What's new

TheSteig

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Messages
1,843
Real Name
David
Two more WAC Id love to see get HD releases
The Fallen Sparrow with John Garfield
The Ice Follies of 1939 which is in color in the finale and Im sure would look wonderful in HD !

Any fans of these two ?
 

benbess

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Sep 8, 2009
Messages
4,816
Real Name
Ben
I haven't seen this one from 1947, but it sounds interesting. And what a cast....

ifwintercomes1948.78965.jpg
if winter poster.jpeg
lf.jpeg
 

Robin9

Senior HTF Member
Joined
Dec 13, 2006
Messages
6,537
Real Name
Robin
Two more WAC Id love to see get HD releases
The Fallen Sparrow with John Garfield
The Ice Follies of 1939 which is in color in the finale and Im sure would look wonderful in HD !

Any fans of these two ?
I always enjoy The Fallen Sparrow. It's one of the few films where I think that most over-used phrase film noir is appropriate. I love how Nicholas Musuraca photographed Maureen O'Hara, and it has two other actresses I like: Patricia Morison and Martha O'Driscoll. If my memory is correct, Robert Wise was the editor.
 

Robert Crawford

Crawdaddy
Moderator
Patron
Joined
Dec 9, 1998
Messages
58,324
Location
Michigan
Real Name
Robert
I always enjoy The Fallen Sparrow. It's one of the few films where I think that most over-used phrase film noir is appropriate. I love how Nicholas Musuraca photographed Maureen O'Hara, and it has two other actresses I like: Patricia Morison and Martha O'Driscoll. If my memory is correct, Robert Wise was the editor.
A favorite film of mine and yes, Robert Wise was the editor of the film.
 

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
24,455
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
I've seen the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. Would like to see it on blu-ray if the original elements still exist.
View attachment 122135
What I like best about the poster is that the often overlooked and undervalued (by MGM) Angela Lansbury gets a billing line all to herself and in letters as big as the four top stars.
 

roxy1927

Screenwriter
Joined
Jul 10, 2018
Messages
1,422
Real Name
vincent parisi
But Angela was not happy with her role and went to speak to Mayer. He said sorry that is the role you are going to play.
She couldn't accept she was not Lana Turner.
 

Matt Hough

Reviewer
Senior HTF Member
Joined
Apr 24, 2006
Messages
24,455
Location
Charlotte, NC
Real Name
Matt Hough
But Angela was not happy with her role and went to speak to Mayer. He said sorry that is the role you are going to play.
She couldn't accept she was not Lana Turner.
Yes, I know that. Angela related her tale of dissatisfaction several times about that and also about MGM not offering her to Fox for Forever Amber. But she could have been the next Greer Garson if they had groomed her right: British, pretty/beautiful, super talented, and young enough to do the starring roles that Greer was too old for. Instead, they relegated her to playing older than her age and usually battleaxes and cold women. They really wasted what they had.
 

roxy1927

Screenwriter
Joined
Jul 10, 2018
Messages
1,422
Real Name
vincent parisi
I didn't know Fox wanted her. Well that was lousy. Yet she remained friends with Mayer! She couldn't hold it against him. She seemed to like him very much. A career of much frustration and achievement.
 

lukejosephchung

Screenwriter
Joined
Aug 31, 2007
Messages
1,407
Location
San Francisco, CA., USA
Real Name
Luke J. Chung

TheSteig

Screenwriter
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Messages
1,843
Real Name
David
I bet a few wish lists got smaller with yesterdays three title announcements. Wondering if there will be more !
 

