Slightly Scarlet

Superscope

Obscure wide-screen systems! I *LIVE* for obscure wide-screen systems.

lurid

Lurid titling is good also.

sisters

They are sisters! Rhonda Fleming is comforting Arlene Dahl. Nothing funny going on.

Number One With a Bullet

The film is lit by John Alton, who had an amazing track record in film noir. His work is often even more distinct than that of his directors, even when it’s somebody like Anthony Mann. Alton also lit the ballet in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, but otherwise he didn’t get as much work as he should have because the unions disliked him for using so few lights.

I feel I should have liked this more — it combines fine noir credentials, with Alton lensing and a source novel by James M. Cain, with a women’s picture melodrama vibe. Should’ve been fabulous, but felt only intermittently so. Maybe it’s the John Payne factor, a terrible burden for any film, although I found him slightly more effective here than in THE DARK CORNER, a better film which he almost sinks. His amoral anti-hero character in this film would have been rather interesting had anyone else played it. Well, maybe not John Hodiak or John Lund or Jon Hall. Or Kent Smith. But anybody else.

Major Payne

Allan Dwan directs — it was something like his 370th film, a feat he could only accomplish by being literally immune to death. Victor Fleming once tried to hammer a stake through his heart, but it didn’t take. You know how your nose and ears continue to enlarge throughout your life? That’s what finally got him.

Rhonda's valley

But watching the film and finding the two redheads pretty appealing, I did some cyber-spadework and found Rhonda Fleming’s website, where she welcomes emails, although she’s very busy what with charity work and being a Christian and stuff. But I thought it would be cool to say “hi”, having communicated with very few Hollywood legends, really. I came up with a question to justify barging in:

“A question occurred to me about one of my favourite films — OUT OF THE PAST. I saw Jane Greer interviewed in a documentary called THE RKO STORY, where she talked about director Jacques Tourneur not speaking very good English. But Tourneur was born in America, and made all his films there, despite his father being French, so this didn’t seem right. I wondered what your memories of Tourneur are — I think he was a marvellous director and both Jane Greer and yourself were marvellously alluring and chillingly wicked in that film. Anything you can tell me would be gratefully received.”

It was actually Fiona who spotted that Greer’s recollections seemed inconsistent with the fact. A couple of days later I got a reply:

“I don’t recall too much about Director, Jacques Tourneur; it was so long ago.  However he just let me do it ‘my way’ and I don’t really remember any problem in understanding his English, but he obviously has been proven to be outstanding in directing us in roles that were diverse and full of mystery and excitement.  It was an honor to be a part of a great noir film.”

Which was very nice. It doesn’t clear up the question at all, but I can hardly blame Rhonda F. for not remembering a co-worker from sixty years ago. I can’t remember where I put my slippers.

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16 Responses to “Slightly Scarlet”

  1. Slightly Scarlet is great fun — and much-admired by the MacMahonists.

  2. ok when are you going to give your review of Indy then?

  3. “Slightly Scarlet” is on my short-list of films that know how to do “noir” in color, along with “Leave Her To Heaven.” Other titles escape me at the moment. There’s something about Arlene Dahl in her faux-leopard bathing suit and that spear-gun …

    Although Dahl and Fleming have the Va-Va-VOOM! factor, of course, I remember also liking Payne. He was more appealing once he had reached the Dwan pictures and acquired a slightly bitter edge. Sorta like Robert Taylor during his post-”Camille,” pre-zombie phase.

  4. It’s true, Payne is more interesting older, fatter and more surly. Although I got the impression he was always surly in The Dark Corner.

    I absolutely LOVE Leave Her to Heaven of course.

    Indiana Jones? Coming soon (we don’t really DO current here, but since I saw it I’ll write about it.)

  5. I went to the Dominion to see it. On Thursday to my surprise cinema only half full.

  6. Indiana Jones and Kingdom of Crystal Meth is a big bore, save for the ever-reliable Cate Blanchett — who seems to believe she’s playing in The Ayn Rand Story. Good idea.

  7. Chris B Says:

    Closing paragraph of the TimeOut review practically sums up how I imagine it to be:

    “It’s John Hurt as an old academic buddy of Mr Jones who utters a significant line as this fourth adventure, 21 years since the last, comes to a close in a scene that’s so sentimental – even by Spielberg’s standards – that you might be shoving your fist down your throat at the very sight of it. He ponders ‘How much of human life is lost in waiting.’ Is that Mr Spielberg suggesting we shouldn’t get our hopes up over these silly things?”

    Spielberg has never and will never receive any money from me and I encourage everyone to download this film rather than feed the talentless twat’s consistent blank wanks.

  8. The name to keep in mind with a film like Slightly Scarlet is Benedict Bogeaus.

    Dig those credits!

  9. Considerable! One of the good guys, then. Isn’t Silver Lode the Dwan film wih anti-McCarthy sentiments?

  10. Can’t recall. But anti-McCarthyism kept getting snuck in the side door in B-movies, as exemplified by the immortal Johnny Guitar.

  11. Yes. and I’m pretty sure Silver Lode is the one — the bad guy (Dan Duryea) is called McCarty! It’s quoted in Scorsese’s American cinema thing. And it stars dear John Payne again — and Lizabeth Scott!
    Turns out Payne was Robert Towne’s father-in-law for awhile. Thank you, IMDb.

  12. It really weakens the list of good 50s B movies to subtract all the John Payne films: Hold Back the Night, Tennessee’s Partner, Hell’s Island, Silver Lode, 99 River St., Kansas City Confidential….

    Silver Lode is indeed often referred to as an anti-McCarthy film, though I’m not sure I would have noticed.

  13. “Silver Lode” takes place on the Fourth of July. John Payne is defamed, losing all his friends except the Good Girl (fiancee Lizbeth Scott) and the Bad Girl (Dolores Moran — a.k.a. Mrs. Benedict Bogeaus — as a saloon girl). The villian who persecutes Payne, Dan Duryea, is named McCarty.

    That’s the case for “Silver Lode” as anti-McCarthyite western, summed up with a little help from IMDb.

    My memory of it is dim — although I *do* remember a Fourth of July picnic turned into chaos by gunmen on horseback. The American Tradition ravaged by upstart criminals, *peut-etre*?

  14. That sounds pretty good — such a message would have to be encoded because of the climate of fear, but that’s certainly enough to at least suggest a message is intended.

    I think Silver Lode has been playing on TV here recently, I’ll watch out for it. Dan Duryea strikes me as reasonably good casting for a McCarthy figure.

  15. By the way, the climactic chase through the town in Silver Lode is astonishing. Dwan sets a dolly up around the edges of this fairly sizable Western-town set, and lateral tracks as fast as he can while Payne is on the run a block away from him. It’s really impressive.

  16. Sounds great! It’s on my list.

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