Modern Noir Masters’ Poster Art.

NC5_poster

Fifteen years (give or take) of the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City film festival posters: Go to the foundation’s site yourself to better ogle them, sign up to be a donor and get your mitts on the excellent Noir City e-magazine, or to order cool stuff from the foundation.

NC6_poster

The posters include shots from expert lensmen like David Allen and Jason Mitchell, shooting models including Annabelle Zakulak, Lucy Laird, Victoria Mature, Greer Sinclair and even noir-maestro himself, Eddie Muller, with truly artful digital photo-composition and imaging work by Bill Selby. And how wonderful to see software deployed not just for showing off with digital voodoo, but to fabricate cost-prohibitive or nearly impossible-to-shoot artistic visions. Bravo!

More follow in the next two posts, and my personal faves in the post after that…

http://www.filmnoirfoundation.org/home.html

http://www.noircity.com/

NC Jan 2004NC_ChristmasNC3_posterNC8_poster

Debutante To Derelict: The Shanghai Gesture (1941)

shanghai gesture 6

Reading Steve Kronenberg’s excellent “Handle With Care – The Ordeals Of Gene Tierney” in the new Noir City issue number 27 was bound to send me flipping through DVD’s for a Tierney film. You’d just assume I’d go for Laura. And while not a noir, as it happens, I’m quite partial to The Ghost And Mrs. Muir. (Call me a softie.) But Josef von Sternberg’s The Shanghai Gesture offered a Tierney performance which, while not necessarily echoing the specifics of the actress’ troubled life, certainly portrays a woman destined for (or determined to find) her share of troubles.

This 1941 proto-noir is one truly weird movie. Based on John Colton’s risqué 1920’s Broadway play of the same name, the story’s controversial themes had to be severely diluted to make it onscreen. In fact, Hollywood studios and producers already tried to make a film version of the play many times, and the Breen Office censors demanded more than 30 revisions before the script was acceptable.

Shanghai Gesture 5

Phyllis Brooks & Victor Mature Lobby Card

Despite hefty bribes to the authorities, “Dragon Lady” Gin Sling’s (Ona Munson) casino is being forced to shut down and relocate to Shanghai’s seedy Chinese sector by a wealthy English developer (Walter Huston) with grand designs on her location. While Victor Mature’s (looking ridiculous in a fez) ‘Doctor’ Omar and down-on-her-luck American showgirl Dixie Pomeroy (Phyllis Brooks) try to cook up something to thwart the developer’s plans before the impending Chinese New Year deadline, Gin Sling’s joint is visited by stunning and refined Victoria Charteris (Gene Tierney), fresh from a European boarding school but currently going by ‘Poppy Smith’, eager for thrills and swiftly seduced by liquor and gambling. It doesn’t take long for her to turn into a lush, wind up in debt to Gin Sling, and then fall in love with charlatan ‘Doctor’ Omar (despite the fez). Things get a little soap-opera-ish then, revealing that Gin Sling once had a fling with the wealthy Brit who’s destroying her casino. Abandoned and destitute, she was forced to leave their baby behind…who grew up to be none other than Victoria Charteris/Poppy Smith/Gene Tierney. If all of these revelations aren’t bad enough, particularly since the lovely Victoria has turned into the deep-in-debt drunk Poppy now, things can always get worse, climaxing when Gin Sling ends up shooting Tierney, her own daughter.

Shanghai Gesture 4

All of this might make a bit more sense (or not) if censors allowed the play’s real premise to be depicted: Gin Sling didn’t run a casino but a brothel/opium den. ‘Poppy’ didn’t get a taste for the booze and the dice, but became a drug addict, helped along by the fellow she fell for. ‘Poppy’. Get it?

