Thursday, April 11, 2019

Thursday Movie Picks #248: Let's Start at the End

This being Thursday, it's time for another edition of Thursday Movie Picks, the blogathon run by Wandering Through the Shelves. This week's theme is "Let's Start at the End". I almost did this theme some time back when the theme was "Origin Stories": I was thinking of movies, especially noirs, that start more or less at the end of the story and then tell us the lead character's origin and how he or she got there. Leave Her to Heaven would be an excellent example of this, with Cornel Wilde returning to Jeanne Crain. But I decided to go with a different theme-within-a-theme this time:

Mildred Pierce (1945). The movie opens with Zachary Scott getting shot, and uttering his final words, "Mildred". Mildred (Joan Crawford) was married to the dead man, and when police find the body they bring her in for questioning. Cue the flashback, in which we learn what -- especially Mildred's relationship with her spoiled daughter (Ann Blyth) -- led to Scott being shot.

Death of a Soundrel (1956). In the opening scene, George Sanders is found dead on his bed in his apartment, obviously a victim of murder. His secretary (Yvonne de Carlo) is brought in for questioning, and explains, largely in flashback, why her boss was such a scoundrel and why there are a whole bunch of people who would have been OK with his getting killed. Zsa Zsa Gabor is OK in the movie, and also in the movie is Sanders' real-life brother Tom Conway.

The Quiet American (1952). On Tet, the Vietnamese New Year, in 1952, a dead body is floating in a river in Saigon. It's the body of Audie Murphy, the titular American, and since Indochina was still a French colony at the time, the French police bring in British journalist Michael Redgrave for questioning. Once again with flashbacks, Redgrave explains his relationship with the American, and the American's murky relationship with the Communists agitating for independence.


joel65913 said...

Love these picks!

What more can be said about Mildred Pierce? Crawford entered her most consistently strong performance period with the film and the rest of the cast matches her very fine performance. It shows that Ann Blyth's true gift for onscreen bitchery was squandered by her studio afterwards when they insisted on putting her in sweet decorative roles.

I like this version of The Quiet American, though Audie Murphy wasn't the strongest choice for the lead role however I thought the 2002 Michael Caine/Brendan Fraser remake was an improvement on this one.

Death of a Scoundrel is a delectable morsel because of that cast. I mean you get the whole Sanders clan in one sitting plus Yvonne de Carlo and a whole host of familiar faces in an enjoyable film.

Death does seem to be a frequent plot point in films with this layout and all three of mine also deal with it in some way.

Memento (2000)-Leonard (Guy Pearce) is tracking down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty however of locating his wife's killer is compounded by the fact that he suffers from a rare, untreatable form of memory loss. Although he can recall details of life before his accident Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he's going, or why. His solution is to tattoo clues onto his body to arrive at the answer. Complex mystery begins at the end and works in fractured time lines throughout.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)-As the film opens failed screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) is found floating face down (but facing the audience) in the swimming pool of former film queen Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Harking back we then learn how things came to such a sorry pass. Brilliant, tragic, pitch black Billy Wilder masterpiece of broken dreams and dashed hopes with vivid performances from the entire cast and a dazzling iconic one by Swanson.

Double Indemnity (1944)-Los Angeles insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) stumbles into his office late one night with a bullet in his shoulder falls into his office chair and starts recording his confession for his boss and friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). We then flashback to how his foolish involvement with the amoral, heartless Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) lead to duplicity, deception and murder. Another Billy Wilder noir classic.

ThePunkTheory said...

I haven't seen any of your picks (yet) but the films all sound fascinating!

Brittani Burnham said...

I added Mildred Pierce to my Blind Spot for next year, I watched the HBO mini series and enjoyed that, but I really need to see the original.

Birgit said...

We match with Mildred mean Pierce:). I don’t know your second film but now I want to see it because I love George Sanders and Yvonne DeCarlo. The Quiet American is a good film but I agree with Joel, that the remake is actually better...that’s rare.