Noir Nook: More Unsung Noirs
We all know about these often-seen and much-loved noirs. But what about the unsung features? The ones that nobody talks about? The ones that many noir lovers have never even heard of, let alone seen? In this month’s Noir Nook, I’m taking a look at two more noirs that deserve to be tracked down and viewed.
Somewhere in the Night (1946)
In this feature, John Hodiak stars as an amnesia victim who wakes up in a military hospital after WWII, unaware of his identity, with his only clue a disturbing note in his wallet that says in part, “I’m ashamed for having loved you. And I shall pray as long as I live for someone or something to hurt and destroy you.” Called “George Taylor” by hospital personnel, the man learns that he’s been left a cool five grand and a gat by a man named Larry Cravat, and he sets out to find the man, in the hopes that he can unlock the hazy key to his past.
The cast includes Richard Conte, as Taylor’s former partner; Lloyd Nolan, who plays a crafty detective who’s also trying to track down Larry Cravat; and Nancy Guild (who reminds me of Ella Raines), as a nightclub performer with the proverbial gold heart, who helps Taylor in his quest.
- The film was directed and co-written by Joseph Mankiewicz, who would win back-to-back Oscars just a few years later for writing and directing All About Eve (1950) and A Letter to Three Wives (1951).
- The same year that Somewhere in the Night was released, John Hodiak and Lloyd Nolan both starred with Lucille Ball in the MGM drama Two Smart People.
- Nancy Guild – whose studio promoted her by proclaiming that her last name “rhymes with wild” – made her big-screen debut in Somewhere in the Night. She would appear in just five more films before retiring from the big screen in the early 1950s. She later wrote for Architectural Digest and made a brief comeback in 1971, with a small part in the Dyan Cannon-James Coco dramedy, Such Good Friends.
- One of the film’s minor roles is a woman who Taylor first encounters in a hotel corridor. She’s played by an actress named Margo Woode. I’ve never seen her in anything before or since, but she’s a standout here, and it seems a shame she didn’t go further in pictures. Look for her.
Cry Danger (1951)
Dick Powell takes yet another solid step toward obliterating his crooner past in this film. Here, he plays Rocky Mulloy, who’s just been released from prison after serving just five years for a robbery and murder he didn’t commit. His life sentence was cut short after he’s given an alibi by an ex-Marine, and he sets out to secure the freedom of his pal, Danny, who is still imprisoned for the crime.
Others in the cast are Richard Erdman, as the ex-Marine who fosters Rocky’s early release; Rhonda Fleming, who plays the wife of Rocky’s friend; and William Conrad, as an oily mobster who was the mastermind behind the $100,000 robbery for which Rocky and Danny were convicted.
- Richard Erdman – whose alcohol-loving character delivers one of my favorite noir lines (“Occasionally, I always drink too much.”) – was born in 1925 and died in 2019 at the age of 93. He’d continued to work in TV up until just a few years before his death, playing in a recurring role as Leonard on Community from 2009 to 2015, and making his last appearance in Dr. Ken in 2017.
- Cry Danger marked the directorial debut of Robert Parrish, who’d previously edited such noirs as A Double Life (1947), Body and Soul (1947), and Caught (1949).
- Playing the wife of one of the witnesses at Rocky’s trial was Joan Banks, who made her big-screen debut in Cry Danger and went on to have a successful TV career with appearances in a variety of series, from I Love Lucy to Bewitched. She was also married to Frank Lovejoy from 1940 until the actor’s death in 1962.
- After the film’s release, one critic praised it as “a very tidy package of fictional extravagance.” (I’m not sure I know what that means, but I like it.)
You can catch both of these features on YouTube. Check ‘em out some snowy night by the fire. You won’t be sorry.
– Karen Burroughs Hannsberry for Classic Movie Hub
Karen Burroughs Hannsberry is the author of the Shadows and Satin blog, which focuses on movies and performers from the film noir and pre-Code eras, and the editor-in-chief of The Dark Pages, a bimonthly newsletter devoted to all things film noir. Karen is also the author of two books on film noir – Femme Noir: The Bad Girls of Film and Bad Boys: The Actors of Film Noir. You can follow Karen on Twitter at @TheDarkPages.
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