Quiet Desperation

Noir films are satisfying dark blend

Column by Craig Marshall Smith
Posted 2/19/20

The misquote “The stuff that dreams are made of” concludes what great 1941 noir film? The answer and some interesting information about the film come later. Every Sunday in the mid-1970s, a …

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Quiet Desperation

Noir films are satisfying dark blend

Posted

The misquote “The stuff that dreams are made of” concludes what great 1941 noir film?

The answer and some interesting information about the film come later.

Every Sunday in the mid-1970s, a Phoenix television station showed one of the fourteen Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films.

I was already an avid reader of Arthur Conan Doyle’s novels and short stories and became an avid follower of the filmed versions as well.

Rathbone’s Sherlock Holmes is the superior depiction, although I welcomed Jeremy Brett’s 41 appearances as Holmes for Granada Television between 1984 and 1994.

A weekly film theme has been a Sunday routine ever since cable and Turner Classic Movies first provided the opportunity to record and save.

I now dedicate each month to one film genre, director, actor or actress.

Noir, silent, screwball, foreign, Hitchcock and Keaton are among them.

And when Sunday is also a snow day and I have no particular place to go, the tubular hound and I spud in front of the television and nod in agreement that there is nothing better.

Certain genres aren’t allowed: excessively violent, super hero, outer space opera, and anything that suffocates in its own special effects.

I have never watched “Gone With the Wind” and other epics, and stay away from certain performers like Jerry Lewis and Charlton Heston, with one exception.

Heston appeared in the Orson Welles’ directed “Touch of Evil,” which features one of the best-known opening sequences in film history: an uninterrupted, tracking shot lasting three minutes and twenty seconds.

I have watched some films more than once. More than twice. More than 10 times. It’s no different than seeing an old friend.

“North by Northwest” is an old friend.

“The Big Sleep” is an old friend.

“The Maltese Falcon” is an old friend.

The last line of “The Maltese Falcon,” spoken by Humphrey Bogart, is a misquote from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest.”

The correct line is, “The stuff that dreams are made on,” and in the play it’s spoken by Prospero to his daughter.

When filming began in 1941, Sydney Greenstreet (Kasper Gutman) weighed 357 pounds. He was 60 years old. It was his first film role.

Mary Astor (Brigid O’Shaughnessy) was having an affair with the director (John Huston) when the film was being made.

John Huston’s father Walter is the man (Captain Jacoby) who stumbles into Sam Spade’s office with the bundle that turns out to be the fake falcon.

Walter Huston won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Howard in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”

Against his wishes, obliging his son who directed, he removed his teeth for the role.

Everyone has a favorite film or two. I have at least a hundred. Some are well-known and some are obscure.

“Sullivan’s Travels,” “Wings of Desire,” “The Lady Vanishes,” “The 39 Steps,” and a true rarity: “Million Dollar Legs,” starring W. C. Fields, Jack Oakie, Ben Turpin, and Harpo Marx’s future wife Susan Fleming.

You wouldn’t believe me if I tried to explain the plot. It’s 59 minutes of wonderful absurdity.

Fields appeared in two of the funniest movies ever made: “The Bank Dick” and “It’s a Gift.”

If I am in any condition to choose, I want “It’s a Gift” to be my final film, before, as it were, the big sleep.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.

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