Cain’s steamy novel, it was Barbara Stanwyck, of course, in one of most memorable roles. Here it’s a young Kim Novak.
The movie opens with an action-packed robbery that goes bad. Cut to stag-night MacMurray spotting unattached Kim Novak at a late-night movie. Kim’s car trouble leads them to a cocktail lounge, then to more drinks at home (and presumably whatever else goes on there that couldn’t be shown in 1950s films). The coincidental meeting looks to turn into a romance, till we learn that MacMurray’s actually a cop who’s been tailing Novak all along, she being the gal pal of the armed robber who’s now wanted for murder.
She’s no dope, figures out that MacMurray’s a detective, but love is love and lust is lust, and soon enough the two conspire to get their mitts on the heist man’s loot and make their getaway. Just why they think their hastily hatched scheme can succeed with two-man police teams doing round the clock surveillance on Novak’s apartment eludes me. Meanwhile, MacMurray’s confirmed bachelor partner falls hard for Kim Novak’s neighbor, played by Dorothy Malone, a cute nurse he’s keeping an eye on (literally) through binoculars from his perch across the street. Keep that in mind the next time you wonder if you ought to close the blinds when you’re down to your skimpies or getting up to something naughty.
No surprise, just about everything that could go wrong does, with MacMurray getting deeper in trouble by the hour and a couple of bodies left in his wake. Like all good noirs, doomed love is precisely that: Doomed.
I’d only seen this film once before, but it’s suddenly in rotation on the MOVIES! cable channel’s Sunday and Thursday night noir showcases. Double Indemnity it’s not, but it’s damn good. Dark, steamy, punctuated with sudden bursts of violence…all you could want from a mid-1950’s crime film.
It had been ten years since Fred MacMurray helped make the screen sizzle alongside Barbara Stanwyck as Walter Neff and Phyllis Deitrichson. With a 25-year age difference, it’s understandable if you consider him mismatched with sleek 21 year old Kim Novak. But then, Hollywood never fretted much about pairing middle-aged (and older) fellows with ingenues and starlets (I mean, Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn? Seriously?). That we believe that Kim Novak’s gun moll doesn’t only see MacMurray’s crooked cop as her ticket out of the life, but that he actually gets her motor humming, is just a testament to the young actress’ emerging talent. Bottom line: The duo make it work. MacMurray was an old pro, and one of Hollywood’s highest earning actors at the time, but this was Kim Novak’s first starring role. In fact, it was only her second film, the previous part just an uncredited walk-on.
On TV, online (it’s there) or on disk – if you haven’t seen Pushover, check it out. It won’t make it to the top of your film noir list, but you won’t be disappointed.
A wad of twenties might be better, but it looks like this duo will settle for the bundles of singles from their latest heist. Retro pinup models Greta Macabre and Tamara pose in perfect retro style for photographer Deyan Baric.
More work from Portuguese artist, illustrator and designer Rui Ricardo, who did the handsome cover art for Stephen Spotswood’s Fortune Favors The Dead, discussed in a prior post. To see more of the artist’s work (and there’s a lot to gaze at) go to http://www.rui-ricardo.com
From Mike Vosburg’s fun Retrowood from 2013, a ‘sorta-kinda’ mid-twentieth century Hollywood (but not really) hard-boiled noir with private eye J. Parker Wrighte mixed up in mystery and murder among the decadent tinsel town’s stand-ins most devious (and pervy) denizens. The story is dark but goofy fun, and the art’s almost sedate for Vosburg, while still indulging the figurative master’s flair for lovely — albeit lethal — ladies.
I’m usually not big on the vintage pinup and cheesecake photos, but I am big on Paulette Goddard, probably best known for her work with Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times and The Great Dictator. But in her way, she also marked her turf among Golden Age Hollywood horror actors and scream queens for her starring roles in back-to-back horror comedies with Bob Hope, The Cat And The Canary (1939) and The Ghost Breakers (1940).
Paulette Goddard (real name: Marion Levy 1910-1990) was a child model, a Zeigfield Girl, an Oscar nominee, a 1950’s Hollywood blacklist victim, appeared in over 60 films between 1929 and 1964 and was married to Charlie Chaplin, Burgess Meredith and Erich Maria Remarque. And she managed to look pretty adorable when she had to wiggle into a studio costume department’s black cat suit (literally) for some Halloween pinup shots.
That’s “Interview With A Vampire”, not The vampire, so no corrections from the Anne Rice cliques, please. Karl Lagerfeld goes goth-couture in a 2011 photo suite for Harper’s Bazaar magazine, “Interview With A Vampire”.
Oh, I know this one’s seen everywhere, but it is almost Halloween, after all, and who better to help celebrate the season here at a “noir culture” site like The Stiletto Gumshoe than Lauren Bacall, in a now-famous Harper’s Bazaar cover photo from 1943. I’ll assume the photo had more to do with serious business like wartime blood drives (it being right in the middle of the U.S. involvement on WWII) than Bacall posing as a stylish creature of the night contemplating a blood bank raid.
But then, who needs an excuse to post a picture of Lauren Bacall?
The title of the photo suite these images come from might make you think of Halloween. Wrong holiday. I suppose I ought to repost this group come February 2021. From “My Bloody Valentine” by Dallas, Texas based photographer and artist Tom Hussey.