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Film Noir Legends: Bette Davis, Claire Trevor, Eleanor Parker, and John Huston

As for cinema, I love the ones that were made during the 40s and 50s when, in my opinion, movies were made not so much for their profitability, but for the art itself and the messages they contained. As a child, I watched the local version of The Sunday Matinee Movie and became familiar with actors like Humphrey Bogart, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, and others. This was the era of “film noir”, which is defined as films symbolized by dimly lit sets, a gloomy setting, and centered around stories about corrupt and cynical characters. The plots of these films often revolve around an antihero, a crime (and subsequent moral dilemma), and a romantic interest in the film’s central character. The movies were shot in black and white, and the shadows were just as important as the dialogue. These films used unusual angles, silhouetted close-ups and dark tones to create unique and powerful stories. These films were made over a period of roughly twenty years, beginning with 1940’s “A Stranger on the Third Floor” (starring Peter Lorre and John McGuire) and the underrated “Brother Orchid” (Edward G. Robinson), through to the classic Orson Well’s 1958 “Touch of Evil”.

Some other movies from this era are “Angels With Dirty Faces” (James Cagney and Pat O’Brien), “Key Largo” (Bogart, Bacall, Sidney Greenstreet), “Gaslight” (Ingrid Bergman and Charles Boyer), “Double Indemnity (Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck under the direction of Billy Wilder) and “Mildred Pierce.” Hollywood has had some recent success with such films, as “Chinatown” and “LA Confidential” seem to support such a notion, with the latter featuring an Oscar-winning turn from Kim Basinger as femme fatale Lynn Bracken.

Arguably the greatest actress of this era was the doe-eyed beauty Betty Davis. She was born Ruth Elizabeth Davis on April 5, 1908, in Lowell, Massachusetts. When she rose to stardom at age 26, it wasn’t just because of her acting acumen and acid delivery, but because of her eyes, which were immortalized in a Kim Carnes song. “Bette Davis Eyes” reached number one in 1981.

He made his film debut in 1931’s “The Bad Sister,” and typically played characters who were tough-looking but vulnerable. Her characters were generally pranksters and many of them smoked cigarettes, behavior that was not considered very ladylike. According to the unofficial Bette Davis website, Bette Davis, “she was described by

a critic as ‘a force of nature that could find no ordinary way out.'” His filmography includes such classics as “Dangerous” (1935) and “Jezebel” (1938), for which he received his first two Oscars Best Actress She wanted the lead in “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, but the part went to Vivian Leigh. Davis’s most famous role would come some 11 years later, as actress Margo Channing in “All About Eve” in the 1950s, earning her another Best Actress nomination. Ironically, her career declined soon after.

Davis also gave excellent performances in “Now, Voyager” (1942); “The Bride Came COD” (1941, with James Cagney); “Deception” (1946); “The corn is green” (1945); “Mr. Skeffington” (1944) and “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” (1962). In the latter, she starred opposite her lifelong rival, Joan Crawford, and won an Oscar for best actress. In the film, she played an unbalanced and unsuccessful child star. “Baby Jane” was also the highest-grossing film of that year.

Davis’ number of Oscar nominations – 10 – is second only to Katherine Hepburn (11). Her other nominations include powerful performances in “The Star” (1952); “Mr. Skeffington” (1944); “Now, travel” (1942); “The Little Foxes” (1941); “The Letter” (1940); “Dark Victory” (1939) and “Of Human Servitude” (1934). In 1977, Davis became the first woman to receive the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She was also known as “The Queen of the Screen”. Three of her movie quotes are among the top 100 of the American Film Institute. They include, (No. 7, from “All About Eve”) “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a rough night” (No. 60, from “Beyond the Forest”) “What a dump.” and (No. 45) “Oh, Jerry, let’s not ask for the moon. We have the stars. (from, “Now, Voyager”5)

Perhaps her most memorable line was from the movie that catapulted her to stardom. In “Of Human Bondage” (1934), he co-starred with Leslie Howard and uttered the line, “You’re a scoundrel! You dirty pig! I never cared for you, not once! I was always making up to love you. You’re boring. It made me stiff.” . I hated you. It made me sick when I had to let you kiss me. I only did it because you begged me, you harassed me and drove me crazy! And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my lips and mouth. Wipe my mouth! A Along that same tenor, in “Cabin In The Cotton” (1932) she delivered the line, “I’d like to kiss you, but I just washed my hair” Then again as Joyce Arden in “It’s Love I’m After” (1937), she joked, “My dear, I think you are the lowest thing that ever crawled, but as long as I can reach out and lay my hands on you, no other man will ever touch me.”

Regarding his feud with Joan Crawford, in his 1962 autobiography, “The Lonely Life,” Davis wrote, “I have no regrets about a professional enemy I have made. Any actor who dares not make an enemy must get out of business.” .”

She made her last film appearance in 1989, playing the role of Miranda Pierpoint in “Wicked Stepmother.” She died that year on October 6, 1989 in Neuilly, France from breast cancer.

