by Sam Juliano
On one of WitD’s slower weeks, where Allan’s ongoing countdown has basically gone uncontested here for days, I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to another excellent Tony d’Ambra review at Films Noir.net that deserves readers’ absorption, especially those with an affinity for the form. The reputation of this particular film noir does appear to have risen in recent years in the critical ranks, and both director Henry Hathaway and director of photography Joseph McDonald have also seen stellar reappraisals. Typically, Tony has lavished his attention on Northside 777’s qualification as a noir, an in depth consideration of its characters (where the women have delivered the most memorable performances, against all odds) and a discerning look at its artistry and historical underpinnings. I’ve included teh first two paragraphs here of Tony’s review, and the rest can be accessed at the link to Films Noir.net. Comments are welcome both here and at FilmsNoir.net.
“1948 was a signal year in the film noir cycle, which saw the move towards on-the-streets filming and a shifting focus on police operations, heralding the police procedurals that became dominant in the 1950s.
Jules Dassin’s The Naked City for Mark Hellinger carries the banner for this nascence of a cinema-verite style of filming. Dassin’s picture is set in New York and tells the story of a murder investigation by homicide cops with a gritty realism. But thematically, there is little to distinguish The Naked City as a film noir. It is the city of New York and its people that hold your attention, and the several bit-portrayals of people going about their lives are truly engaging. The final scene where a street-sweeper in profile scoops up yesterday’s papers from the gutter and moves on into the New York night gives an arresting hard-bitten closure.
In the same year Fox released Call Northside 777, a ‘newspaper’ noir set in Chicago directed by Henry Hathaway (The House on 92nd Street (1945), The Dark Corner (1946), Kiss of Death (1947), and Niagara (1953)). The film is an adaptation based on true events in Chicago during prohibition and recounts a newspaper reporter’s 1944 investigation into the conviction in 1932 of two young polish immigrants for the killing a policeman. A solid script by Jerome Cady and Jay Dratler, and the exceptional cinematography of DP Joseph MacDonald (Shock (1946), The Dark Corner (1946), The Street with No Name (1948), Panic in the Streets (1950), Niagara (1953), Pickup on South Street (1953), and House of Bamboo (1955)), mark this picture has having at least equal standing with The Naked City.”