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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Private Eye Mark Stevens Walks 20th Fox Beat


The Dark Corner (1946) Helps Usher In Postwar Noir

To paraphrase Carl Denham, if this picture had Humphrey Bogart or Alan Ladd instead of Mark Stevens, it would gross twice as much. Still, he's an only soft spot (and by no means is Stevens inadequate as a lead, just untried). First-billed were Lucille Ball and Clifton Webb, the latter going again at lethal urbanity as with Laura. Webb was lucky to land comedy with Sitting Pretty two years later, as that's where his stardom was truly born. I always laugh when Cliff launches William Bendix out a window. Does that make my sense of humor cruel? The Dark Corner is a good one to show those who don't fully understand what film noir is, being a showcase for aural/visual bumps we associate with the brand (and not recognized as such until decades later). Fox was particularly good with these, and best among them had Henry Hathaway's directorial signature, but how conscious was he of style being introduced? Stevens is the gumshoe derived off Chandler/Hammett, wielding tough-guy dialogue that sounds almost like parody now, but mighty sweet words nonetheless, and I'd have taken a whole series like it had 20th been inclined to keep them going. Ouch though, The Dark Corner lost money, $68K in fact. Was $1.2 million too much to have spent on the negative? Patronage may have figured Corner for a B mystery with A trimmings, which frankly it was, but this is the sort of show we treasure lots more now than they did then. Fox's DVD from its Noir series is quite nice, but I'll look forward to The Dark Corner streaming in HD (a Blu-Ray being perhaps too much to hope for).

2 Comments:

Blogger Neely OHara said...

Nice post, John. Agree with your assessment that there are many pleasures to be had here, though not everyone can get past that ring of parody in the dialogue.

I much prefer Ball's work here to her work in the one that seems to bring her the most acting kudos these days, The Big Street, but maybe the fact that TBS is Runyon derived prejudices me.

I've always found his "irresistible Broadway denizens" not only completely resistible but downright cloying, Guys And Dolls particularly. (The only one I've ever liked is The Lemon Drop Kid, probably because once it was tailored for Hope very little of Runyon remained.)

Of particular interest to me in Dark Corner is NYC location work. While the geography is hilarious (Stevens commandeers a yellow cab in Battery Park and after traveling 3 or 4 blocks arrives on the Upper East Side!), there are terrific scenes around and under the (now Ed Koch) Queensboro Bridge, which is right in my neighborhood (though the taxi garage that saves Stevens' skin is now a Food Emporium).

A terrific location feel, and wonderful work from Ball, Stevens, Clift, and Bendix make this one great fun. Thanks for a nice post on a neglected gem.

12:42 PM  
Blogger Gary Rafferty said...

"The Dark Corner" is a favorite noir, but has one frustrating element I've encountered in similar films: at its conclusion, all guilty parties are dead. Seems like that would throw a monkey wrench into Mark Stevens' total exoneration. Unless Webb's arrogant character helpfully left behind a diary boasting of his criminal actions!

6:01 PM  

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