Nora Prentiss

Nora Prentiss - Hnd Colored

Not sure if I’ll be home in time for TCM’s 11:00 PM CST Noir Alley with host, noir maestro Eddie Muller. Tonight it’s Vincent Sherman’s 1947 Warner Brothers film Nora Prentiss, shot by James Howe Wong with a Franz Waxman score, starring one of Hollywood’s hardest working actresses, Ann Sheridan. I’ve never seen the film and would like to, particularly with Muller’s always insightful opening and closing remarks.

You like your film noirs with syndicate bosses, mobsters, dirty cops and gun fights? Who doesn’t? But there’s an equally essential subset of classic film noir and crime melodrama focused on smaller stories that are equally dark and fatalistic, Nora Prentiss among them, considered by some as one of the best “women’s noir”.

Nora Prentiss - MontageKent Smith plays Dr. Richard Talbot, bored with his humdrum life and marriage, who begins an affair with seductive nightclub singer Nora Prentiss, played by Ann Sheridan. He fakes his own death in order to run away with her, relocating from the west coast to New York, where she goes back to work in the clubs. But it can’t go well, and Dr. Talbot grows increasingly paranoid once he leans that his faked death is now a murder investigation. Soon he’s bitter, jealous, combative and drinking too much, finally crashing his car. Disfigured from the accident, unable to identify himself, he’s actually accused of his own murder.

Nora Prentiss still

Though the film sounds like it’s Talbot’s story more than Ann Sheridan’s, it’s really not, at least based on what I’ve read. And Ann Sheridan rarely disappoints, especially when she gets a meaty role where she can play street smart with an undercurrent of vulnerability (though I suspect her husband-stealing songbird might not be particularly vulnerable). Well, in or out, that’s what DVR’s are for. I’m catching this movie one way or another.

Nora Prentiss poster

Colleen Moore

colleen moore

Silent film era mega-star Colleen Moore (1899-1988), who walked away from acting after a handful of films in the sound era, but went on to success in finance and other areas of interest, including indulging her passion for dolls and doll house collecting, including the famous multi-million dollar Colleen Moore Dollhouse exhibit at Chicago’s Museum Of Science & Industry.

Angel City

Angel City 1 NYC Exclusive

Janet Harvey’s Angel City, drawn by Megan Levens with colors by Nick Filardi.

Harvey pens a tale that’s pure retro L.A.-Noir, set in 1930’s Hollywood, where former big-screen hopeful Dolores Dare, now a mob enforcer, discovers a friend who’s been murdered, her body left in a dumpster. Dolores’ investigation pits her against corrupt cops, studio bigwigs and her own gangland connections. Shown here are covers for an NYC Comic-Con exclusive edition, other issues and a promotional page. A terrific read, brought to life with some nifty stylized artwork by Levens that’s part Tim Sale, part Joelle Jones. Check it out.

Angel City

Angel City 3

Glenda Farrell’s Torchy

Glenda Farrell - Torchy Blane

Torchy Blane, “The Lady Bloodhound With A Nose For News”…not to be confused with Torchy Todd, Bill Ward’s Good Girl Art comic series. Warner Brothers’ Torchy Blane  was based on detective novelist Frederick Nebel’s MacBride & Kennedystories, changing the a-bit-too-saucy Kennedy character to a woman named Teresa ‘Torchy’ Blane – strong-willed, hard-nosed and nosy, wisecracking but a little less sizzling, in keeping with the constraints of the Hays Code.Torchy Blane In CHinatown

The series started in 1937 with Smart Blonde, with Glenda Farrell (director Frank MacDonald’s only choice for the Torchy role) paired with Barton MaClane playing partner Steve McBride. The two made 7 of the 9 Torchy films, all of which were produced between 1937 and 1939.  Glenda Farrell had already played hard-nosed reporters in a couple of films, and was determined to portray the character based on real women reporters she’d met, instead of the more broadly comic approach the studio intended. Pretty pleased to see TCM recently running a string of Glenda Farrell’s films, and getting the chance to enjoy some of these Torchy flicks.  The films are available on a DVD boxed set…Hmmm, do I still have time to drop hints with friends and family for Xmas gifts?

Torchy Gets Her Man 1938

Lillian Frost

Design For Dying

My own tastes in mysteries and crime fiction run more from hard-boiled (the harder the better) to noir – classic, ‘neo’ and everything in between. For some reason though, I’ll happily embrace softer or lighter-toned material (though rarely so-called ‘cozies’) in retro settings. I don’t know why flipping the calendar back a few decades dials up my interest level, but it always has.

Perfect example: Renee Patrick’s Lillian Frost & Edith Head series, with two novels released so far, Design For Dyingand Dangerous To Know. Set in late 1930’s Hollywood, the first in 1937 and the next the following year, the novels introduce Lillian Frost, a New York transplant trading dreams of silver screen stardom for a job in a department store, initially poking into the murder of a former roommate found wearing an elegant gown stolen from the Paramount Pictures costume department, domain of Edith Head, who’s not yet the multi-Oscar nominated designer. The books include cameos from famous Golden Age stars and do an excellent job of portraying this often used location and time period.

Dangerous To Know

Renee Patrick is actually a pen name for the husband and wife team of Rosemarie and Vince Keenan (shades of G.G. Fickling of Honey West fame). Their well-drawn lead, Lillian Frost, is a classic ‘plucky’ girl detective type, celebrating the clichés while paving some new ground at the same time. The able assistance of designer Edith Head is a brave but inspired choice. Hard-boiled or noir-ish? Not a bit. But both books were absolute delights, and I hope there’ll be more. Try them, or go to reneepatrickbooks.com to learn more about the series.

Reneepatrickbooks.com

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