Thursday, September 10, 2009

Silver Screen Oasis September Guest Star: Karen Burroughs Hannsberry

The Silver Screen Oasis enjoyed a visit from Monday, September 21st to Friday, September 25th, 2009 when we hosted an ongoing Q & A with author Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, a marvelous writer whose well researched and lively books include Bad Boys: The Actors of the Film Noir (McFarland) and Femme Noir: Bad Girls of Film (McFarland). The thread is now closed, but you can still read Karen's interesting conversation with our members here.

If you've ever wondered about the real scoop on the backgrounds of such easily identifiable actors and actresses as Robert Mitchum, Claire Trevor, Alan Ladd, Marie Windsor, Robert Ryan, Peggy Cummins, Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney and Richard Widmark, to name but a few of those whose careers are explored in considerable depth, these books are for you.

Ms. Hannsberry's highly entertaining resource books are indispensable for those of us who also like to know who the supporting players are as well. Not only does this author examine the famed players who put the darkness in noir, she also pauses to include information on some often unjustly neglected lesser known favorites, from Neville Brand, Helen Walker, William Bendix, Ella Raines, Douglas Fowley to Leon Ames and more, illustrating the books with some fine portraits of the actors included as well.

Put on your thinking caps, those slouch hats, that trench coat and that attitude, tough guys and wise gals!

Get those questions you've always been dying to ask about your particular favorites beginning on the 21st of September! Between now and then you may wish to read the interview with Ms. Hannsberry linked below with our pal, the author Alan K. Rode (Moxie). A link to Karen's website, All That Noir, which gives more information about this author's books and her newsletter, The Dark Pages.

An Interview with Karen Burroughs Hannsberry with Alan K. Rode

All That Noir: Karen Burroughs Hannsberry's website

The Movie Morlocks Blog on "Shockproof" (1949)

On this week's blog on TCM's Movie Morlocks blog anticipates the upcoming release of a Sam Fuller Collection and the interesting intersection of talent for a brief time. This begins below:

Shockproof (1949), an intriguing attempt at a romantic noir in shades of black and white from Columbia Pictures, sprang from the imagination of two disparate filmmakers. Though they reportedly never met, this movie was crafted from a script fashioned by the outraged nihilist, Sam Fuller, and directed by the stylish master of domestic angst, Douglas Sirk. Originally entitled "The Lovers" by Fuller, the author described this tale as telling the story of "a woman who, in order to get her lover back, marries someone else." Fuller's rarely produced scripts of that period often bore titles such as "Murder: How to Get Away With It," and "Crime Pays", so he may not have been too surprised to see that the studio changed his story considerably by the time it premiered, starting with the title, which became the lurid-sounding Shockproof and altering considerably the doom-laden conclusion, much to Sirk's chagrin. Eventually, Fuller, who admired Sirk's markedly different style, just said that "[he] didn't give a damn what they called it", he was just grateful one of his postwar scripts had finally sold. I enjoyed aspects of this strange hybrid of a movie, and on reflection, saw that the pairing of a hard-boiled guy like Fuller with a silken master of suburban melodrama like Sirk may not have been all that odd, even if the resulting movie might have been more accurately entitled "Startleproof" instead.

Since seeing this movie a few weeks ago, I've learned that Shockproof is one of the long out of circulation films to be included in the upcoming boxed set from Sony, The Samuel Fuller Collection, set to go on sale on October 27th, 2009. Other DVDs in this set are It Happened in Hollywood (1937), Adventure in Sahara (1938), Power of the Press (1943), Scandal Sheet (1952), The Crimson Kimono (1959), and Underworld, U.S.A. (1961). Along with many others who like Douglas Sirk's less well known movies, such as Summer Storm (1944), Slightly French (1949) and The First Legion (1951), I'll hang in there waiting for a similarly sumptuous boxed set devoted to this German-born director...someday.

This film might easily fit into any proposed box set of Douglas Sirk's interesting films too, but there are some traces of Fuller's touch on this story. Despite obvious softening of the story by the producers, who brought in screenwriter (and co-producer) Helen Deutsch, the scenarist for National Velvet (1944) and Kim (1950), and the later schlock-fest, Valley of the Dolls (1967) , to make this odd story more palatable for mainstream audiences, there are moments when surfaces fall away, revealing the dark heart of this movie and the loneliness of the central characters. Though an unlikely glossy ending is tacked on to the story, the clear if sometimes ghostly traces of Sirk's concerns for the differences between appearances and reality and Fuller's starkness and characteristic quirks remain...more


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