|Index||10 reviews in total|
Several steps in quality above the average 1950s B movie, CHICAGO
CALLING is yet more testimony of the talents of Dan Duryea. In the
hands of a lesser actor, this could easily have slid down into
sentimentalized, feel-good territory. Duryea brings so much conviction
and multi-dimensionality to the role of a downtrodden victim of bad
luck, that it's almost possible to forget that the movie is fiction.
This is surely one of the lanky, blond actor's finest performances on
film, and it must not be missed by any fan.
As the film opens in L.A. , Duryea's wife takes their young daughter and leaves for Chicago. Desperate pleas do nothing to stop them, and the unemployed husband and father is left with the family dog and his own devices. Later, when the telephone man (Ross Elliott) comes to remove the phone for unpaid bills, Duryea coincidentally receives a telegram reporting that his wife and daughter have had a serious auto accident and are hospitalized in Chicago. Someone will call him later to update their conditions. Duryea manages to convince Elliott to leave his phone connected for another day, until the bill is paid. This sets into motion a desperate attempt to raise $50.00--something not so easily done in L.A. of 1951. Circumstances lead to more troubles and, along the way, Duryea makes an unexpected new friend. Without spoiling it, let it be said that the plot continues in a few surprising ways. With Duryea, and some able supporting players, there is an emotional impact that is not easily dismissed. If this deserves to be classed as a film noir, it is because of a relentless pressure from the forces of fate on a hapless protagonist.
Austrian-born Director John Reinhardt (who died two years later) keeps the film tight, suspenseful and very well paced. There is also a music score by Heinz Roemheld that, strangely, seems to recall Tchaikovsky's "Romeo & Juliet".
This movie is also another great example of the value of location photography. Duryea actually seems to inhabit the real city. We see the blue-collar, everyday side of Los Angeles, not the glamour. It's a tough, but real place, where people work construction jobs overnight, and hot dog vendors might actually help out a desperate man. The film is titled CHICAGO CALLING, but it really lives and breathes in L.A.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
You might want to have a handful of mood elevators handy when you watch
Duryea is out of work, and his wife takes the kid and leaves him. They are involved in an auto accident, out of town, and Duryea must wait until they are out of surgery to receive a phone call informing him as to whether they will live or die. Because his phone bill is un-paid, his phone is disconnected, and he tries in vain to earn, borrow, and even contemplates stealing the money.
To make matters worse, his little pooch is run down in traffic.
When the Phone Company Rep comes to pick up the instrument (this was made long before we all owned our own phones!) Duryea cons the guy into hooking him up long enough to take the long distance call from Chicago concerning the condition of his wife and kid. This is where you will really need the Prozac!
Although this is downbeat throughout, Duryea gives an acting "tour-de-force" and if they ever show it again, it is well worth watching, but you've been warned!
This is a movie I never forgot, nor the actor Dan Duryea. Every time I see Dan Duryea in a movie, I always remember the movie "Chicago Calling". If I remember correctly, I first saw the movie in the late 50's; and being ten or eleven years old, was very sad to see a father trying so hard to get his phone back on so as to be able to get word from his wife, that she and their son were going to be okay after a car accident. The accident with the little dog made it even sadder. It's nice to know, though, that there are good people working for the telephone company, as was the character that played the part of the telephone man sent to disconnect the phone, but is nice enough to make sure a man waiting for a call from a loved one that was involved in an accident, is given an an opportunity to connect and not be disconnected, like what happens to many of us when we are late in paying our telephone bill. Gee, I really would like to see this movie again.
This was a nice little film. Duryea played the average man here, a bit
down on his luck as we first see him, a point emphasized by the
stairway that we see him descending en route home. His wife is about to
leave him since he's chronically unemployed, and says she's going to
take their daughter with her.
This happens the next day and then he later gets a telegram stating that his daughter was injured in a car accident and is about to undergo surgery. He'll supposedly get the details the next day via a phone call. But that's just it - his day started out bad, and only got worse as the phone company terminated his service and if that isn't bad enough, his dog is also injured in an accident while he's out trying to scrounge up money to pay the bill so he can get the call the next day.
