Dark Passage

  • Directors: Delmer Daves
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Story, David Goodis, Screenplay, Delmer Daves
  • Genres: Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Agnes Moorehead

Convicted murderer Vincent Parry escapes from San Quentin prison. He is picked up on the road and sheltered by Irene Jansen, an artist who has taken a personal interest in his case.

Helped by a friendly cabbie, Sam, the fugitive Parry gets a new face from a plastic surgeon, thereby enabling him to dodge the authorities and look for his wife’s real murderer.

He has difficulty staying hidden at Irene’s because of nosy Madge Rapf, a spiteful woman whose testimony sent him up to prison. Madge keeps stopping by Irene’s apartment, particularly after she fears Parry might come after her next.

Parry’s best friend is found murdered, so he becomes the logical prime suspect. A blackmailer named Baker also traps Parry and tries to extort money from Irene to keep from turning over Parry to the cops.

The story’s climax features the killer realizing the true identity of the man behind the new face.

Mildred Pierce

  • Directors: Michael Curtiz
  • Producers: Executive Producer, Jack L Warner, Producer, Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Novel, James M Cain, Screenplay, Ranald MacDougall, William Faulkner, Catherine Turney
  • Genres: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
  • Actors: Joan Crawford, Ann Blyth, Jack Carson, Zachary Scott, Eve Arden

While the novel is told by a third-person narrator in strict chronological order, the film uses voice-over narration (the voice of Mildred). The story is framed by the questioning of Mildred by police after they discover the body of her second husband, Monte Beragon.

The film in noir fashion opens with Beragon (Scott) being shot. He murmurs the name “Mildred” as he collapses and dies. The police are led to believe that the murderer is restaurant owner Mildred Pierce (Crawford), who under interrogation confesses to the crime. She then relates her life story in flashback.

We see housewife Mildred unhappily married to a newly unemployed Bert Pierce (Bruce Bennett). He was originally a real estate partner of Wally Fay (Carson), who propositions Mildred after learning that she and Bert are about to divorce. Mildred keeps custody of her two daughters: Veda (Blyth) and Kay (Jo Anne Marlowe).

Mildred’s principal goal is to provide for eldest daughter Veda, who longs for possessions the family cannot afford. Mildred needs a job and the best she can find is as a waitress — a fact she hides from Veda. One day, Veda gives their maid Lottie (Butterfly McQueen) Mildred’s waitress uniform, thinking nothing of it, until Mildred admits that she is a waitress, infuriating Veda, who thinks it a lowly employ.

When Veda takes up with the scheming Monty, a showdown ensues at the beach house where the film began. We discover what really happened: that Veda, furious over Monte’s unwillingness to take her seriously, is the one who shoots him. Mildred can cover for her daughter no more, and Veda is led off to jail.

An Affair to Remember

  • Directors: Leo McCarey
  • Producers: Leo McCarey, Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Leo McCarey, Mildred Cram
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance
  • Actors: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning

Nickie Ferrante (Grant), a well-known playboy and dilettante in the arts, meets Terry McKay (Kerr) aboard the SS Constitution. After a series of chance meetings they establish a friendship and gradually fall in love despite each being engaged to someone else. After a brief visit to Ferrante’s grandmother at her villa, followed by a return trip to New York, and much troubled with guilt about their liaison, they agree to reunite at the top of the Empire State Building in six months’ time if they have succeeded in ending their relationships and starting new careers.

On the day of their rendezvous, Terry, in her haste to reach the Empire State Building, is struck down by a car. Gravely injured, she is rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile Nickie, waiting for her at the top, is unaware of the accident and, after many hours, finally concedes at midnight that she will not arrive, believing she has rejected him.

After the accident, the wheelchair-bound Terry refuses to contact Nickie, wanting to conceal her disability. Instead she finds work as a music teacher. A year after the accident, she sees Nickie with his former fiancée at the ballet, which she herself is attending with her former boyfriend. Nickie does not notice her condition because she is seated and only says hello as he passes her.

In the final scene, the pair reconcile, and all is revealed about the fateful day they were supposed to meet.

The Roaring Twenties

  • Directors: Raoul Walsh
  • Producers: Hal B Wallis
  • Writers: Mark Hellinger, Jerry Wald, Richard Macaulay, Robert Rossen
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: James Cagney, Priscilla Lane, Humphrey Bogart, Gladys George

After the World War I armistice, Lloyd Hart (Jeffrey Lynn) goes back to practice law, former saloon keeper George Hally (Humphrey Bogart) turns to bootlegging, and out-of-work Eddie Bartlett (James Cagney) becomes a cab driver. Eddie builds a fleet of cabs through delivery of bootleg liquor and hires Lloyd as his lawyer. George becomes Eddie’s partner and the rackets flourish until love and rivalry interfere. Gladys George plays a night club hostess clearly based on Texas Guinan.

Key Largo

  • Directors: John Huston
  • Producers: Jerry Wald
  • Writers: Maxwell Anderson, Richard Brooks, John Huston
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
  • Actors: Humphrey Bogart, Edward G Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor, Marc Lawrence

Frank McCloud (Bogart) visits a small backwater Key Largo hotel run by wheelchair-bound James Temple (Barrymore) and his daughter-in-law Nora (Bacall), the widow of Frank’s World War II friend. The hotel has been temporarily taken over by notorious fugitive gangster Johnny Rocco (Robinson) and his gang.

Frank at first appears indifferent to the situation, but Rocco’s treatment of his alcoholic mistress Gaye (Trevor) and his hand in the murder of two local Indians and a police officer convinces Frank that Rocco must be stopped. His chance comes when Rocco forces Frank to pilot the boat by which the gang intends to escape to Cuba. Once at sea, with no hostages to worry about, Frank is able to kill every member of the gang, one by one, Rocco last of all. Frank then returns to Nora.

The subplot turns on Temple’s grief over his dead son; he is under the impression that his son died a hero in Italy. McCloud resists relating any tales about the Temple boy, despite Mr. Temple’s urging. When McCloud relents, he tells exactly the story Mr. Temple and the widow want to hear, although it is apparent that McCloud was the hero that he’s allowing the Temple boy to be.