Luke Jordan: You said something about “Ever since you came to New York.” Where do you come from?
Susan Caldwell: Azusa. Azusa, California.
Luke Jordan: Azusa?
Susan Caldwell: It’s kind of a made-up word. Different letters. They put them together. Everything from A to Z. USA. AZUSA.
Luke Jordan: I still don’t get it. What does the USA stand for?
Susan Caldwell: United States of America. Everybody knows that.
Jeff Warren: I didn’t do it.
Vicki Buckley: Why not?
Jeff Warren: Maybe because he was drunk, because he fell. I picked him up and took him over to the dispatcher’s office. They’re trying to sober him up with coffee now. He even thought I was trying to help him.
Vicki Buckley: You couldn’t kill him. You tried and you couldn’t.
Jeff Warren: It’s all wrong Vicky. The whole thing’s been wrong from the beginning and I feel dirty.
As we continue with Noirvember, I bring one of my favorites from the era, Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire. I read one critic who said it is more of a “message film” than a film noir and I think that is kind of a ridiculous statement, as it assumes the two are mutually exclusive. If you’ve seen The Celluloid Closet, then you know that originally the crime in this film was perpetrated out of homophobia, rather than anti-Semitism. Under the Hays Code, clearcut mention of homosexuality was prohibited because it was consider “sexual perversion.” I’m going to write a little more about the origins of the film after the cut. Crossfire was nominated for five Academy Awards, though it didn’t win any: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor Robert Ryan, Best Supporting Actress Gloria Grahame, Best Director and Best Picture. The other films nominated for Best picture that year were The Bishop’s Wife, Great Expectations, Miracle on 34th Street and winner Gentleman’s Agreement (which is also about anti-Semitism). Crossfire was one of the twenty highest-grossing films of 1947, along with three other noirs: Body and Soul, Possessed and Dark Passage.
Tomorrow is the grand opening of the new Warner Bros. Theater at the Smithsonian Institute. In celebration of the opening the theater will be screening four films featuring Humphrey Bogart, arguably the studio’s must notable star: Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Treasure of Sierra Madre and The Big Sleep. Stephen Bogart, son of film legends Bogart and Lauren Bacall, will be on hand for the inaugural presentation of Casablanca. I was lucky enough to speak with him briefly this morning about the new theater, his father’s legacy and some of his thoughts on Hollywood today.
Ginny: Okay, where were you when he needed you? Maybe you were someplace having beautiful thoughts. Well, I wasn’t. I was in a stinkin’ gin mill, where all he had to do to see me was walk in, sit down at the table and buy me a drink and that’s all I know about it. I didn’t ask him if he killed anybody.
I couldn’t possibly say everything I’d like to say about this film. In fact, when I started out setting up this post I found myself wanting to talk about so many aspects of this film I had to stop myself and pick my very favorite characters and scenes to focus on. It’s A Wonderful Life is one of my Top Ten Favorite Films of All-Time. I’ve watched it every year on Christmas Eve since I was a little girl. I’ve also watched it countless times throughout the years at other times as well. It’s a perfect film, that stands up to viewing after viewing after viewing. I just love it so much. It was nominated for five Academy Awards, winning none: Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Actor Jimmy Stewart, Best Director and Best Picture. It was up against The Chronicle History of King Henry the Fift with His Battell Fought at Agincourt in France, The Razor’s Edge, The Yearling and winner The Best Years of Our Lives.
Dixon Steele: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me.
Dixon Steele: You like it?
Laurel Gray: What is it?
Dixon Steele: I. . .I want to put it in the script. I don’t know quite where.
Laurel Gray: You feel well now?
Dixon Steele: I don’t know. Maybe.
Dixon Steele: Say it back to me, let’s hear how it sounds.
Laurel Gray: I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I. . .
Dixon Steele: I lived a few weeks while she loved me.