Film Noir Fest at Hollywood Legion will make July a little darker



Sun and black are antithetical, as anyone who knows even a word of French can probably tell you. Sun and film noir, almost as much. Yet summer has arrived and the time has come to wade through the misty and murderous streets, thanks to a three-day festival of vintage 1940s and 1950s crime drama presented this weekend at the recently reopened Hollywood Legion Theater. the Film Noir Foundation.

In a year that hadn’t started with a pandemic in full force, or continued with the Egyptian Hollywood Theater shutting down for renovation, fans of Noir would already have something close to their satiety. with the annual Noir City Festival which is usually co-sponsored by the American Cinematheque every March or April. But with the absence of that 22-year-old vigil leaving a doom-like hole in the hearts of moviegoers in LA’s repertoire, the Noir Foundation stepped in with a shorter, if not sweeter, three-day festival to tide over the crowd. world.

According to Alan K. Rode, who will co-host the Film Weekend with Eddie Muller, “Several scenes from ‘Cry Danger'” – a 1950 film to be screened Sunday night – “take place in a bar upstairs. where Angels Flight is and this whole downtown area. And they have a shot where you walk in from the sunlight into the bar that is owned by a crook played by William Conrad. And I think we’re taking advantage of that experience and that instead of stepping out of the sunlight into a dark bar, you’re going to walk into a dark movie theater to see these movies.

The weekend will see a total of seven films screened – six screened in 35mm, God and the final arrival of net prints ready. The lineup composed by Rode and Muller is in part a set of greatest black hits – with all-time classics like “Nightmare Alley” and “Mildred Pierce” – but, for connoisseurs, also includes a few obscurities that the Film Foundation Black saved through his restoration efforts.

Rode, the foundation’s treasurer and director and a familiar face from Noir Cities’ past, was to be the only presenter in person, with Muller, the organization’s president, making his intros on video. But the appeal of these films turned out to be too strong even for the Bay Area-based TCM “Noir Alley” host Muller, who ultimately decided to fly to the Legion shows. ‘Hollywood.

Alan K. Rode and Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation

The Hollywood Legion ran movies for months in its Outdoor Addendum, and “now that the theater is open again you actually have two movie theaters in a historic 1929 construction site that was funded to l Originally by people like Cecil B. DeMille to honor WWI veterans. So I can’t think of a better place to kick this off. And I’m really happy with the selection of movies. it wasn’t too difficult, because I just thought, “Come on, these are the ones Eddie likes, and these are the ones I like,” and I went from there to schedule the movies.

Opening night on Friday will feature the double feature film of 1947’s “Nightmare Alley” – the somber masterpiece that many filmmakers are eager to see or rewatch on 35mm ahead of the release of Guillermo del Toro’s remake in. December – and the 1948 double-crossed thriller “The Big Clock.”

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Ray Milland and Charles Laughton in “La Grande Horloge”

Saturday night is Joan Crawford in “Mildred Pierce,” which Rode, as director Michael Curtiz’s biographer, should have a lot to say; this classic is associated with the lesser known “Thieves Highway”, directed by Jules Dassin.

Sunday afternoon brings a unique morning of “The Narrow Margin”. The festival finale later in the evening is another part of two, with “Loophole” followed by “Cry Danger”. These last two are the rarities of the weekend, the Black Foundation having participated in the restoration of both in recent years.

Of these last two films, Rode says: “‘Loophole’ is a really obscure 1954 Allied Artists film starring Barry Solomon, Dorothy Malone and Charles McGraw, and it’s really like ‘Les Misérables’ set in the 1950s in Los Angeles, Farmer’s Market and places like that. This movie was kind of a tribute to perseverance, because we kept asking and asking for it over the years, since these festivals started in 1999. Warner Bros. eventually found the copy, found a reel with Italian subtitles and so on, and the Film Noir Foundation funded the printing of a new copy, which has now been released on DVD. a film that is not shown much.

“And then I wanted to show one of our own restorations, and I chose ‘Cry Danger’, which is such a time capsule of 1950s Los Angeles, all around Bunker Hill. There is a trailer park – I believe it was above Hill Street – where all Dick Powell, Richard Erdman and Rhonda Fleming live. Bill Bowers’ dialogue is a vitriolic-tinged barrage of simple lines that come and go. I think all of these movies really bring the whole heart of film noir back to the heart of Hollywood. “

For Rode, this whole event is a double. As well as being one of the two public faces of the Black Foundation, he is also chairman of the Hollywood Legion theater committee – a position for which he is understandably suited, as one of filmdom’s leading historians. and a military veteran / member of Post 43 himself, as it happens. And he can’t help but talk about the 482-seat auditorium, which was almost completely done a few years ago with a $ 4 million upgrade that allows for 35mm and even 70mm presentations as well. only improved seating and aesthetics. The indoor theater only came back online, so to speak, only last month, after its quarantine shutdown, although many moviegoers discovered it last year when a famous drive-in of 35 mm was opened in the parking lot behind the Highland Avenue Landmark. Many fans of the new drive-in have never been inside the Legion Hall itself before.

