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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Babs Payton On A Barge Floating Out


Cult Figures Behind and In Front Of Cameras for Murder Is My Beat (1955)

This "noir" (by broadest definition) directed by Ed Ulmer took a drubbing from Variety: "... a shoddily made melodrama, scarcely meriting fill-in playdates or the Allied Artists releasing label." It was ID'ed by the trade as British-made, though street-shooting is obviously LA. Latter locale made room at three venues for a first-run, where Murder Is My Beat backed Rage At Dawn for a single May week. "Fill-in," as Variety put it, was right. The pic played key dates only as support, to rise or fall upon appeal, or lack, of the main feature. Murder has merit, if elusive, as no Ulmer/Barbara Payton tandem could fail to intrigue. The story twists nicely; I wasn't outright bored, and Payton had way of elevating cheapies lowlier than Murder Is My Beat. Pity that Payton would work no more after this, her final acting credit (is it true she appears as an extra in 4 For Texas?). Murder directing Ulmer makes his spit/glue sets arresting, and holds still on actors as they encircle furniture. Patience for indoor talk, lots of it, is needed. Pics like Murder Is My Beat got by because theatres, and drive-ins at a peak of ubiquity, needed product however they could get it, thus standards greatly relaxed. I'm glad to call Murder Is My Beat noir if that helps get such rarity released, and quality 1.85 from AA elements take onus off micro-budget Ulmer and company had to cope with.

4 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

I thought this was a pretty good show, though Payton looks rather worn. Has to be the only noir featuring a blizzard.

10:52 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Dan Mercer considers the sad circumstance of Barbara Payton:


I'd seen a number of photographs of Barbara Payton dining with Franchot Tone in which she had a stylized flower painted on one cheek. It was stylish and unusual, and I thought at first that they were taken on a single occasion, perhaps a sort of "beaux arts" gathering where the participants would have sought unusual effects. The different gowns she wore in them, however, indicated that they were taken on a number of occasions, and that the flower was something she affected at the time. Later I saw another photograph from the same period, in which the decorative effect was a star, but she was with a somewhat disgruntled-looking Tom Neal, another actor she was seeing while she was engaged to Tone. It was still a surprising touch for a woman whose appetites were somewhat coarse. She was intelligent, but this was largely employed in satisfying what a particular man in her life might want. With Tone, she was Galatea to his Pygmalion, becoming ever more refined and artistic. With Tom Neal, she was rather more carnal in nature. A star or a flower painted on her cheek would have seemed a little too precious for him. And with the others, such as Bob Hope, she was probably a good time girl, sexually alluring and fun to be with. There was a freshness to her beauty when she came to Hollywood from Texas, where she had grown up, but any such beauty must be an expression of something within, if it is to be sustained. She had only her ambition for that, and it was far from being enough. By the end of her life, she was seeing anyone who would have her and accepting whatever they cared to give. Otherwise, her trade remained little changed, though everything else had been used up.

7:48 PM  
Blogger John said...

A brilliantly astute observation about Barbara Payton from Dan Mercer.
John O'Dowd
www.john-odowd.com

1:50 PM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Okay, I got around to checking this one out on Warner Instant. As noted, not terrible at all... here was a director who always made something interesting out of a budget of small change and pocket lint! But Kevin K. is right, Ms. Payton looks puffy, tired and a little out of it (not at all inappropriate for the part!)

3:25 PM  

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