Category Archives: Film Noir

On the Road Again – In a Noir Frame of Mind

 

 

In between the raging blizzards of this spring, I was fortunate enough to be able to join some wonderful fellow mystery writers to promote our books and make connections with readers and neophyte writers.  The first such adventure took Yang and I to the far north (of New York, anyway) to Ithaca and Buffalo Street Books.  Here, my friend Lisa Lieberman and I presented “An Evening of Noir,” where we not only talked about our books but about the noir films that inspired us!  Lisa’s husband Tim created this gorgeous poster for our adventure.  Note that it features my favorite femme fatale and/or smart-talking gal, Joan Bennett!  Didn’t he do a superb job?!

 

 

Lisa and I had a fun program.  I had prepared a cd of background music to help create the mood of dark, mean streets; tough detectives; mysterious dames; and haunted pasts.  Our playlist contained  multiple versions of “Laura,” “Harlem Nocturne,” “Penny Blues,” “Drink Dirty Water,” “Peter Gunn,” and even Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” to name a few.  And, of course, we dressed the parts, with Lisa’s swanky mink stole and slinky mystery-lady dress and my Claire Trevor femme fatale black suit with  swag, complimented by  red velvet and black feathered cap.  Watch out Phil Marlow and Sam Spade!

 

We had loads of fun talking with our audience about the trademarks of film noir  and how they influenced our novels, especially in terms of specific films.  Lisa detailed how  her experiences in Hungary and the film The Third Man  inspired the tense and dark atmosphere and tight plot twists of her  Burning Cold.  I shared how the wit, surprising reversals, and slippery characters in films like The Scar; Murder, My Sweet; and Double Indemnity shaped the latest adventures of Jessica Minton in Letter from a Dead Man.  And both us ladies of noir had a great time sharing trivia and background about the filmmakers and writers of our favorite noir films with our audience.  We had such a wonderful time, we’re thinking of adding film clips and “taking  our act on the road”!

 

My other recent appearance was on a delightful panel, with an equally delightful name:  “Stealing from the Dead.”  This Sisters-in-Crime Panel took place at Atria Bay in Barrington, RI.  I was pleased to join Frances MCNamara and Steve Liskow for a fun presentation at the community.  Both writers have fascinating books, with Frances’s latest series set in early 20th century Chicago and Steve’s in Connecticut and New York concerning the brutal reality of human trafficking.  Do click on each of their names to check out their work in greater detail.  You won’t be sorry! You can see from the picture on the left that I had a wonderful time.  If you ever want to book a Sisters-In-Crime panel for your library, school, or other such group, you can contact Leslie Wheeler at the Speakers Bureau.

I also want to extend my thanks to Margaret Shand of Atria Bay for setting up the panel.  the audience had intriguing questions and great comments for us.  My thanks to Margaret for the photo at the top of the paragraph.

 

Yang took what is probably the best shot of me, below.

Holiday Noir

So, Christmas noir?  The opening of a lively chorus caroling and holiday cheering over Christmas cards displaying the credits evokes holiday spirit, except litl_c-0-1080-0-0there’s always just the slightest manic edge to their liveliness creating a noir frisson.  Then the chorus ends in a startled drop as the last card slips away to reveal a gun.  Click here for a Silver/Ursini commentary on the opening.

You have holiday parties, mistletoe, presents that give away true intentions, mixed with a disappearing adulterous wife, her charmingly sleazy actor boyfriend, her sophisticated and two-faced husband, a high-class gold digger of an assistant publisher, a brutal and p1969_p_v8_aaprobably crooked cop, and a high strung mystery woman.  Leon Ames is at his most smarmy-charming as the husband, Audrey Totter is tart as a Granny Smith as the assistant, Lloyd Nolan is at his menacing and slightly psychotic best as the cop, and Jane Meadows is positively manic.  I needed a sedative after five minutes of her.  Bob Montgomery’s Philip Marlowe wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t my favorite.  He was smart and wary, but he was also a little too full of himself – especially when putting down Audrey Totter’s publishing executive.  Lloyd Nolan wasn’t the only one who wanted to slap him around.  And speaking of Lloyd, the character he plays here went a long way to inspiring one of the characters in the sequel to Bait and Switch, which I’m polishing up to send to my publisher:  Letter from a Dead Man.

