Sunday, December 09, 2007

Famous Last Words- Round 1, Week 11

Of all the classic films that fall into the noir category, the grimiest would have to be Edgar G. Ulmer's 1945 masterpiece Detour. Shot for nothing with a pair of nobody stars, the movie makes no bones about its B-movie origins. Yet it works magnificently, because of how vividly it used perhaps the most archetypal noir trope of all- a man who gets ensnared in the web of the wrong sort of woman. Tom Neal would never be mistaken for a master thespian, but he makes the role work because unlike the big Hollywood stars he actually felt like a low-down sucker, the kind who would get stuck on a bad-news dame.

Neal never achieved large-scale movie stardom, but his life was the stuff of Hollywood legend. A trained prizefighter and graduate of Northwestern and Harvard Law School, Neal starred in a series of Republic serials before appearing opposite his Detour costar Ann Savage in five films in total. He also dated famously troubled starlet Barbara Payton, over whom he came to blows with her other boyfriend, actor Franchot Tone. Sadly, the final line of Detour ended up coming true for Neal in real life as well as in the film. Fate put the finger on Neal twenty years after he starred in the film, when he shot his wife in the back of the head and was convicted of manslaughter. Savage's fate was somewhat happier- six decades hence, she starred in Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg, a word-of-mouth favorite at this year's Toronto Film Festival.

Moving on from the SHO True Hollywood Story. As with a handful of quotes I've used already, this line is common enough, but rarely something you'll hear concluding a film:

"Hang on, lads. I've got a great idea."

Name the movie. Remember, all submissions must be sent to this e-Mail address by 11:59 Saturday night. See you next week!