Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Dark Corner (1946)

Henry Hathaway (Call Northside 777/1948, Kiss of Death/1947) directs The Dark Corner with many requisite dark corners--and that's no joke: Half the time the characters disappear into darkness, become shadows on the wall--sometimes one person manages to find a bar of light to stand in, but the darkness creeps up on him anyway; but again, despite the persistent gloom, the movie is full of life--especially in one's ears. It's a noisy picture, with a real New York all around: trains squealing and buses hissing, car-horns honking, kids playing, and many many radios supplying a musical score. Hathaway works hard to paint the screen black, then surprises us with all those people and their clacking, crying, whistling, singing selves. What a relief it was, in a movie that tried to drag everybody into its dark corner.

--Except for the private dick's secretary/Girl Friday, played by Lucille Ball as one cute tomato with wide-eyed, matter-of-fact pluck. It took me fifteen seconds to like her, and just a few more to depend on her: I felt that as long as the movie didn't kill Lucy there'd be hope the shadows would recede.

The private eye, Mark Stevens' Brad Galt, needed all the hope he could manage. And that was another pleasant surprise: a gumshoe with the jitters, playing tough but inside frazzled--the girl noticing it before we did. Of course, we also get the usual suspects: the smooth blackmailer, the Oscar-Wilde-ish rich guy (Clifton Webb leaning hard on his accent as he complains that he hates the dawn because "the grass looks like it's been left out all night"); the wife he dangles like a watch-fob, bright and necessary; and once more, William Bendix as the muscle, his white suit smeared with ink, his instincts perfect but his reflexes a bit too slow to keep up. But it's Galt's game to lose, and Lucy's picture--except for all those Caligari shadows and the hubbub of the city, a window away but of no real help as the bodies pile up.

Shameless Plug: This is adapted from my Big Blog, The Constant Viewer.

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