Michael Curtiz: A Life in Film

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The Glass Wall & Ann Robinson

Ann Robinson

The Saturday night double feature at the Noir City Festival in Hollywood led off with a screening of The Glass Wall (1953).

This seldom seen film, with a near-faultless print courtesy of Sony-Columbia, provided a unique view of Times Square at night, as a hurt World War II refugee (Vittorio Gassman) jumps ship to enter America hunting for a former soldier, now a clarinet player (Jerry Paris) who can provide his safe entry to the Great Melting Pot. Gassman finds safety, empathy and then love in the arms of noir siren Gloria Grahame, the last dame you'd think would be working in a shoelace factory, but there you have it.

The Glass Wall was written and directed by Maxwell Shane, a lawyer by profession, then turned to writing 'B' screenplays in the late 1930's and buying up land in the San Fernando Valley that was dirt-cheap at that time. Shane's real estate holdings helped finance his entrance into motion picture direction beginning with Fear in the Night (1947) Interestingly, Shane remade his debut film, a Cornell Woolrich story, as Nightmare in 1956 starring Edward G. Robinson and Kevin McCarthy. How many directors do you know who directed the original film and the remake?

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The Latest from the L.A. Noirfest

Cry of the City

The L.A. Film Noir Festival really gained traction this week with some superb screenings and great attendance for the hypercompetitive Tinseltown movie market.

Thursday's double bill at the Egyptian was Cry of the City (1948) and City of Fear (1959). The former picture is one of the classic Fox noirs that has yet to be issued in DVD format - an omission that noir aficionados find baffling.

Darryl F. Zanuck returned to 20th Century Fox in 1944 - as Otto Preminger put it sarcastically, the mogul was, “off filming the war” - realizing that prewar Hollywood fare such as Andy Hardy and the traditional gangster pictures wouldn't cut it anymore.

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Gloria Pall

John Ford once remarked that the best moments in films are invariably serendipitious. So too are the appearances of film noir festival guests, especially last night at the Egyptian Theatre.

Gloria Pall made a last minute show-up at last night's viewing of The Crimson Kimono as the screening guest between the Sam Fuller double bill. The statuesque Ms. Pall has been around Hollywood since 1951 and was the focal point of the movie; the murdered stripper "Sugar Torch". Gloria proved to be a terrific raconteur, reeling off stories about Sam Fuller (she refused to film the opening sequence with a car nearly running into her; Fuller acquiesced to using a stunt double), charmed Elvis Presley when he was a Southern lad who liked to lick Gloria's fingers (ahem!) and went to lunch with Robert Mitchum after he brandishes a knife towards her (in the fist tattooed "HATE") in The Night of the Hunter. Gloria has self-published 13 books and more information about her at her website.

Speaking about terrific, it was great to see Christa Fuller, Sam's widow, muse and collaborator with her daughter and granddaughter at the screening of Kimono and my favorite Fuller picture, Pickup on South Street (1953). Christa is the co-author of Sam Fuller's prize-winning, A Third Face, My Tale of Writing, Fighting and Filmmaking, one of the best filmmaker memoirs around featuring an intro by Martin Scorcese. As Sam might have said, "it's a great yarn!"

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