Wednesday, January 30, 2008

NOIR CITY 6—Eddie Muller Intro to the "Dames Tough As Nails" Double Bill: A Woman In Hiding and Jeopardy

Crediting Bill Selby (art director) and David M. Allen (photographer) for creating the "noir exotica" poster for Noir City 6, Eddie Muller announced that the dress worn by the poster's "dragon lady" will be raffled off Friday night to raise further funds for the Film Noir Foundation and future noir restorations. "This is how we restore films at Noir City," Muller quipped, "We raffle off a woman's dress. Who needs all this high-tech stuff? This is like the old days. Let's go to the movies and win some dishes or one heckuva dress!" (Of related interest: David Allen has gathered his photos of Noir City 6 at Shutterfly.)

"I am not a dummy," Muller asserted, "Every Noir City we have a double-bill that's just about the dames. Because that's really why you people are coming out. 'I did it for the money and I did it for a woman. I didn't get the woman and I didn't get the money.' Pretty, huh? It is awful pretty when you see it up on the big screen. For some weird reason films like the ones you're going to see tonight are always called 'woman in jeopardy' movies, but I don't really understand because virtually all of film noir is 'somebody in jeopardy' movies and they don't specify that it's a 'man in jeopardy' movie but they always specify when it's a 'woman in jeopardy' movie."

Having raised the specter of gender parity in noir jeopardy, Muller then offered: "Do you really think that Ida Lupino and Barbara Stanwyck are ever really in jeopardy? I mean, these are the two toughest dames in Hollywood."

Reminding his audience that Ida Lupino was the only woman to direct a noir film at RKO—The Hitch-hiker (1953)—during the Golden Age of Hollywood, Muller promised to eventually screen The Hitch-hiker at Noir City. Though Lupino also directed a bunch of other great films, including The Bigamist (1953) and Not Wanted (1949)—where Elmer Clifton garnered the directorial honors while Lupino went uncredited—The Hitch-hiker is the film from Lupino's directorial oeuvre consistently included in the film noir filmography. Muller admitted that the reason he has hesitated screening The Hitch-hiker is because "there's no women!" It's a feature directed by a woman with an all-male cast. One can only hope that Muller will get over it and walk his talk regarding gender parity.

Muller thanked Bob O'Neill, vice-president of asset management at Universal Studios, for continuing to champion Noir City, especially by striking new prints at their expense specifically for the festival, which—of course—furthers the goal of the Film Noir Foundation "in the best possible way." This year Universal really came through for Noir City by striking brand-new prints of Night Of 1000 Eyes, Woman In Hiding, and The Story of Molly X. Further, Muller related that when he visits Universal's vice-president of distribution Paul Ginsburg once or twice a year, Ginsburg's office walls are decorated with nothing but Noir City posters.

With regard to Woman In Hiding, Muller commented: "I'm sure a lot of you know that Howard Duff—who played the good guy in Woman In Hiding—was married to Ida Lupino. They actually met making this film. That hokey, happy ending where they go off and get married was actually true." Despite the fact that advertising for Noir City 6 promised no happy endings, Muller excused Woman In Hiding.

"There was another actor," Muller advised, "who was cast to play [Duff's role of Keith Ramsey]. This actor broke his leg a couple of weeks before the film started production. I want you to comprehend what could have happened if this guy had not fallen down and broken his leg, because that other actor was Ronald Reagan. Think about it! The course of American history could have changed if Reagan had not broken his leg. He would have played that part. He would have fallen in love with Ida Lupino. He would have been happy playing second fiddle to the smartest woman in Hollywood, instead of going on to fall in love with some power-mad crazy bitch with delusions of grandeur who drives him all the way to the White House! Think about it! Then again, maybe Ida Lupino might have ended up being First Lady? Who knows?"

Along with Lupino starring in Woman In Hiding, the evening's doublebill included Barbara Stanwyck in Jeopardy (originally entitled Woman in Jeopardy but condensed to basics), a film where Muller points out "she almost meets her match in Ralph Meeker, who was one of the great, lunk-headed, mean thugs in movie history." Muller admits one of his favorite moments in film noir history is watching Barbara Stanwyck and Ralph Meeker "go toe to toe."

"When they say, 'They don't make them like that anymore,' " Muller prefaced, "It's absolutely true. Because if you are like me, you too feel that every movie that comes out of Hollywood today is 20 minutes too long. Every single one; 20 minutes too long. Back then they actually said, 'You know what? This movie is too long. Let's make it shorter. Isn't there some way we can make it shorter? Cut it! Make it shorter. Make it tighter. We can do it!' Jeopardy is 68 minutes long. It's fabulous! It doesn't need to be 69 minutes long, no, it's 68 minutes long. That's what you loved about the old days when you went to the movies and saw a double-feature, because they weren't afraid to make a movie that was 68 minutes long."

Cross-published on Twitch.

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