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05 May 2017

Noir Now: Crime, Morally Conflicted Detectives and First-Person Narration Come to the Camelot

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Paul Henried and Joan Bennett in Hollow Triumph. Paul Henried and Joan Bennett in Hollow Triumph.

She stood in my office doorway, as palm trees from Palm Canyon Drive framed her long, dark-auburn hair. The cut of her emerald business suit clung to her curves in the all right places. The way she clutched her Kate Spade purse, I could tell something was really worrying her. Her deep hazel eyes betrayed her, showing the fear she had seen.

“What’s on your mind, doll face?” I asked as I tried to keep my eyes on her in a professional way. I have years of practice at looking at the wrong places.

With a pursing of her lips, she looked at me and said, “It’s already after 4 o’clock.” Her hands started to wring her purse tighter. “We’re going to be late for this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.”

Well, that’s how I would imagine it would go.

The 18th annual film festival takes place May 11-14, and once again, it is hosted by writer/historian Alan K. Rode at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.

“I handpick each film, hoping it’s something people will want to see,” Rode told me.

I asked him where he finds so many of these films—many of which even avid fans like me don’t know. “Warner Bros studios opened their vaults to me this year. We are presenting an extremely diverse lineup of films.”

The film festival, per usual, will feature a wide range of guests, including one on opening night—Monika Henried, the daughter of film star Paul Henried, who produced and starred in the opening-night feature: a restored print of Hollow Triumph (1948), directed by Steve Sekely and co-starring Joan Bennett. From the novel by Murray Forbes, this is a story of a casino heist gone bad, a change of identity and the troubles to which a new life can lead.

One of the jewels of the festival is Meet Danny Wilson (1952). This rarely viewed Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters collaboration is a musical drama directed by Joseph Pevney. This is the transition film that took Sinatra from his bobby-soxer popularity to From Here to Eternity fame. Raymond Burr is also in the film as the gangster who threatens the small-time singer as he rises to the top of his profession.

For first time, the festival will be showing Split Second (1953), marking the directorial debut of Dick Powell (radio’s Richard Diamond). The film follows a group of escaped convicts and hostages hiding in a ghost town—a group that is in real danger.

Other special guests slated to participate include Richard Duryea, son of Dan Duryea, the star of Black Angel (1946). The film also stars June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Andy Robinson, a star of “neo-noir” movie Charley Varrick (1973), will be present for that film’s screening, while Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will attend the screening of The Body Snatcher (1945)—which, in Rode’s opinion, marks Boris’ “finest screen performance.”

The festival’s focus is not only on delighting fans of film noir; it’s meant to open new eyes, too. Rode said festival organizers have been using social media such as Facebook in an effort to entice a younger generation of fans.

“Film is not a museum piece—not a genre, style, look or feel,” Rode said. “… Now we are offering everyone the opportunity to watch in original setting and mode.”

One of the reasons the festival takes place at the Camelot is the theater still has a 35mm film projector. Festival tradition dictates that screenings are shown in that format.

“We are attempting to preserve the original movie-going experience,” Rode said.

The 18th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival takes place Thursday, May 11, through Sunday, May 14, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $13 per film, or $125 for an all-access pass. For tickets or information, visit ArthurLyonsFilmNoir.org.

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