Beckford

Stunt Coordinator
Joined
Oct 15, 2021
Messages
136
Real Name
Ken
1946 Part 3
SUSPENSE
This is my favorite Monogram production - the best movie, I think, the little company ever released.
Monogram was part of the low-rent studio cluster generally known as Poverty Row - the Baltic and Mediterranean section of Hollywood’s Monopoly board. Republic was top dog in this particular flea circus, Monogram the perpetual runner-up. After them came a harum-scarum assortment of routinely underfunded entities, constantly going in and out of business - with scabby-elbowed little PRC generally defending third place against all comers.
Monogram’s star attraction was the Bowery Boys, low-brow but reliable draws. The rest of the studio’s output – B minus westerns, horror movies, minor melodramas, mysteries, musicals and comedies – were almost all shot on rushed one-take’s all you get schedules with production values resolutely threadbare. At the end of the day, though, Monogram eked out enough of a profit to keep on going. And – as the war ended – the studio occasionally displayed marginally grander aspirations. For “Johnny Doesn’t Live Here Anymore”, a relatively ambitious fantasy, they hired Simone Simon, fresh off her Val Lewton triumphs at RKO. And Kay Francis, queen of the Warner lot in the early 30’s, lent her still substantial presence to a couple of personal productions at Monogram – “Divorce” and “Allotment Wives”, both of which displayed enough polish to give the studio some slight illusion of luster.
But the Monogram player for whom the studio had its highest hopes was Belita, an attractive British figure-skater who glided onto the Hollywood scene in the early 40’s. She’d been spotted during a Los Angeles performance of the Ice Capades Revue and Monogram signed her as a specialty act for their modest Kenny Baker musical “Silver Skates”. Sonja Henie’s skating movies were still doing gangbuster business for Fox. And any enthusiasm audiences – and the few reviewers who bothered with Monogram product – had for “Silver Skates” seemed focused on Belita’s contribution. Monogram, hoping to develop their own Sonja-style money-spinner, signed the still teenage skater to an uncharacteristically lucrative long-term contract. With fingers crossed that Belita might propel them a little closer to major status, the studio built a whole movie around her, budgeting it at a (for them) colossal $500,000. The resulting picture, a skating musical called “Lady, Let’s Dance”, was no classic; but it proved a substantial draw at the box-office, with Belita comfortably handling the spotlight on and off the ice.
Monogram took the plunge and decided to build a genuine A-level production around their rising star. The vehicle they chose was something of a gamble. There would be ice-skating sequences to showcase Belita’s special expertise. But essentially this was conceived as a film noir, full of cynical intrigue, tough dialogue, murder and mayhem. One can only speculate as to how Monogram came to green-light such a hybrid project. They’d recently had a surprise hit (commercial and critical) with the gangster film “Dillinger’. And perhaps, its success still vibrating in Monogram’s musty corridors, they figured a marketable noirish element would provide extra box-office insurance. Still, it could’ve easily turned into a disastrous tonal mismatch.
Taking a collective deep breath, Monogram honchos allotted the film a million dollar budget (their first ever). Assigned to produce were the King Brothers, a scrappy duo known for wringing full value out of every dollar spent. With a million at their disposal, they were determined to come up with something special. And wisely signed seasoned talent at every level of production. Cinematographer Karl Struss, an Oscar winner for “Sunrise” was engaged as DP. Veteran director Frank Tuttle, the man behind one of the 40’s best noirs, “This Gun for Hire” was hired to helm the thing.
A strong cast, judiciously engaged on the basis of talent, included Barry Sullivan, a versatile actor who never quite achieved the star status he deserved. Commandingly assured, intelligent and virile, Sullivan would eventually go toe-to-toe with Davis, Crawford and Stanwyck in the 50’s and hold his ground. No mean feat. “Suspense” represented his first big chance at a strong lead and he ran with it. Also cast was character actor extraordinaire Albert Dekker. Both men’s screen personae fit smoothly into the noir groove.