I just love the great Chandler names:  Muriel Chess, Adrienne Fromsett, Derace Kingsby, Mildred Havilland, Chris Lavery, and Det. Degarmot – they just roll off your lady-in-the-lake-movie-titletongue.  But they’re real names, too, with the quirkiness you find on class rosters or employment lists.  Spolier Alert for people who speak French:  The actress playing Crystal Kingsby is listed as Elay Mort (Elle est morte.)

The plot’s a convoluted, dashing sleigh ride but it’s worth the trip.  Have fun!

Here’s a link to a trailer for the film.

If I have time, I’ll try to review some other Christmas or Holiday noir, like Coverup, Lady on a Train, Repeat Performance, or The Thin Man Goes Home.  Otherwise, there’s always next Christmas – with any luck!

collection of Lady in the Lake title cards: http://annyas.com/screenshots/updates/lady-in-the-lake-1947-title-sequence/

poster:  https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/movieposters/1969/p1969_p_v8_aa.jpg&imgrefurl=http://google.com/search%3Ftbm%3Disch%26q%3DLady%2520in%2520the%2520Lake&h=1440&w=960&tbnid=QS6aVEtEp-I23M:&vet=1&tbnh=186&tbnw=124&docid=E4FjWx9Gi_vlZM&itg=1&usg=__KVBoURWNv4fAKtZKjVPaG8cgtzY=&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwja3L3RgInRAhVojlQKHXOOBc8Q_B0IcjAK&ei=imhcWNrvLuic0gLznJb4DA

Halloween Reading Treats!

Every October, I like to have some bedtime reading that suits the season.  I just finished two new books:  Midnight Fires and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir.  The first is a mystery by Nancy Means Wright that features Mary Wollstonecraft as its intrepid detective.  marywollstonecraftaWollstonecraft is a great choice for the role, as anyone who has read her Vindications would agree that she has all the nerve, smarts, and wit to boldly ask the questions and dig the dirt necessary for an investigator.  Her being cast in this role makes perfect sense. The novel is set during Wollstonecraft’s tenure as governess to the aristocratic Kingsborough family in Ireland and does a neat job of characterizing “the troubles.”  We also get good views of the workings of the Kingsborough family, as well as how contemporary views of women have stunted and warped them – right in line with MW’s own writings.  The descriptions of the landscapes are a pleasure to read as well.  Not least of all, the mystery has some neat twists and turns.

 

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir was a pleasantly amusing visit with the supernatural – a low key, smile-inducing progress of Lucy/Lucia Muir’s liberation from oppressive Edwardian propriety to become a mischievous, independent woman – with a little help from a frank and fiery sea captain’s ghost – though she was already well on her way to freedom before they met at Gull Cottage.ghost-tierney-really-good  There are some significant changes from book to film, but both work equally well.  I do think that Gene Tierney gives Lucia Muir a bit more power than the character in the book.

 

 

There are four books that I usually return to once I finish any new prizes for the month:  The Uninvited (Dorothy Mcardle), The Sign of the Ram (Margaret Ferguson), The Undying Monster (Jessie Douglas Kerriush), and  Redeeming Time (me, unpublished – yet!).  What I admire in the first three (and try to emulate in the fourth), is the depth of characterization, the creation of a powerful mystical/eerie atmosphere, the vividness of the landscapes, and the intelligence of the storylines. signoftheram What makes them such a pleasure to read is their authors’ deftness with language:  there’s enough detail to savor and shape your imagination but no excess or filler.  Right now, I’m working on The Uninvited.  I review it and The Sign of the Ram on this web site, under Golden Age MysteriesThe Undying Monster is part of the psychic detective genre, with a woman psychic brought in to help a scientist uncover the nature of the beast that has ravaged an ancient British family for centuries and now threatens to destroy his two close friends.  The novel deftly captures the post WWI fascination with psychic phenomenon and leads characters and readers into the dark depths of ancient ruins, crypts, and family history to reach a final, mystical resolution – and it’s a fun ride!

What’s Redeeming Time about?  Think H. P. Lovecraft meets film noir meets Indiana Jones meets Val Lewton.