Shanghai Gesture 3

The Shanghai Gesture is far from a classic, not quite a ‘noir’ or even a crime melodrama, and wasn’t particularly successful with audiences or critics. Further, it’s packed full of utterly squirm-worthy ethnic stereotyping, like so many films of its era were.  Still, it’s worth it just to watch Gene Tierney go from refined to bar-room bad girl to drunken lush, her transition taking place in some decidedly uncensored and surreally decadent surroundings. The shift in delivery, body language and appearance is striking. Flanked by Phyllis Brooks and Ona Munson, the three women deliver the goods in a sometimes bizarre and sometimes pedestrian film. Sure, I’ll probably watch Tierney as Laura Hunt and Lucy Muir. I mean, how can you not if you’ve got Gene Tierney on your mind? But I’m glad I started here.

Shanghai Gesture 2

 

Head To Noir City.

Noir City No 27

The new Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City e-magazine arrived in my inbox this week. Issue number 27 is yet another sumptuously designed and info-packed treat for film noir aficionados.

Bittersweet but understandable news was Master-Of-All-Things-Noir (and Film Noir Foundation President and TCM’s Noir Alley host) Eddie Muller’s announcement that he’d be stepping aside from full-time editorial chores, handing off the Editor-In-Chief role to Vince Keenan. Ably assisted by Steve Kronenberg, I’ve no concerns, and am sure Mr. Keenan will maintain the publication’s level of content, visual and editorial superiority. If I sound all gushy, I am. Noir City is just that good.

Noir City Spread

Art Director/Designer Michael Kronenberg delivers another feast for the eyes with this issue, including the gorgeous cover illustration. Noir City’s a dark delight to read, of course, but is equally stunning to simply look at, some of the spreads deserving to be framed and up on a wall. Hmmmm…I’ve been thinking about a refresh for the writing cave’s walls. Just might have an idea there…

This issue includes over 90 pages with 15+ articles and features like Steve Kronenberg’s cover story “Handle With Care – The Ordeals Of Gene Tierney” and Jake Hinkson’s “Hungover – Booze And Blackouts In Film Noir”. If you already get Noir City, then you should be reading it right now instead of this site. If not, and you’re a visitor here, then I can guarantee you’ll enjoy the publication. Hightail it to The Film Noir Foundation’s site (link below) to find out more. Like, now.

http://www.filmnoirfoundation.org/home.html

 

What Could Go Wrong?

Noir City Poster what could go wrong?

I took four years of French in high school, not Spanish (not that I can remember a damn thing from those classes), so it’s not as if can translate “Que podria salir mal?” on my own. Not sure if we should ever trust online translation sites, but apparently it reads “What could go wrong?” And with any classic film noir or crime melodrama storyline, what could go wrong?

Only everything, right?

Another stunning Film Noir Foundation Noir City film festival poster, this one for the 18thannual San Francisco fest in early 2020.

No Noir City Chicago For Me.

Noir City Chicago

So, does this figure, or what? The Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City Chicago starts this Friday (the day after tomorrow, when this post appears). And where will I be?

Well, not in Chicago. About 350 miles away, in fact.

In A Lonely Place, A Kiss Before Dying, The Killing, Kiss Me Deadly…oh, the list just goes on and it’s getting me depressed. Sure, I’ve seen many of the fest’s film offerings already, but a laptop or TV screen is no match for the big screen. There’s no better place for these films hereabouts than The Music Box Theatre. I’ve seen some memorable movies there, each experience enhanced by the place itself. But I knew in advance I’d be away for the fest, and ought to be reconciled to it by now.

The Music Box Theatre

Want to know just how much I’d ache to be there, even for one night? Hit the link below for an old post, “Noir City Daydreaming: On The Road”. It’s me fantasizing about chucking the day job and following The Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City film festivals from city to city like some kind of noir-nomad.