The title arrived at for the film was “Suspense”. And – though there are suspenseful moments in the movie – that’s not the piece’s over-riding motif. True to noir traditions, the tale’s essentially about how fate inexorably undercuts the best laid plans of all concerned. “Dead End” and “Blind Alley”, both appropriate, had already been used. ”Fatal Attraction” would have been perfect. But it was another 40-odd years before Hollywood seized on that one. “Suspense”, however, was viewed as a highly marketable title. So “Suspense” it was.
The Monogram logo appears on the screen, initially in silence. Daniele Amfitheatrof’s music gradually wells up, an ominous tangle of percussion and brass. Behind the credits we see an artist’s rendering of four imposing art deco arches (based on the ones that graced the exterior of the Pan Pacific Auditorium, Los Angeles home for the Ice Capades in the 1940’s). As portrayed, these arches seem suspended in the clouds; the whole impression’s dreamlike - an unsettling architectural manifestation, simultaneously Olympian and air-borne.
The movie opens with a neat bit of visual misdirection involving peroxide blonde floozy Marion Martin, two tough guys and a gun. Then quickly gets down to the real business of the plot.
Scruffy, unshaven, down on his luck Joe Morgan, part drifter, part grifter (think Stan in “Nightmare Alley”), played by Barry Sullivan, appears in front of a tacky shooting gallery. During a hard-case to hard-case exchange with attendant George E. Stone, Joe gets a tip on a possible job. At the impressive building across the street - an arena emblazoned with advertising for an Ice Revue.
A determined Joe, in do or die mode, pushes his way backstage, then up a stairway to the boss’s office. Outside the door, he stops momentarily to ogle a poster of the ice show’s glamorous main attraction, Roberta Elva (Belita), then barges into the office. Inside are head man Frank Leonard (Albert Dekker) in confab with jack-of-all trades assistant Harry (number one exponent of bullfrog anthropomorphism, Eugene Pallette).
Dekker’s Frank, somewhat overgroomed, gives off a vibe that’s distinctly effete. Intensified by the fact he’s holding a purring cat - and stroking it with a level of intimacy a bit too sensually charged for comfort.
Joe: “The guy at the shooting gallery said you could use me”.
Frank: (without missing a beat) “I can always use a good man. What can you do?”
Joe: “Anything.”
Frank, eyes slightly arched, stares, intrigued. Just under the surface is the sense there’s something other than the cat he’d like to be stroking. And – weighing Joe up once more – responds with a somewhat suggestive “Possibly”
Momentarily defensive, or at least choosing to give that impression, Joe shoots back with “Meaning what?”
Frank: “Meaning you’re hired”.
Then to Harry, “Get him a white coat and a basket of peanuts … and a shave.”
These are the first indications we’ll get of a definite similarity between the Joe/Frank dynamic and the one projected by Glenn Ford and George Macready in “Gilda”. The seeds are planted; from there on it depends on the individual viewer how well the concept takes root.
Later that day, Joe, already hawking peanuts in the stands during the show, gets his first eyeful of Roberta/Belita’s provocative on-ice performance. And his antennae are instantly aquiver. Used to getting his way with women, good-looking Joe starts to put the moves on her as she enters her car that night after the show.
“I saw your act tonight. You’ve got plenty of nerve … for a girl”.
An unfazed Roberta looks up with a placidly inscrutable smile. “And you’ve got plenty of nerve …. period”.
She delivers the line perfectly, instantly, alluringly, at home in a noir setting.
At which point Frank appears beside the car.
“I hope I’m not in your way”, he says to Joe. Then slides in next to Roberta.
As the two drive away, ubiquitous Harry tips Joe off to the fact that Frank and Roberta are married.
Unlike Ford and Hayworth in “Gilda”, Joe and Roberta don’t have a past. He gives brief consideration to putting on the brakes. But ambitious horndog that he is, can’t quite quell those hopes for some hot’n’heavy interaction in the near future.
The next time Joe encounters Roberta, Frank has fast-tracked him into a desk job (duties indeterminate) with his very own office. Roberta doesn’t know about the ‘promotion” and – entering the room - is momentarily taken off guard.
“What are you doing here?”
“I’ve been promoted, baby”
“That’s Mrs. Leonard to you”.
With little preamble, Joe grabs her shoulders and surprises her with a big on-the-mouth kiss.
She pulls away violently and says “Are you crazy? You think you can get away with just about anything, don’t you?”
“No …” he replies coolly, “but some things are worth taking a chance for”
Instant slap on the face. And out she storms.
