Saturday, November 21, 2009

Joseph Losey; Lester Dent

I've mentioned The Film Noir Foundation before. The estimable Eddie Muller founded it and continues to present noir in all its aspects around the world--and present it in the most intelligent and compelling ways possible. By sending a contribution to the Foundation you'll receive The Noir City Sentinel when it appears. This magazine is the finest ongoing history of noir I've ever seen. Here's how to contact the Foundation. (By the way I want to thank Vince Keenan for introducing me to the Foundation.)

Here's the contents page of this issue:

Noir City Sentinel Nov / Dec 2009

The Energizing Enigma of Joseph Losey
AConversation with Foster Hirsch 4
Don Malcolm
Losey on Losey in Hollywood
Quotes from the Exiled Director 5
ARemake That Works:
The Rarity of Losey’sM 7
Carl Steward
Before They Made Him Run:
Joseph Losey’s Hollywood Noirs 8
The Lawless Don Malcolm
The Prowler Anastasia Lin
The Big Night Robert Ottoson
At the Center of the Storm:
He Ran All the Wayand the Blacklist 10
Jake Hinkson
“First is First and Second is Nobody”
The Philip Yordan Story 12
Alan K. Rode
Noir in Iran 22
Ehsan Khoshbakht
Abraham Polonsky
“The Most Dangerous Man in America” 24
Greg De Cuir
Noir ... Or Not?
King Creole 1
Will Viharo
ABook Versus Film Comparison
The Sound of Fury 16
Jake Hinkson
Noir’s Unsung Heroes
Art Smith 17
Jake Hinkson
Noir’s Not-So-Nice Guys
Luther Adler 18
Eric Beetner
Radio Noir, Part 3:
Silver Tongued Dicks 19
Anne Hockens
Sirens of the Sentinel
Gale Sondergaard 20
Eddie Muller
Noir Couples
Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford 28
Vince Keenan
Letter from the Publisher 2
This Dirty Town 3
J. J. Hunsecker Jr.
Noir City 8 Preview 3
Book Review
Blanketing the Blacklist 21
Don Malcolm and Dan Akira Nishimura
Mr. Modern Noir
Dark Country 26
Will “The Thrill” Viharo

Ed here: There is an excellent Foster Hirsch with the late (and blacklisted) director Joseph Losey. Gail Russell's story has always struck me as particularly sad and obviously Losey had the same impression of her.

"Gail Russell, who didn’t want to be an actress, was
picked up by a talent scout when she was a clerk in a
department store in Beverly Hills, came from a lower
middle-class family. She died of alcoholism because she
was so deathly frightened of acting, but she had in her the
makings of a great star. I had a tragic time with her. I think
she had the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen, the most
moving eyes. And she was immensely sensitive.
She didn’t know anything. Paramount had her under
contract—like a horse. She got a big salary then, and I had
absolute instructions from them not to let her have a drink.
The very first time I shot with her I had a long night-track-
ing shot. It was a half-night, we finished at twelve.
She couldn’t
remember a single line
and it was three or four
pages of important dia-
logue. I wasn’t trained
enough then to say “Well,
we’ll shoot it another
way,” and I kept trying to
get it by coaching her in
her lines, and finally I
said “What’s the matter?”
And she grabbed
me, her hands were icy
cold, she was absolutely
rigid, and she said “Look,
I don’t want to be an actress. I’m not an actress. I can’t act.
I never had a director who gave me a scene this long
before. I can’t do it.”
And I said “Oh yes you can. I’m sure you can, and
you are an actress.”
“No, I’m not, I’ve never kidded myself. I’m not an
actress. I hate it, I’m frightened of it. Get me a drink and
I’ll be alright.”
So I said, “You know, I’ve been told not to get you a
drink?” She said. “Get me a drink!”
I got her a drink and she did the scene.
By this point Macdonald Carey couldn’t remember his
lines. She had absolutely destroyed him. It was a very bad
start for me on that quick picture, to spend the whole night
on one set-up. And I just barely got it..…This started her
drinking and she was drunk throughout the rest of the pic-
ture. That isn’t to say she was bad. I think she was very
good often, but sometimes I had to shoot scenes in
ways to disguise the fact she was drunk. "

--------------------Steve Mertz

Writer Steve Mertz wrote me a thoughtful letter about my Lester Dent profile. I'm running it here because Steve can;t conect with my blog for some reason.


Forgive me but I seem unable to post this on your blog comments, due solely to my lack of smarts. So since it's to you, well heck, here it is:

Nice piece on Lester Dent, one of my all-time favorites for all the reasons you cite.

Out of courtesy to the man, I’ve always regarded his work as he did. The Docs can be fun in their juvenile exuberance (especially so with some of the later ones like “Let’s Kill Ames,” which are adapted from his unsold crime novels), and his contribution with that series, providing a template for high adventure that exists today, is significant. But posterity should also regard the work he was proudest of and signed his name to, which is his best work and definitely worthy of the current reassessment it’s receiving. Books like Dead at the Takeoff and Cry at Dusk sparkle with qualities and a voice that is Dent’s alone.

Love your image of him sitting at a typewriter in the telegraph office at the start of his career. Here’s one from the opposite end of that career:

It’s 1956 and Dent sits in his den writing Honey in His Mouth at his farm at La Plata. The pulps have died. His hardcover career has sputtered out. Few seem to want his work. But he’s writing this little masterpiece word-by-word, page-by-page, giving it his best while knowing that it will probably never sell in his lifetime. He was right, and 50+ years later, here we are talking enthusiastically about the “new Lester Dent novel."

The thing is, he knew. He knew that someday, somewhere, even if it was long after he was gone, someone—a whole lot of someones--would be reading that book and he owed them the absolute best he had. I find that inspiring.

--Stephen Mertz


Evan Lewis said...

Well said, Steve.

To Ed and the gang: While "Angelfish" has indeed been reprinted several times, the cover - featuring Oscar Sail himself (sort of) - has not. I've just posted it for your viewing pleasure over at Davy Crockett's Almanack.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Love this newsletter. Lester Dent seems to making the rounds this week.