It reminded me of Loretta Young's "Cause For Alarm" in which we follow the protagonist through an agonizing day, in her case she was trying to retrieve an incriminating letter. It may have been sunny in each film, but the characters are having one very dark day.
"Chicago Calling" may be the title, but what we get is the lower environs of Los Angeles in all of its seediness. But still some helpful characters emerge, such as a counter-woman who must have seen The Grapes of Wrath and has a soft spot for Duryea's woe, and a young boy, the one whose bicycle hits Duryea's dog. The boy's "help" only compounds Duryea's problems, but he meant well.
A very nice job on a low budget, the director John Reinhardt died the next year, but based on this and "Open Secret" - another budget job that had antisemitism in its sights, he had a lot of promise that might have been fulfilled had he gotten the breaks.
Dan Duryea needs $52.00 to get his phone turned back on, to hear about
his daughter, injured in an accident. When it is CHICAGO, CALLING on
his phone, will Dan hear what happened to his wife and child, or is
Duryea just as doomed to misery as any other noir protagonist.
It seems like every b&w movie made circa 1950 that doesn't have Abbott and Costello or Martin & Lewis gets labeled a noir by somebody. In this case -- the label is simply wrong, as there is no real crime, or fatalistic resignation to fate. Instead, this is a character study in which Duryea has what, one hopes, is the worst week of his life. Fate and surprises do play a role, but chance in this one flings both good and bad surprises, and provide hope and despair. There are some really lousy people, but good ones too.
Duryea, himself, plays a well-rounded character, who really is the author of his current despair, but also the author of the circumstances that might just bring about his own redemption. And Duryea, given a truly good role, responds with the sort of subtle, well-rounded performance that is supposed to earn an actor an Oscar. No such luck, alas -- the independent film that played the art houses had not been invented yet, and this out of step cheaply made story of the downwardly mobile was not the sort that got bookings -- even as the second part of a double feature.
This film is sort of semi-rediscovered. Film blogs have noticed it. IMDb rates it highly. There is a DVD, I believe. But I wonder if it will ever get the respect it deserves. The director made a few cheap noirs for Monogram, and not much else. Duryea is respected as an actor, but beloved for his villainy in westerns and noirs, rather than his occasional star turns, in which his flawed heroes suffer for their flaws. This is a brilliant film. But it does not fit a category, and its world view is perhaps not as bleak as intellectual fashion would prefer.
So, find this movie and see it. And spread the word. While the cinematic and critical sins of 1951 cannot be fixed, our view of the past and what it has to offer us can always evolve.
I saw "Chicago Calling" sometime in the 1950's. I was a kid at the time. I have seen this movie only that one time; it left an indelible impression on me. I really FELT for this man who was waiting for a phone call to find out the status of his wife and child -- who were in a car accident. Whenever I hear the name of the actor, Dan Duryea, I recall his amazing, heart-wrenching performance in this film. And I remember the ANXIETY Duryea's character endured; that his telephone -- while waiting for this crucial call -- was going to be disconnected for non-payment. Since that first and only time of seeing this movie, I have had a desire to see it again -- as an adult. I'm curious to see if it will still affect me so strongly. Fifty years of living since seeing it -- no doubt -- will make it a different viewing experience. It's been a few years since I checked to see if it's available now in any format. I hope it will someday be available . . . HOLD THAT THOUGHT! I just Googled it and see that it IS now available in VHS or DVD format!!! WOW! I am going to order it as soon as I post this message! I'm very excited about this! I'm not kidding. This is a sincere post!
Dan Duryea gives a chilling performance in John Reinhardt's "Chicago
Calling" as a man whose world has come crashing down around him. His
desperation reels a number of people into his life as he tries to
gather enough money to continue a call with his wife after learning
that their daughter has been in a car crash. Among the film noir genre,
this is not the most readily available movie, but that doesn't mean
that you should blow off trying to see it. This is one of the most
impressive movies that I've seen, and one of the most devastating. I
don't know of any other movies that Reinhardt did, but if this is
indication then he must have been a very good director.
