“Look! I don’t like to get pushed around! I don’t like people I like to be pushed around! I don’t like anybody to get pushed around!”
That was Sam Masterson, played by Van Heflin at his peak, in the noir classic The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946).
It’s a startling, electrifying line for a film noir, it rings out amid the corruption and murder and adultery and beatings and strong armed cops like something out of the Grapes of Wrath. You can hear Henry Fonda’s Tom Joad saying it, explaining why he has to brain the goons. You can’t here Bogie’s Rick saying it in Casablanca, not at all, not even after he shoots the Nazi. But then Heflin’s character is no hard boiled anti-hero, he’s the real thing, and he exposes the rotten heart of capitalism in Iverstown and brings it crashing down, if only because he doesn’t like anybody to get pushed around.
No one remembers him anymore, but Warren William was an extraordinary actor. His Perry Mason is so morally deficient, alcoholic, shrewd, tough, venal and hysterically funny that there is no character in film even remotely like him. The Case of the Curious Bride is a wild ride, with be bop tempos and dialog so razor sharp there must have been blood everywhere. Imagine a cross of the Thin Man, Duck Soup and one of those very dark and troubled Dick Powell film noirs, plus the Galloping Gourmet. Warren Williams nailed it. Hugely popular in the thirties, his characters were apparently a little too much for the forties and fifties and with that came oblivion. There’s never been another like him, though it’s obvious that many of the classic film noir anti-heroes–Bogie, Dick Powell–picked up some of their shtick watching Warren William. If you dig old flicks then The Case of the Curious Bride especially is a must see.
Saw the 1949 film noir Too Late For Tears last nite. Great LA location shots, money is the root of all evil, Dan Duryea was a drunken bum with a yellow streak down his back wide as Wilshire Boulevard, you used to be able to rent motor boats in MacArthur Park (then still Westlake Park as MacArthur was hadn’t yet faded away) and that dame Lizbeth Scott is up to no good. Also way less trees in town back then. You wonder what they did for shade. Much harder to lurk in all that sunshine. And in film noir, one lurks.
Also saw Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) for the zillionth time. I had a dream, a scene stealing Kirk Douglas (even more cowardly than Dan Duryea, with a yellow streak wide as the San Fernando Valley) says to quintessential everyman he man Van Heflin, and you were in it. You did not make a handsome corpse. Van Heflin was too cool to care, and Barbara Stanwyk slithered into the room, the most beautiful snake ever. No anklet tho’.
Watched an old noir I’d never seen before, Trapped, with Lloyd Bridges as the anti-hero, a moltenly sexy Barbara Payton before she’d carrie fishered herself into oblivion, and the guy who played proto-Bones in the Star Trek pilot “The Cage”. It was a fast, tough and heartless tale in glorious black and white set in Hollywood and downtown LA with terrific location footage c. 1949. Any movie that says we’ll meet on Fountain is cool by me. Amazing finish where the old Red Line cars slept at night. Also, 1949 had the goofiest cars ever. Damn, like bulbous tin cans or huge aluminum shoes. Anyway, the ending is an appropriate shocker of dubious moral certitude. Amazing what a world war will do to society’s underpinnings.