Sunday, August 23, 2009

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

The American working title, "Hot Spot".
Used for the UK release.

USA 1941
82 min
Starring: Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Betty Grable and Laird Cregar, among others.

In classic film noir manner, the audience enters the picture in the midst of action. Frankie Christopher (Mature) is being interrogated about the murder of a young model, Vicky Lynn (Landis). Frankie's account on what he knows about the murder turns into a, by him narrated, story that unfolds to us.

Vicky Lynn has been found murdered in her apartment. Frankie's relationship to the dead model is that he discovered her as a waitress, exploiting her into becoming a model and socialite. The night she was murdered was the night she was leaving her modelling career for a future in Hollywood - something that made Frankie feel betrayed and makes him the prime suspect.

The narration repeats with the sister Jill's (Grable's) story. When Jill enters the crime scene she sees Frankie kneeling over the dead body, but she is sure that he is innocent. Romantic feelings develop between Frankie and Jill, which further complicated the investigation with suspicion from the police.

And here's where the fascinating Laird Cregar [portrait post here] enters as the suspecting police inspector Ed Cornell. He is certain that Frankie is responsible for the murder, and follows him around like a shadow.

Laird Cregar as Ed Cornell.

Is Cornell right? Is he wrong? Or can he, perhaps, be wrong with purpose? That's what going through your mind all through the film the first time you see it. When Frankie starts dating Jill you can't help but feeling that something fishy is going on, even though it logically shouldn't be that way.

Deleted Scene: Betty Grable sings "Daddy" in a scene that was deleted to be able to promote her as doing an entirely dramatic role. I thought it was really charming (and I recognize those slimy looks from her boss, ew...), but it was a good idea to cut it. It doesn't feel right in this movie.

I Wake Up Screaming is a suspenceful crime film, with several plot turns and a sweet, "not cheesy" romantic sub-plot. Even though Carole Landis is "the beautiful one" in the film, I am more charmed with the curvy figure and soft lips of Betty Grable, who gives a wonderful performance in the role of the victim's sister. She's charming, alright! I simply adore the scene where she and Mature break into a bicycle shop, and while talking she's working hard with releasing him from his handcuffs with a saw.
I wish to see more of Grable's dramatic performances, but I guess they might be pretty rare...

By the way - am I the only one feeling that all the male characters' fascination and devotion for the dead model rather reminds you of the film Laura, that came three years later?

Carole Landis as Vicky Lynn.

I've already told you the tragic fate of Laird Cregar, who died three years later in 1944. His was not, unfortunately, the only sad story of the cast. Carole Landis took her own life with Seconal in 1948, at the age of 29. It is believed to be the combined tragedies of four failed marriages, a career that never took off, financial problems and a passionate affair with the married Rex Harrison that finally broke her down.

Some fun trivia though... Betty Grable actually says "Thanks, Victor!" to Victor Mature in one scene, even though his character was named Frankie! And of course I'm kind enough to give you proof:

I mostly think about the title of the movies I see, and wonder why they were chosen. Some are obvious, like Casablanca (1942), Sunset Blvd. (1950) [review] or The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938). Others are named after a line or reference in the film, like All About Eve (1950) [review], The Philadelphia Story (1940) [review] or The Lost Weekend (1945) [review].
But others, like I Wake Up Screaming, just leaves you wondering. I can't recall any character in the film waking up screaming. Maybe it's more apparent in the original novel by with the same name by Steve Fisher. Maybe it's a metaphor for the feeling of being constantly watched and hunted for a crime you didn't do. Anyway, it's interesting.

The Birth of Venus, 1486.

Just one more thing I thought about. It seems like there are some obvious references to art in this film. The most apparent thing, to me, was when Frankie's original name was revealed as Botticelli. Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter during the Early Rennaissance, and his most famous work is probably The Birth of Venus from 1486. (Some of my high school kknowledge still stick!)

Another art reference is when Cornell unwelcomed visits Jill at her apartment, and makes a remark about a painting she has called "The Garden of Hope", asking her if she believes in hope. I can't find any specific art reference to this, but it is still a little remark they thought was important enough to leave in the final film. Anyone knowing more about this?

Betty Grable and Victor Mature look great together.


Christopher said...

LOL.."How about just plain DADDY!?"
Seeing all that Sheet Music makes me think of my Mom,She collected tons of that when she was a teen in the 40s..I always liked looking thru them..THose were big sellers in the day aside from records

Lolita said...

Interesting! Yes, I love how impatient she looks while trying to sing happily, ha ha.

Mykal said...

Lolita: Great post! you gotta love Laird Cregar in this as the horrid cop (but then I love cregar in everything he was ever in).

Ooops! What Grable says at poolside, refering to Mature's compliment is "Thanks, Mister." Not "Thanks, Victor." -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Yes, Cregar was an enchanting actor!

Are you really sure of that? Because I'm not the only one reacting to it... To me it really sounds like "Victor". But maybe I just want it to!

Mykal said...

Lolita: I'm pretty sure. Let's see what other folks think. I'll abide by the majority!

More importantly - I really liked the post! -- Mykal

Lolita said...

Hmm, listened to it again... You're probably right. I was probably fooled by having read it was "Victor". Well well, I'll let it be there anyway! Censorship belongs to Will Hays and c:o! ;)

And thank you!