Wednesday, April 22, 2020

EASTER WITH CHARLTON HESTON: Dark City, 1950


Dark City, 1950 opens with Charlton Heston leaving a store with a boxed gift in hand. The sign on the shop window reads "Remember her at Easter." Aha, we have another movie to add to our Easter/Passover Heston perennials, The Ten Commandments, 1956 and Ben-Hur, 1959.

Danny Haley (Charlton Heston) is a disgraced veteran running a bookie operation in Chicago. His partners are the nervous and ill Barney (Ed Begley) and the belligerent bully Augie (Jack Webb). Hanger-on "Soldier" (Harry Morgan) is an ex-pug with kind thoughts for everyone, except Augie. Also in the mix is Fran (Lizabeth Scott) who sings at a local club and wears her heart on her sleeve where Danny is concerned. Danny claims he wants to be left alone, but he did buy her an Easter gift.

Jack Webb, Charlton Heston, Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore, Ed Begley

It's tough running an illegal business when the protection you're paying to the cops only results in more raids. The coffers are running low when Arthur Winant (Don DeFore) hits town on business for folks back in L.A. The crooks string Winant along at the poker table until they have taken the $5,000 cashier's cheque that doesn't rightly belong to him. Winant hangs himself rather than face his shame and guilt.

Dean Jagger

In the long nights of card playing Winant mentioned his older brother Sidney (Mike Mazurki). The crooks should have paid attention. They should have read between the lines. Arthur was to have met up with Sidney and it was he who discovered his brother's body. Sidney begins a campaign of terror and revenge. When Barney is killed under eerily similar circumstances, Danny and Augie form an uneasy partnership knowing they are now in Sidney's crosshairs. Police Capt. Garvey (Dean Jagger) is tasked with protecting even these criminals. The best way will be to use the gamblers as decoys.

Charlton Heston, Viveca Lindfors

Danny and Augie go back to Los Angeles hoping to trace the relentless Sidney. There Danny becomes involved with Arthur's widow Victoria (Viveca Lindfors) and son Billy (Mark Keuning). Everything places Danny at a disadvantage; his heart, his mind and his gut. It all leads to another city, Las Vegas for an exciting finale.

Under a one picture with options contract with Hal Wallis, Charlton Heston made his Hollywood debut in this nifty film noir. William Dieterle (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) directed and Victor Milner (The Furies) was the cinematographer.

A story by Lawrence (Larry) Marcus called No Escape is the basis for Dark City. Ketti Frings (The File on Thelma Jordan) adapted the story and screenplay credits belong to Marcus and John Meredyth Lucas (Star Trek). I particularly like the way Danny's interesting backstory is revealed piecemeal throughout the plot.

Lizabeth Scott

Heston has a good screen presence and makes a good impression as the edgy Danny. He gives credit to the "very good actors in the film to help me out" and his experience on live TV in New York in his autobiography. Dean Jagger's police captain is of the righteous variety and it is one of my favourite performances from the actor. As in the same year's Appointment with Danger, future Dragnet 1966 partners Webb and Morgan are on the wrong side of the law and at odds with each other. Lizabeth Scott would win all lip synch battles with the skill she developed as a chanteuse in her early films noir. The five songs given to Fran were dubbed by Trudy Stevens.

From In the Arena, an autobiography by Charlton Heston published 1995:

Harry Morgan, Charlton Heston

"A few years ago, I worked for his (Harry Morgan) son, producer Chris Morgan, and asked him to remember me to his father. "He was in my first film." The next day I asked Chris if he'd passed on my message. He grinned. "Yeah, I did. Dad said, 'Hell I was in everybody's first film.'"

Mike Mazurki, Charlton Heston

"I also remember a scene where I had to punch Mike Mazurki, a big man. Let me qualify that, I'm a big man, Mike was big, six feet six and 250 pounds of muscle. Fortunately, he had a good heart as well. I wasn't used to film fights then, you do it a little differently on stage. I didn't stop my punch in time; it caught him right on the nose. He never blinked, but his eyes glowed red for a second. Then he lifted me off my feet very gently and held me, eye to eye. "At's all right, kid," he said softly. "Don' worry about it. You aint' got much of a punch anyway."












