Sunday, January 24, 2010

NOIR CITY 8: PITFALL (1948) / LARCENY (1948)—Eddie Muller's Opening Night Intro

Welcome to the City of Noir.
You stumbled, you fell; but, here you are.
But you'll never be stranded or—worse—caught red-handed
When you're riding along with the Czar.
—The "Voice of Noir City" William P. Varney

Eddie Muller, the above-limericked "Czar of Noir", introduced the theme of this year's Noir City: lust and larceny. "Boy," Miller quipped, "was this a big reach in the world of film noir: the two motivating factors in all of human history, right? As Walter Neff said in Double Indemnity: 'I did it for the money. And I did it for a woman. And I didn't get the money and I didn't get the woman. Pretty, isn't it?' Damn pretty, I think."

Noir City's decision to open with a 1948 doublebill of
André de Toth's Pitfall and George Sherman's Larceny was because these two films represented "two sides of the coinage" found so often in film noir. On one side of the coin you find films that are grim, despairing and fatalistic (Pitfall), and then you flip that coin over and noir can be chatty, breezy, and damn funny (Larceny).

Both films were written by screenwriter William Bowers, who was hugely in demand in Hollywood during the noir era, had an extraordinary gift for story structure and an unerring ear for great dialogue. "No one wrote better snappy patter in the movies than William Bowers," Muller asserted, "which brings me to my last point this evening: I noticed in some of the press a certain consternation over the behavior of the audiences at Noir City; reactions to certain things in the movies—that being laughter. So, in all seriousness, this has led to—I'm sorry to say—the first house rule that we have actually decided to implement at Noir City." Eddie then had a momentary lapse of memory regarding the house rule and called up to William P. Arney in the balcony: "Bill, are you there? Do you remember what the first house rule of Noir City is?"

Arney responded, "Sure boss. I've got it right here." Booming out: "Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think."

"You're in a movie theater, folks, not a museum," Muller reminded, "and it's fine to appreciate these films the way they were originally appreciated when they were first released: as entertainment."

Thanking his audience for braving the weather and coming out to the opening night of Noir City, Muller added with full sincerity: "This could only happen in San Francisco because you are the smartest, most sophisticated, sexiest moviegoers in the world! Enjoy the show!"

Of related interest: Noir City Index.

Cross-published on

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