Saturday, January 7, 2012

Noir City X and Xmas

Noir City hosted a kick-off event for its 2012 Noir City which the 10th edition. Noir City will run from January 20 to 29 at the Castro Theater.

Noir City Xmas, held on December 14 at the Castro, was emceed by Czar of Noir Eddie Muller. The evening consisted primarily of two Deanna Durbin films:

Lady on a Train starring Deanna Durbin, Ralph Bellamy, David Bruce & Dan Duryea; directed by Charles David; (1945)
Christmas Holiday starring Deanna Durbin & Gene Kelly; directed by Robert Siodmak; (1944)

Other than the films, the biggest announcements were that Angie Dickinson was going to appear in person on January 21, there will be a six film Dashiell Hammett marathon on January 29 and on January 28, Noir City will take over the Swedish American Hall to create an authentic period nightclub/bar/canteen which Muller christened "Everybody Comes to Eddie's."

Muller also declared the late George Kuchar was his mentor and gave a short tribute. I assume Muller took classes under Kuchar at the San Francisco Art Institute where he taught for many years.


Lady on a Train felt more like The Thin Man than noir but it was nice thriller/comedy. Durbin plays a wealthy debutante from SF who arrives in NY by train. While looking out her window, she sees a murder being committed. Unable to identify the location or identify the victim, the police treat her like a kook so she enlists the help of the world's greatest mystery novel writer (David Bruce). Perpetually with a drink in his hand, a pithy retort on his tongue and suspicious fiancée on his tail, Bruce is an unwilling partner in solving the crime. The two of them encounter wealthy brothers Ralph Bellamy & Dan Duryea; each playing with and against their typical typecast.

More comedy than suspense, I can't find much to fault with Lady on a Train. It wasn't noir and Xmas played little role in the plot but it was a fun little film.


Christmas Holiday was definitely noir although Xmas played a small role. Told in flashback, Durbin plays a "dancer" in a New Orleans "night club." She is introduced to a soldier who received a Dear John letter just before he was going to fly back to SF to propose to his girlfriend. Bad weather diverts the plane to Las Vegas for Xmas.

Durbin and a reporter/flack (Richard Whorf) fill the GI on her sad story. She was married to a guy (Gene Kelly) who had a gambling problem, bad temper and possible incestuous relations with his mother. Kelly kills a guy over a gambling and gets sent to prison. Durbin, who goes by tow names in the film, is reduced to "dancing" with johns to make a living.

You guessed it - Kelly breaks out of jail and wants to settle the score with his wife although I don't recall exactly what she did to deserve it. I think the fact that she is working in a "night club" is reason enough for the pyschotic Kelly. No need to go beyond there because this was made during the production code.

Durbin does ok in her role, it was interesting to see Kelly play the bad guy, Richard Whorf as the boozy 2nd banana does quite a bit with his limited role and Gale Sondergaard hits a home run as Kelly domineering mother.

Christmas Holiday was a serviceable noir - well made, well acted if not somewhat lacking in flair or panache.

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