Beware, My Lovely, or the Man Shows Up

DATELINE: TV Beats the Movie!

audie Frightening Audie!

You have to love an old movie that uses a comma for direct address, as in Beware, My Lovely.

You might think this was a detective movie—but it is about a psycho who has come to torment the resident of a rooming house. In this RKO special of 1952, it’s Ida Lupino as a landlady running a boarding house after World War I in 1918—and her unpleasant visitor is Robert Ryan as Howard, a certified early version of Norman Bates.

Tall and menacing, we wondered how Miss Lupino, still young and attractive, could not be a bit threatened by this actor who made creepy and brutish villains one of his specialty. The film is based on a stage play by Mel Dinelli, which struck a chord with us. We wrote about it in a biography of Audie Murphy called Audie in Vietnam!

In fact, we realized that we saw this play done live on television by Audie Murphy and Thelma Ritter in 1960! It’s still available for those who look hard. Now that was quite a feat: Audie Murphy, the boyish war hero turned cowboy star, played against type.  He was so innocent-looking, the Norman Bates element was horrifying in a year before Hitchcock released Psycho.

Thelma Ritter was a marvelous old character actress who could play tough or vulnerable, but seemed a helpless victim. And, her little dog is not entirely happy with the handyman who shows up to torment her. Murphy draws upon some inner demons in one of his best performances.

The movie featured about 25 minutes of pre-story development that the TV special eliminated. Of course, to see Robert Ryan apparently black out and murder someone in the first minute of the movie put a different spin on the story.

Beware, My Lovely is not bad—but we think better performances were given by Audie and Thelma a few years after this film bombed. The Man with Murphy’s Howard the psycho is available on YouTube for free.

Advertisements

Reel History: Day of the Outlaw

DATELINE: Big Daddy Burl Ives

 

outlaw day Burl Ives center stage

When movies had to compete against 40 weekly Western TV shows, you had to do something special.

Day of the Outlaw immediately hit a nerve: it was black & white when all the TV westerns were the same and movies were all in glorious color. This film put the action out in a real snowstorm in Wyoming, and it also featured a brutal horse caravan through deep snow. Music is minimalist, but effective. The film was lost in the shuffle back then, but is a stunner today.

We felt sorry for the horses who seemed to be suffering in the harsh weather and cold location scenes, including filming in a real snowstorm. However, the actors were out there for real—and looked just as frozen amid the ice-covered tundra. Only Burl Ives looked holly and jolly, riding hard and heavy on his long-tortured horse.

The other draw here was Robert Ryan, one of the most under-rated tough guys the movies ever created—as Blaise the hard-as-nails rancher who goes up against Big Daddy Burl Ives’s gang.

The faces (good guys & bad) are all familiar—from the gang to the beset upon townsfolk. Yes, that was William Schallert in small role.

We particularly were impressed with Ozzie & Harriet’s son, David Nelson. While his brother Ricky was a musical heartthrob, David tried his hand at real acting. He is quite impressive in his two-day beard as one of the bad guys.

The film is slow as a character study, but director Andre DeToth knew how to move his camera and create a grand entrance for Burl Ives, which is marvelous to behold.

Oh, yes, Tina Louise is here as a love interest before her career was shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island.

This adult Western is uncompromising and ultimately no TV show. It’s worth the watch.

Long Forgotten Executive Action

DATELINE:  Believe It or Don’t

 action

One of the most unusual of the early theoretical movies on the Kennedy Assassination was called Executive Action from 1973, a mere ten years after the event.

Already big questions had sparked big movie stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer, as well as John Anderson (often chosen to play Abe Lincoln in movies and TV) as billionaire conspirators who want the President dead.

They select a patsy who is some kind of covert double agent. His name is Oswald.

Though the film claims to be somewhat fictional, it quotes Lydon Johnson at the movie start as saying he believed that John Kennedy was killed by an unknown group. This movie, made with the participation of early assassination doubter Mark Lane, is fairly courageous and breath-taking, even after five decades.

We must also express surprise at the stars who chose to play the men who want President Kennedy dead.

The film is no cheap, low-budget affair. It is well produced and directed by David Miller who made some interesting movies in the 1950s and was written by Dalton Trumbo, the famous blacklisted writer.

This returned Grandpa Walton to the bad guy roles that made him famous early in his roles, and Will Geer is notably sinister. This was also Robert Ryan’s final film.

The angles, once thought to be outrageous, have become more acceptable in recent research. The film may not be a genuine biopic or docudrama in the sense of trying to achieve 100% truth, but this may be closer than anyone thought back in the 1970s.

More than a curio, this film is downright compelling to watch.

Antidote to High Noon: Lawman

DATELINE: Movie Western Classic Uncovered

How did we miss this one way back when in 1971 or on DVD since? For shame on us.

This classic just never received the accolades it deserved. Lawman was a Western on the tail end of double bills when spaghetti oaters had run their course.

Some highly selective actors chose to appear in this film because they preferred quality to money. So, here you can find Burt Lancaster at his most laconic; Robert Ryan, aging and suffering a loss of full manhood; Lee J. Cobb, showing that a town boss can be civilized.

It’s High Noon going the wrong way in dark light. Lancaster will take in a group of men for trial who may be slapped on the wrist and fined for their violent antics, but if their masculine pride and propensity for violence brings them to the brink of death, so be it. This one is directed by Michael Winner who later gave us Death Wish.

The townsfolk are peppered with so many familiar faces of old movies: Robert Emhardt, Lou Frizzell, John Hillerman, and John McGiver. Even if you don’t know the names, you will laugh with recognition as each one does his turn. A more motley crew of sniveling cowards you could not assemble as residents of Sabbath.

Cobb’s men listen to his fatherly lectures on how times have changed, and he will simply pay off the right people. Younger men have more sense of honor, and they are prepared to go violently into the good night.

Robert Duvall, Ralph Waite, John Beck, Albert Salmi, J.D. Cannon, and Richard Jordan in his film debut, are the cowpokes who work for Cobb who was fresh off the series The Virginian where he claimed to be sick of westerns.

Like so many great movies set in the world of horses, this is a character drama where the hero may not be heroic and drinks coffee in a saloon.

We would be remiss not to recommend Lawman from the dying days of the Western. It may be one of the last great Westerns of Old Hollywood.