Image of Gene Tierney from The Ghost and Mrs. Muir copyright 1946, 20th-Century Fox (http://classicbeckybrainfood.blogspot.com/2010/08/just-thought.html)

“We’re Not Making this Up”: Plainfield Library, Sisters in Crime New England

Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to participate  with two other mystery writers in a Sisters in Crime New England panel, “We’re Not Making This Up” at Plainfield11the Plainfield Library in New Hampshire. Nancy Norwalk is the wonderful lady at the library who set up our panel,  and advertised and arranged for event. I was the newbie and the two veterans were Kevin Symmons, who does romantic thrillers, sometimes with a gothic twist, and Ellen Perry Berkeley, who does gritty mysteries with a historical basis – as well as some interesting nonfiction, Maverick Cats and At Grandmother’s Table:  Women Write about Food. Kevin’s latest is Chrysalis and Ellen’s is Keith’s People.

 

IMG_1936The Library is a beautiful little brick buidling that, like the Tardis, is much bigger on the inside than it appears on the outside.  Just to make sure we knew where we were going, Nancy’s signs pointed out our way into the charming, old New England building. IMG_1940Once there, I shared a table for displaying my books with Kevin Symmons, and the three of us got started talking about our writing and answering questions from a nice turn out of about 15 people. Kevin was our adept moderator.

 

We had some interesting discussion of the merits of small, independent publishers over the big-ticket conglomerates.IMG_1942  You may not get huge advances or get as much promotion (though the latter advantage is not always available), but you also aren’t under pressure to sell 10 to 100s of thousands of books – and you don’t have to pay back an advance that low sales don’t erase. Just as good, your books tend to stay in print longer – and you tend to have more control over content.  We also had some fun and funny discussions over sex vs. romance (in the novels), how do we carve out the time to write, and do the characters spring direct from Plainfield7the unconscious or do we base them on people we know.  I ended up talking about how I like to cast my novels like a movie full of classic actors, with a few more modern folk sprinkled in.  But we all agreed that characters have a way of taking the reins and telling us what they intend to do, no matter what our original intention was – and we love it!

It was also fun to discover how we all did our research through talking to people in different fields, drawing on our own personal andPlainfield8 professional experiences, reading and immersing ourselves in the environments that would become our characters’ worlds:  whether it was WWII New York, show- horse farms, or post Viet Nam America.

I did “shock” my two panel members by admitting that I have to write my first draft with pen (no pencil- too soft!) and paper.  Otherwise, the muse just won’t flow.  She needs to travel from my mind to the paper via that sharp pen point.  Computers are for editing as far as she is concerned.  What can I say!

We writers made some nice connections with one another and with our audience – Plainfield9and I hope that we inspired some of them to keep on with their own writing and perhaps be published, themselves! And, of course, it’s always nice to sell some books!  We writers even ended up getting some reading material from each other.

Plainfield4Next, it’s on to Lowell tomorrow (5/28/16) from 2:00-4:00, where I go solo with Bait and Switch.  Maybe I’ll see some of you folk there!

Yang Speaks!

So, to keep you entertained while you breathlessly await the forthcoming blogs on my appearance at The Book Lover’s Gourmet and my adventures at the Shakespeare of America Convention in New Orleans, here’s a link to an audio interview with me by Pat Driscoll for The New Worcester Spy.  It contains more details on my interests in film noir and horror, on film and on the page, and even a little more on my background. Just click here.  It’s what Dusty would want! Dusty reduced1

 

 

Bait and Switch: My First Reading at Annie’s Bookstop

Well, after all my announcements and commotion, here, at last, is the report on my reading and signing at Annie’s Bookstop in Worcester.  I HAD A BALL! What a wonderful experience.  So, I will commemorate it in words and pictures for you.

Annies1

 

Ah, a long shot of Annie’s as viewed by the author and her entourage – aka her husband.  Hey, he’s one guy but he’s worth a battalion.  We all know that about Yang!
Wait, here’s the heart-stopping moment where I see myself and my work celebrated in an honest-to-goodness advertisement!  I’m a star!  For the day.  Sort of.  That’s good enough for me!

Annie's2

 

One of my loyal fans, Barbara Werblin greets me with gifts celebrating my great victory in actuallyAnnies3 getting the darned thing published!    We’re buddies from the “Y,” so she’s seen me in my sweats and really knows me!  Barb’s a great friend who has given me tons of encouragement – and she loves the book, too!  As the Mom of a wonderful poet, she understands the writer’s burden.  Sigh!
You can see my pal and colleague MaryLynn just behind me in the shot above. In these two pictures, you can see my friend and former student, Erin Bassler, having a good time while she reports on the event for The New Worcester Spy. (Read the article here!) Annies4Ultimately, we had about 12 or 13 people attend, all told.  I had loads of support from my friends:  students, colleagues, folks I know who enjoyed Bait and Switch and like seeing me be a wise guy.  So take a gander at some of the shots from the reading, question answering, and signing. annies5 Also, note how I got myself all gussied up in my smart-talking, forties gal, film noir look:  white blouse, black skirt, black and white spectator pumps, technicolor red lipstick.  Agent Carter, eat out your heart!