26 comments:

  1. This sounds like it might be pretty good, especially with Walker and Webb and one of my favorite femme fatales, Lizabeth Scott. Kinda surprised Heston didn’t do more films like this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Indeed. Heston had that broody thing going for him that is so necessary for those noir chaps.

      Delete
  2. CHARLTON HESTON and LIZABETH SCOTT were both in BAD FOR EACH OTHER. Lizabeth was in the ELVIS PRESLEY movie LOVING YOU and HARRY MORGAN was in FRANKIE AND JOHNNY with Elvis, DONNA DOUGLAS and AUDREY CHRISTIE.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lydia Clark (Mrs. Heston) was also in Bad for Each Other. Married for 64 years, their story would have been "Good for Each Other."

      Loving You was an excellent early Elvis picture. I remember enjoying Frankie and Johnny when I was a kid.

      Delete
  3. WOW, Mike Mazurki giving another one of his great neck massages

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It only lasted one season, but It's About Time made an impression on me when I was a kid. Whenever I see Mike Mazurki, the first thing I think of his his TV caveman, Clon.

      Delete
  4. I remember this as a pretty good film noir, and, as you note, Heston had screen presence even in his first film. And what great stories about Harry Morgan and Mike Mazurki! They were two of those 'old reliable' character actors from Hollywood--no matter what the part, you could expect a fine performance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad I finally caught up with Dark City.

      True, when you see the names Harry Morgan or Mike Mazurki you can relax knowing you are going to get their best in the role.

      Delete
  5. WILLIAM DIETERLE directed ILL BE SEEING YOU with JOSEPH COTTEN and GINGER ROGERS. imdb has Dieterle and some others as uncredited directors for DUEL IN THE SUN with COTTEN, GREGORY PECK and JENNIFER JONES. LILLIAN GISH was also in it. It was directed by KING VIDOR. Dieterle directed Cotten in some other movies too. PATRICIA HITCHCOCK (the daughter of ALFRED HITCHCOCK) said that JOSEPH COTTEN was her dads favorite actor that he directed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Growing up, I always liked it when Joseph Cotten guest starred on a show I was watching. He seemed like such a gentleman, even when he played bad guys.

      My favourite William Dieterle movies are The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Devil and Daniel Webster, The Story of Louis Pasteur, Portrait of Jennie, and I'll Be Seeing You.

      Delete
  6. I really enjoy this movie, just to see a young Chuck Heston and spot all the familiar faces. But yeah, Harry Morgan was everywhere. He's "Shorty" in the Gangster, and "Half-pint" in Yellow Sky. I'm ordering up The Untouchables so I can watch him play Bugs Moran. Weirdly, the only role I don't like him in is Col. Potter. But that's not really his fault, I just think Col. Potter is a bore.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I got my husband to watch The Big Clock by describing Morgan's character, Laughton's masseuse/thug who doesn't say anything. That was something he could not miss!

      I like Potter, and I like Charles. However, a lot of the edge went out of the show with no Henry and no Trapper.

      Delete
  7. Speaking of ILL BE SEEING YOU(with GINGER ROGERS and JOSEPH COTTEN) it was 25 years ago today(Apr. 25, 1995) that Ginger Rogers died. Earlier today I tried to name her five husbands and I remembered JACK PEPPER, LEW AYRES, JACQUES BERGERAC and WILLIAM MARSHALL. The only name I couldn't remember was her third husband JACK BRIGGS that I believe was a military man. Ginger was a dancer, actress and lady.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Quite a memory. I could only name Lew and Jacques among Ginger's husbands, even though I read her autobiography years ago.

      Delete
  8. Wow, what a cast! It features Hazel’s employer, Friday and Gannon, two underrated actresses, and the “Old Man” from White Christmas. But it’s Chuck’s movie and he’s very good here. He had a great decade with movies like this and Touch if Evil.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, he is very good and was fortunate with this sturdy showcase. If I had seen this in its time, I would certainly be looking for more from the young actor. It is thoughtful that he appreciated those he worked with at this stage.

      Delete
  9. Dear Paddy Lee,

    This is a great review. This sounds like a really interesting film. It's fascinating that this movie has a brief reference to Easter. I enjoyed your article about this movie.

