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Lee J. Cobb
John Barrington escapes from an asylum for the criminally-insane and finds refuge on the ranch of turkey-raiser Ezra Thompson. Barrington, who has suffered from amnesia, finds his memory returning slightly and he sets out on his mission of learning the truth about whether or not he really murdered his sweetheart and is actually insane. He goes to Los Angeles to visit his oldest-and-best friend, psychiatrist David Dunbar, who was a witness to Barrington's crime. Dunbar repeats his story to Barrington, convinces Barrington that he did commit the crime, and then betrays him to the police. However, Thompson, Connie Carter and others are not totally convinced of Barrington's guilt. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
"The Scarf" is well worth seeing for John Ireland's appearance alone.
I saw this film while catching up on classic film noir. I was not expecting much--a little B film. And Maltin's summary did nothing to encourage my expectations. However, I found a solid film here.
It has an intellectual patina, which is surprising in an American film from 1951. The characters actually talk about some serious issues, though this talk may not be agreeable to some viewers. New York Times critic Bosley Crowther, in his review of this film (April 23, 1951), wrote that the film "expresses in several thousand words of dialogue. . .perhaps the least measure of intelligence or dramatic continuity that you are likely to find in any picture, current or recent, that takes itself seriously." Obviously, I don't agree.
The film is well cast and acted by an unusual combination of actors: John Ireland, Mercedes McCambridge, Emlyn Williams (the English actor), and Ezra Thompson in the leads.
Even the song, "Summer Rains," sung by McCambridge, is perfect for this film: a solid, torchy number in a minor key. Why wasn't this recorded by Peggy Lee or Julie London or Chris Connor? It would have suited them fine.
I was taken totally by surprise by John Ireland's appearance here. This is the only film I've seen Ireland in in which the man is hot, sexy, alluring--certainly not words that one would normally use in discussing John Ireland's appearance. A good part of this is due to cinematographer Franz Planer, though Ireland got some help from his costumes, too. Planer is careful to light Ireland's face in a flattering way, and Ireland just shimmers in the shadow and light of the sharp black and white photography. There is one close-up of Ireland that is stunning--a pure Hollywood glamour shot in the Hurrell tradition: Ireland is sitting at a table in a bar. He has his hat cocked so that it hides one of his eyes and throws half of his face into shadow. He slowly looks up at the camera. This kind of glamour close-up was usually reserved for top female stars in Hollywood's Golden Era, but Planer gave it to Ireland here.
In addition to these shots of Ireland's face, which make him truly handsome, he is wearing throughout most of the film a white t-shirt that makes clear that even at age 37 he still had a nice, in-shape body--nice chest, nice biceps. (Ireland started his career performing as a swimmer in a water carnival.) Later on Ireland is shown wearing a black turtleneck sweater that compliments his chest and a black leather jacket. And who put those pants on Ireland? They aren't expensive--just cheap cloth, but in every scene, those pants just hug the long, lean lines of his butt and his upper thighs. Hot stuff!
I found the film totally absorbing, so much so that I got through the final movie hokum scene which reveals the villain. I can see how some would react negatively to this film. For instance, critic Manny Farber writing in The Nation (May 26, 1951) called "The Scarf" "a disjointed, monstrously affected psycho-mystery freak show." Ha! That comment could be considered a reason to see this film today, Manny.
There is a satisfactory plot summary and commentary on this film on pages 152-3 of Robert Ottoson's The American Film Noir (Metuchen, New Jersey: The Scarecrow Press, 1981). However, Ottoson misidentifies Dr. David Duncan as "the prison psychiatrist." He is, in fact, a psychiatrist in private practice and a friend of Cyrus Barrington. Ottoson says that actor Lloyd Gough plays "the detective." Gough plays Dr. Gordon, who is the prison psychiatrist.
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