 

Someone said something shocking!  annies7How about those gorgeous flowers that Barbara got me for the occasion?  And chocolate.  She got me chocolate, too.  A brilliant woman!

 

 

 

Here are some nice shots of other folks coming up with questions, pondering the noir-style mysteries engendered by Annies8James Crawford leaving Jessica Minton that mysterious package in Bait and Switch.
Erin Fragola follows along intently while I ham up my reading in the background.
Everyone gets intense  with Pam McKay concentrating to Annies9express her thoughts on one of the many exciting and intriguing questions people posed to me on the characters, plot, historical background, cinematic style of the novel, and the true identity of Dusty. Both Erin Bassler and I look perplexed.  Must have been a humdinger of a query!  Something to do with Nazis?

 

 

 

While I’m signing books for my loyal fans, Annies11Pam and her friend Gaylene are perusing Bait and Switch to throw more thought-provoking questions my way.

Annies10

Ah, the end of an exhilarating day!  Here the author poses with her masterpiece.  I could use a nice cuppa about now.Annies12Bait and Switch is the first in the series of Jessica Minton’s adventures in the 1940s.  I’m not telling who else will be along for the ride in subsequent novels.  You’ll have to buy the books to find out!
I’m lucky to have so many friends to support me and to enjoy what I write.  My only regret is that I didn’t get to  include pictures of two people who made this wonderful day possible, but I do extend my heartfelt thanks.  Patty at Annie’s and my husband, who always believes in me – and is lots of fun to be with – yes, I know I dangled a preposition.  So there!

 

Dusty reduced1Dusty says, “Buy Bait and Switch!  Don’t miss my catly charm!”

 

 

 

 

Bait and Switch now available for pre-order; release date 12/15!

I can’t tell everyone how excited I am that Bait and Switch is now going to be available.  If you want the Kindle edition, it’s now available for pre-order through Amazon (click here), and the official release for all versions (paperback and electronic is December 15th – next week.  front coverAs a little preview, I’d like to share the cover art with you here.
My husband Yang and I designed it and executed it.  I love that it captures a ’40s noir/pulp-novel ambiance.  Would you believe that Yang used me as the model for the figure?  Well the body/clothes/ hair.  The face is, um, a somewhat younger.
LampJust for fun, note that the lamp is actually based on the WWII blackout street lamps that directed light downward, keeping submarines or potential bombers from seeing the city.  My husband is the tops, working away over the weekend to put my initial design into such an elegant form.  I owe him a lot.
I thank my publisher and Jacqueline of all trades Sheri Williams for skillfully transferring our mock up to a finished product, slaving away into the wee hours to get things done – and done right!  I appreciate it!  I hope the this cover sets a mood that the novel will carry through for your enjoyment.  In these times of holiday stress, a little tale of murder, espionage, and wise aleck cats always provides a pleasant distraction.  I’ll have additional info for you after I finish grading some more papers! I have a day job, too! If I’ve piques your curiosity about Bait and Switch, click here for a sneak peek.
WomanP.S.  I’d also like to give a tip of one of my many hats to my friends at Touchpoint , especially Leslie-Anne Garrett Stephens and my colleagues and students at Worcester State for encouraging and supporting me.

Smart Talking Gals Part 3 Lynn Bari

Blog 15  Smart Talking Gals Part 3

Lynn Bari:

