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Friday, August 02, 2013

Film Noir's Postwar Partnership


Fred MacMurray and Claire Trevor Team For Borderline (1950)

Director William A. Seiter had too sunny a screen disposition to fit noir subjects, and he'd subvert this one with comedy amidst menace that ended up diluting both. Made independent for Universal-International release, Borderline covers much of ground The Big Steal did a previous year, and come to think of it, that one was salted with laffs as well. Borderline was shot at Republic by partnering Seiter, wife/husband Claire Trevor and Milton Bren (him producing), plus Trevor's co-star Fred MacMurray. The team finished up and then showed Borderline to candidates for distribution (RKO and United Artists) before settling on U-I. With everyone on deferred salary, you wonder how the venture turned out for each, as money would come only upon success of Borderline, so query: did it sell? (don't have rentals, unfortunately) MacMurray and Trevor are undercover badges in pursuit of dope smuggling Raymond Burr and Roy Roberts, Fred/Claire not realizing the other is sided with the law. Borderline often laughs when characters hurt, so you could call much of its humor black, but was Seiter a best candidate to steer? Enjoyable for a brisk 88 minutes of never being a same place long. Neg ownership reverted to the partners --- not sure who owns Borderline now, but there's a good print on view occasionally at TCM, along with DVD availability.

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