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Author Topic: I ♥ Lizabeth Scott, Great Siren of Noir  (Read 3644 times)
Holden Pike
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« on: December 04, 2007, 07:50:56 PM »

I am a huge, slobbering fan of actress Lizabeth Scott.

She had a relatively brief and some might even argue minor film career in the 1940s and '50s, but to me she'll always remain one of my favorite movie stars and is, I think, the quintessential classic Noir dame.

        

A strikingly beautiful blonde with a husky voice, she was a model and stage understudy when she was discovered by producer Hal Wallis after he left Warner Brothers to become an independent producer, with his pictures distributed mostly through Paramount. After co-starring in a small drama with Robert Cummings, You Came Along (1945) directed by John Farrow and co-scripted by Ayn Rand of all people, she made her mark in her second film, a supporting role in The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946 - Lewis Milestone), a Noirish melodrama starring Barbara Stanwyck and Van Heflin (also notable as Kirk Douglas' debut). That led to her real big break. After Rita Hayworth had to back out of Dead Reckoning (1947) because her then-husband Orson Welles wanted her for The Lady from Shanghai, Lizabeth was given the lead opposite Humphrey Bogart. It's a post-War Noirish mystery, and a good one. Lizabeth is sexy and commanding on the screen, and her character is the sympathetic love interest. She more than holds her own with Bogie on screen. Her next was an oddly Technicolor Noir, Desert Fury (1947) with Burt Lancaster and Mary Astor. But again Lizabeth is basically a good girl mixed up in a bad circumstance. In I Walk Alone (1948) she's paired with Burt Lancaster again as well as Kirk Douglas (the first time Kirk and Burt worked together). Now she's stepping a bit closer to the classic Femme Fatale archetype, though not there yet. That year she was also in the underrated Pitfall (1948 - André De Toth) where she plays a sort of unwitting Femme Fatale as the unforgettable object of desire to both married man Dick Powell as well as a sleazy P.I. played by Raymond Burr, who basically blackmails her into a sexual affair. But even then, Lizabeth's character wasn't intentionally luring these men, they were just drawn to her. It's her next movie, Too Late for Tears (1949 - Byron Haskin), where she assumes the mantle of Queen of Noir. Here she plays a woman capable of anything to get what she wants, which happens to be a case full of sixty-grand in cash. Her natural beauty is turned for selfish evil, and it's delicious to watch.



Lizabeth would appear in movies other than those classified as Noir throughout the 1950s, including the Victor Mature melodrama Easy Living, the Martin & Lewis flick Scared Stiff, the Westerns Silver Lode and Red Mountain, and Elvis Presley's second movie Loving You. But while she was good in all of these, it was the dark crime pictures where she was absolutely perfect: Dark City (1950), The Racket (1951), The Company She Keeps (1951), Two of a Kind (1951) and Stolen Face (1952). She didn't appear in the best-known Noirs, but they are some of the best in terms of quality and her performances are iconic and sexy. With her husky voice and blonde hair she has sometimes been labeled a poor man's Lauren Bacall (co-starring with Bogart in Dead Reckoning helped with that perception), but while movies such as Double Indemnity, Out of the Past and The Postman Always Rings Twice are rightfully heralded as classics, nobody, not Stanwyck, not Lana Turner, not Veronica Lake or Rita Hayworth or Ava Gardner or anybody was ever any better than Lizabeth Scott in the genre.



Through all of her success, Lizabeth never became an A-list star. After gossip in the Hollywood tabloids implied she was a lesbian, in 1955 she sued Confidential Magazine for $2.5-million in libel damages. The suit was eventually thrown out on a technicality and Scott dropped the matter. But she chose to essentially retire after that incident, appearing on episodic television now and then and made one final screen appearance in Mike Hodges & Michael Caine's odd Get Carter follow-up, Pulp (1972) at the age of fifty, but nothing since then. Lizabeth never married and has never said whether or not the '50s rumors about her sexuality were true, and it doesn't matter in the slightest. She's still with us, turned eighty-five this year, but generally hasn't done much in the way of public appearances the past forty years. Anytime I want to curl up with her, I just pop Dead Reckoning or Too Late for Tears into the DVD player.