Home Sweet Homicide, Nocturne, Tampico, Sleepers West, The Amazing Mr. X

Lynn Bari, of the apple cheeks, sweet but knowing smile, dark hair, and warm, throaty voice is one of my favorite smart-talking gals. Like some of the other females in this hall of cinematic fame, she could play a fourteen-karat stinker. Think of Sun Valley Serenade and Margie. Still, when she was on the side of the angels, with a little pitch fork to keep things hopping, she could be a great one to have in your corner. HomeSweetHomicideIn Home Sweet Homicide, Bari plays an attractive widow with a brood of kids whom she supports through writing murder mysteries. A real murder on her block, and the kids plot to solve it to get their mother publicity for her books and to match her up with police detective Randolph Scott. Lynn gets off some nifty quips while taking guff from no one, not even Randolph Scott (cue the celestial choir in Blazing Saddles). When he tries to imply she’s an inadequate mother who has raised a passel of overly imaginative, disingenuous children, she sets him straight without being the least flapped. First she smoothly calls him on his right to pass judgment with the smiling query, “How many children have you raised?” then puts a nifty finish on his criticism with this amused inquiry to his response, “Do you know anything about children, except what you read in books?” When he tries to offer evidence that her children aren’t telling the truth by recounting the unlikely stories they’ve given him about being born in Peru, China, and other foreign points, she affably reveals his need not to be bound by limited expectations with the information that she had traveled the world with newspaper man husband. She finishes with a show of her strength, adventurousness, and open mindedness by turning back his pity for her difficult life with the warmth in her eyes and words as she tells him, “It was heaven, and I wouldn’t have traded it for all the tea in China.”

TampicoIn Tampico, Bari plays a survivor of a U-boat attack whom merchant marine captain Edward G. Robinson fishes out of the South Atlantic. (Tampico)After some nifty verbal exchanges, the two fall in love and marry. All is not peaches and cream after that, as Robinson is led to suspect Lynn of being a Nazi fiver. Is she? Would those big brown eyes and apple cheeks serve de Fuhrer? Watch the movie and find out.

Lynn5The best of her smart-talking roles, though, is as aspiring actress Frances Ransome, opposite police detective George Raft in Nocturne. Tough guy Raft is on his mettle to match her self-confidence and smooth, mordant wit. This gal is unflappable. When Raft demands of her, “Why did you kill him?” she shoots back nonchalantly, with a hint of a smile “Which one?” A pushy date tries to top off, “Gee, Baby, it’s been a swell evening,” my forcing a kiss and she Lynn2 deftly checks him with, “Why not let it stay that way?” followed by a gentle shove and a sarcastically sweet, “Good night.” Raft tips his hat to her prowess with a dryly admiring, “As good a block as I’ve ever seen. Ever thought of playing for the Green Bay Packers?” Bari’s Frances keeps Raft’s Detective Warne firmly in place, at one point telling him, “I have a late date. And even if I hadn’t I still wouldn’t go out [with you]. Is that clear enough for you?” Later, on the set of a movie in which she’s an extra, he tries to pull off a threatening bluff to force her to come clean about the murder. With perfect control, she cuts him dead with, “Why don’t you hop on your scooter, sonny boy, and blow. I’ve got to emote.” And she doesn’t care what people think about her as long as she knows the truth. Raft tries to take her down a peg by inferring from her fancy digs and couture that he sees her as a kept woman. Instead of angrily or affrontedly protesting the truth that she’s borrowing both from a pal (hinted to be Ginger Rogers), she plays along with his misjudgment for her own amusement, responding with mock innocence, Lynn9“Can I help it if people like to give me things?”  Needless to say, Warne thinks she’s swell, doesn’t believe she’s the real killer, and takes the needling in stride, even fun, enjoying the challenge rather than looking for a crushing conquest. And those outfits! Especially the sequined cocktail dress – which leads to another great quip. Her sister comments on liking the outfit, and Frances indirectly twits Detective Warne with, “This isn’t bad considering I ran it up on a sewing machine salesman! Lynn6 Still the Detective gets a kick out of, admires, her smart sauciness, her self-confidence, and the good heart he can see keeping both company. He also has a healthy respect for how she fills out a bathing suite, as well. Lynn1 Appearances in Sleepers West and The Amazing Mr. X deserve honorable mention in the smart-talking gal category.

I’d love to think up a plot for a mystery where she could be inspiration for my heroine.  I’ll have to get cracking.  Maybe at some point she could help out Jessica and Liz in one of my sequels to Bait and Switch?  Suggestions from any Lynn Bari fans?

