THE PETRIFIED FOREST
1936, Warner Bros., 83 min, USA, Dir: Archie Mayo

Based on the Robert E. Sherwood play, this hard-edged drama stars Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis and Leslie Howard as strangers whose lives collide with deadly results in a small desert town on the edge of Arizona’s petrified forest. Disillusioned British intellectual Alan Squier (Howard) meets young Gabby Maple (Davis), who sees him as her ticket to Paris and to her dreams. Squier hopes she succeeds but plans to leave alone - a plan that ends abruptly when gangster Duke Mantee (Bogart) takes them hostage.


ACT OF VIOLENCE
1948, Warner Bros., 81 min, USA, Dir: Fred Zinnemann

A dark masterpiece made during the Metro tenure of producer Dore Schary, this is emblematic film noir. Psychically scarred Robert Ryan stalks war hero Van Heflin from sylvan Big Bear Lake to the nocturnal underbelly of postwar downtown L.A. Robert Surtees’ stunning cinematography captures the dark side of the postwar boom, as well as superb performances from the entire cast, including a jaw-droppingly gorgeous 20-year-old Janet Leigh and a revelatory Mary Astor as a blowsy, street-wise hooker. Director Fred Zinnemann’s only foray into film noir is one of the best of the classic era.


THE BIG NIGHT
1951, Park Circus, 75 min, USA, Dir: Joseph Losey

George LeMain (John Barrymore Jr.) “celebrates” his 16th birthday by witnessing his father (Preston Foster) stoically absorb a dreadful beating from a mysterious local operator. The youngster seeks answers - and revenge - during an all night odyssey through downtown L.A., making this a truly noir coming-of-age tale. Losey abandoned the film during editing, fleeing to England after being subpoenaed by HUAC; co-screenwriters Hugo Butler and Ring Lardner Jr. adapted Stanley Ellin’s novel Dreadful Summit but were denied credit and blacklisted (along with supporting players Dorothy Comingore and Howland Chamberlain).


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