More than anything, "Chicago Calling" shows why film noir was probably the best genre to arise in the post-war years. Gritty with minimal violence, chilling without being corny, and always thought-provoking. I've liked ever film noir that I've seen, and that includes this one. Really good.
This obscure super-low budget sleeper starts like a million b-movies
with a small setback and a minor overreaction. However, as noir
emeritus Dan Duryea slowly navigates the ensuing fall of dominoes and
swirls and eddies of fate and temptation, CHICAGO CALLING gradually,
inexorably pulls itself up by its boot gathers to become nothing less
than one of the most touching takes on morality and desperation I've
ever seen. It's going to be hard to find (not on DVD and rarely on TCM)
but this startling, heartbreaking character study is a must see for any
noirist. It's that good.
A lot of the credit must go to Dan Duryea. He so convincingly played such a long line of abusive creep boyfriends and irredeemably scummy thugs, one would have been tempted to take a swing at him on the street. In this case, however, Duryea is cast as the protagonist and it is a revelation. Given the chance to emote, Duryea reveals heretofore hidden depth of emotion and angst as he struggles to find his integrity and hope as the world falls down all around him. His performance is subtle and carefully modulated so that we are forced to wait a long time for the powerful payoff, which is his ultimate emotional reveal and Duryea's best moment in forty five years on film. The young boy also deserves a lot of credit... his unlikely friendship with Duryea is believable and powerful precisely because the boy's reactions make it so. There is almost a BICYCLE THIEF quality to their relationship, and Duryea's transformation is beautifully motivated (and tested) by the boy. I defy you not to tear up at the boy's train yard scene at the end.
The Bunker Hill location photography by De Grasse is striking and evocative. The score is effective.
Look for this one, fans. Duryea's touching performance is one for the ages and the movie will handsomely reward your effort to find it.
The feature CHICAGO CALLING is a great example of two things, first it
is a fine independent feature shot on location with a realistic, gritty
feel and believable characters.
Secondly, it's a brand new film print made in our film lab on the third floor from the original picture and sound nitrate negatives also stored in this building and an excellent example of what film preservation is all about. Saving the forgotten films, the orphans if you will. These neglected films have good stories and need to be seen on the big screen with an audience.
And tonight, is extra special for another reason: in our audience is one of the stars of this 1952 feature film, Gordon Gebert (pronounced Gee- burt) who played the young boy that befriends the lead actor played by Dan Duryea.
Gordon would you please stand up so these fine folks can give you a hand?
Since we have Gordon Gebert here in person, I'm going to shorten my usual opening remarks so we can spend more time after the film talking with him about his amazing early career and what he is doing now days.
We invite you to stay a few minutes after the film, which is only 75 minutes long, and we'll play a short video showing Gordon with some of his other co-stars including: Loretta Young, Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchum, Burt Lancaster, Ray Milland, Paul Douglas and John Wayne.
Scenes from some of Gordon's 31 film and television appearances including: Come To The Stable; Holiday Affair; The Flame And The Arrow; Night Into Morning; Fourteen Hours; The House On Telegraph Hill; Flying Leathernecks and Narrow Margin.
Then we will chat with this former child star and you'll have a chance to ask him about his life in the movies who is now a professor of architecture at the City College of New York after getting degrees from both Princeton & MIT!
Now let's watch Chicago Calling
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Desperation hangs over this story until the very end! The family's home is a Chicago tenement, and the dad is pictured as a real loser. Mother and child are leaving to stay with relatives until better times happen. Repeated phone calls are no help, and the Long Distance charges result in an order for a disconnect. When the final phone call comes through (thanks go a kind-hearted phone lineman,)the news is bad, and the Duryea character contemplates suicide. Yet the very illogical ending countermands the whole story and leaves one with a feeling of "This could never happen in real life!" A parallel plot can be found in "Night Into Morning" with Ray Milland. I would so like to find this movie on tape or DVD.
|Ratings||External reviews||Plot keywords|
|Main details||Your user reviews||Your vote history|