But as things often happen in noir scenarios, initial antagonism slowly turns into irresistible attraction.
Roberta’s not a schemer; But she does seem to have a definite taste for danger. Her on-ice repertoire, in fact, includes an act called The Jaws of Death, which requires her to leap through a circle full of dangerous looking blades, pointed inward. And it’s a trick she seems to approach with a certain amount of relish.
At one point, Joe asks her why she keeps doing that particular act.
“That flock of geese would just love to see your blood flow”.
“Well, as long as I keep disappointing them”, responds the lady, “they’ll keep coming back”.
We get another glimpse of Roberta’s fascination with all things dangerous when we see her seated on a bench at the zoo sketching some caged lions. Is this this the same bench Simone Simon’s Irena sat on to sketch panthers in “Cat People”?
We definitely get the idea Roberta’s a woman with appetites that aren’t being satisfied. Her marriage to Dekker’s Frank Leonard is something of an enigma. There’s a reference to some hard knocks in her past.
So she appreciates the luxurious setting Frank’s created for his jewel. And she seems comfortably affectionate with him. But - as in “Gilda” - we find ourselves wondering whether the marriage is even consummated. At one point, with the couple, briefly on holiday in Frank’s winter lodge, Roberta’s the one gathering wood while Frank's baking. And wearing an apron. Does he view his wife only as one more prize possession?
Frank is a constant watcher; his office has a picture window overlooking the ice rink. And he likes to hawk-eye Roberta’s rehearsals from above - with special interest whenever Joe’s near her. Hubby soon becomes suspicious of growing sparks between the two. Which one is he more jealous of? Hard to tell. But one senses Frank is determined not to lose his proprietary claim over either.
One night when Frank’s out of town on business, Roberta lets Joe take her to a dine and dance place.
After some small talk, she gazes at him across the table and says, “Tell me something. What am I doing here? “
Joe stares back silently, then just says, “Let’s dance” and leads her onto the floor.
The sudden dance-floor intimacy overwhelms Roberta; she rushes back to the table and calls for the check. Joe tries to pick it up.
“I never let the help pay for me”, says Roberta, intent on re-establishing her off-limits status.
Joe drives her home and lingers at her door.
“How about a nightcap?” he suggests.
Replies the lady. “I never wear them”. And she sweeps through her door, leaving Joe uncharacteristically nonplussed.
But Roberta can never quite sustain permanent resistance. Joe’s clearly in love with himself; and no wonder; everybody around him also seems infatuated on some level. Even apparent bachelor, rotund little Harry (Pallette), quickly Joe’s shadow and sounding board and in some cases – guardian angel. He wastes no time getting Joe a room in his own hotel. It’s not much of a stretch to deduce he has some kind of concealed yen for Joe himself.
Note this exchange early on in Joe’s rise up the company ladder:
Harry: “Frank wants to see you”.
Joe: “Why does he want to see me?”
Harry: “He’s been hearing a lot about you lately”.
Joe: “From who?”
Harry: “From me”.
A split second of silence from Joe while he processes this, then accepting it as his due, responds,
“How do I look?”
Comes Harry’s instant answer “Beautiful”.
Oddly, as events move forward, Frank eventually seems to be going out of his way to engineer intimate encounters between Joe and Roberta. Is he deliberately giving them just enough rope to hang themselves? Whatever the case, everything’s relentlessly approaching powder-keg level.
Now that the plot’s in motion, it’s time for another complication, which arrives in the form of Ronnie (Bonita Granville), a somewhat disreputable bottle blonde. For Joe, she’s the unwelcome ghost of entanglements past ; Ronnie’s apparently tracked him from his last port of call. Joe bluntly informs her there’s no room for her in his new upward trajectory, but she’s not quite ready to throw in the towel.
This is the performance of Granville’s career. She’s strikingly styled to look like Betty Grable – but a decidedly shopworn, down-market version, with cheap rhinestones where the diamonds should be.
I’d never warmed to Bonita Granville’s previous work; her approach always struck me as either over-emphatic or tediously earnest. But – as far as I’m concerned –this perfectly calibrated turn in "Suspense” assures Granville a well earned and permanent spot on the noir naughty list.
The script does well by her dialogue-wise. And she gets the most out of every line.