“Remember that the historic Hollywood Legion Theater bar will be open in the evenings for these films,” Rode emphasizes. “The bar over there (on the lower level) is where Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable and everyone else used to hang out, and if you haven’t been there it’s a great experience. The Post 43 building has a lot of history. Not only can you see the movies in a large modern hall in a historic building, you can also go down to a historic bar and have a cocktail, and cocktails and film noir seem to go hand in hand to me. “

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Inside the renovated 488-seat Hollywood Legion Theater on Highland Ave.

For some attendees, this black mini-festival may represent picking up where they left off. It was in the midst of the Black City Festival of March 2020 that the severity of the pandemic became apparent. One night of this festival was held at the Hollywood Legion, and it had returned to the Egyptian down the hill for one last night before Muller, Rode, and the Cinematheque realized they had to unplug the plug in middle of the week.

Rode cannot stress enough how rare it is to see these films in 35mm – and more and more as each year arrives, with the studios not making new prints and often putting their existing best films under lock and key. archives. Of the weekend’s crop of Seven, only “Thieves Highway” should be considered a DCP, although he says they should always reserve the right to substitute a digital source at the last minute if the reels that appear do not pass. gathering.

“I think for people who want to see a photochemical film screened, this is really a rare opportunity to do so, because trying to show films like ‘The Big Clock’ and ‘The Narrow Margin’ in 35 millimeters is wrong. happen so often – that’s just not the case.… I know a lot of people will be coming from out of town. And I’m certainly not criticizing anyone else, but I think people who don’t. not been to this theater and who are used to going to some of the other repertoire screenings in LA are going to be stunned when they walk in and see the Legion Theater and see how the movies are presented.

Rode points out that the Film Noir Foundation has been active during the pandemic, working on special Blu-Ray editions, its online magazine and its next annual print edition. The Foundation’s latest restoration, from director Cy Endfield’s 1948 film “The Argyle Secrets,” is set to premiere in January 2022 during the next edition of Noir City at the Castro Theater in San Francisco.

For all the Angelenos looking for a next dose of noir closer to home than SF, Rode will once again host the annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir festival in Palm Springs, usually an event in May but now slated for the desert this fall. , from October 21 to 24. , with programming that has not yet been announced.

For Rode, these are both good times and alarming times for black fans and conservatives alike. Viewer interest is greater than ever, with a lot of love for the foundation’s online and print periodicals, and interest remains high among Blu-Ray and DVD fans – with all of these items on sale. at the souvenir tables this weekend – plus a great platform for the movies with Muller’s weekly TCM show. The downside is the lack of interest from most studios in doing other restorations or creating new prints; the recent retirement of one of their champions, Scott MacQueen, chief curator at UCLA (“He treated every restoration like it was ‘The Red Shoes’”); and the uncertainty facing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which, whatever you think of the group, has invested large sums of charitable money into film restoration.

But for this weekend, at least, the happy days are back, through these stories of fate stepping out and stumbling the wise men and screen sirens of the 40s and 50s. “It’s something. which I think anyone who loves cinema and lives here should enjoy it. For repertory cinema and classic theaters to survive, people have to go out and buy tickets, and there is no other way – that’s it. These opportunities are diminishing, they are not expanding.

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The full schedule of the Hollywood Legion Black Festival:

Friday July 9 – “Nightmare Alley”, “The Big Clock”7:30 p.m.

Saturday July 10 – “Mildred Pierce”, “Thieves Highway” – 7:30 pm

Sunday July 11 – “The Narrow Margin” – Morning at 2pm

Sunday July 11 – “Loophole”, “Cry Danger”7:30 p.m.

Tickets are available online at or at the box office, priced at $ 22 for general admission to double feature films and $ 15 for Sunday matinee, with veteran discounts at $ 18, students for $ 16 and children under 12 for $ 12. Free parking is available in Post 43 on a first come basis, with additional free parking in the adjacent parking lot at the Hollywood Heritage Museum across Highland Ave.



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