Last updated 8/31/15

 

Celebrating H. P. Lovecraft’s 125th

Blog 14

Two Great Films for Celebrating H. P. Lovecraft’s 125thfpublic0036-memory-h-p-lovecraft

The Brattle Theatre in Cambridge, MA is celebrating the 125th birthday of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, Providence’s own native son, with a week-long film festival. They kicked things off last night with two wonderful independent productions by HPLHS (the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society), adaptations of “The Whisperer in the Darkness” and “The Call of C’Thullu.” Both are done in vintage form, the first as a 1930s Universal horror film––complete with zeppelin rather than bi-plane circling the globe for the opening card/production logo, though the zeppelin moves with far more stateliness across ththe screen than that buzzing aeroplane (as our boy Lovecraft would spell it). The adaptation of Whisperer was superb, with the 1930s chiaroscuro black and white cinematography creating as much eerie, unsettling mystery as the films of the earlier era, also drawing on their use of canted camera angles and under lighting to evoke a strange blend of nightmare and melancholy that was highly effective for putting the strangeness of Lovecraft on the screen. The shots of Mt. Holyoke College for Miskatonic University were delightfully Gothic. Just one thing, why do college professors in films always have offices three times what I have––or what any one I know has?The adaptation of to film was TWIDPoster4c4faithful to Lovecraft’s actual writing, adding on only what rounded out his tale in the proper vein of horror. I was a little confused at the ending, but I can’t say too much without giving anything away. I do not want to spoil this film for Lovecraft, old movie, or horror devotes. Also worth noting is that the concessions to modern film making only improved on the old style, with the acting untroubled by the early thirties, “I’ve just come from Broadway and I am ACTING!” that undermines so many performances until the mid and late 1930s. The use of stop motion animation and CGI together creates delightfully creepy creatures! It is such a wonderful film. Find it and watch it –– the perfect treat for Halloween. It’s available in dvd and Blu Ray at the HPLHS web site, C’thullu Lives!

And your second feature should be none other than the same one we saw, The Call of C’thullu. Done as a silent film, this movie, uses the lighting and shadows, camera angles, sets, music, and such of silent era masterpieces like Nosferatu, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligeri, The Cat and the Canary, and Vampyr (actually partially sound) to convey the suspense, eeriness, and ambiguity of the era. Again, the acting is sound, like that of the good silent films––not over the top as people tend to stereotype all silent features. The visit to CoCposter2436flatC’thullu’s island of R’lyeh was a tense and delightfully disquieting descent into horror. I vociferously applaud the HPLHS’s film making efforts and hope they keep at it. If you visit their site, you’ll also find great updates on all things (so to speak) Lovecraft, as well as Miskatonic paraphernalia and even sea shanties from Innsmouth on dvd. I’m inspired to go back and revise my own Lovecraft/film noir pastiche now!

Image of Lovecraft from Google Public Domain Images
Images from “The Whisperer in the Darkness” ©2011, HPLHS, Inc., all rights reserved and “The Call of C’thullu” from ©2005, HPLHS, Inc., all rights reserved.   My site is merely a fan site and no copyright infringement is intended.

Smart-Talking Gals Two: Lucille Ball

Blog 12: Smart Talking Gals Two

 

Publicdomain LucyLucille Ball

Before Lucy became the daffy redhead of I Love Lucy fame in the ’50s, she was a sharp as a fox smart-talking gal in the late ’30s and ’40s. She had more than a few roles as a no-nonsense, sharp-witted, tart-tongued redhead, but the three that stand out the most for me came in the late 1940s: Easy Living (1949), Two Smart People (1946), and The Dark Corner (1946).

In Easy Living, Lucy’s Anne Lenehan is secretary to a football team owner/manager, played by Lloyd Nolan –– and she has it bad for good-guy-with-problems and star player, Victor Mature. But this gal in no moony pushover. She talks tough and keeps her guard up, deftly deflating Mature’s celebrity by dryly calling him “Miraculous” and warning him when a team mate gets cut, “You ride the gray train, too. Don’t wait until they shove you off.”

Why is she so acerbic? Another player comments sympathetically to Mature, “She was married to a heel” –– whom we later find out ran around on her and was so bad that even his pop, Lloyd Nolan, condemns him as, “No good.”

There’s a neat little scene in Mature’s train compartment that shows Ball at her fast-talking best, just letting her integrity shine through tiny cracks in her cynicism. Mature asks what she’s doing in there, and she quips, “Just for a change of pace, I want to be with someone who doesn’t like me.” When Mature turns that into a crack about her having dated most everyone else on the team, she sets him straight with a little anecdote about her being the subject of a story on “The New York Girl,” that ends with telling her date she had “a lovely evening” and “kissing him good night.” Then she lets him know how she feels, but that she’s no pushover, by kissing him before saying, she’s had a lovely evening and then leaving.

