Tuesday, September 1, 2020

CAFTAN WOMAN'S CHOICE: ONE FOR SEPTEMBER ON TCM


"Sure-Alarm. It's no pushover. It's the latest model."
"It's getting harder to make a living."

Four "professionals" band together for a job. Their profession is burglary and, as mentioned, it is not an easy living. There is underlying desperation among these men that led them to this job at this time.

Jean Servais, Robert Manuel, Jules Dassin, Carl Mohner as
Tony le Stephanois, Mario Ferrati, Cesar le Milanais, Jo le Suedois

Tony (Jean Servais) has just been released from prison after serving a stretch on his last job. He took the fall for his young friend Jo (Carl Mohner). Jo has a wife Louise played by Janine Darcey and kid whom they named Tonio (Dominique Maurin) after Tony. They comprise a tight family group, sharing laughs, playing with the kid, sticking up for each other.

Jo brings Tony in a job that is planned with Mario (Robert Manual), a minor mastermind with an understanding girlfriend named Ida (Claude Sylvain). Mario's plan is a smash and grab of a jewellery store. Nonetheless, both men acquiesce to Tony's idea to turn it into a bigger job; to enter the store at night and make that one last big haul that crooks dream about. A safecracker is required and Mario knows just the fellow. "Ever heard of Cesar the Milanese? They say there's not a safe that resist Cesar, and not a woman that Cesar can resist."

Once Cesar (Jules Dassin) is on board, the personnel is in place and the thorough preparation is undertaken. Timing is paramount as to police patrols and the routine of neighbouring shops. The alarm system is particularly troublesome as to its disarming. 

Marie Sabouret, Jean Servais

The nightclub L'Age d'Or and its denizens are integral to the telling of the story of Rififi. Mado (Marie Sabouret), Tony's former lover has moved on to the owner of the club, gangster Pierre Grutter (Marcel Lupovici). Tony and Mado's relationship is not over, and it is complicated. 

It is at the club that Cesar meets one of those women he can't resist. Singer Viviane (Magali Noel) entertains club patrons with Le Rififi describing the rough and tumble existence of the underworld.

Carl Mohner, Robert Manuel, Jean Servais, Jules Dassin

The job is carried off in an impressive silent 30-minute sequence. Silence is paramount to success as to avoid setting off alarms, mechanical or human. No word must be spoken, no misstep is allowed. It takes hours to gain the necessary access and the four must act as one to achieve their goal. The tension is beautifully built when the pesky police note something out of kilter in the street. The professional crook must be prepared for anything.

The big score is theirs and the London fence on board, but the victory celebration is short-lived. Cesar's fascination with Viviane and Tony's past with Mado bring the Grutter brothers into the gang's orbit in an aftermath of shocking violence and retribution.

Rififi is set in a world of grime; of blacks and whites and greys. Director Dassin and cinematographer Philippe Agostini take us through the nighttime hours and the rain-slicked streets backed by a haunting Georges Auric score.

Signed by MGM in the early 1940s, Connecticut-born Jules Dassin directed some polished entertainments such as The Canterville Ghost and A Letter for Evie. He moved into the dark world of noir with Two Smart People, Brute Force, The Naked City, Thieves' Highway, and Night and the City. Night and the City was filmed in London for Twentieth Century Fox in 1950 and soon Europe would become Dassin's home base after being blacklisted by HUAC. 

Jules Dassin as Cesar

Rififi was adapted from a crime novel by Auguste Le Breton adapted by Jules Dassin and Rene Wheeler. Contract difficulties with the actor originally hired to play Cesar landed the role in the lap of our director.

Rififi would win for Jules Dassin the Best Director Award at Cannes and a Palm d'Or nomination, which went to the film Marty. The French Syndicate of Film Critics named it the best film of the year. The National Board of Review, USA named it the top foreign film, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award gave a special award to director Jules Dassin. 


Tuesday, September 8th the TCM daytime lineup is devoted to heist pictures: Armored Car Robbery, The Asphalt Jungle, High Sierra, Rififi, The League of Gentlemen, Ocean's 11, and Jack of Diamonds.


Warning: Do not look upon these films as instructional.

Note: Rififi is not being shown on TCM Canada. Look for Convicts 4.












30 comments:

  1. A 30-minute silent sequence? That sounds pretty daring. Is it filmed in real time?

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    1. It has a very real feel with no background score and only such sounds as occur naturally but I do not know if they filmed it in real time. It is a riveting scene.

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  2. JULES DASSIN'S wife MELINA MERCOURI received an ACADEMY AWARD nomination for NEVER ON SUNDAY. She lost out to ELIZABETH TAYLOR for BUTTERFIELD 8. This was in 1961. That year STAN LAUREL received the HONORARY OSCAR. Mr. Laurel was not present so DANNY KAYE accepted his award.

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    1. Jules Dassin directed Melina in many movies including Never on Sunday, and a favourite of mine, Topkapi.

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  3. I wonder if Dassin was influenced by the robbery sequence in the earlier film The Asphalt Jungle (also being shown on the same day on TCM). But Rififi is so French in how it portrays the comradeship between the thieves; in the American film the robbers seem mostly out for themselves. Dassin seems to have absorbed something of the French attitude when he made his film.

    LOVED your warning at the end of your post!

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    1. I'm glad I could give you a chuckle with the warning.

