Archive for the ‘DIRECTED BY NICHOLAS RAY’ Category

They Live By Night

24 Aug

They Live By Night – Directed by Nicholas Ray. Young Romance Escape Drama. With the law barking at their heels, an escapee and a farm girl try for a better life. 95 minutes Black and White 1947.

* * * * *

The first film of Nicholas Ray and a good one. George Diskant filmed it noirishly, but it is not noir, it is Hollywood teen romance. But with a good script and with a powerful supporting cast on all levels, particularly Howard Da Silva who sports a blind eye somehow — he’s really something to watch as the shaky violent holdup man. But you can see excellence and power in every actor: in the tragic Helen Craig the foolish wife, in Ian Wolfe who plays the bogus preacher, in Will Lee as the screwy jeweler, in eager-toothed Byron Foulger as the motel owner, in Will Wright who plays the drunken farmer, in Jay C. Flippen as the sweet but violent ex-con. Each of these performances is strong, detailed, and eccentric, and the film is carried by them. As it is not carried by the leads Cathy O’Donnell and Farley Granger. O’Donnell begins well – surly, withdrawn, wary, rude – but before long she dies of saccharine poisoning. Why do actresses take that route? They begin salty and turn merely sugary. The part would have been perfect for a young Barbara Stanwyck, a lower class girl and ruthless, or Cissy Spacek, a hick. But O’Donnell is clearly a nice middle class miss, and after she gets out of her dirty overalls, she’s a right proper Hollywood glazed-over thingamajig and all reality is lost. As to Farley Granger he is quite miscast as a JD on the run. Granger was 21 when he made the picture, and he’s just a nice-looking, spoiled, middle-class NYU geek, with no liaison in the character between scenes and no underpinnings either in his own character or in imagination about the character. He plays everything manfully, though, but he is just too privileged to be imperiled. However, a good strongly written story carries them all forward and holds our attention with its unexpected narrative and its individual scenic fulfillments. The film’s a gem that shines brightly and entertainingly, even though and perhaps because it is made of paste. Check it out.






On Dangerous Ground

03 May

On Dangerous Ground. Directed by Nicholas Ray. A rogue cop is exiled from the city beat to solve a rural crime, which turns out to be altogether something else again.81 minutes Black and White 1952

* * * * *

Ida Lupino said of this piece that it was well produced but had a poor script. This remark is actually true only of her part, that of a blind woman. The rest of it, the first half, that is, is a compelling, well-written, police procedural, with Robert Ryan as a cop blinded with rage. So the piece is about two blindnesses. We don’t know why Ryan is blind and we do not have to know. Nor do we know why Lupino is. Ryan’s blindness is taken over by a worse blindness, that of Ward Bond’s, who, if you can believe it, is just terrific in the part of an incensed, bereaved father. The outdoor snow scenes are tops, and Ray’s direction mines areas of the unexpected, such as the fact that Ryan races through the freezing wilderness entirely in a business suit, but his direction is also bafflingly banal in other passages. The problem with the piece, she was right, is in the writing of Lupino’s part. It is written as The Blind Girl, as though that defined a personality, a character, a soul, and as though our attitude toward blindness were a given as Let’s Pity Her And Not Push Her Into A Ditch. It’s bland, it’s boring, and Lupino cannot supply the deficiency. All she can do is keep things modest, which she does, particularly in her funeral speech. It’s too late to offer suggestions, but had her character been rather wily or shown an intense instinct for survival (after all, what is she living on?) or a certain biting humor about her condition, we might have had something for the romance between Ryan and Lupino to dig into in one another. As it is all we have is Ryan’s personal mess. He’s very very good. There are shots of his face, his eyes, his mouth that are telling and mysterious and captivating, because one sees that, much as one would wish to, one does not have a prescription for this person’s woe. The story the movie tells is excellent. It never falters. It is always real in terms of human possibility and capability. It is not noir. I recommend it.


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