So, what’s really keeping then apart? His wife, whom he loves –– the dope! This time out, it’s the wife who’s greedy, superficial, and a two-timer, EasyLivingselling herself to a wealthy older man to get a boost for her decorating business. Now it’s the other woman who’s the loyal, sharp, wise one –– and Vic’s too much of melon-head to catch on. He almost does, but then decides to literally “slap some sense” into his wife –– leaving us relieved that Lucy’s Anne dodged that bullet, even if not everyone in 1949 figured that one out. You never know, though.

In Two Smart People, Ball plays Ricki Woodner, master con artist, who matches wits right off the bat with another primo scammer, Ace Connor (John Hodiak). Right at the picture’s start, they have a clever little exchange about ortolans (look it up or watch the movie!) and plums, before they each Lucy15proceed to masterfully undo the other’s plot to take the same pigeon. Ricki follows Ace onto a train he’s taking for a roundabout gourmet lover’s trip back to New York where he’s cut a deal to take the rap for some bonds he stole, without actually having to return the $500,000 they’re worth. Ball’s character starts off with a plan to get even with Connor for scotching her swindle, but the two end up falling in love, without either getting too soft. When Ace cracks that she’s going soft, Ricki knowingly comments, “Pretty sure you can walk away from this? You might change, too.”Lucy17a In the end, Ricki outfoxes Elisha Cooke’s crooked hood, who’s been on their trail and tried to get her to help him cheat Connor. Lloyd Nolan (again!) is along for the ride, literally, as the detective bringing in Connor, but joining him in making the trip back one last fling before the con artist has to take on five years in the pokey, all while trying to dope out where Ace has hidden the bonds. Both guys have way too much class to even think of taking a poke at Ricki –– and if you see her in action, you’ll figure they made a smart choice.

The last movie, The Dark Corner, is probably one of the best parts for Lucille Ball –– and she gets top billing! Once again, Ball is an all-knowing secretary, deftly demonstrating her wit, loyalty, and authority by parrying the intrusive questioning about her P.I. boss from a police detective with, “I don’t know anything you couldn’t find out by asking Mr. Galt.” Lucy2When the detective pushes his luck, she shuts him down with, “I sharpen pencils, do the typing, answer the phones, and mind my own business.”

 

 

Her earlier comment to the policeman about her boss, “I like him,” tips her hand that she might be sweet on him. Lucy However, when she tells Galt to put his detecting skills to work and find her a pair of nylons, her flirting is sharp and sexy; she’s nobody’s pushover and he’s got to impress her. Galt takes her out to dinner and then the arcade, and after a successful run in the batting cage, she quips, “What else can I beat you at?” when he tries to put the moves on her, she cracks, “I know when you’re pitching a curve at me.” Galt humorously defends himself with saying that you can’t blame a guy for trying “to score,” and she cracks back, honesty and authority wrapped in wit, “‘I don’t play for a score; I play for keeps,’ said she with a smile.” Lucy4aKathleen gives him an equally clever check at the end of another date, when she stops him at the door and he “innocently” asks if he can’t even come up “for a drink of water.” Without skipping a beat, she smiles dryly, “Pitching low and outside.” She’s not turning him down out of virginal innocence or prudery; she knows she’s worth more than just a toss in the hay. No one’s going to take advantage of her. Galt’s grin and goodbye show he enjoys and respects her street smarts, humor, and independence.

And Kathleen shows herself a valuable ally in practical ways. She doesn’t lose her nerve following Lucy7a thug type (William Bendix!), cleaning up a crime scene for a murder’s frame job of Galt, tracking down clues, stalling the cops, and figuring out the real genius behind the murders. Lucy8aSo, when Kathleen tells Galt, “C’mon, open up the steel safe. I want to know. I want to help,” he knows she’s going to see him through his troubles with the cops, a former crooked partner who’d sent him inside on a bum rap, and a murder frame. He knows that she has the insight, the smarts, and the guts to be as good as her word. He’s got a primo smart-talking gal in his corner.

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Images from The Dark Corner and Easy Living @1949 and 1946, respectively, RKO Picture; images from Two Smart People @ 1946  MGM.  Color image of Lucille Ball from Google Public Domain Images of Lucille Ball.