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).