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Richard Earl
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« Reply #1 on: December 04, 2007, 09:07:23 PM »

I am interested in seeing her films. Which one is good to start with Holden?
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dane with no name
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« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2007, 08:44:22 AM »

Rowr.  ^-^
I wouldn't know whether to bring flowers or a whip and a chair (liontamer style) if i was en route to meet that tasty femme fatale in a dark chicago back alley. ;)
It's always amazing to see photos of old female actresses, compared to todays liposucked siliconepumped "plasticsuregericed" starlets, and see how many of them actually manage hold more than their ground (Sophia Loren, Liz Taylor etc.)

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I am interested in seeing her films. Which one is good to start with Holden?
What Richard Earl said.  ;D

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Holden Pike
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« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2007, 09:45:13 AM »

Well, a bunch of her films still aren't available on DVD. I have many burned copies from VHS or television, but a couple of my favorites like Pitfall and I Walk Alone you probably won't be able to find anywhere. However, there are some greats that are on DVD. Dead Reckoning is a perfect place to start, and Too Late for Tears. The Racket is also very good, with Bob Mitchum and Robert Ryan, and even though her role is relatively small The Strange Love of Martha Ivers is a great flick. The Hammer Studios Noir Stolen Face is pretty good. Now the Elvis movie Loving You the Martin & Lewis Scared Stiff are both on DVD, though neither is an especially good showcase for Lizabeth and are just Elvis and Dean & Jerry movies. The Western Silver Lode is on DVD. Directed by Allan Dwan, it's a pretty typical oater of the day starring John Payne from Miracle on 34th Street and Dan Duryea. Lizabeth doesn't have a lot to do in that one, but it is watchable, if standard. Oh, and Pulp was released on DVD this year, her last movie.

And that's about it, I believe. On R1 DVD, anyway. Dead Reckoning, Too Late for Tears and The Racket are the three I would recommend most strongly from that group. All are good to great movies, and you too may fall in love with Ms. Scott.

I must have seen Lizabeth in Scared Stiff when I was a kid, as I saw all of the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis movies multiple times from the ages of seven to twelve (and all the Abbott & Costellos and Hope & Crosbys, too). But she didn't imprint on me back then. Probably because I hadn't yet hit puberty in full stride yet. When I saw Dead Reckoning when I was sixteen, going through an early phase of burgeoning film mania where I was renting everything and anything that Bogart was in, as soon as she hit the screen I thought, 'Who is this beautiful woman, and how come I haven't heard of her? Surely she must have been a big star.' Or so I thought. Then I had to hunt for those handful of movies she actually was in over the years. She could play innocent or heartless, sultry or sweet.

I've had a thing for ever since.

« Last Edit: December 05, 2007, 09:48:31 AM by Holden Pike » Logged

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WeAllHaveItCominKid
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« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2007, 10:08:15 AM »

Yup, she's beautiful! I just love that era. I'm a huge fan of film-noir.  O0
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Holden Pike
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« Reply #5 on: December 05, 2007, 03:36:17 PM »

I'm going to do reviews for some of my favorite Lizabeth Scott flicks here...

 
Stolen Face (1952 - Terence Fisher)

The British Hammer Studios, famous for their striking and graphic Horror movies of the '50s and '60s, also dabbled in the Noir genre. One of the better entries has Lizabeth Scott in a dual role. Paul Henreid (Casablanca, Now, Voyager) stars a a gifted plastic surgeon who falls in love with a concert pianist (Scott) while on vacation. They have a passionate tryst, but she's not willing to leave her fiancé for him. He goes home, distraught and obsessed. An opportunity walks in his door when a female ex-con wants massive reconstructive surgery so she can start a new life. He of course remakes her in his unattainable love's image, then he marries her. But things get complicated when the real love comes back into the picture and decides she will choose him after all, leaving him with an extra Lizabeth Scott...and the second one ain't gonna go quietly (plus she hasn't exactly reformed her criminal ways).

It foreshadows the themes of Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958) a bit as well as harkening back to Anthony Mann's underseen Strange Impersonation (1946). Great if preposterous set-up, decent resolution, and Scott is terrific as both women with the same face - the "good" one and the "bad" one. Two Lizabeth Scott's to choose from, what's a body to do? My own solution would have been a bottle of vodka, some sexy music and the greatest Ménage à Trois ever.


GRADE: B
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« Reply #6 on: December 05, 2007, 04:50:45 PM »

It sounds like Swan Lake à la film noir!  :D
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