One of my favorite movies from this era is the underrated “Caged,” starring Eleanor {Parker in the title role of Marie Allen. It is the story of a pregnant girl imprisoned for being an accomplice to a crime committed by her husband. While incarcerated, Marie is roughed up by petty guard Emma Barber (played with seemingly fiendish glee by Ellen Corby). Marie eventually breaks down psychologically and her bitterness turns her into a hardened wannabe criminal. Agnes Moorehead, best known for her role as “Endora” on the television series “Bewitched,” gives a great performance as the kind-hearted prison warden Ruth Benton.

For Parker, it should have been a breakout role that put her in the upper echelon of actresses of that era. But she never reached the level of stardom that Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Claire Trevor did. One reviewer called the film: “One of the most underrated movies of all time. Eleanor Parker really deserved an Oscar for this performance.” Parker was nominated that year, but was beaten out by Judy Holiday, (“Born Yesterday”). She was also nominated for an Oscar from her co-star Hope Emerson, who played recluse Evelyn Harper, Marie’s counterpart. Emerson lost to Josephine Hull (“Harvey”).

Parker was born on June 26, 1922, in Cedarville, Ohio. Making her debut in “Busses Roar” (1942), The Film Guild of America says of her: “Audiences never knew what to expect when they saw her. For Eleanor, creating interesting characters was more important than cultivating a star image.” In more than 50 films, she would earn the title of ‘The Woman with a Thousand Faces’… If she had settled down and simply used her dazzling beauty to rise to stardom, she could be canonized today… Instead, Eleanor became into a serious actress who brought a depth and understanding to her roles that few stars have matched.”

Little-known films followed, including five in 1944: “The Very Thought of You”, “The Last Ride”, “Crime by Night”, “Atlantic City” (an uncredited part) and “Between Two Worlds”. She had a supporting role as Mildred Rogers in “Of Human Bondage” (1946). In 1950 she played Joan “Jo” Holloway opposite Humphrey Bogart in the war story “Chain Lightning”. Due to the script’s weakness, the film is best remembered for its airplane flight scenes.

Claire Trevor was born Claire Wemlinger on March 8, 1910, in Brooklyn, New York. Her career began in 1933’s “Life In The Raw,” and she also appeared in John Wayne’s “Stagecoach” (1939).

During her career, which spanned sixty films, she earned the nickname “Queen of film noir”. She played a plethora of “bad girl” roles, but earned three Oscar nominations: “Dead End” (1937, which also starred Humphrey Bogart and marked the debut of The Dead End Kids); “The High and the Mighty” (1954) and she won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of the drunken girlfriend of an abusive mobster (Edward G. Robinson) in “Key Largo” (1948).

His other films include “Murder, My Sweet” (1944), where Trevor played Velma, a gangster’s missing girlfriend. Dick Powell played the lead role of detective Philip Marlowe. In 1947 she starred in “Born To Kill” and in 1948 she made three movies: “Raw Deal” as a moll pistol who helps her gangster boyfriend escape from prison; “The Velvet Touch,” where she played an actress accused of murdering her husband; and then she played the guy in “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948). The first two films are considered to be some of the best examples of the Noir genre.

Trevor also won an Emmy (1956) for his performance in “Dodsworth,” co-starring Fredric March. He died on April 8, 2000.

Director John Houston was born on August 5, 1906, in Nevada, Missouri. He went to Hollywood when his father Walter, another prominent producer, gave him a job. He helped write such hits as “Jezebel,” “High Sierra,” and “Sergeant York.” He made his directorial debut in 1941, directing Bogart, Lorre and Sidney Greenstreet in “The Maltese Falcon,” for which he won an Oscar for screenplay. In 1948, Houston directed “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” winning Oscars for writing and directing. His father won Best Supporting Actor for his role in the film. Many consider this to be his strongest film.

Houston once called film “a collaborative medium. Instead of being a tyrant, I believe in getting ideas from as many sources as possible.” He has worked with some of the biggest names of his day, including Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Claire Trevor, Peter Lorre and Katherine Hepburn.

His films are a cornucopia of classics: “The African Queen”, “Cayo Largo”, “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, “The Maltese Falcon” and “Prizzi’s Honor”, starring his daughter Angélica and which earned him the award for best supporting actress. honor. Many of those movies were also written by Houston. She noted, “I don’t make a distinction between writing and directing. But writing and directing the material itself is definitely the best approach. Directing is kind of an extension of writing.” Huston also performed “The Bible” (1966) and “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951).

Lauren Bacall called him “sassy, ​​unpredictable, maddening, unnerving, and probably the most charming man in the world.” Katherine Hepburn said that Houston was “the best direction I’ve ever heard.”

Houston died on August 28, 1987 from emphysema.


Profile of John Houston, Wikipedia

Claire Trevor Profile, Wikipedia

Martin Connors and Jim Craddock, “Videohound’s Golden Movie Retriever 2000”

Biography of Eleanor Parker,

“The John Huston Interviews”, edited by Robert Emmet Long

Bette Davis imdb profile

Bette Davis Profile, Wikipedia

The unofficial home page of Bette Davis

Bette Davis Profile, “Reel Classics”

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