“How’d you get in here?”, barks Joe, when he first finds her in his hotel room.
“I slipped the bellboy a great big smile” she says; in the circumstances, a remark wide open to salacious speculation.
As the days go by, Joe repeatedly tries to give her the air. And though Ronnie’s fixation on Joe makes her a glutton for punishment, even she has her limits when it comes to accepting brush-offs.
Eventually she decides if she can’t have him, she can at least spoil his current set-up. With that in mind, she figures on digging up some dirt from Joe’s past.
Back at that shooting gallery, she quizzes shifty little George E. Stone.
“Who do you know in New York?”
“My brother Morey. He’s got an in wherever there’s an out”
“Why don’t you write Morey a letter”, prompts Ronnie, flashing her eyes insinuatingly.
And she throws out another juicy euphemism to sit alongside the one about that great big smile she flashed the bellboy.
“I’ll buy the stamp”.
George E. Stone practically licks his lips as he watches her saunter away.
Developments reach a crescendo of sorts at Frank’s mountain lodge. Joe shows up unexpectedly and a suspiciously affable Frank invites him to stay for a few days. Next morning, he urges Joe to accompany Roberta as she practices her skating on an iced-over (and secluded) pond.
Unknown to the duo, Frank’s spying from the trees – armed with not just binoculars but also a high-powered rifle. The whole sequence climaxes with an impressive avalanche worthy of any major studio A.
But there’s still plenty of picture to go.
Time to talk a little about the film’s skating aspects. Because - though “Suspense” emerges as a first-class noir - it also manages to be an excellent skating movie. A small genre, certainly. But within that specialized category, “Suspense” stands tall.
All three of the eventual ice-skating movie queens, Sonja Henie, Vera Hruba and Belita, had taken part in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin - Sonja representing Norway, Vera Czechoslovakia and Belita the U.K. Henie signed a picture contract with Fox and sailed to immediate movie stardom. Vera and Belita, still teenagers at the time (Belita was only 13 in 1936), didn’t wash up on Hollywood shores till several years later. By which time, Sonja was established as the world’s acknowledged skating queen, with a firmly determined grasp on the scepter.
Onscreen, diminutive but energetic Sonja projected a cheery jingle-bell positivity the public lapped up. Fox spotlighted her in a series of lushly appointed musicals, full of handsome leading men (studio golden boy Tyrone Power did the honors twice and - in keeping with Sonja’s toughly negotiated contract - took second billing). Fox made sure every Henie picture was a deluxe affair. Along with polished visuals, her films inevitably featured snappy songs (Irving Berlin wrote a terrific original score for “Second Fiddle” in ’39) and top-line big bands (Glenn Miller’s stellar participation helped make “Sun Valley Serenade” in ’41 Sonja’s biggest ever). The lady’s part in popularizing figure skating would be hard to over-estimate. She didn’t just place it firmly in the public consciousness. With her movies and touring ice shows – Henie was instrumental in building it into a massive, moneymaking entertainment industry.
Vera Hruba was, by all accounts, a rather nice lady. But as an actress and screen presence, no threat to Bette Davis. Acting-wise, she basically spent her whole screen career flirting with competence, sometimes just achieving it, more often slightly undershooting the mark. First as Vera Hruba, then suddenly as Vera Hruba Ralston. The Hruba part of the moniker, apparently indigestible to the American public, was soon coughed up like a fur ball; from then on she remained just Vera Ralston. The skating more or less disappeared from her films. After which Republic studio head Herbert Yates played Irving Thalberg to her Norma Shearer, marrying the lady, then installing her as Republic’s First Lady. It wasn’t quite the glittering kingdom MGM was. But at least it was a roost to rule, which Ralston did, picture after picture – audience indifference be damned – till the studio quietly folded in the late 50’s.
Belita was quite distinct from the other two. For one thing, she was quite a good actress. An extremely attractive girl, she sometimes resembled Carole Landis, at other times, Lana Turner - but with suggestions of a more intriguing interior life.
Where Sonja Henie was all perky merriment, Belita projected the self-contained aura of a woman of mystery. Or at least a woman with secrets worth knowing. One reason she worked so well in noir settings was the sense that what we saw – alluring as it was - was the tip of the iceberg. And certainly few things suited film noir better than the suggestion of unknown depths, possibly impenetrable, probably dangerous.
