Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '47 - Jerry Entract ""

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Underrated '47 - Jerry Entract

Jerry Entract does not run his own blog or have any involvement in the film industry but is an English lifelong movie fan and amateur student of classic cinema (American and British). Main passions are the western and detective/mystery/film noir. Enjoys seeking out lesser-known (even downright obscure) old movies.

1) “DESPERATE” (1947) directed by Anthony Mann
STARS: Steve Brodie, Audrey Long & Raymond Burr

Some years before making his indelible mark with a series of classic westerns in the 1950s, Anthony Mann first made his name with some very fine films noir.

“Desperate” is a film-noir that I have seen numerous times and enjoyed every time. It tells its tight story in just 73 minutes and is perfectly paced. The story was from Mann himself and Dorothy Atlas and turned into a screenplay by Harry Essex. The effective camera work is by George E. Diskant.

The plot involves a very ordinary young working-class couple (Steve Brodie and Audrey Long) whose lives become inadvertently tangled up with mobsters led by a really vicious Raymond Burr. Burr was more or less just getting started on a long and successful career – at this stage he was invariably sinister and threatening. The story turns into a ‘couple on the run’ centre and is excitingly and grippingly told.

For me, RKO Radio at the start of the titles of virtually any film at this point meant entertainment with a capital E and solid production values, even for their ‘B’ product.

This film has just been released by Warner Archive in their ‘Films Noir Classic Collection Vol.5’.
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2) “MIRACLE ON 34th STREET” (1947) directed by George Seaton
STARS: Maureen O’Hara, John Payne & Edmund Gwenn

This film is not necessarily under-rated but deserves to find a current audience because of its Christmas-time roots and because it is just so plain good.

The story centres around a white-whiskered old gentleman (Edmund Gwenn) called in as a last-minute replacement to play Santa Claus at Macy’s New York store at the Thanksgiving Day Parade. It becomes obvious that this old boy may be the real thing, something the cynical O’Hara refuses to accept. But Santa has a way…..

The film is genuinely amusing and heart-warming without being slushy or over-sentimental. The performances are finely shaded and a young Natalie Wood shows she has a future in films.

The film is easily available on DVD or Blu-Ray and can even be watched in original monochrome or a colorised print.
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3) “WYOMING” (1947) directed by Joseph Kane
STARS: William Elliott, Vera Ralston, John Carroll & Albert Dekker

After his great success as an action star in ‘B’ westerns for Columbia and then Republic, Wild Bill Elliott was seen by Herb Yates, prez of Republic Studios, as a potential ‘A’ western star. They changed his ‘Wild Bill’ to William and started him in a generally very entertaining series of westerns (1946-50). “WYOMING” is one of the best, a cattle empire western with Elliott at the centre as a tough man who does what he has to do to carve out his empire (and keep it!). He finds himself up against the incursion of homesteaders who threaten his empire’s very existence. Yates’ wife, Vera Ralston, plays the older Elliott’s daughter in this. A smooth-operator (Albert Dekker) who is rustling cattle uses the conflict to line his own pockets, climaxing in one of the best screen scraps I have seen, between Dekker and Elliott.

The film is directed by Joe Kane who had graduated from Autry and Rogers westerns to the studio’s ‘A’ product, such as this film. A big plus is that the excellent cinematography is by the great John Alton whose lighting greatly enhances the climactic punch-up.

This film is not available anywhere on an official DVD release BUT a VERY nice print has been put out by Hollywood Scrapheap, and at a very reasonable price.

4) “CROSSFIRE” (1947) directed by Edward Dmytryk
STARS: Robert Young, Robert Ryan & Robert Mitchum

Another top-quality movie from RKO Radio, “Crossfire” is a powerful ‘noir’ that taps in heavily to a post-WW2 darkness. Based on the novel ‘The Brick Foxhole’ by Richard Brooks that has homophobia at its centre, the film swaps that for anti-Semitism but the violent bigotry against a Jewish soldier is no less powerful. Dark, shadowy photography by J. Roy Hunt adds much to the menace around,

using bars, cheap apartments and movie-houses to create the right atmosphere.