      I can't help but think he must have been influenced by The Asphalt Jungle. Both create a terrific sense of tension.

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  4. If I made a list of my favourite heist films, Rififi would be in the top five (along with The Asphalt Jungle and Topkapi). It is simply wonderful. And so very dark when compared to other heist films!

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    1. I agree. The darkness envelopes you. During the last part of the film, I feel like I can barely breathe.

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  5. I looked up TOPKAPI to see who was in it. PETER USTINOV-he did six AGATHA CHRISTIE movies as HERCULE POIROT. Which ones are your favorites? I haven't seen all of them but my favorite is DEATH ON THE NILE. I saw it on ABC not too long after MURDER, SHE WROTE came on. ANGELA LANSBURY is in NILE with Ustinov. He was her brother-in-law from 1940 to 1950. Peter was married to her half-sister ISOLDE DENHAM. They had one daughter. Nile came out in 1979.

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    1. I will claim Death on the Nile as my favourite of Ustinov's Poirot pictures but Evil Under the Sun is a very close second.

      The Hollywood family tree can get complicated at times.

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  6. ROBERT MORLEY was also in TOPKAPI. He was married to JOAN BUCKMASTER from 1940 to his passing in 1992. They had three children. His mother-in-law was GLADYS COOPER. She played the mother-in-law to GINGER ROGERS in KITTY FOYLE. From Topkapi to Gladys Cooper to Ginger Rogers.

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    1. Gladys Cooper was a noted beauty in her younger years and a respected character actor as the years wore on. One of my favourite of her roles is in Mrs. Parkington where she plays Greer Garson's daughter. Greer's character was much older and it was nice to see Cooper as a contemporary 1940s woman.

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  7. Why is it some of us like heist films so much? A little bit of larceny in our souls, I suppose. Why is it museum heists seem so classy? Just makes me want to wear a black turtleneck and carry a length of rope with a grappling hook on the end of it over my shoulder, for climbing down skylights. Someday I might just walk into a bank or museum like that and see what happens. "Ma'am, would you like to check your grappling hook in the coatroom?"

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    1. Seems to me I read a very good mystery once that began with such an attempt. (Giggle). The museum guards will, as a matter of routine, place yours with the other grappling hooks they have gathered over the years from the similarly-minded.

      I will admit to seeing the odd item or two at a museum that my acquisitive soul craved, but I am at heart a coward.

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  8. I love heist films and this is one of the best. The highlight, as you noted, is the intricate heist sequence with no dialogue. I also enjoy the heist sequences in Topkapi, Grand Slam, and The Return of the Pink Panther.

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    1. Those are all dandy sequences. I liken the precision of them to the poker game in The Odd Couple. I don't think that's too far off. The same care and detail had to go into its execution.

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  9. There was another JULES-JULES MUNSHIN best known for TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME and ON THE TOWN. His passing was in 1970 three days before he would have turned 55. Both movies also had FRANK SINATRA, GENE KELLY and BETTY GARRETT. I know Betty best from ALL IN THE FAMILY where she played the neighbor IRENE LORENZO.

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    1. A very entertaining performing. It is a shame he passed so early.

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  10. JULES MUNSHIN was also in the DISNEY movie MONKEYS, GO HOME with DEAN JONES. Sept. 1 was the fifth anniversary of his passing. Like you, I am a big fan of Dean Jones. Did you see him in ANY WEDNESDAY with JANE FONDA and JASON ROBARDS? Does your family like the Disney movies that Dean was in?

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    1. Any Wednesday is fun for me due to the cast.

      I have only shown the kids That Darn Cat! and The Love Bug, but I talk about The Ugly Dachshund as if they have seen it. I really enjoy Blackbeard's Ghost so I'll have to talk them into it one of these days.

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  11. I haven't seen BLACKBEARD'S GHOST but I know it has a good cast including SUZANNE PLESHETTE(from THE UGLY DACHSHUND). It also has...PETER USTINOV that I mentioned yesterday!

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    1. I think it is one of the better Disney films of the era.

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  12. Warning: Do not look upon these films as instructional.

    But, but, but...Paddy! It's too late now.

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    1. Ooops! I have a feeling things will not turn out well.

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  13. Maybe they should put a warning at the beginning of soap operas! (HA HA). Speaking of soaps two roles on GENERAL HOSPITAL have been temporarily recast. BRIANA LANE is playing BROOK LYNN because AMANDA SETTON went on maternity leave. Also KELLY MONACO is recovering from an illness so the part of SAM is being played by LINDSAY HARTLEY who used to be on PASSIONS. (Her ex-husband is JUSTIN HARTLEY who was on soaps and then the primetime show THIS IS US.)

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    1. I like both of the replacement actresses. They really know their job and bring a bit of zing to the characters.

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  14. PETER LAWFORD was born on this date(Sept. 7) 97 years ago(in 1923). His passing was in 1984 at the age of 61. He was in the movie OCEAN'S 11 that you mentioned. I seem to recall that you liked him on the game show PASSWORD. I read that he was really good on that show.

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    1. Indeed, Peter Lawford was an excellent Password player. No one was better on the lightning round.

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  15. Whoa! A 30-minute silent scene would be entirely mesmerizing. I was started to feel the tension just reading your review! I really, really need to see this film.

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    1. You really, really do! I hadn't seen it until the last couple of years and it is a true classic.

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