Belita was one of those gifted British actors who had zero trouble approximating an American accent. In fact, she was a natural linguist, speaking four languages fluently. But no one viewing “Suspense” would guess she wasn’t born and bred in the U.S.A. As it turned out, Belita was a lady of almost limitless talents.
After the ’36 Olympics, she’d transitioned into ballet. And proved so adept at it, she was soon a member of the famous Anton Dolin/Alicia Markhova Ballet company. Partnering Dolin himself in prominent roles. The war, of course, uprooted everything. And Belita eventually landed in America. Lucrative dance jobs proved difficult to come by and Belita found herself returning to the world of skating. She joined the Ice Capades Revue, where her unique fusion of glamour, skating prowess and ballet-trained artistry made her an instant standout. Next stop Hollywood.
Which brings us back to “Suspense”, specifically to the marvelous skating sequences in the film.
An art deco look pervades the movie. But it’s not the snow-white Van Nest Polglase gleam of Astaire/Rogers Land. This movie seems cast in shifting tones of pearl grey, constant embellishments to the noir ambience. There’s beauty – but with an ever-present whiff of the sinister. The skating sequences certainly pulsate with it. Cycloramas, murals, paintings, deceptive angles - all add to the over-riding visual scheme. There’s a kind of William Cameron Menzies scale on display, complete with unsettling perspectives; things constantly seem slightly off balance.
There are three major musical skating sequences in the picture. Plus the brief but intense Jaws of Death routine, with the onscreen audience holding its collective breath in nervous anticipation. As mentioned, this routine requires Belita to leap through a metal circle studded with sharp inward pointing blades. The number is mounted and filmed for maximum effect, with the death circle positioned at the center of the rink. At the arena’s rear is a mammoth painted skull. Amfitheatrof’s urgently menacing music swells up, a thunderous timpani-driven projection of peril to come. Suddenly Belita, stunning in black, bursts out of the skull’s mouth and stands facing her breathless audience. Slowly, deliberately she starts to skate in circles around and around the Jaws. She picks up speed – so does the music – and she focuses ever more intently on her task. Finally, she’s hurtling straight toward it. There’s no turning back.
And then – in an indelible instant - she sails up and - whoosh – she’s through.
In actual fact, the blades were constructed of hard rubber. But leaping through the tiny opening at such a velocity still presented a considerable challenge. The slightest miscalculation could have resulted in serious injury. Yet, as Belita soars through the small opening she looks relaxed… serene … sublime. Even now, so many decades later, the effect is quite wonderful. It still looks like something guaranteed to thrill an audience – anytime, anyplace.
Then there are Belita’s three exceptional musical numbers.
The first – the one that introduces her to the movie audience – is titled “Sidewalk Sadie”. It’s a jive/jitterbug piece set against oddly skewed backdrops that suggest the Bowery by way of Caligari’s cabinet. At the back, a stylized bridge stretches into infinity. Initially a crack team of ice-dancers strut their stuff to lively effect. Then the camera pans to Belita, posed seductively against a lamp-post, smoking a cigarette which she quickly tosses away. Then she undulates her way over to the group and proceeds to show the assembled vamps how to take vamping to the next level. There’s precious little distance between what Belita demonstrates and pure bump and grind. It’s definitely sexy terrain Sonja Henie would never explore. Sparks fly between Belita and one of the male dancers. And as they take center stage their moves and their chemistry conjure up memories of Vera-Ellen and Gene Kelly’s famous “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” dance. This one doesn’t culminate in murder but it does end pretty explosively. Belita hurls herself right through a plate glass window and out of sight. Romeo rushes over to extricate her. No harm done. And she oozes into his arms for a steamy clinch. The End.
