Wednesday, January 16, 2013


A quick mash note to wonderfully restored black and white movies from the 1950s.  My son had selected a Netflix download for us, based on a guide to film noir (see below).   Called "The House on Telegraph Hill," as he read me the description the writer admitted it was, perhaps, more gothic than noir. It qualified as noir for its vintage - 1951, the urban setting - San Francisco, and general noirishness.

It is more gothic, in the very best sense, having elements in common with "Gaslight" and "Rebecca" and the house of the title is a character in itself. Gothic, indeed.

I am easily enthralled by period location shots of Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York - noir's meat and potatoes.  Rooming houses on LA's Bunker Hill, department store Christmas windows, lots of Chinatown streets found their way into the story lines and onto the screen.  One film we watched, "The Lineup" upon which the tv series was based, showed San Francisco's not-yet-demolished Sutro Baths, converted to a skating rink and arcade with carnival-type games.  Having only seen its ruins in "Harold and Maud," I had no idea that amazing destination was still standing in the 1950s.
Sutro Baths background information here.

For other fans of the genre, our guidebook is called "Film Noir An Encyclopedic Reference to the American Style," edited by Alain Silver and Elizabeth Ward.


Apropos of absolutely nothing other than the Netflix connection, we've been re-watching "The West Wing," the earlier seasons when Aaron Sorkin was still at the helm.  A few nights ago was one of my favorite episodes, the finale for season 2, called Two Cathedrals.  It has, I will argue, the best use ever of a Dire Straits song in a television series, and that includes use of the same music in "Miami Vice."  President Bartlett in the rain with all his President's men falling into step behind him, facing the press and a baffled, betrayed American public, that's some good television and inspired bit of soundtrack.  A hopeless fan of the medium and happier for it.


Angella said...

I have been thinking of watching west wing! I only saw it sporadically and only in the later seasons. Thanks for the recommendation.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Angella - I don't think you will be disappointed. In the early years of its airing, how I yearned for that liberal administration. Acting, writing and sensibilities have brought me back many times, but not as much to the years beyond season 4. Still, with instant Netflix it isn't difficult to see it all. I hope you enjoy. xo