Archive for the ‘Iris Adrian’ Category

Tough Assignment

20 Oct

Tough Assignment – directed by William Baudine. A local reporter and his wife stalk gangsters rustling cattle. Crime. 64 minutes Black and White 1949.


This is lodged in volume 5 of Forgotten Noir, but it has nothing to do with Noir, either in content or treatment — it’s not even filmed as one. But that doesn’t matter. It’s a B film; it was meant to be a B film; it gets 5 stars because it fulfills its intent.

What’s interesting about it is the playing of the minor characters. Each one of them holds the screen in a way that the principal actor does not. Don “Red” Barry as the reporter had played Red Rider for a good long while, and you have to conclude that his prominence here stemmed from the role he had played rather than from his skill or star power.

Not so the supporting people. Joel Blumberg is one of the rare Bonus Feature commentators who, unlike almost all directors, is completely informed and prepared for his subject. For what he does is recite their credits and careers as crew and actors: Steve Brodie, Marjorie Steele (who married Huntington Hartford, the A & P heir who financed the film), Marc Lawrence, Iris Adrian; the editor Harry Gerstad, who this same year won an Oscar for editing Champion and later for High Noon; Stanley Price, Sid Melton, Ben Weldon, Stanley Andrews.

These crew members and actors each made hundreds of films apiece. I love their long careers. The piece-work they did and made a decent living doing. I love actors, their stubbornness and willingness to adapt, their modesty, and their aspiration. For there is not one of them that is not giving his all to the part he plays – and doing that counts for everything in material like this, which would stump the sophistication of a backward third-grader. The director would get $500 to make such a film and make it in a week and go on to the next gig– and the actors did the same, maybe earning less. If you watch these actors in scenes they support, they are more interesting than the star or than the scene they are appearing in, which understandably may draw our attention at first.

But instead, just watch Marc Lawrence, that pock-marked thug with the sunken jaws and keen black eyes. Just watch him respond to the scene at hand. He was working the Bs between filming Diamonds Are Forever, Days Of Wine And Roses, Johnny Apollo, This Gun For Hire, The Ox Bow Incident, Key Largo, Captain From Castile, The Asphalt Jungle, Marathon Man and hundreds of others. He started in the Bronx and entered Eva Le Gallienne’s company and The Group. He died at 95 still active. I love it.

So I sing the praises of actors, actors like these, actors so special in their energy, mein, and visage that they would seldom play leads, but swelled many a scene and made it better. And made an honorable career for themselves their whole lives long.


Lady Of Burlesque

27 Sep

Lady Of Burlesque – Directed by William Wellman. Murder Mystery. A burlesque queen and her colleagues are beset by a backstage slaying. 91 minutes Black and White 1943.

* * * * *

Every student of film and every person fascinated by its craft could not do better than to watch William Wellman’s management of crowd movement in this back-stage whodunit. The set is spectacularly real in terms of its seediness, dusty props, crumby dressing rooms, and crowdedness. The film is alive with imaginative motion. Which stops dead when the inspector calls to examine the personnel and everyone has to gather in a dressing room that allows of scarcely any motion at all. So the movie lurches effectively between the hurly burly and hustle of the shows and the standstill of these scenes. Michael O’Shea plays the two-bit fool who woes the heroine, and he is perfectly cast because he is lower-class, and so is Barbara Stanwyck, a Brooklyn girl from way back. She is not physically convincing as a Burlesque Queen; she is not voluptuous, she does not have the machine-gun heart or the powerful double-entendre of a Gypsy Rose Lee who wrote the story, but otherwise she is marvelous, for three reasons. She is a person of determination: her walk is like a destroyer surging across a duck pond. She had great humor, and she had the common touch. Iris Adrian adds her piquant lip to the burley-que life, which was coarser than what we see here, but the casting of the girls with their snappy slang brings out the necessary, as do the costumes organized around their bodies not to reveal their sexuality but to astound by exaggerating it symbolically. A G-string tells less than a three-foot hat! Highly entertaining, Wellman was a master of scene management — and rain, which occurs in many of his films. His scenic management alone, although one is not aware of it, is a treat, a delight, an encouragement, and a reassurance here. Check it out, It’s fun.



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