The second number, “Introspection”, is a very different affair. This one has Belita performing solo in front of a giant sunburst image. Certainly, wearing skates limits a dancer’s ability to just dance. Yet, the special grace that comes from gliding skilfully on an icy surface can’t really be recreated elsewhere, no matter how gifted the dancer. Belita’s “Introspection” blends the beauty of dance and the mesmerizing allure of flawless ice-skating to absolute maximum effect. Ultimately something greater than the sum of its parts. Belita glides, turns, leaps and skims the glistening surface in a sublimely private distillation of everything that made her great. This sequence basically confirms Belita’s claim to supremacy in her field. Pavlova on ice. Apparently the producers were hesitant about including the number. But Belita insisted. She actually performed it without accompaniment. The dreamy Debussy-like music Amfitheatrof ultimately supplied for the soundtrack ups the ante even more. This may be Belita’s finest screen moment.
The final number’s called “Ice Cuba” and – as expected – it’s a throbbing Latin carnival on ice. Along for the ride is bongo-pounding Cuban vocalist Miguelito Valdes, a slightly chubbier Desi Arnaz, less of a ladykiller – but with a much wider – and wilder – vocal range. Standing at center ice on a massive drum, he certainly helps propel the number’s energy level from start to finish. Colorfully dressed ice-dancers create ribbons of rhythm everywhere you look. There’s much bounding and leaping. But no one leaps higher than Belita. She’s incredibly limber – her back bends are breathtaking. Weaving her way on, off and around that giant drum, her whole body beckons. And she ends her final leap dramatically – landing on the ice in a startling splits position. Expert choreographer Nick Castle helped Belita create the number. It’s Rita Hayworth territory and Belita gives it full-on Gilda sizzle.
Belita continued with in-person ice shows during her Monogram years. She made a couple more noirs for them but she and the studio parted ways at the end of the 40’s. Still, though, the lady continued to explore her talents in many directions. A superb swimmer, she even headlined a live Aquacade spectacular with Johnny Weissmuller, no less. Yearning to stretch her acting muscles, she briefly joined Charles Laughton’s illustrious stage company, appearing in a well-received production of Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard”. All this before she was thirty.
After the Monogram contract expired, Belita’s starring days as a movie actress were effectively over. But through the 50’s she turned up in sporadic featured roles, usually at lofty MGM. In 53’s “Never Let Me Go”, she was a devious Soviet ballerina/government informer, bent on foiling Clark Gable’s attempts to rescue Russian ballerina wife (Gene Tierney) from behind the Iron Curtain. It was an excellent film. More genuinely suspenseful, in fact, than “Suspense”.
Later she danced in one section of Gene Kelly’s ballet-centric anthology film “Invitation to the Dance” - effectively spotlighted as a slinky blond poured into a clinging leopard print gown. Belita moved as provocatively as ever, her efforts attracting considerable praise from the press.
It’s interesting to speculate on how MGM might have presented Belita, had they signed her in the 40’s.
Opulently no doubt. But it’s unlikely anyone at Metro would have thought to star her in a noir. That was a Monogram brainwave. And one for which I’m eternally grateful.
Belita retired from show business in the early 60’s. Living out of the limelight till her death in 2005.
Over the course of time, many prominent skaters, especially those who valued genuine artistry over quads and triple lutzes, spoke of Belita with a respect bordering on awe. Some had been lucky enough to see her perform in person. Others based their opinions strictly from viewings of “Suspense”. But that was enough. For them, Belita had permanently captured onscreen the fluid magic, the transformative spell great skaters lived to create.
There are certainly noirs more celebrated than “Suspense”. But the film holds an honorable place in the canon. It skilfully establishes a mood, presents an intriguingly layered cast of characters and hits all the requisite noir notes with compelling assurance. It’s even got an explosive ending that continues to resonate after the final credits fade. “Suspense” succeeds as both film noir and skating movie. It remains a matter of permanent astonishment that the film’s creative team somehow reconciled these two almost opposing genres and combined them into one seductive, seamlessly entertaining whole.
Thank you, Monogram.
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Forum Sponsors

Similar Threads

Latest Articles

Forum statistics

Threads
350,693
Messages
4,926,837
Members
142,889
Latest member
philcollin
Recent bookmarks
0
Top