Noir City Daydreaming

These post are typically scheduled a bunch at a time and days in advance. And I shouldn’t really be complaining, since I’ll be mixing work with some R&R and fun where I’ll be. Still, the timing’s rotten. Oh well…next year.

https://thestilettogumshoe.com/2019/01/30/noir-city-daydreaming-on-the-road/

Noir City

Noir City No 26Received last week: Issue Number 26 of the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City e-magazine, 83 sumptuously designed pages laid out by Art Director Michael Kronenberg, with articles on the Chicago mob’s interference in the Hollywood labor movement and how that set the stage for the Blacklist, novelist/screenwriter Jonathan Latimer, collecting film noir posters, Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box, an interview with writer Jason Starr, comparing/contrasting Mickey Spillane’s novel Kiss Me Deadly with the film version and much, much more. If you like things you see here at “The Stiletto Gumshoe”, you’ll love The Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City magazine. Go to the organization’s site, browse around some, and by all means become a contributor, not only to help support their film preservation efforts but to get your mitts on this gorgeous and informative publication. Link below…

Film Noir Foundation Site

http://www.filmnoirfoundation.org/home.html

 

Noir City Daydreaming: On The Road

chicago - music box -

Maybe your daydream is striking it rich with a Lotto ticket. Maybe it’s just being able to turn on a cable news show without wondering if the world’s gone completely mad.

Mine? Sounds silly, but I think mine would be to do a noir film fest version of ‘Deadheading’. You know, ‘Deadheads’: The caravans of post-hippies that travelled from one Grateful Dead concert to another, long after real hippies became grandparents out in the suburbs. But no tie-dye and bellbottoms for me, because I’d be travelling from city to city to take in each of the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City Film Festivals. Start at The Music Box Theatre in Chicago, then the Balboa Theater in San Francisco, The Egyptian Theatre in Los Angeles, the Redford Theatre in Detroit, then all the way back to the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, and on and on…

3 noir city posters

But it’d have to be done right.

I’d start at one of those specialty auto rental agencies that supply vehicles for film and TV productions, wanting something postwar but pre-tailfins, and absolutely enormous with big fat fenders. Maybe for one of the cross-country treks I might swap the wheels for a train, Union Station in Chicago to Union Station in Los Angeles (think how many flicks we’ve watched with scenes shot there). It’d only be Amtrak, of course, not the Santa Fe Super Chief, but still. Advance research online could take care of lodging, pinpointing some aging hotels that haven’t turned into crack dens or SRO’s yet, and then locate piano bars and all-nite diners (I said it’s a daydream, didn’t I?) Imagine: Getting all duked up, hit the festival to see some genre classics, restorations and little-known’s on the big screen instead of a TV, or worse, a laptop. Cocktails after, like a Rob Roy or Ramos Gin Fizz at a jazz lounge where the music’s as smoky as the atmosphere (smoking would not only be legal, but insisted on in this mythical trip, though of course, not a health hazard), followed by a wee hours bite in a period-perfect greasy spoon before turning in. Then up at noon the next day, pack up the land cruiser and hit the highway for the next burg.

detroit

Daydream with me here, noir fans. Now I’m no Cosplay fan, but proper attire would be essential. For the fellows? Suits: mandatory, along with those ridiculously short, stubby ties so popular in the late forties. A full brimmed fedora on top, and depending on the weather, one of those huge topcoats a person can almost get lost in. Bonus points for a monogrammed white handkerchief always at the ready, a plain silver Zippo lighter, and a billfold (not a wallet, a billfold) with actual paper money inside, even if you normally pay with your phone or a swipe of a chip card.

san francisco 2009

For the gals: Pleated slacks may be fine for the long city-to-city drives, but it’s strictly padded shoulder dresses for the theatres and after, hats encouraged if you can figure out where to buy one, wide brims and netting a plus. Sorry, but bare-legged is out, hose a must, and be sure to tote around a clutch whether you need it or not, though there’d be no point in packing a lighter because you’d just dangle your cigarette between the very tips of your red-nailed fingers (that match your red lipstick) till someone lit you up.

san francisco 2011

Obviously, it’s never gonna happen. Even if there was some way to take off work for days and weeks at a time, I suspect there’d be a few calls from the credit card companies, somewhere between the train tickets and the reservations at the seedy hotels. And really, just where do you even buy monogrammed white handkerchiefs or fancy hats with netting today? I said it was a daydream, albeit ‘Noir Daydreaming’. But these utterly gorgeous Film Noir Foundation Noir City Film Festival posters sure can make a person fantasize, can’t they?

san francisco 2018

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