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Karie's Blog
Karie (site owner) Written by Karie (site owner)
Feb. 18, 2011





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Los Angeles: City of Noir

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This blog post is for the Blogathon for Film Preservation.  The goal is raise awareness and hopefully money for the cause of preserving film for future generations.  Proceeds will go to the Film Noir Foundation’s restoration of the 1950 noir “The Sound of Fury.”  This is being hosted by The Self Styled Siren and Ferdy on Films.  You can also check them out on Facebook.


To donate, click on the below link:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=LAWFPAB4XLHAW


This past year I co-wrote a book called Location Filming in Los Angeles, so movie locations have been on the brain lately.  When a location is captured on film it is given a certain kind of immortality.  While a place like Bunker Hill may be destroyed, the film that captured it lives on…or at least we hope so.  Out of every genre, I think that film noir best captures the spirit of Los Angeles and the locations it has to offer.  Los Angeles is a place of sun, sand, surf and palm trees, but behind that showy veneer lurks a whole other reality.  This can also be a place of darkness and deception.  Film noir revels in that alternate reality and dares us not to watch.


In D.O.A. (1950) Edmond O’Brien finds out that he has been fatally poisoned and has only a few days to live.  He is on a desperate mission to find out who killed him and why.  That quest takes him to a climatic fight in the historic Bradbury Building.  More than any other building in the city, the Bradbury looks like a movie set that is made to order.  Built in 1893, it looks like something out of the year 2093.  It looks both historic and futuristic at the same time.  The ironwork throughout the building along with the large skylight creates shadows, lines and a sense of space that provide the perfect setting for mayhem.  Director Joseph Losey filmed part of the chase scene there for the 1951 remake of “M” to brilliant effect. 


The Los Angeles Coservancy was hoping to screen D.O.A. for their yearly series “Last Remaining Seats”.  They wanted to show it in the Million Dollar Theatre which is right across the street from the Bradbury.  They spoke to noir historian Alan K. Rode who informed them that a 35mm print of D.O.A. doesn’t even exist anymore.  I’ve been told there is only ONE film print in the whole world of the “M” remake and that resides at the British Film Institute in London.  It is not even on VHS or DVD and bootleg is pretty much the only option as far as I know for that title.  The permanence of film is something we cannot take for granted.  These films are such an important part of our culture and our history.  I’m glad this blogathon exists.  We need to do all we can to raise awareness and obtain the funding to save these films. 


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Another of my cinematic location obsessions is Bunker Hill.  In the early years it was filled with proud, elegant Victorian homes.  By the 1930s it was a skid row of sorts filled with boarding houses, pawn shops and squalor.  Fortunately the movies were there to capture it.  In CRISS CROSS (1949), Burt Lancaster’s mom lives in an old home on Bunker Hill.  The area is working class and run down.  Angel’s Flight can clearly be seen just outside the window.  In the film Burt Lancaster plays a man who is obsessed with his ex-wife who drags him down into the underworld and brings about his ruin.  CRISS CROSS utilized Union Station as well.  The film is a fantastic noir and a great time capsule into downtown Los Angeles in 1949.  KISS ME DEADLY (1955) also shows off Bunker Hill and Angel’s Flight.  The seedy, underbelly of the city appears dangerous but strangely irresistible.  For more Bunker Hill check out ACT OF VIOLENCE, HOLLOW TRIUMPH and CRY DANGER.  Those shadows, sidewalks and hilltop trailer parks seem to hold endless possibilities.  For me these films act as a time machine to a world that I long for, but never got to inhabit.


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While CRY DANGER is sadly not on DVD yet, it will be featured at the upcoming UCLA Festival of Film Preservation on Friday, March 18th at 7:30pm.  Film noir historian Alan K. Rode will be there along with CRY DANGER co-stars Rhonda Fleming and Richard Erdman. (The photo above features Dick Powell, Richard Erdman and Jean Porter in the Clover Trailer Park, which used to exit on Bunker Hill.  This photo is from Jim Dawson’s blog “Bunker Hill Goes to the Movies.”)


By the way, the Annual Festival of Film Noir is coming up March 31st - April 17th at the Egyptian Theatre and I encourage you to attend!  Stay tuned to FilmRadar for more details.  They have excellent film prints, great guests and film noir experts Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode are on hand nightly to provide insights.  It is also a great way to socialize with other noir fans and to meet other people who like to take a walk on the dark side.



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