    By the way, I nominated you for The Sunshine Blogger Award: https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/the-sunshine-blogger-award-from-sally-silverscreen/. In this post, I also invited you to participate in my monthly guest series, What the Code Means to Me. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Yours Hopefully,

    Tiffany Brannan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your thoughtfulness, Tiffany.

      While I have a deep appreciation for the films of the Code Era, I don't feel it is a subject I can tackle at this time.

      Delete
  10. Paddy Lee, another wonderful write-up of a really good movie. I remember first seeing DARK CITY(1950) on the NBC SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES in 1967. This is quite a major motion picture debut for, at the time of filming, 26 year-old Charlton Heston. Heston always had that grand screen presence. He had a lot of help with this top notch cast put together by producer Hal B. Wallis and his assistant producer Jack Saper. I remember, at that first viewing, getting a kick out of seeing actors that I had watched on TV that very week. Jack Webb and Harry Morgan on DRAGNET and Don DeFore on syndicated reruns of HAZEL. It is always a pleasure to see and listen to gravelly voiced Lisabeth Scott. If you haven't seen her in TOO LATE FOR TEARS(filmed 1948, released 1949), which is also with Don DeFore, I recommend it. Dan Duryea, Arthur Kennedy, and Kristine Miller are also very good in this movie.

    Paddy Lee, thanks for the memories of good movies and TV shows.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Walter, it was a delight to read your memories of that first viewing of Dark City. Charlton Heston showed he was the real deal. I have come to a great appreciation of Don DeFore in the last few years. An episode of Murder, She Wrote called Unfinished Business opened my eyes to "Mr. B.'s talent. Then his role as a young gunfighter in Ramrod with Joel McCrea cemented his credentials. Warner Brothers seemed to use him like a junior Jack Carson, but he had so much more to offer.

      I watched Too Late for Tears on TCM a couple of years ago. What a cast, and what a story. It is definitely time to see it again. Second time around viewings give us time to explore aspects that may have been lost the first time around. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.

      I hope all is well with you and yours.

      Delete
  11. Like LIZABETH SCOTT and HARRY MORGAN, DEAN JAGGER did a movie with ELVIS. It was KING CREOLE-Dean played the dad to Elvis. It was produced by HAL B. WALLIS. CAROLYN JONES was also in it. Carolyn would have been 90 today but sadly her passing was in 1983 at the age of 53. She was in LAST TRAIN TO GUN HILL which was also produced by Hal B. Wallis.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wallis certainly had an eye for young talent. King Creole is a movie I haven't seen in a very long time. I tend to confuse it with Kid Galahad. Silly me!

      I'm very fond of the talented Carolyn Jones. In my eyes, she never did anything wrong.

      Delete
  12. Ive mentioned before that CAROLYN JONES was once married to AARON SPELLING. Aaron was the producer of DYNASTY and the spinoff THE COLBYS. CHARLTON HESTON did some eps of DYNASTY and was one of the stars of THE COLBYS. He played JASON COLBY and his sister was played by BARBARA STANWYCK. Aaron and Barbara were friends and he called her and said that he wanted her to play the sister to Charlton Heston and she asked him-Does that make me older than Moses and he said-No, Missy. (I didn't watch those two soaps but I saw a little of Dynasty in reruns and I saw at least one clip with Barbara on the computer.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a cute story. The casting alone should have drawn me to shows like The Colbys and Dynasty, but they aired during a busy time in my life and the nighttime soaps didn't appeal to me.

      Delete
  13. ED BEGLEY and DEAN JAGGER were both in FIRECREEK which was a western with JIMMY STEWART. Ed played a preacher and Dean played the storekeeper. It also had BROOKE BUNDY. She was once married to PETER HELM, the brother of ANNE HELM. (Anne did an ELVIS movie-FOLLOW THAT DREAM.) Brooke did an ep of THE BIG VALLEY with PAUL FIX as her grandpa. Anne did two eps(as a different character each time).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Firecreek is such a somber and disturbing tale. It was produced, written and directed by people behind one of my favourite programs, Gunsmoke.

      Delete

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR JUNE ON TCM

John P. Marquand's serialized novel  Gone Tomorrow was published in McCall's m agazine 1940/1941 and released as a film by MGM ...