Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Noir World of Joseph M. Newman


It’s Joseph M. Newman’s centennial. He was in motion picture business from 16. Took the necessary steps to become a director: a bellboy, clerk, assistant writer, assistant director and director of short crime films in MGM. Directed many episodes of Crime don’t pay, a well-known half-hour-long based-on-real-cases crime dramas, for ten years and polished his cinematic style as terse as possible. Made news reel and war documentaries during WW II. His first feature must be Northwest Rangers (1942), his first notable film, Abandoned (1949). He was very comfortable in genre pictures from all kind, especially noir, western and Sci-Fi. When he made his last feature, George Raft story (1961) he already had made 25 films. Start working on TV in his familiar territory (Asphalt Jungle, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Twilight Zone). Died in 2006.
Beside imaginative and very well made This Island Earth (1955), I remember him with his good, sometimes great, entries in film noir.

***


Abandoned (1949)
Written by: Irwin Gielgud, William Bowers
Photography by: William Daniels (& David S. Horsley)
Cast: Dennis O’Keefe, Gale Storm, Jeff Chandler, Raymond Burr, Mike Mazurki.
Melodramatic baby-stealing story with great photography and load of colorful characters, produced by Universal.



711 Ocean Drive (1950)
Written by: Richard English, Francis Swan
Photography by: Franz Planer
Cast: Edmond O’Brien, Joanne Dru, Otto Kruger, Dorothy Patrick.
Like Abandoned the film opens with the voice over and the whole picture is a fatal flash back in the life of Mal Granger (O’Brien), an ordinary man who works for Telecommunication Company in Cleveland. He uses technical knowledge to take over the horse gambling rackets. He fell in love with a mob’s wife and troubles begin.
11 Ocean Drive
Many elements of Martin Scosese’s Casino are borrowed from this Mephistophelean tale about greed and an obsession with success. Though film’s final sequence in Boulder Dam reminds us of Raoul Walsh’s factory scene at the end of The White Heat, again with O’Brien. “The electricity the dam produces is, of course, what powers his particular racket.” Says Brian McDonnell about using this site for the final entrapment and death of Mal. While “impressively edited chase through the labyrinthine passages of the dam resembles the famous sewer sequence of the previous year’s The Third Man.”


The Outcasts of Poker flat
The Outcasts of Poker Flat (1952)
Written by: Edmund H. North
Photography by: Joseph LaShelle
Cast: Anne Baxter, Dale Robertson, Miriam Hopkins, Cameron Mitchell.
An adaptation of Bret Harte's short story. Filmed twice before, first in silent age with John Ford (1919), later (1937) with Christy Cabanne. Despite being a western the picture combines the key themes of the genre (greed, cruel nature, outcasts, heist) with an unforgettable low key photography and a claustrophobic atmosphere that transcend the story into a film noir.

Dangerous Crossing (1953)
Written by: Leo Townsend, John Dickson Carr
Photography by: Joseph La Shelle
Cast: Jeanne Crain, Michael Rennie, Max Showalter.
During honeymoon a woman’s husband disappears on a luxury liner. Nobody believes her and all evidences are against her till a doctor get curious and a twosome investigation begins. An excellent mixture of “identity noir” (she must find her husband to prove her identity. Suspicious captain says she has reserved the room with her maiden name!) and Gothic tales of a “damsel in distress.”

Dangerous Crossing

The Human Jungle (1954)
Written by: William Sackheim, Daniel Fuchs.
Photography by: Ellis Carter
Cast: Gary Merrill, Jan Sterling, Chuck Conners, Paula Raymond

A police chief decides to clean up dirty city. He asks his men to arrest all criminals to try and reduce crime on the streets (crime prevention was also a key theme in Poker Flat). People get arrested for all sorts of crimes, including theft, vandalism and burglary. There is also a murder to be solved. Things don't help with this zero tolerance policy when a copper accidentally shoots and kills an innocent man. Produced by Allied Artists.

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