THE 14TH ANNUAL FILM NOIR FESTIVAL
The 14th Annual Film Noir Festival, featuring 30 rarely seen films, will open tonight and run through May 6 at the Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. and tickets are $11 per double feature. Call 323-466-3456 or visit americancinematheque.com.
Gary Cooper plays a sharpshooter who helps a racketeer's daughter bust out of prison in "City Streets." The 1931 film will be paired with the original "Maltese Falcon," starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels, during a May 4 double feature.
Perhaps the finest compliment ever given to Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller came from famed film critic Leonard Maltin. He wrote, "In recent years, Eddie Muller and Alan K. Rode, from the Film Noir Foundation, have stretched the definition of film noir to (and some would say past) the breaking point, but I don't think anybody minds the opportunity to watch 35 mm prints of films that we'd never get to see in any other context."
Rode and Muller are the reason several classic movies from the 1940s and '50s in the crime, tough-guy, femme-fatale genre known as film noir have been rediscovered. Research, diligence and forging relationships with key players at movie studios have translated into new prints made of films that might have been forever lost.
Some of those movies make it to DVDs, such as those offered through the Warner Archive. Other hidden gems can be seen only at festivals, including Los Angeles' Noir City festival, founded 14 years ago by the American Cinematheque. Rode and Muller program the festival each year in conjunction with the Cinematheque.
Opening at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre tonight with a tribute to Alan Ladd, and running through May 6, the Noir City festival will offer 30 movies — some of which haven't been seen on the big screen for decades.
Mirroring Maltin's praise, the festival programmers are expanding the concept of what's widely considered noir by including films from the early 1930s, before the Hayes Code, which until 1968 dictated the kind of content allowed in films.
"We are showing some pre-code (movies) that are precursors to film noir," Rode said.
Pre-code double features will be shown May 3 and 4, beginning with "Okay, America" and "Afraid to Talk," both 1932 tales about corruption in politics. The next night features a pair from the pen of Dashiell Hammett, beginning with the original screen version of "The Maltese Falcon," starring Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels, followed by a young Gary Cooper as a sharpshooter in "City Streets."
Some of the most popular nights of "Noir City" involve personal appearances from the ever-shrinking list of actors and filmmakers from the noir era.
United Artists Charles Bronson (from left), William Talman, Ralph Meeker and Lon Chaney Jr. star in the 1955 prison drama "Big House, U.S.A.," which will screen Thursday in Hollywood.
"On April 27 between films I am going to interview Norman Lloyd, who is 97 years old, and who still plays tennis every day," Rode said. "He worked with all the greats, including Orson Welles and Charlie Chaplin. And he has a million stories."
The two films starring Lloyd, both from 1949, are the police procedural "Scene of the Crime" and the unusual Anthony Mann-directed "Reign of Terror," a crime drama set during the French Revolution.
Julie Adams will talk between the double feature on April 28, a 1956 waterfront corruption tale titled "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," and "Edge of the City," from 1957, which also stars Sidney Poitier and John Cassavetes.
The closing night's guest is Marsha Hunt. Both of the featured films in which she appears are not on DVD.
"One of them, 'May Ryan, Detective,' is so rare it's not even in 'Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide,'" Rode said. "We got Columbia to make a new 35 mm print."
Universal Pictures Julie Adams, who starred in the gritty 1957 crime drama "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue," will discuss the film April 28 at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood.
Rode didn't pick a favorite night of the festival, but he called 1950's "Cage," which opens Thursday's screening, the "best women-behind-bars movie ever made, with the darkest female character in history, Evelyn Harpe, played by Hope Emerson. "Caged" is followed by the 1955 prison drama "Big House, U.S.A.," starring Ralph Meeker, Broderick Crawford, Charles Bronson and Lon Chaney Jr.
"From what I've learned, alcohol was a major factor on that set, except for Charles Bronson, who was a teetotaler," Rode said.
Attendance continues to grow each year, and each year Rode and Muller, two of the small group of caretakers of American cinematic history, challenge themselves to find more forgotten classics — and to help redefine the film noir genre.
Email freelance columnist Jeff Favre at email@example.com.