The proprietor of an ice-skating revue promotes a peanut-vendor at the show to a management position based on suggestions he made to improve the act of the show's star, who also happens to ...
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The proprietor of an ice-skating revue promotes a peanut-vendor at the show to a management position based on suggestions he made to improve the act of the show's star, who also happens to be the owner's wife. However, he soon begins to notice that his new manager is paying more attention to his wife than he believes is appropriate, and begins to suspect that his new manager has designs not only on his wife but on his business. Meanwhile, someone from the new manager's past shows up with information that could wreck his plans. Written by
Super-aggressive Joe Morgan tries to take over impresario Frank Leonard's ice show and his girl, for good measure, resulting in some strange consequences.
With all the interest in 40's noir, I'm not sure why this genuinely exotic little number is too often overlooked. Maybe it's because its pedigree is not the best, (cheap-jack Monogram), or because its cast is non-movie star, (Sullivan, Belita, Dekker), or the fact that it doesn't turn up on cable (to my knowledge). Nonetheless, in my book it's one of the best examples around of the lost art of b&w cinematography.
Consider, for example, what Belita's surreal, death-defying skating number would look like in color, or that distance shot of the noirish mountain bowl where Frank stalks his prey, or the big neon panel blinking through the fog. In fact, consider the values that would be lost if the entire film were in color. I think one reason many of us return to 40's noir is because of those dream-like shadings,(among other values), that simply can't be duplicated in reds and greens, etc. Then too, these b&w shadings are a perfect complement to the ambiguities pervading the best noir.
But it's not only the photography in this movie, it's also the art direction (Paul Sylos) and the set decoration (George Hopkins). Thanks to them, the spooky ice rink plus the cavernous apartment and lodge interiors achieve real visual distinction with their attention to artistic detail. And even after multiple viewings, I haven't figured out how they did that eerie mountain bowl with its rink at the bottom. That tableau remains unlike anything I've seen in film. All in all, these elements add up, in my book, to a superior slice of visual exotica from noir's golden age.
To me, the most notable part of the story itself is how basically unsympathetic Joe (Sullivan) is with his overweening aggressiveness as he cuts in on everything Frank (Dekker) owns or values. At the same time, I don't buy the climax that looks like some version of the Hollywood Code in action, even if only in diluted form. Nonetheless, it's a great cast from the gimlet-eyed Sullivan (he doesn't look like anyone else in movies) to the commanding Dekker to the froggishly likable Palette. And must not forget Belita's eye-catching wardrobe or the deglamorized Granville getting jilted every five-minutes. And please tell me when ace screen-writer Yordan ever drew a breath away from the typewriter since his name pops up on just about everything from this period.
Anyhow, in my book, the movie remains a real sleeper and visual treat, and TMC would do well to slip it somewhere into their evening schedule.
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