This is the film that stars the three Roberts – Young is the cop investigating the murder by beating of a Jewish soldier, Mitchum a well-meaning soldier who wants to help and Ryan as the violent bigot of a soldier. Ryan was a terrific actor, capable of playing heroes (though often flawed), comedy even, but especially really nasty, violent individuals.

Quite rightly this fine film is available on DVD from the Warner Archive.
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5) “WILD HORSE MESA” (1947) directed by Wallace A. Grissell
STARS: Tim Holt, Nan Leslie & Richard Martin

I am unable to not take the opportunity to slip in a good ‘B’ western for this year and it is another from RKO at their peak. Tim Holt’s western series was one of the very best with fine production values, good casts and some great location filming.

The film appears to be shot entirely out-of-doors at Lone Pine by Frank Redman and it looks beautiful. The cast includes such as Jason Robards, Harry Woods, Tom Keene (as Richard Powers), Robert Bray etc. The screenplay is by Norman Houston who had written many good entries in the Hopalong Cassidy series and then went on to write many in the post-WW2 Holt series. Houston adapted the story from Zane Grey’s novel (or merely utilized the title!). I always like the fact that Tim and his buddy Chito Rafferty (Richard Martin) are mere punchers. This time the story is about capturing wild horses, villains

trying to steal tamed horses and the boys’ efforts to foil ‘em. All the action involving horses and riders is filmed superbly around Lone Pine, as noted earlier.

“WILD HORSE MESA” was Holt’s first on returning to RKO after war service and it stands up today as one of the finest of the series. Recommended.

It is available on DVD in the Lions Gate series of Zane Grey compilations and looks really sharp.
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Anonymous said...

A few new titles for me here, Jerry, which is always nice. The two films noir are very familiar and worthy, and I'm especially pleased to see Mann's movie included. For all the attention the director has attracted over the years, I still think his noir work gets less attention and even then it tends to be focused on the same films. Desperate ends up somewhat neglected, I think, and it's better than that and so, yes, I reckon it certainly is (unfairly) underrated.


Jerry Entract said...

Thanks for reading and leaving a well-thought-out comment, Colin. I am guessing the titles you are not familiar with are the two westerns? I heartily recommend them both to you. I think you might enjoy them.

john k said...

Stellar choices Jerry and I'm so glad that you included one of Elliott's ten
A Westerns that he made for Republic...there is not a clunker among them.
There was a quote on another blog we support that there was not one creative shot
in all of Joe Kane's work..just how many Joe Kane films had that person seen.
Naturally that annoyed us both and indeed others who are admirers of the forever
underrated Kane.

Kristina said...

Great stuff, I haven't seen the two westerns but always happy to see the genre represented on these lists. I love to see Desperate and Crossfire on here too, alongside something as good and heartwarming as Miracle on 34th.

Jerry Entract said...

Many thanks, John and Kristina, for reading and commenting. 1947 was such a rich year to make choices from, wasn't it?
Definitely recommend you seeking out those post-WW2 Holts, Kristina. You probably know Laura is a big fan too.
It was more a case of struggling to choose from this year because so many films had to be left out.

Laura said...

Hi Jerry! I enjoyed reading this last weekend when I was in a line at the D23 Expo, but am only now catching up on commenting. Loved your list -- I'd seen all of them except WYOMING which sounds great.

You definitely can't go wrong with those post-war Holts!!

I'm glad for the 1947 lists in part because it made me realize what a remarkably strong movie year it was! Delighted you called attention to so many terrific movies, hope people will check them out.

Best wishes,

Jerry Entract said...

Thanks for coming on with your very positive comments, Laura! I could have thought of masses more films for that year really. So much enjoyment to choose from!

I really recommend the Elliott to you (the Hollywood Scrapheap issue is excellent) as I think you would really like it.