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December 10th, 2007

minor noir moll

The cold front rolled in yesterday and seems more intense today. This would be a good day to huddle up with a good movie on television, but for the fact that it is Monday and not Saturday.

Last night I fell asleep during Meet John Doe to awake for the scene at the end with Barbara Stanwyck in tears and Gary Cooper making a fateful decision. I always like the way that Barbara Stanwyck could embody a burst of energy with the kind of odd exuberance she brought to her personae.

Saturday morning I watched a good bit of a film noir B movie called "Roadblock". In "Roadblock", the beautiful but poor woman seeking her fortune in Los Angeles was played by Joan Dixon. She benefitted as a starlet from the pillbox hat and forehead veil she wore during the airport scenes, when she grifted her way to a reduced fare by pretending to be the wife of the male protagonist. She really pulled off the icy-but-not-so-icy noir heroine. Even though I chose to go hiking rather than finish the movie, I wondered what else Joan Dixon had done. I looked her up on the internet websites, to find that she had been discovered by Howard Hughes, appeared in a solid handful of RKO B movies in her 20s, had a three week marriage with the former husband of Betty Hutton, a second unsuccessful marriage commencing at age 29, and by age 30 was a lounge singer at Dino's Restaurant. Other than a couple of episodes of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents....", the biographies were silent about what she did from age 30 to age 62. So often the things I want to know happen just after the parts the story-tellers want to tell me--Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead, all that. Someone did have on sale a letter she wrote to a song-writer working with a charity, explaining that her accountant had advised her that she had already made all the contributions she could make that year. The hand-written letter was on sale for 28 dollars.

I like B movies because they feel more like a slice of life, sometimes. It's not so much the plots, which are often workaday. It's the scenes checking in at the airport, or
the look of the motel room, as the set tries to lend a "realism" to make up for the B movie nature of everything. I'm not a big noir fan, though they're fine, but I do like that sense that film should be filled with lots of small moments, to make the big moments seem more real.