Sunday, November 1, 2015

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

I Wake Up Screaming (1941) Poster

**** out of 5

"You're a gay dog, Cornell- you make me feel as though I'm driving a hearse!"

H. Bruce humberstone, best known for several of the better Charlie Chan films, directs this early and effective noir, It has all the best elements of great noir, years before it became commonplace:a good girl, a bad girl, a man falsely accused, a sadistic, relentless investigator, and not one, but 3 characters tell parts of the story in flashback. Oh, and it has several familiar noir faces.  Victor Mature leads as the main character, a sports promoter accused of murder (along with every other member of the cast, including even, briefly, Laird Cregar's grim investigator character, who is unusually intent of fixing the blame on Mature). Elisha Cook puts in one of his always unforgettable appearances as a switchboard operator in the building where the murder took place. The surprising choice was casting Betty Grable as the lead in a dark film like this.  Audiences of the time no doubt expected her to break into song at any minute while watching this. Indeed, even in her own filmography, this doesn't seem to have led to any similar roles for her.  She did this and basically went right back to the fun musical stuff she more know for.  One other odd thing I noticed, then couldn't manage to un-notice, was the use in the score of the tune "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."  How 20th Century Fox was able to use this, and why they would want to, are questions I have not good answer to.  If anyone out there DOES, I'd love to hear from you.   There's no technicolor dream at the end of this noir story, though it is probably not a great spoiler to point out this story does end up with a happy ending, showing that the noir genre was still just formulating its rules at this point.

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